The United States and Russia have renewed until 2013 an agreement governing U.S. programs to help Russia secure and eliminate its excess unconventional arms and nuclear materials. The extension occurred June 16, on the eve of the agreement’s scheduled expiration.
The agreement spells out legal rights and responsibilities affecting the Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, as well as some similar Department of Energy ventures. These issues include liability for program contractors, tax exemptions, and relevant site-visitation rights inside Russia.
Over the past few years, Russian officials complained that the agreement’s terms were heavily skewed in Washington’s favor. In particular, they claimed the liability provision would even absolve U.S. entities for deliberate damage. A U.S. official discounted this assertion in a May 19 Arms Control Today interview, saying it was a Russian “interpretation.”
Despite its past complaints, Moscow agreed to the same umbrella provisions in the June 16 extension. In addition to covering existing programs, the extended umbrella agreement will apply to new projects falling under the four general CTR efforts of eliminating strategic offensive arms, destroying chemical arms, safely transporting nuclear weapons, and securing nuclear weapons, according to a Pentagon official interviewed June 20 by Arms Control Today.
Established in 1992 to prevent leftover Soviet weapons from being misused or stolen, the CTR program has, among other accomplishments, contributed to the deactivation or destruction of 6,828 nuclear warheads, 152 bombers, 29 nuclear submarines, and 194 nuclear test tunnels. The CTR program is often referred to as the Nunn-Lugar program after its 1991 champions, Senators Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.). Nunn retired from the Senate in 1996.
Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hailed the extension in a June 19 press release, asserting that “this cooperative effort has immeasurably increased the security of both our countries.” He noted that the United States has spent more than $5.7 billion on the program and related efforts over the last decade.The recent extension does not address a long-delayed program in which the two countries each agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium. The two sides struck a new liability deal for this effort last July (see ACT, September 2005), but the agreement is still wending its way through the Russian bureaucracy, according to U.S. officials. They say they remain optimistic about its eventual implementation.