G-8 Addresses Russian Plutonium Disposition

The world's leading industrialized nations committed to developing a plan to finance Russian disposition of weapons-origin plutonium at the July 21-23 Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Okinawa, Japan. The agreement, enunciated in a summit communiqué issued July 23, states that the group's goal for the 2001 summit is to develop an "international financing plan for plutonium management and disposition" as well as a "multilateral framework" to coordinate cooperation on the issue. Michael Guhin, U.S. negotiator for plutonium disposition, characterized the agreement in an August 23 interview as a "major accomplishment."

Russia and the United States agreed to each dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-origin plutonium at their recent Moscow summit, and U.S. Vice President Al Gore signed the agreement September 1 after Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov had formally approved the document earlier that week. (See ACT, July/August 2000.) Washington has made it clear that Moscow's fulfillment of its side of the agreement is contingent on international assistance. "[Russia's] program will simply not go forward unless there is a very substantial international financing plan," Guhin stated at a June 29 press briefing.

The Russian program is estimated to cost $1.7 billion, and Guhin emphasized that the United States is willing to provide "up to $400 million in assistance," in addition to the $4 billion it is expecting to spend to meet its own commitments under the agreement. Anticipating a deal, Congress had allocated $200 million for the Russian effort in 1998, funds that will soon be available now that an agreement has been reached.

To date, Russia has made no financial commitment to the program. It is not clear at this time how the remaining funds will be raised.

Although the United States had initially hoped to reach agreement on a more concrete financial assistance plan, in the months prior to the G-8 summit it became clear that relevant details of the agreement would need to be worked out with Russia before such a package could be negotiated. Britain announced at the summit that it was allocating just over $100 million, in addition to $18 million for Russian chemical weapons demilitarization.