Russia to curtail nuclear security efforts with US, officials say

Russia has told senior US officials that it will next year reduce joint programs to secure nuclear material in Russia.

Washington: Russia has informed the United States that it is planning to reduce its participation next year in a joint effort to secure nuclear materials on Russian territory, a move that could seriously undermine more than two decades of co-operation aimed at ensuring nuclear bomb components do not fall into the hands of terrorists or a rogue state.

Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s state nuclear company, has told senior Obama administration officials that no new projects in Russia are “envisioned” in 2015, according to US officials.

The reduced co-operation is a byproduct of the general downturn in relations between Russia and the US, which has been compounded by President Vladimir Putin’s decision to intervene militarily in Ukraine. But it also stems from long-standing concerns among Kremlin hardliners about a program that brings US nuclear experts to Russia’s nuclear sites and that, they fear, may create the impression that Russia is in need of outside help.

Russia also announced last week that it was planning to boycott an international security summit meeting that is to be hosted by US President Barack Obama in 2016.

But the message delivered by Mr Kiriyenko represents the first time that the rising tensions between the Kremlin and the Obama administration have threatened to disrupt some of the practical efforts that the two sides initiated at the end of the Cold War to help Russia safeguard its nuclear materials.

“There is a real danger that 20 years of US-Russian co-operation to secure nuclear material will simply stop at the end of this year, and some of the gains we have made could slip away,” said Matthew Bunn, a Harvard professor who, during the administration of Bill Clinton, supervised a classified government study on protecting nuclear materials in Russia.

The joint US and Russian efforts began in 1991 as fears grew that the collapse of the Soviet Union would make its nuclear weapons vulnerable. The Nunn-Lugar Act, named for its two sponsors, senators Sam Nunn, of Georgia, and Richard Lugar, of Indiana, provided $US400 million to help the Soviet Union and its “successor entities” destroy and protect nuclear and chemical arms.

Full article: Russia to curtail nuclear security efforts with US, officials say (Sidney Morning Herald)

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