"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."

– Joseph Biden, Jr.
January 28, 2004
G-8 Gauges Progress of Threat Reduction Partnership

Christine Kucia

Leaders of the Group of Eight (G-8) countries meeting in Evian, France, June 1-3 will review progress achieved to help Russia meet threat reduction goals as part of the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, which was adopted at last year’s summit. (See ACT, July/August 2002.)

The partnership, dubbed “10 plus 10 over 10,” will provide Russia in the next 10 years with up to $10 billion in U.S. funding, matched by up to $10 billion from the European G-8 members and Japan. Some other countries outside of the G-8, such as Norway and Switzerland, are also helping Russia secure and destroy its weapons of mass destruction and related materials through the program. The United States already offers roughly $1 billion in assistance to Russia through the Cooperative Threat Reduction program and other associated projects.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf said in May 8 testimony to Congress that G-8 partner countries have committed $6 billion to the program, despite pressure from the State Department to meet the $10 billion goal with international pledges before the Evian summit.

“It’s been too long that Europe and Japan haven’t done enough to…help these threat-reduction projects that we’ve been working on for a decade,” Wolf said.

One reason for the lack of financial pledges is that G-8 states are pressing Russia to cut a deal on tax and liability issues. (See ACT, November 2002.) In an attempt to improve government-to-government cooperation on these issues, the United States, the European Union, and Russia May 21 signed the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Program in the Russian Federation (MNEPR). At the signing ceremony for the agreement, which provides 110 million euros ($130 million) for a variety of radioactive waste disposal projects, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov noted that the MNEPR contains the “legal framework” for meeting the implementation goals in the G-8 program. “It is of fundamental importance that we will now be able to use this Agreement as a guide in working out bilateral accords under the Global Partnership,” he said.

Russia’s chief priorities for new foreign assistance include dismantlement of more than 100 decommissioned nuclear submarines, which, due to budget constraints, languish in ports with the nuclear fuel still onboard the boats. Assistance with destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons stockpile—the world’s largest at an estimated 40,000 tonnes—is also viewed as imperative; experts indicate that the poorly guarded, poorly maintained munitions pose a proliferation risk as well as an environmental challenge.

Despite U.S. criticism of Europe and Japan, Russia recently hailed assistance from Germany and Japan as “the greatest advance in project development.” Russia announced April 18 that Germany has pledged 30 million euros ($35 million), primarily for construction of a chemical weapons destruction facility at Kambarka, Interfax reported.

Since promising assistance for dismantling Russian weapons in the early 1990s, Japan has committed $200 million to Russia for nonproliferation projects, but bureaucratic issues have impeded detailed agreement between the capitals. At a February 13 meeting, however, Japan and Russia made significant strides toward finalizing a program to dismantle a Victor III-class submarine. Earlier, Japan had agreed to fund construction of a $36 million radioactive waste treatment plant, which started operation in 2001.