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Russia Scours Budget for Funds to Replace U.S. Disarmament Assistance
The Russian government is poring over its finances to see where it can shift monies to continue disarmament projects in light of its stated intention not to renew the expiring Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program with the United States, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Under the bilateral CTR program, Washington in the last two decades has supplied Moscow with in excess of $7 billion in technical advice, machinery, and monetary aid for its efforts to destroy Soviet-era nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction. Unhappy with the terms of the bilateral agreement -- particularly a clause that indemnifies the U.S. government and its contractors from liability stemming from any disarmament-related accident -- the Kremlin has said it will not renew the accord when it expires next June.
A source in the Russian Defense Ministry said Moscow is also frustrated by a requirement that it permit U.S. officials to inspect machinery financed by Washington to ensure it is being put to proper usage, according to the paper. The source argued the United States through these inspections has learned more about Russia's strategic weapons than it otherwise would have.
The U.S. State Department is still hopeful a compromise can be reached to continue Cooperative Threat Reduction past next year. Washington is worried a lapse of the CTR initiative could lead to break-downs in other U.S.-Russia joint efforts to eliminate and stop the spread of unconventional arms, the paper quotes a U.S. department source saying. Of particular concern in that area would be a 2010 bilateral agreement on the elimination of excess weapon-usable plutonium and a 1996 two-way accord on safeguarding and accounting for atomic materials.
The two deals' "implementation depends on the legal mechanisms embodied into the Nunn-Lugar program," according to the anonymous State Department source.
The unidentified Russian Defense Ministry insider said the Russian government would have to find between $300-$400 million annually to carry on CTR-related activities without U.S. assistance.
"We will request the Finance Ministry to allocate such amount to us," the source said. "However, we will not receive it fully with a big degree of probability."
The Russian military did not budget for disarmament efforts currently covered by the CTR initiative until 2020, according to the ministry insider. "If the money is not allocated the speed of liquidation will be reduced. Or we will have to reduce the volumes of purchasing of armament and to liquidate the weapons of mass destruction on the saved money."
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