Kommersant on U.S. Decision to Curtail Nuclear Security Cooperation with Russia

My rough translation of Russia's respected independent daily Kommersant's 04.08.14 news report on U.S. decision to suspend cooperative threat reduction programs in Russia.

“U.S. sanctions have become radioactive. United States has refused to pay for nuclear security in Russia,” Kiril Belianinov and Elena Chernenko, Kommersant, April 8, 2014.

U.S. decided to curtail cooperation with Russia in one of the few remaining bilateral projects – the revised Nunn-Lugar program. The U.S. side has announced that it had stopped financing improvement of physical protection of Russian nuclear facilities, citing disagreements between Washington and Moscow on the latter's actions vis-a-vis Ukraine. Russian experts believe the U.S. has been planning to end work at Russian nuclear facilities for a while, but warn that such a hasty curtailing of the cooperation will have a negative impact.

The United States continues to implement its policy of curtailing the cooperation with the Russian Federation, with no exceptions made even for the most successful and important of the bilateral projects, such as cooperation in countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This policy is not limited only to termination of cooperation with Russia in the field of peaceful use of atomic energy. The entire program of financial and technical assistance to the Russian nuclear complex will be revised. “All branches of the Department of Energy have begun to review and analyze Russia-releated project,” said the department's spokesman Bill Gibbons .

As Kommersant has learned, the U.S. plans to prioritize termination of funding of all work done to to improve protection of Russian nuclear facilities. Since 1993, Americans have spent $ 1.6 billion on such protection. Modern detection and protection systems have been installed at 50 Russian Navy facilities, 11 bases of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, and 175 civilian nuclear enterprizes. The U.S. side has also supplied systems for nuclear security control , containers for transportation of warheads and fissile material, security systems and other equipment.

Most of the work carried out by specialists of the Pentagon and Department of Energy under the joint threat reduction (Cooperative Threat Reduction Program), proposed by Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar . The total program budget was $ 8.79 billion in the six months before the expiration of this program, the authorities of the Russian Federation decided not to renew it , saying that Moscow is no longer need for subsidies (see " Kommersant" on October 10, 2012 ) . But in the end the program , it was decided not to bury , and transform into a more compact and based on principles of equality . Instead concluded temporary bilateral Framework Agreement ( MNEPR ) . At the request of the Russian side had reduced the number of joint projects , U.S. inspectors have limited access to nuclear facilities and stopped work in storage areas warheads (see " Kommersant" on June 21, 2013 ) .

Among the areas of cooperation while remaining – accounting, control and physical protection of nuclear materials; customs control ; identification, retrieval , storage , security and disposal of radioactive sources of increased danger ; Recycling surplus highly enriched uranium ; dismantling , transportation, fuel extraction and safe storage of nuclear submarines . It was assumed that all these projects will be included in the new agreement to be concluded on the basis of the framework .

Now they will be frozen. Funds that was planned to be the realization of these projects have already been excluded from the U.S. Department of Energy draft budget for 2015 , and the cost of the program on international cooperation and protection of nuclear materials (International Material Protection and Cooperation program) reduced by 27%. Funds planned to be spent on the installation of new security systems at manufacturing of nuclear materials , the completion of transport of highly enriched uranium and plutonium in a single storage and deployment of security systems at facilities in Ozersk and Arzamas-16 . " We stopped all work on the physical protection of nuclear facilities in the Russian Federation – said the representative of the U.S. administration's National Nuclear Security Ann Harrington. – Now objects set from 40% to 70 % of the necessary equipment , but completion will now have to be postponed ."

According to the expert of the PIR Center Andrew Baklitskiy , phasing of works of Russian nuclear facilities have long included in the plans of the American side . "The intention to shift the financial responsibility for the security of Russian nuclear facilities on the shoulders of the Russian Federation declared long ago – he said " b . " – Termination of work on Russian sites you should not communicate with the situation around Ukraine. Ukrainian crisis could only accelerate the process to which the parties were long time. " At the same time , according to experts , much of the U.S. funds, to joint programs of cooperation on nuclear safety, spent on payment of U.S. experts .

"If we talk about the financial component , the losses will be small, Baklitskiy said. But the U.S. aid focused on addressing concerns that are significant in terms of nuclear security, but that the Russian leadership has considered to be a priority ." Much of the joint work has not been focused on specific nuclear facilities. Rather the U.S. assistance has focused on "development of the legal and procedural documents, development of opportunities for training, transfer of manuals on best practices, evaluation of the effectiveness and strengthening of security ." "Premature curtailing of cooperation there (in these spheres) will have a greater negative impact than termination of cooperation on specific improvements at nuclear facilities,” Baklitskiy said.

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