"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016

Russia, Georgia Troop Deal Closer

Wade Boese

Talks between Georgia and Russia over Moscow’s withdrawal of its military forces from its southern neighbor have progressed, but a final settlement remains elusive. Moldova has made no recent headway in a similar dispute with Russia.

Signaling his frustration over the failure to finalize a deal with Russia, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili boycotted the Kremlin’s May 9 Red Square celebration commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Georgia and Russia had held talks three days earlier in an unsuccessful last-minute gambit to pave the way for Saakashvili to attend. Negotiations between the two sides are still ongoing.

President George W. Bush sat alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Moscow ceremony before traveling to Georgia the next day in a show of support for the former Soviet republic. Bush declared at a public rally in the Georgian capital city of Tbilisi that the “sovereignty of Georgia must be respected by all nations.”

The president also told journalists in Tbilisi that he had privately discussed Russia’s lingering presence in Georgia with Putin. Bush spoke positively of Russia’s commitment to withdraw its forces, saying that “there’s grounds for work to get this issue resolved.”

Russia pledged in November 1999 that it would close two of its military bases in Georgia before the end of 2000 and complete negotiations to vacate its other two bases there the same year. All bases were leftovers from the Soviet period.

Although Russia claims to have fulfilled its first commitment, Georgia disagrees, citing the stationing of 300 Russian troops at one of the bases, Gudauta. Moscow and Tbilisi also have been unable to agree on a timetable for Russia to quit its bases at Batumi and Akhalkalaki.

Moscow is moving closer to meeting Georgia’s demands. In previous negotiations, Russia had trimmed by more than half its original estimate that it would take 15 years to complete the withdrawal; Georgia has consistently insisted that three years should suffice. The Kremlin now says it could remove all of its 3,000 or so troops by Jan. 1, 2009. However, Tbilisi wants them out a year earlier.

In a March 10 resolution, Georgia’s parliament sketched out penalties Russia could incur if an agreement is not reached prior to May 15. Possible punitive measures include the denial of visas to Russian military personnel and new constraints on the movement of Russian military forces, equipment, and cargo throughout Georgia. Tbilisi could hold off on the penalties if it perceives Russia is serious about striking a deal soon, a Georgian government official told Arms Control Today May 10.


Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova also continues to host Russian forces on its soil involuntarily. Prospects of their departure in the near term are dim because Russian forces are located in a separatist region, Transdniestria, that does not want them to leave.

When Moscow pledged to withdraw from Georgia, it also promised to do the same in Moldova by the end of 2002. Yet, the 55-member Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe estimates that roughly 1,400 Russian troops, more than 20,000 metric tons of ammunition, and about 10 trainloads of Russian military equipment are still located in Moldova. The last Russian withdrawal activity involved a single trainload of ammunition in 2004.

Washington and other capitals have contributed funding to help Russia relinquish its military footholds both in Moldova and Georgia. The United States and other NATO alliance members are also withholding their approval of a 1999 revision of a pact limiting military hardware in Europe pending Russia’s fulfillment of its withdrawal commitments.

Moscow wants the adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty to enter into force so Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania can join. These three recent additions to NATO cannot join the original treaty because it lacks provisions for countries to accede to it, whereas the revised version is open to new countries. The original accord will remain in force until all of its 30 states-parties ratify the updated version; only Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Russia have done so. (See ACT, September 2004.)

Russia’s concern is that NATO could station large quantities of military equipment in its three new members because they are not subject to the original treaty’s restrictions on the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that can be deployed between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. The revised accord caps the amount of treaty-limited ground weapons that can be located on the territory of each individual state-party.

U.S. government officials maintain Washington supports bringing the adapted CFE Treaty into force, but not at the expense of Russia retaining military outposts in countries that do not want them.



Syria to Acquire Russian Missiles

Wade Boese

Russian President Vladimir Putin has brushed aside U.S. and Israeli objections and risked U.S. sanctions by authorizing the sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.

In an April 20 interview with Israel’s Channel One television network, Putin said Russia had declined to sell Syria surface-to-surface missiles that could threaten Israeli territory but had approved the sale of anti-aircraft missiles. How many missiles Russia plans to export to Syria remains unconfirmed.

In the interview, Putin justified the deal as being solely for defensive purposes and refuted the notion that it might affect the region’s military balance. He asserted the sale would make it “more difficult to make low-altitude flights over the residence of the president of Syria.” Israel has used combat aircraft before in this manner to send blunt messages to the regime in Damascus.

The Russian president argued that the SA-18 anti-aircraft missiles would be mounted on vehicles and could not be converted into shoulder-launched systems. “These systems are set on vehicles, and they cannot be unnoticeably handed over to terrorist organizations,” Putin said. He further maintained that Russian officials would retain the authority and ability to verify that the systems stay in Syria.

U.S. and Israeli officials, however, fear that the missiles could end up aiding terrorist groups that Damascus supports, such as Hezbollah, which regularly launches attacks against Israel from Lebanon.

Stephen Hadley, national security adviser to President George W. Bush, said May 4 that the United States remains concerned. “There’s a controversy about whether [the Russians] have addressed it in an adequate way,” Hadley stated.

Shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), have emerged in recent years as a top proliferation concern worldwide because of their potential to enable an individual to bring down a commercial or military aircraft with a single shot. Terrorists unsuccessfully tried to use MANPADS to bring down an Israeli commercial airliner leaving Kenya in November 2002.

Washington and Moscow concluded a new bilateral agreement last February to destroy excess MANPADS and tighten export controls over such weapons. (See ACT, March 2005.) They also agreed to “consult in certain instances on transfers to problematic countries,” the Department of State told Arms Control Today after the two sides announced the deal. U.S. officials said at that time that the Kremlin claimed its proposed sale to Syria was not subject to the latest U.S.-Russian agreement because the missiles were vehicle mounted.

Still, Moscow could be penalized by the United States for delivering the missiles. The U.S. Foreign Assistance Act calls on Washington to deny aid under the act to governments transferring “lethal military equipment” to countries that it designates as state sponsors of terrorism. These countries currently include Syria, Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan.

Washington can waive the sanctions if it believes it is in the U.S. interest to do so. In March 1999, the Clinton administration decided against sanctioning Moscow for exporting anti-tank missiles to Syria, claiming U.S. assistance to Russia was too important to cut. Instead, Washington levied sanctions against the specific Russian companies involved in the transaction. (See ACT, March 1999.)

Moscow provided Damascus with billions of dollars worth of weapons during the Cold War. That steady stream dwindled to a trickle after the Soviet Union’s collapse as Russia demanded Syria pay for additional purchases with cash rather than credit. Earlier this year, Russia reportedly waived approximately three-quarters of Syria’s $13 billion debt, much of which stemmed from weapons deals. Russia’s debt forgiveness, however, is not expected to lead to a jump in Syrian arms buys because Moscow is still demanding cash payments for its weapons exports.



What Are Nuclear Weapons For? Recommendations for Restructuring U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces

By Sidney D. Drell and James E. Goodby

U.S., Russia Seek Help on Plutonium

Claire Applegarth

The Department of Energy is looking for international donations to help pay the substantial costs of shutting down Russia’s three remaining nuclear reactors that produce weapons-grade plutonium.

This program, originally assigned to the Pentagon in 1997, works cooperatively with Russia to provide replacement fossil-fuel energy plants for the two Siberian cities that house the three reactors. The Energy Department assumed responsibility for these activities in 2002, which then became known as the Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production program. The program is currently managed by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

The Energy Department, which in 2002 estimated that the program would cost less than $470 million, sharply revised its estimates in 2003 after accounting for Russian inflation, escalating labor costs, and contractor fees. Though the program’s baseline cost will not be determined until June, officials now estimate that total costs could reach close to $1 billion.

Accordingly, the United States is now seeking support from other countries. As a first step, it recently convinced potential contributors to attend a conference in Spiez, Switzerland, Feb. 8-9. Those states included Canada, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Slovakia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The conference, primarily sponsored by the Swiss government, discussed how to shift these communities away from the nuclear industry. Russian officials have asked for aid in cleaning up decommissioned sites and creating new employment opportunities for the local workforce in the wake of the reactors’ shutdown.

The conference goals reflected a shift in the program’s emphasis since coming under the aegis of the Energy Department. Originally, the program had been aimed at converting the reactor cores of the three nuclear plants so as not to produce weapons-grade spent nuclear fuel. But U.S. and Russian officials concluded in 2001 that eliminating weapons-grade plutonium production could be better accomplished by building replacement fossil-fuel plants to provide much-needed heat and electricity.

Currently, these nuclear reactors produce a cumulative 1.2 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium annually, or enough by some estimates to produce 300 nuclear weapons a year. The designs of the 1960s-era plutonium reactors also predate the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine, the site of the 1986 nuclear accident. The United States is expecting to shutter two of the three reactors by December 2008 through the refurbishment of a fossil fuel plant located at the Russian city of Seversk, a project that is targeted to be more than 60 percent complete by the end of fiscal year 2006. The Energy Department has requested $132 million for the program in its fiscal year 2006 budget request, a 200 percent increase over the 2005 allocation. NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks, in a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee March 2, said that the budget request was “fully adequate” to shut down the two nuclear reactors at Seversk.

But shutting down the third Russian plutonium-producing reactor near Zheleznogorsk entails constructing a new fossil fuel plant, a venture that, according to the Energy Department, requires at least $100 million from international donors to meet its completion target date of 2011. So far, the United Kingdom has pledged $20 million to the effort, to be spread over a three-year period, and Canada has offered $7 million.

According to a June 2004 report by the Government Accountability Office, the United States did not count on Russian funding for the effort. Nevertheless, Russia has aided the projects by offering some suggestions on how to operate the plants more cost effectively and by purchasing land.

The Energy Department’s budget request for fiscal year 2006, should it be approved by Congress, would decrease funding for activities at Zheleznogorsk compared to the fiscal year 2005 allocation because of the current emphasis on closing the reactors at Seversk and in anticipation of heightened international support.

Bolton Nomination Splits Capitol Hill

Miles A. Pomper

President George W. Bush’s nomination of John R. Bolton as U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations has divided members of Congress along party lines. But it is unclear if Democrats will have any more luck in derailing Bolton’s nomination to the new post than they did four years ago when Bush tapped the conservative favorite as the Department of State’s point man on arms control and nonproliferation issues.

Bolton, currently undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, has long been a close political ally of top conservatives, such as former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), and served Bush as a lawyer during the Florida recount of the 2000 presidential elections. But he has drawn fire from the political left and from some Republicans for his vocal and often colorful criticism of the value of international organizations and multilateral treaties in addressing security concerns.

Still, on March 7, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that Bush was nominating Bolton to the high-profile UN post. She championed Bolton, who has served both the current president and his father in senior-level State Department posts, as a “tough-minded diplomat.” Four days later, Bush announced his intention to nominate a former Rice aide, Robert Joseph, to succeed Bolton.

“Through history, some of our best ambassadors have been those with the strongest voices, ambassadors like Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan,” Rice said. Rice touted Bolton’s record as undersecretary of state. In particular, she cited his development of the Proliferation Security Initiative, to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction and related goods to terrorists and countries of proliferation concern; his role in prodding Libya to give up its nuclear and chemical weapons programs and some longer-range missiles; and his part in crafting the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which pledged to cut within a decade the number of strategic nuclear warheads operationally deployed by the United States and Russia to 1,700-2,200 warheads apiece.

Controversial Record
Yet, that record has drawn criticism from foreign diplomats, Democrats, and some Republicans who say that Bolton is an odd pick for the UN post, given his cutting remarks about many forms of multilateral diplomacy and his opposition to many multinational arms control agreements and extended negotiations.

In his current position, Bolton has been blamed by Democrats and some U.S. allies for helping to block efforts to negotiate an end to Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs. He is also seen as slowing efforts to secure and dismantle Russia’s Cold War arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and related delivery systems and helping to torpedo efforts to establish a verification protocol to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

They worry that handing Bolton a UN platform will obstruct tentative moves by the Bush administration toward a more diplomatic approach. North Korea’s failure to abide by its nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments is already before the UN Security Council, and key European nations have recently signaled a new willingness to consider referring Iran’s case to that body if Tehran moves forward with its efforts to develop a uranium-enrichment program.

“This is a disappointing choice and one that sends all the wrong signals,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “At a time when President Bush has recognized we need to begin repairing our damaged relations with the rest of the world, he nominates someone with a long history of being opposed to working cooperatively with other nations.”

In addition, some administration officials have raised questions about Bolton’s willingness to challenge his direct superiors.

In Bush’s first term, Bolton clashed routinely with Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage over nonproliferation and arms control policy, aides said, often siding with the Department of Defense and Vice President Dick Cheney over his putative superiors. These aides said senior officials routinely sought to water down Bolton’s claims about foreign countries’ weapons programs, such as his contention that Cuba and Libya had active biological weapons programs. In Libya’s case, such claims appear to have been disproven after Tripoli agreed to disarm all of its weapons programs in December 2003.

Still, Bolton can count on the support of most Senate Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), for example, called Bolton an ‘’outstanding candidate.’’ Even some who had raised initial questions about Bolton’s nomination, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), the Foreign Relations Committee’s second-ranking Republican, have fallen into line.

Moreover, Republicans now outnumber Democrats 55 to 44 in that chamber (one independent, James Jeffords (Vt.), generally votes with the Democrats). The Senate was evenly split between both parties when Bolton was confirmed by a vote of 57-43 as undersecretary for arms control and international security in May 2001.

The first hurdle for Bolton is expected to come April 7-8 when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds its Senate confirmation hearing. When the panel considers Bolton’s nomination, it is largely expected to vote along party lines (it has 10 Republicans and 8 Democrats) in favor of his nomination, although there are some wild cards.

For example, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) generally supports a president’s nominees as a matter of principle and supported Bolton’s previous nomination in 2001. Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), on the other hand, has been a strong critic of Bush and his foreign policy and is up for re-election next year in strongly Democratic Rhode Island.

In addition, panel chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), while vowing that he would move forward with consideration of the nomination, has pointedly not expressed his support for Bolton.

Most panel aides believe Bolton will ultimately win confirmation but will first need to convince committee members of his willingness to take a more diplomatic approach.

This tack has succeeded in the past. In his 2001 confirmation hearings, Bolton played down Democratic attempts to hold off his nomination, citing his previously published views on various arms control subjects, such as his opposition to past agreements to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

“I’ve actually changed my mind from time to time,” Bolton said.

Joseph Nomination
Joseph’s Senate confirmation hearing is expected sometime in April During Bush’s first term, Joseph served as senior director for proliferation strategy, counterproliferation, and homeland defense at the National Security Council. He also held senior arms control posts in past Republican administrations.

Joseph’s views are considered similar to those of Bolton, and he has played a key role in shaping administration policy toward North Korea, Iran, and Libya, as well as in the deployment of U.S. nuclear forces.

Panel members may raise questions about Joseph’s role in a claim that Bush made in his 2003 State of the Union speech that the White House later acknowledged was based on inaccurate information. Those remarks touched on what Bush said were Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from the African nation of Niger.

Joseph’s post at the National Security Council has been filled by John Rood. (See ACT, March 2005.)

However, another senior NSC arms control post has recently become open. Frank Miller, senior director for defense policy and arms control left in March to join a consulting group led by former Defense Secretary William Cohen.


Iran, Russia Reach Nuclear Agreement

Paul Kerr

The conclusion of an agreement in which Russia will supply Iran with nuclear fuel for a 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear power reactor marks the latest step in a decade-long controversy.

Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy Director Alexander Rumyantsev announced Feb. 27 that Tehran and Moscow had finally signed off on a deal to supply fuel for the reactor near the southern Iranian city of Bushehr for a period of 10 years. Although the United States has long opposed the reactor project, the Bush administration did not publicly criticize the agreement.

In 1995, Russia agreed to finish the reactor project, which is widely reported to be worth about $800 million. The original German contractor abandoned the project following Iran’s 1979 revolution.

A final deal was delayed several times as the two sides negotiated a provision that requires Iran to return the spent reactor fuel to Russia. The arrangement was designed to reduce the risk that Iran will separate plutonium from the spent fuel. Separated plutonium can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons. (See ACT, October 2003.)

Iran does not have a known facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to obtain plutonium, although Tehran has conducted related experiments.

Although the full fresh-fuel delivery schedule has not been made public, Rumyantsev said that the first shipment will occur “some six months” before the reactor begins operation in late 2006. In a March 21 interview with Arms Control Today, a Russian government nuclear expert estimated that the spent fuel will not go back to Russia until 2011 at the earliest. The returned fuel will then be stored at a facility in the Russian city of Zheleznogorsk (formerly Krasnoyarsk-26).

There is some question, however, as to how long the spent fuel will need to remain in cooling ponds located in Iran before being sent to Russia. The Russian official’s estimate assumes that the fuel needs two years to cool. However, other Russian officials have told their U.S. counterparts that the fuel must stay in Iran between three and five years, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today March 21.

Both Russian and Iranian officials said the governments remain engaged in discussions about the possibility that Moscow might build additional reactors for Tehran.

Light-water nuclear reactors are considered more proliferation-resistant than other types of reactors. But the United States had wanted Russia to abandon the Bushehr project altogether, arguing that Moscow’s assistance would allow Iran to acquire expertise and dual-use technology that could aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program.

Undersecretary of State for International Security and Arms Control John Bolton told the House International Relations Committee in June 2003 that Iran could build “over 80 nuclear weapons” if it had access to sufficient fuel, operated the reactor for five to six years, and chose to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This estimate assumes that Iran possesses a reprocessing facility.

The project was a point of contention during a May 2002 meeting between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. But U.S. officials said two months later that Washington would not publicly object to the reactor if Moscow took steps, such as requiring the spent fuel’s return, to mitigate the project’s proliferation risks, the State Department official said. Indeed, neither Bush nor Putin mentioned the issue during a joint press conference following a Feb. 24 bilateral meeting.

Russia contends that the reactor will not pose a proliferation risk because it will operate under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

IAEA safeguards agreements require states-parties to the NPT to allow the agency to monitor their declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military use. Iran also signed an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement in 2003. That protocol augments the agency’s authority to detect clandestine nuclear activities. Tehran has agreed to abide by its provisions until Iran’s parliament ratifies the agreement.

Washington Reacts
Speaking to reporters Feb. 28, State Department spokesperson Adam Ereli would not say whether Washington approves of the deal. But he characterized it as representing a “convergence…of views between the United States and Russia about the problem posed by Iran’s nuclear program.”

The Bush administration has repeatedly asked Russia to help pressure Iran to end the latter’s uranium-enrichment program, which Washington says is a cover for a nuclear weapons program. Despite the recent fuel-supply deal, Tehran has said that it will continue to develop its own nuclear fuel cycle facilities.

The IAEA discovered in 2003 that Iran had an extensive, clandestine uranium-enrichment program. Tehran has suspended this program for the duration of negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The two sides are attempting to reach a long-term agreement that is to include “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Uranium enrichment increases the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope to produce either low-enriched uranium (LEU) for civilian nuclear reactor fuel or highly enriched uranium (HEU). If enriched to high enough levels, HEU can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons. The Bushehr reactor uses LEU.

A senior administration official told reporters in February that Russia has “made it clear” that it will not complete the reactor until “the Iranians have met all their international obligations.” Additionally, the State Department official suggested that Russia might use the fuel agreement as leverage to persuade Iran to cooperate with the Europeans.

Russia’s enthusiasm for such tactics is difficult to gauge. Putin displayed little alarm over Iran’s nuclear programs last month, stating that “Iran does not intend to produce nuclear arms.” Moreover, Moscow may not view Iran’s compliance with its European interlocutors’ demands as an “international obligation” because Iran is not legally obligated to suspend or dismantle its uranium-enrichment program.

Nevertheless, Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov explicitly stated March 1 that Iran should maintain its suspension, and Putin told reporters March 18 that Russia supports the Europeans’ negotiations.

The Bush administration previously said Moscow should condition the fuel supply agreement on Tehran’s conclusion of its additional protocol. Moscow hinted at such conditions, but the extent to which it linked the two issues is unclear.

Threat Reduction Budget Detailed

Claire Applegarth

The Department of Defense has outlined how it would like to spend the $415.5 million President George W. Bush requested from Congress earlier this year to help dismantle excess weapons and related infrastructure, particularly in Russia and the former Soviet Union. The Pentagon wants to steer more of the funds in Bush’s fiscal year 2006 requests to programs that enhance nuclear warhead security and dismantle strategic weapons delivery systems, while reducing funds allotted to chemical weapons destruction.

The total request for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program for fiscal year 2006, which begins Oct. 1, would represent a slight increase over current spending of $409.2 million. The Defense Department is one of three departments, along with the Departments of State and Energy, that conduct such threat reduction programs. All told, Bush has requested about $1 billion for the program. (See ACT, March 2005.)

According to a report submitted to Congress in late February, the Pentagon requests that the Russia-based Nuclear Weapons Storage Security program, charged with the safety and security of stored nuclear weapons, receive the largest funding increase in 2006—more than $25 million—bringing total spending under that program to $74.1 million. A related effort to ensure the security of nuclear warheads during transport would be given $30 million, an increase of $3.7 million over fiscal year 2005.

The proposed budget would also hike funds for the Strategic Offensive Arms Elimination program, which helps dismantle Russian strategic delivery vehicles such as ICBMs. The administration’s budget requests $78.9 million for these activities, up from the $58.5 million appropriated the previous year.

The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2006 budget request would augment programs to prevent biological weapons proliferation by more than $5 million in 2006, reaching $60.8 million. These efforts focus on eliminating biological weapons infrastructure and securing, removing, and consolidating dangerous pathogens, as well as redirecting bioweapons scientists into peaceful research. Although the program oversees ongoing projects in many states of the former Soviet Union, the lack of an implementing agreement between the United States and Russia has limited the scope of such activities in Russia.

Meanwhile, cuts were proposed for the Chemical Weapons Destruction program in Russia, from $158.4 million in 2005 to $108.5 million in 2006. The program’s primary undertaking is the construction of a chemical weapons destruction facility near the Russian town of Shchuch’ye, which will destroy nearly 11,000 metric tons of nerve agents currently stored in 4 million warheads. Prior year allocations to this endeavor have largely met the Pentagon’s estimated project cost of slightly more than $1 billion, allowing for lesser spending in fiscal years 2006 and 2007 before the facility begins initial operation in 2008.

No new money has been requested for the destruction of a chemical weapons stockpile in Albania, which has already been fully funded at $18.2 million and should be completed in November 2006. Congressional approval of this spending marked the first extension of the CTR program’s activities to countries outside Russia and the former Soviet Union (see ACT, December 2004), although legislation signed by Bush in late 2003 allows for up to $50 million to be spent outside the former Soviet bloc states.

U.S. Says it Will Complete Russian Nuclear Security Upgrades by 2008

Claire Applegarth

A high-level Bush administration official told a gathering of nuclear experts Dec. 14 that the United States had accelerated its efforts to secure approximately 600 metric tons of fissile materials in Russia and was on track to complete this work by 2008.

Paul Longsworth, deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), rebuffed charges by former Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) that such security upgrades would not be completed until 2013 as “simply not true.”

Longsworth said that Kerry had erred in using the wrong standard to assess the progress of the Department of Energy effort. Kerry judged progress by the percentage of fissile materials secured rather than the number of sites that had received security upgrades, a figure that puts the Bush administration’s progress in a better light.

A Dec. 10 NNSA press release said that upgrades were completed at nearly 70 percent of Russian sites and anticipated that “close to 80 percent” would be secured by the end of 2005.

Kerry’s criticism was based on a Harvard University report by Matthew Bunn and Anthony Wier entitled “Securing the Bomb: An Agenda for Action,” in which the authors explained that the amount of nuclear materials receiving comprehensive security upgrades had only increased from 17 percent to 22 percent during fiscal year 2003 and that the overall pace of installation for security upgrades had slowed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Energy Department’s fiscal year 2005 budget request, released nearly a year ago, reported a similar assessment, concluding that slightly more than one-quarter of Russia’s weapons-usable material would be secured by September 2004. Nevertheless, that budget report still held that the upgrade would be completed by 2008.

NNSA officials said the difference between the two sets of numbers stemmed from the order in which the sites were secured. The most vulnerable sites were secured first, but these sites also were smaller and contained less fissile materials. As progress continues on security upgrades, larger sites will be targeted, and greater amounts of nuclear materials will be secured “with roughly the same amount of time and effort as previously completed sites.”

NNSA announced Dec. 10 that two more nuclear facilities had received complete security upgrades: the Electrochemical Plant at Zelenogorsk, which blends highly enriched uranium (HEU) down to low-enriched uranium (LEU) and also produces LEU for commercial use, and the Urals Electrochemical Integrated Plant, which enriches uranium for commercial fuel. A third facility, the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant, received a security upgrade in September.

The Bush administration also announced in mid-December that it had waived human rights-related restrictions on threat reduction funds to Uzbekistan that will aid that country in securing and eventually eliminating weapons of mass destruction-related materials. Meanwhile, the United States and Kazakhstan signed an amendment to the cooperative threat reduction program on biological weapons Dec. 8, raising the level of funding allocated to those projects by roughly $35 million, and allowing for expanded cooperative efforts between the two countries on bioterrorism.

In another threat reduction endeavor Dec. 22, a collaborative mission between the United States, the Czech Republic, and Russia succeeded in secretly returning 6 kg of HEU from a research reactor near the Czech capital of Prague to a secure facility in Russia.

Russia Speeds Chemical Weapon Disposal

Michael Nguyen

The destruction of Russia’s massive Soviet-era chemical weapons stockpile has been proceeding glacially, but recent actions by Russian and U.S. leaders may allow this pace to be accelerated substantially.

With slightly more than 40,000 metric tons, Russia has the world’s largest declared stockpile of chemical weapons but is the furthest from completing the destruction process among the six states that have pledged to eliminate declared stockpiles under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Russia has been given multiple interim-deadline extensions and has been granted in principle the one-time, five-year extension to the final deadline of 2007, but U.S. officials doubt it will meet the extended deadline either. By the end of 2004, Russia had destroyed less than 3 percent of its stockpile.

To speed up destruction, President Vladimir Putin signed the 2005 federal budget approved by the Duma and Federation Council into law Dec. 24 providing $400 million for chemical weapons destruction, more than twice the $186 million allocated in 2004. Russian officials attributed the large increase to an effort to make up for what they said was disappointing support from international donors.

Col. Gen. Victor Kholstov, head of the Russian chemical demilitarization program, and other officials have pointed to a report from the Russian government that found that only 30 percent of the funds designated by the United States for Russian chemical weapons disposal activities were being given to Russia; the rest was being used to monitor the use of the funds. However, when pressed as to whether the Kremlin had counted U.S. funding used to purchase equipment in the United States, Kholstov admitted that the 30 percent figure included only what had been transferred to Russia’s Federal Agency on Industry.

In the United States, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) plans to reintroduce legislation next year that would eliminate six conditions placed by lawmakers on U.S. funding of a major chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuch’ye. (See ACT, December 2004.) In the past, these stipulations have suspended or delayed the flow of such funds to Russia. Since 2002, President George W. Bush has had and used the authority to waive the conditions on national security grounds, but it has been necessary for Congress to renew the waiver authority each year.

The most recent defense authorization bill granted the president waiver authority through December 2006. The president signed a waiver of these stipulations Nov. 29, releasing U.S. funding through the end of the 2005 calendar year. The fiscal 2005 defense authorization bill earmarks $158.4 million through September toward the construction of the chemical weapons destruction plant at Shchuch’ye.

Two conditions have been particularly difficult to meet, making a waiver necessary. One requires that Russia develop a practical plan for nerve agent destruction, while the other requires that Russia destroy all nerve agents at a single location. In a 2001 agreement, Russia pledged to complete the destruction process of all nerve agents at the Shchuch’ye facility.

Patrick Wakefield, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for chemical demilitarization and threat reduction, told a Moscow audience in November that Russia and the United States had recently agreed to a more realistic plan to complete construction by July 2008 and begin destruction in mid-2009. Russia had been insisting that the facility would be ready by 2006.

The Shchuch’ye requirement, however, remains a sticking point.

The original intent of the requirement to destroy all nerve agents at one location was to protect the U.S. investment in the Shchuch’ye facility, where the United States expects to spend $1 billion over the course of the project—a hefty price tag for a location that only has 13.6 percent of Russia’s chemical weapons stockpile.

The stipulations have generated resentment on the Russian side, with one Russian official telling a U.S. audience late last summer that the requirement was setting Russia up for failure because there was not enough time to destroy all the nerve agent at one facility. The requirements would also require Russia to transport chemical munitions and agent, or caustic reaction mass (the by-product of the neutralization process), over several hundred miles by rail.

The Russians have pointed out that, by contrast, the United States plans to construct destruction facilities at each of its present chemical weapons storage locations and that plans to transport the reaction mass ran into significant opposition by local communities.

A report completed last April by the General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) agreed with the Russian assessment, noting that, if the Shchuch’ye plant operated at its full destruction capacity of 1,700 metric tons per year, Russia would not complete the destruction of its nerve agent stockpile until 2027.

Russian nerve agents are stored at five different locations, including Shchuch’ye, and Russian officials have suggested that it may decide to construct disposal facilities at all locations. Several countries have committed funding for additional nerve agent destruction facilities. Although additional international donors were welcomed, one U.S. official cautioned that Russia may turn around and blame new donors for future delays.

The original agreement with the United States allows Russia to perform some neutralization on-site but required all nerve agent reaction mass to be transported to Shchuch’ye and destroyed. Russia has not finalized its plans and could choose to finish the neutralization process at each location or set the reaction mass aside for use in commercial industrial processes. Either option would violate the agreement with the United States and the conditions imposed by Congress.

News Analysis: U.S.-Russian Nuclear Rivalry Linger

Wade Boese

In signing an arms control treaty with Russia two years ago, President George W. Bush said the simple, less than 500-words document reflected a new spirit of cooperation and trust between the two former foes based upon the recognition that they were no longer enemies.

“This treaty liquidates the Cold War legacy of nuclear hostility between our countries,” Bush said at the May 24, 2002 signing of the U.S.-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) in Moscow.

Yet, it appears that when it comes to nuclear weapons, old habits die hard. In closing the deal on SORT, the two countries also agreed to establish a new forum to discuss matters related to their nuclear forces. But competing agendas blocked talks in this forum over the past year.

There “hasn’t been a lot of energy in this process,” a U.S. government official told Arms Control Today Dec. 8, because neither side is happy with what the other wants to talk about.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin—harkening back to the days of its superpower competition with the United States—is boasting about its development of new offensive strategic capabilities designed to render ineffective anti-missile systems such as those being developed by Washington.

The Bush administration touts the SORT agreement as one of its major disarmament achievements. The accord requires Washington and Moscow to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to less than 2,200 apiece by the end of 2012. But it does not require the destruction of any weapons, establish a schedule for the reductions, or include verification measures to ensure each side is following through on the agreement. Because of the absence of verification provisions, the U.S. intelligence community has informed the Bush administration that it would be unable to verify with high confidence Russia’s compliance with the treaty, according to a Dec. 20, 2004 Knight Ridder report.

The United States possesses almost 6,000 deployed strategic warheadsroughly 1,000 more than Russia. Both countries also store thousands of nondeployed strategic warheads that are not limited by SORT or other previous bilateral treaties.

In conjunction with SORT, the two sides established the Consultative Group for Strategic Security (CGSS) as the “principal mechanism through which the sides strengthen mutual confidence, expand transparency, share information and plans, and discuss strategic issues of mutual interest.” In short, the group, which is chaired by the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers, is responsible for working out nuclear weapons issues that SORT does not address. The two governments later formed separate CGSS working groups on missile defense cooperation and offensive transparency.

These working groups met several times in 2003, but the offensive transparency working group did not meet in 2004. A meeting of this group might occur in late January, according to U.S. government officials. Washington would like to use the talks to win Moscow’s support for increasing personnel exchanges, tours, and briefings in the event a matter of concern arises.

The United States is also seeking greater information on Russia’s tactical nuclear warheads, which are those designed for battlefield use. Neither SORT nor previous U.S.-Russian/Soviet arms control agreements limit tactical nuclear warhead stockpiles. Russia is estimated to possess thousands in undisclosed locations, and the United States stations 480 in six European states. (See ACT, November 2004.)

Moscow has shown little interest in the U.S. proposals, according to the U.S. official interviewed Dec. 8. Instead, Russia wants to discuss issues that it raised regularly during the Cold War, such as heavy bomber deployments, submarine operations, and sea-launched cruise missile limits.

To be sure, the two countries did hold some meetings in 2004 on fulfilling existing treaty commitments. U.S. and Russian officials met twice through the Bilateral Implementation Commission to discuss progress in carrying out SORT, although they did not have much to say since neither side has finalized plans for implementing the treaty. Washington has mapped out reductions to 3,500-4,000 operationally deployed strategic warheads by 2007, while the U.S. official described Moscow’s plans as “very vague.”

Despite a recent boost in Russian revenue from high oil and gas prices, Russian forces are projected to decline to 1,500 or fewer deployed strategic nuclear warheads over the next decade due to budget constraints and retirement of aging nuclear delivery systems.

Still, the influx of funds has enabled Moscow to try and preserve some parity with Washington by allowing Russia to resume activity on strategic weapons programs previously slowed or shelved because of financial strains. Some of the projects date back to the Soviet period.

Amid what it claimed were its largest military exercises in two decades, Moscow announced early last year a successful test of a new weapon capable of high-speed maneuvers. Few details have emerged about the system, which a top Russian military official described as a hypersonic glide vehicle.

Russia also touted progress on two new types of long-range ballistic missiles: a road-mobile Topol-M and the submarine-launched Bulava. Moscow reported a fourth successful test of the road-mobile missile on Dec. 24 and intends to start deploying the single-warhead missile as early as 2006. Russia has fielded 40 silo-based Topol-Ms since 1997.

Moscow has notified Washington of its intention to deploy the Bulava, but when that would happen is unclear as it is still in the very early stages of testing and the new submarines that are being developed to carry the missile are still under construction.

The value of these new systems, according to Russian statements, is their ability to penetrate missile defenses. While Russian officials avoid saying their arms are developed with the United States in mind, the Bush administration champions missile defense as a top priority. The administration asserts that its anti-missile systems are not for military advantage vis-a-vis Russia but for protection against emerging missile powers and terrorists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Feb. 18, 2004, “as other countries increase the number and quality of their arms and military potential, then Russia will also need to ensure it has new generation arms and technology.” He later declared in November that Russia is pursuing arms that have no equal.

Bush administration officials say they are not worried about Russia’s arms developments because it is no longer an enemy. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker told a Washington audience Dec. 17 that the United States is not concerned about Russian claims that their new missiles are capable of evading missile defenses.

The U.S. official interviewed Dec. 8 deemed much of Russia’s rhetoric as being geared for domestic consumption. Yet, the official added that the “sense of competition is very much alive” in Russia because it “tends to view the world as we did 15 years ago.”

The Bush administration has expressed little interest in conducting any further nuclear weapon negotiations with Russia. After completion of SORT, Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with PBS, “We believe that [SORT] is a transitional measure to a day when arms control will play a very minor role in U.S.-Russian relations, if a role at all.”



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