October 12th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Russia nuclear partnership not dead, State Department insists

By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

The State Department maintained Thursday that a long-standing partnership with Russia to dismantle and safeguard weapons of mass destruction from the Soviet Union's once-massive arsenal is not dead, as Russian media has reported.

Russian officials, however, indicated they had no intention of extending the agreement - at least in its present form - dealing a serious blow to cooperation between the two countries.

The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which has spent approximately $7 billion in its two decades, financed primarily by the U.S. government, has deactivated more than 7,500 nuclear warheads, implemented security upgrades at Russian's nuclear storage sites, neutralized chemical weapons, safeguarded fissile materials, converted weapons facilities for peaceful use, and mitigated biological threats.

"We are still in talks," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington Thursday. Russia officials "have told us that they want revisions to the previous agreement. We are prepared to work with them on those revisions, and we want to have conversations about it."

But in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying, "Our American partners know that their proposal is at odds with our ideas about the forms and basis for building further cooperation in that area."

While Moscow "has a positive view" on the program's cooperation, the ministry said, "a more modern legal framework" is needed."

The current agreement on Nunn-Lugar cooperation expires in June of 2013 and U.S. officials have been talking with their Russian counterparts since July about updating the agreement, Nuland said.

"We as a government greatly value the ongoing Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program," Nuland said. "We believe there is a lot of future work for the U.S. and Russia to do together in the CTR space, including cooperation that we do in this area with third countries ... other former Soviet states."

Former Sen. Sam Nunn, one of the co-sponsors of the Nunn-Lugar program, told CNN, "I don't think the Russians have ruled out having a new umbrella agreement that would have a different framework. This framework was put together when the Russian treasury was empty."

Nunn said that in his opinion, Moscow today is sensitive about key aspects of the program. Russia, he said, "does not want to look like they're taking aid on something that's a security issue in Russia."

Another issue for Russia, he added, is the question of access.

"Access follows money," he said, "and we've had unprecedented access to many facilities that the Russians would have never acceded to allow us to have access to if it had not been for their financial plight and the realization in Russia in the early 1990s that they had huge problems with their nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as materials."

The move comes at a politically sensitive time in the United States, when the Obama administration is under attack for what Republicans describe as a failed "reset" policy with Russia. In early October, the Russian government announced that it was ending U.S. Agency for International Development programs in the country.

The State Department's spokeswoman denied there was any connection between that move and the current difficulty in reaching agreement on extending Nunn-Lugar.

Russia expert Matthew Rojansky of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told CNN that the United States, eventually, is going to have to adjust its approach on Nunn-Lugar. "At some point, some version of this was going to happen, that's true, if for no other reason than ... we cannot fund global security forever," he said.

"Whether it was going to happen in this dramatic form, in this absolute form, that is a function of the relationship not being as good as it could be. The relationship is not working right, right now, that's for sure ... on both sides."

Nunn meanwhile, says Nunn-Lugar has paid dividends over its 20 years and he holds out hope that "something that could be much more of a partnership could emerge from this."

"With the lessons learned and the best practices we've had of two decades of working together," he told CNN, "I think that partnership could be very valuable for the U.S., for Russia and for the globe. But it will be on much more of a reciprocal access basis.

"The Russians swallowed their pride a lot in the 1990s and the last 20 years, and I think we have to recognize that reciprocity is going to be the order of the day. ... In other words, they will say trust is a two-way street."

Whether the United States will be willing to do that, Nunn added, is a question, "but it seems to me it's fundamentally in our interest and their interest."

"The fact that the United States and Russia have 90 to 95% of all the nuclear weapons and materials in the world indicates that there's got to be a partnership if this problem is going to be tackled."



soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. George Patton

    Why would Russia need a "nuclear partner" in the first place? The simple fact is that WW3 never took place all because the Russians succeeded in coming up with the A-bomb in 1949. In fact, Gen. Douglas McArthur wanted to nuke China in 1951 but was stopped by Pres. Truman in order to keep Russia out of the Korean conflict so that it would not mushroom into WW3!!!

    October 12, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
    • Alex279


      Also true is that Russia is no longer a country ruled by drinking president.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
      • George Patton

        Quite true Alex279, quite true. Boris Yeltsin left office in 1999.

        October 13, 2012 at 9:47 am |
      • StanCalif

        Please visit Russia!
        When I was there, men did no work. All manual labor was performed by old women! My aircraft was refueled by women, while a man sat in his truck smoking cigarettes. When I visited Moscow, old women were used to spread asphalt and sweep the streets. No man in sight!
        Please go visit and see for your self!

        October 13, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
      • George Patton

        That I did Stan, that I did and I found Russia to be quite a beautiful place. The language is difficult but quite beautiful. I know that there are a lot of ignorant people here in America who will bash the Russians no matter what but then, how many Americans know how to speak Russian or even French for that matter? Ignorance is but one thing, bad, bad and bad!!!

        October 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  2. Matt

    Take an overdose or gas yourselves with a nice expensive red. You want to die.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:39 am | Reply
    • Matt

      You want to be dead you don't like H1N1.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:42 am | Reply
    • morrow

      @@@ Matt If you ask God to help you stop smoking and you believe it, he will ... with him. He will help you through whatever challenges you face, including stopping smoking

      October 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Reply
  3. Matt

    That is how you got yourselves stuck in Iraq and killed your empire censorship.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:09 am | Reply
    • Matt

      Onya mate. Libya dead Ambassador Ollie was the only journo that spoke up, you still got the form mate.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:11 am | Reply
  4. Matt


    October 12, 2012 at 8:04 am | Reply
  5. Matt


    October 12, 2012 at 8:04 am | Reply
  6. Matt

    It is not personal but Simply Jack in Mexico I will kill you all.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:13 am | Reply
  7. Matt

    Even back in 2000 You will get it from us or you will get it from us. Like the barium meal SAPOL got.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:08 am | Reply
  8. Matt

    I am no dog but just so there is not misunderstanding, I will bring Marines to Darwin Chief.

    October 12, 2012 at 6:56 am | Reply
  9. Matt

    It is not like http://www.bigredmachine.com.au, being mates with the President of the USA and bring in Marines meant to expand to an expeditionary force, what was the revenue that Smith said they bought in legal. Enough to keep a mans head.

    October 12, 2012 at 6:54 am | Reply
  10. Matt

    As long as there is no wheat going to Iran.
    No I want my PIIGS, that is my money, I want it. Abla, Yeah understand, get it.
    We all want our money, the EU do it the hard way, stubborn, way bigger than me, once they all tap in. Everyone wants the PIIGS to collapse anyway. They send out the Secret Service, find nothing, like you, get it.

    $$$$$%%$$$$ so what I am a multimillionaire, they will be billionaires again.

    The Jihadists, the criminal world has been putting them in plots for years, that is why no Madrid's, on the sniff, Madrid Syndrome. No tools mate, the plot. .

    Now the debt has to be paid, transfer of monies.

    October 12, 2012 at 6:34 am | Reply
  11. Matt

    You have to understand how these chaps see the world, they are winners in their own lunch time. Yes comrade you are a genius, same thinking but worse. That is why it is so easy, it is the 80's. Without them I would have retired much earlier. They needed a dinosaur.

    October 12, 2012 at 6:07 am | Reply
  12. Matt

    There is a cut in spending. I mean if USAID get the flick, what do you expect. Why give them money when it can be spent on the DOD.

    October 12, 2012 at 5:46 am | Reply
    • sumbtc

      time to take your meds

      October 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Reply

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