"[The Arms Control Association is an] 'exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size.'" 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
News Analysis: The Global Partnership—A Mixed Record

Joanna Wintrol

Nearly four years ago, several leading countries agreed to better coordinate and expand their efforts to secure and destroy stockpiles of unconventional weapons and materials housed in Russia and other former Soviet states. Almost halfway through the initiative’s planned 10-year lifespan, funding and projects are up from past levels, but total pledges and contributions have fallen well short of projected goals. Meanwhile, Russia and the donors continue to spar over funding goals, and several programs have been slowed by bureaucratic hurdles.

At a June 2002 Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Kananaskis, Canada, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States established the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. The initiative, also known as “10 Plus 10 Over 10,” calls on members of the group, as well as other interested donors, to match a U.S. pledge of $10 billion over 10 years to help lockdown and eliminate residual Soviet materials and weapons considered vulnerable to unauthorized use or theft.

Today, 18 countries and the European Union have joined the United States in funding such work in Russia, Ukraine, and beyond. Yet, funding pledges are $3 billion shy of the $20 billion promised, according to the last official estimate from donor countries in June 2005. Among others, Canada, Germany, and the United States have been generous in their pledges, while those from some members, such as Japan, have been more modest.

Moreover, actual contributions appear to fall significantly short of even these pledges. No comprehensive accounting is available, but reports from individual countries such as Germany and Japan indicate that they have not yet delivered on their pledge. In 2002, Germany pledged $1.5 billion to the Global Partnership and as of 2005 had spent the equivalent of $206.5 million at current exchange rates. Japan initially pledged $200 million and has since contributed the current exchange rate equivalent of $6.9 million. In addition, in a 2005 informal poll of government officials and nongovernmental experts conducted by the Moscow-based, independent PIR center, roughly 80 percent of the responders believed that there is a significant gap between the pledges being made and the money that is being received in Russia. When asked whether the $20 billion pledge has been successfully realized as a “floor” and not a “ceiling,” 75 percent said “no.”

Funding Clashes

Russia, the largest recipient of such assistance, has also clashed with European and U.S. donors over where the funds should be directed. Russia has placed priority on destroying decaying nuclear submarines and chemical weapons, as it is worried about their environmental consequences and is striving to meet its pledge under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to destroy its entire arsenal of such arms. Many Western donors, by contrast, would like to see funds directed toward programs to secure Russian biological and nuclear weapons facilities and relevant weapons and to retrain experts in these fields.

Moreover, Russia has balked as donors have sought to shift funds to other former Soviet republics or outside the region entirely. (See ACT, June 2004.)

In those areas in which Russia has backed the funding, some progress has been made.

The pace of nuclear submarine dismantlement has accelerated since the Global Partnership began. A fleet of nuclear submarines located in northwest Russia is expected to be dismantled by 2010. Already 32 of the 100 or so submarines in the region have been destroyed, 20 since 2002 alone. Canada, Germany, Japan, Norway, and the United Kingdom are the principal donors for work in the submarine field.

The Global Partnership has been successful in increasing efforts to redirect weapons scientists to peaceful employment through such centers as the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow, which coordinates the multilateral funding of projects for scientists in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia. By 2004, more than 200 private and governmental organizations were participating in the funding of more than 100 research projects.

The partnership has also helped Russia make limited progress in dismantling its vast chemical weapons stockpile, which is the largest in the world. Under the CWC, Russia must complete the destruction of its stockpile by 2012, although this deadline is unlikely to be met (See "U.S. Unable to Meet CWC 2012 Deadline"). Originally, the deadline was set at 2007, but as delays on all sides have mounted, an extension of five years was granted. As of February 2006, Russia had eliminated less than 3 percent of its total stockpile.

But even these efforts have seen setbacks.

The ongoing construction of a chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuch’ye was slated to be one of the United States’ largest ventures in the Global Partnership. Since 2002 the United States has subsequently earmarked $540 million to destroy the 5,450 metric tons of nerve agents stored at that facility and in neighboring regions. It was scheduled to be completed and operational in time to comply with the original April 2007 deadline.

But inconsistent U.S. funding, a shortage of qualified labor, subcontractor bankruptcies, and Russian government delays have delayed construction. Shchuch’ye is now scheduled to begin operations in late 2008 at the earliest. To try to meet a revised 2007 deadline for eliminating 20 percent of its chemical weapons arsenal, Russia has been forced to focus its efforts on stockpiles at other sites.

Coordination and Legal Challenges

Beyond chemical weapons and submarine destruction, broader problems remain. A challenge for all sides has been coordination. A multitude of disagreements exist over where, when, and how the money is being spent. Laura Holgate, who previously helped manage U.S. assistance efforts at the Departments of Energy and Defense in the Clinton administration, told Arms Control Today March 30 that “identifying collective priorities and making sure that projects are being handled with the best coordination possible is just not happening.”

Donors have not put in place a comprehensive mechanism to oversee the allocation of funds to projects in the recipient countries, creating accountability issues between donors and recipients. Members disagree over how to measure the sums of the pledges reaching the recipient and whether the funds are being used effectively on the ground.

Still, the most significant obstacle is the failure to match stated pledges with actual funds. Both donors and recipients appear to share responsibility for these problems.

Citing national security concerns Russia has refused to provide access to nuclear weapons facilities and projects where foreign equipment has been installed and nuclear warheads are stored. But this has made it difficult for Western governments to convince their legislatures that the programs are delivering good value for their money. As Stephen Rademaker, acting assistant secretary of state for security and nonproliferation issues, explained at an April 12 press conference in Moscow, “[O]ne of the practical challenges in implementing these programs is to strike the balance between our need for accountability and Russia’s need to be satisfied that its national security is being protected.”

A graphic example of this type of problem is the U.S.-built fissile material storage facility near Mayak, Russia. The facility is capable of holding thousands of bombs’ worth of fissile material under tight security while they await destruction. However, because of oversight disagreements between the United States and Russia, the Mayak facility has remained empty since it was handed over to the Russians in 2003.

Moreover, Russia has set up complicated legislative procedures and conditions for completing bilateral agreements, including passage through the Duma. This has slowed the process of sorting through liability and tax exemption legislation, preventing several projects from getting started.

In June, the Cooperative Threat Reduction Umbrella Agreement, which covers U.S. liability for the program, will expire. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy Peter Flory told the Senate in March that Russia “has accepted U.S. terms for extension of this framework and we believe that we will be able to conclude negotiations well before the June 2006 deadline.” However, the extension to the agreement will still have to be put through the lengthy process of review and approval in several U.S. and Russian government agencies, plus passage through the Duma.

Still, Global Partnership officials have emphasized the need for long-term outlooks in planning and project proposal to ease coordination efforts and avoid overlap in the future.

Holgate suggests that more must be done now to address the urgency of the threats that exist under present conditions. Holgate maintains that “the donors don’t yet themselves internalize the degree to which insecure [weapons of mass destruction] globally are a threat to them and their own interests…and if the powers that be in the donor countries did see the threat to them and their security, they would be doing a lot more a lot faster.”

But Annalisa Giannella, the European Union’s senior nonproliferation official, puts the blame on Russia. “The difficulties that we encounter in implementing our projects in Russia do not encourage us to envisage more projects,” she said. “In addition, there isn’t full agreement with the Russians on the scope of the cooperation under the Global Partnership.”