Russia has opted against renewing a key agreement allowing the United States to assist in securing and eliminating Soviet-built weapons of mass destruction, U.S. State Department insiders said in comments quoted by RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
Russian international relations officials told their U.S. equivalents that Moscow has prioritized the protection of national security information over the acquisition of foreign monetary aid it now deems unnecessary, the State Department insiders told the Kommersant newspaper. The present enabling deal for Cooperative Threat Reduction operations in Russia is due to lapse in 2013; prior renewals of the 21-year-old accord took place in 1999 and 2006.
"Russia announced that it had no more need for American finances ... that it could implement the tasks in question entirely on its own," one State Department staffer told Kommersant.
A Russian Foreign Ministry insider stated: "The agreement is thoroughly discriminating. It fails to take into account the changes that took place in the world after its signing in the 1990s."
Russia believes bilateral collaboration on the same matters remains possible, and hopes to prepare a successor arrangement "based on the principles of equality and mutual respect," a ministry worker added.
Atomic expert Vladimir Orlov said the Nunn-Lugar initiative "was quite helpful during the years when the Russian budget had no money for nuclear security." The program has absorbed $8 billion to date in U.S. funds, according to Kommersant.
"As matters stand, we do not need American money for it anymore," said Orlov, an analyst with the Center for Policy Studies in Russia. "The heads of the enterprises and institutes accustomed to living on subsidies are the only lobbyists of the Nunn-Lugar program nowadays. So, there is no need to suspect Moscow of any malicious intent or anything. The program has accomplished its mission. Time to let it go."
He advocated the creation of a successor project.
"Just dropping the program in 2013 will be the least reasonable step on Moscow's part," he said. "The program should be replaced with something new, or it will lead to self-isolation of Russia. The Nunn-Lugar program ought to be replaced with a new program of Russian-American nuclear cooperation."
The Nunn-Lugar effort has supported the elimination of significant quantities of Cold War-era nuclear weapons and other armaments, incluidng deactivation of more than 7,600 strategic nuclear warheads. It has bolstered protections at atomic installations in one-time Soviet states, RIA Novosti quoted the initiative's website as saying. The program has also aided in repurposing former WMD organizations and manufacturing sites, the news agency said.
Financial aid comprises only one element of CTR activities, U.S. State and Defense department personnel stressed.
"The program stands for joint inspections ... and interaction between professionals on both sides It enables us to build up trust in each other," one insider stated in comments published by Kommersant. Protections for Russian nuclear armaments could suffer as a result of the program's demise, a second observer added.
Such defenses of CTR operations have gained little traction in Russia, according to Kommersant.
The country receives nonproliferation support from a separate multilateral initiative overseen by the Group of Eight leading industrial nations, one international relations insider noted.