THE UNITED STATES and Ukraine agreed in late July to extend their participation in the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program for another six years. This development came as Moscow and Kiev appeared to have finally reached a compromise on the disposition of a number of heavy bombers left on Ukrainian soil following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Created in November 1991 by former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), the CTR program assists the former Soviet Union with the destruction and dismantlement of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and supports efforts to prevent their proliferation. In October 1993, Washington and Kiev signed an "umbrella agreement" that established a legal framework upon which such activities could be carried out in Ukraine. Recognizing that this arrangement was set to expire next year, the United States and Ukraine agreed on July 31 to extend the CTR umbrella agreement until December 31, 2006. The United States renewed a similar agreement with Russia, the largest recipient of CTR aid, in mid-June. (See ACT, June 1999.)
During fiscal years (FY) 1992-1999, the United States provided a total of $2.7 billion in CTR assistance to the former Soviet Union, $569 million of which went exclusively for projects in Ukraine. The conference report to the FY 2000 defense authorization bill—completed on August 5 but not yet approved by President Clinton—contains $475.5 million in new funds for the program, including $41.8 million for the continued elimination of strategic nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
According to the January 1999 START I Memorandum of Understanding (the latest official data available), Ukraine possesses 44 SS-24 ICBMs, 25 Bear bombers and 18 Blackjack bombers. To comply with START I, which entered into force in 1994, Kiev must either destroy these weapons systems or remove them from accountability (e.g., by transferring the bombers to Russia or converting them so that they may no longer perform nuclear missions) by December 2001.
The CTR program has had impressive successes in Ukraine. It was instrumental in helping Ukraine become a nuclear-weapon-free state in June 1996, when the last of an estimated 1,900 strategic warheads inherited from the Soviet Union was safely returned to Russia. More recently, in February, CTR assistance enabled Kiev to complete the elimination of 130 Soviet-era SS-19 ICBMs, as required by START I. Specifically, Ukraine destroyed 111 missiles, 130 missile silos and 13 launch control centers; 19 missiles were returned to Russia.
Bombers for Gas
In a related development, Colonel General Anatoly Kornukov, commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, said on August 19 that an agreement had been reached in principle under which Ukraine will transfer eight Blackjack bombers and two Bear bombers to Russia in September as a partial payment on its natural gas debt. Moscow believes that, with repairs and upgrades, these aircraft will be operational until 2015-2020.
Previous attempts by the sides to conclude a bomber deal fell apart, largely because of a disagreement over the price. Russia claims that Ukraine owes approximately $1.8 billion for past natural gas deliveries, while Kiev maintains that the debt is closer to $1 billion. The value assigned to each bomber under the deal remains unclear.