G-8 Pledges $20bn to Secure Russian Weapons of Mass Destruction

Publish date: June 28, 2002

Written by: Charles Digges

The United States and six other industrial powers Thursday agreed to spend up to $20 billion over the next 10 years to help Russia secure its enormous stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in an effort to prevent dangerous materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.

The deal announced at the Group of Eight summit in the Canadian resort of Kananaskis, and dubbed by leaders as "the G8 Global Partnership," was made possible by Russia’s pledge to provide sweeping access to its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons sites — a policy coup facilitated during closed door talks Thursday between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

”The attacks of Sept. 11 demonstrated the terrorists are prepared to use any means to cause terror and inflict appalling casualties on innocent people,” the G-8 leaders said in a joint statement.

The leaders announced ”a new G-8 global partnership against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction.”

The statement also called for observance of principles of non-proliferation and pledged support for "specific cooperation projects, initially in Russia, to address non-proliferation, disarmament, counter-terrorism and nuclear safety issues."

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice described the deal, struck at the G8 summit in the Canadian Rockies as "a very important initiative, and we’re delighted to get it done," according to Reuters.

"So, in the area of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, the president’s agenda was moved forward substantially," she told a news conference, adding that the total expenditure from the G-8 nations would be "up to" $20 billion.

How the money will be spent
Under the non-proliferation agreement — if the full $20 billion is to be realized — the United States will provide $1 billion a year for 10 years and other industrialized nations — such as France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Japan and Canada – would match that sum in an effort to buttress Russia’s crumbling weapons storage facilities and eliminate thousands of deadly weapons.

These weapons include, but are not limited to: 150-200 tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium; 7-800 tonnes of weapons-grade uranium; an estimated 16,000 stored nuclear weapons, including nuclear land mines and shells, and some portion of Russia?s 40,000 to 44,000 tonnes of chemical weapons — which include sarin and VX gas and constitute the world?s largest stockpile of chemical weapons.

Russia has already asked to extend its deadline for destroying 40,000 tons of chemical weapons from 2007 to 2012. Moscow says it does not have the funding to complete the job on time.

The G-8 programme would also help dismantle aging reactors aboard decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines— a problem called by the Bellona Foundation and numerous other environmental groups "a Chernobyl in slow motion. The programme will also dispose of fissile materials and would also find work for arms scientists frequently cast into post-Soviet poverty.

”Among our priority concerns are the destruction of chemical weapons, the dismantlement of decommissioned nuclear submarines, the disposition of fissile materials, and the employment of former weapons scientists,” theG-8 statement said.

The United States has spent $4 billion since 1992 helping to dismantle and
secure nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union under the Nunn-Lugar program, named for the senators who authored the bill, which later became officially known as the Pentagon-run Cooperative Threat Reduction Act, or CTR.
Access to nuclear sites
The issue of access has been a crucial sticking point in ongoing projects under CTR.

CTR has also been hobbled by lack of funding and limited access to sites that the Russian military considers too sensitive for foreigners. Yesterday’s deal appeared to achieve two Bush administration goals: improved access, and greater participation for Russia participation among other G-8 nations.

In April, the Bush administration said it would halt funding on Russian disarmament projects because of questions over Moscow’s compliance with chemical and biological weapons treaties that were raised when Russia refused to provide information about its secretive biological research programs.

According to senior government officials, the funding halt may have been a gambit to broaden access privileges to sensitive Russian sites.

"If the results of this summit are any indication, the gamble may have paid off," said a US Government official in an interview with Bellona Web Friday.
Raising the funding
Although it remained unclear exactly how the G-8 nations would raise their share of the money, the statement said the members would consider cancelling some of the old Soviet government debts, which the current Russian administration inherited.

The allies had previously withered from spending such a large amount on Russian disarmament, citing the difficulties of oversight and the potential for corruption. After overnight negotiations, however, Russia agreed to provide its G-8 partners access to sites where weapons of mass destruction would be eliminated, such as facilities where nuclear submarines are dismantled, a senior US official told The Associated Press.

Moscow also promised to provide the donor nations authority to audit and oversee the way the money is spent. Unconfirmed reports from US and European officials, speaking anonymously, have suggested that NATO would dole out the funding.

But Jon Wolfsthal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said in an interview with Bellona Web, that "it?s a little too early to tell how important programme is."

"The Bush administration has done a good job getting the Europeans, the Japanese and the Canadians to publicly commit to fund a program at a high level, which is something that hasn?t happened before," Wolfsthal said.

He added that the Bush administration had "done its homework" to assure contributing G-8 nations the same kind of access and tax exemptions that CTR is supposed to enjoy.

What remains to be seen, said Wolfsthal, is whether the G-8 commitment, especially from the Europeans, will amount to "fuzzy math." After all, each of these countries, he said, will have to take this programme back to their own parliaments.

"Are the Europeans going to count everything they?re already spending in terms of debt relief and environmental assistance as part of their billion dollar contributions," asked Wolfsthal, "or is this $1 billion in new money — and at this point it is too early to tell."

Bush sought to trim CTR
The Bush administration had sought to trim CTR programs early last year. But since Sept. 11, Bush has sought to keep weapons of mass destruction away from terrorists, as well as from Iran, Iraq and North Korea, which he has called an ”axis of evil” for their efforts to acquire those weapons and alleged links with terrorist groups.

The CTR programmes have provided security upgrades for only about 40 percent of Russia’s nuclear weapons facilities and a smaller percentage of biological and chemical sites, Senator Richard Lugar said in Moscow last month. At the present rate of funding it would take 27 more years before Russian weapons facilities are completely secure, said Lugar, an Indiana Republican, who launched the program with then US Senator Sam Nunn, a Democrat from the state of Georgia.

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