WASHINGTON - The United States and other industrialized democracies are urging Russia to speed up efforts to reduce its vast, poorly secured stockpile of nuclear and chemical weapons, a State Department official said Wednesday.
A Senate committee chairman warned the material could find its way to terrorists or countries such as Iraq.
John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, said a major part of a meeting last month in Canada of those industrial powers dealt with problems that have hindered an initiative to stop the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction.
The participating countries — the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — have pledged to spend at least $20 billion over the next 10 years on the effort.
President George W. Bush committed the United States to providing half of the $20 billion at June's G-8 summit in Canada when he proposed the initiative. Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to take actions to help achieve the program's goal.
Bolton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that among the priority concerns in Russia, the G-8 countries specifically named the destruction of chemical weapons, disposition of fissile material and dismantlement of decommissioned nuclear submarines.
"For the global partnership to be successful," Bolton said, "the Russian Federation will need to take concrete action to resolve outstanding problems. ... We pressed the Russians hard on this issue" at the September meeting in Canada.
Bolton said the other G-8 countries were more than half way in meeting their $10 billion commitment, including $1.5 billion from Germany and $1 billion from the European Commission. He said some countries have not publicly announced pledges or decided on their amounts.
Bolton praised Canada's tireless commitment as the current G-8 chairman to make the initiative a reality and said France has said it will make the program a priority as it prepares for next year's summit in Evian.
Bolton welcomed bipartisan legislation, proposed by the committee chairman Sen. Joseph Biden and Sen. Richard Lugar that expands the president's authority to reduce Russia's debt in exchange for nonproliferation programs.
"Nothing poses a more clear or present danger to our security," Biden said, than the vast repository of nuclear, chemical and possibly biological weapons still in Russia more than a decade after the Soviet Union's collapse.
"Our greatest concern remains that groups like al-Qaida or states like Iraq will steal or illicitly purchase poorly guarded stocks of weapons of mass destruction in Russia," Biden said.
He said the United States has provided billions of dollars in aid to reduce the threat posed by Russia's possession of these weapons. But, he said, there remain roughly 1,000 metric tons of highly enriched uranium, 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, including 2 million artillery shells containing nerve gas at one of Russia's facilities alone, and an unknown supply of biological pathogens.
Lugar said that because of the threat of terrorism. "We must not only accelerate weapons dismantlement efforts in Russia, we must (also) broaden our capability to address proliferation risks in other countries."
Lugar said the major industrialized nations must keep pressing Russian officials to abide by Putin's commitment to help. Putin's "biggest obstacle could well be his own government's bureaucracy," said Lugar, co-sponsor of legislation that has provided millions for weapons destruction in Russia over the past 11 years.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. NoNonsense English offers this material non-commercially for research and educational purposes. I believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner, i.e. the media service or newspaper which first published the article online and which is indicated at the top of the article unless otherwise specified.