Moscow to block US from monitoring Russia’s nuke arsenal

Moscow to block US from monitoring Russia’s nuke arsenal
Moscow plans to halt its participation in the Nunn-Lugar Program, in which the US funds Russia’s dismantling of its arsenal of nuclear weapons, a Russian media outlet reported.

Russia no longer requires US aid and can continue with the program unassisted, Kommersant daily newspaper reported. In addition, Moscow explained the decision by the necessity to prevent secret data leak.

The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program was launched in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and aimed to dismantle unneeded nuclear weapons in Russia’s arsenal and eliminate outdated biological and chemical weapons.

The agreement was extended twice – in 1999 and 2006 – and expires in May 2013. Sources in Pentagon and the State Department told Kommersant that the US hopes to extend the program again.

Negotiations on the program began several months ago. The issue was also discussed during a recent visit to Russia by a high-ranking US delegation of members of Congress, the Department of State and the Pentagon led by Senator Richard Lugar, one of the authors of the program. Moscow said that it did not believe it would be useful to extend the agreement.

US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told Interfax that the US hopes to continue the Nunn-Lugar Program, whether under a different name or in a different format.

Moscow remains open to further cooperation with the US in the dismantling of its nuclear arsenal, but insists that any new agreement should be singed “based on the principles of e equality and mutual respect,” a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told Kommersant. The current document is “discriminative of Russia,” and does not account for changes that have taken place since the agreement was signed in the 1990s – “a difficult time for the country.”

Moscow also expressed concerns that the US could exploit the program to acquire “sensitive data” about Russia’s nuclear arsenal, the source said.

The move came after Russia ordered the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to leave the country by October 1 over its attempts to influence Russian politics. The Russian Foreign Minister also recently stated that the ‘reset’ between Moscow and Washington “cannot last forever.”

Moscow claimed that there was no connection between the closure of USAID and the decision not to extend the Nunn-Lugar Program.

“The American side knows that we did not want a new extension. This is no news for them,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Interfax on Wednesday.