After a year-long review, the Bush administration has announced plans to continue U.S. efforts to deal with the nonproliferation risks posed by the state of the Russian weapons complex. The one-page news release put out on December 27 provides some details on the results of the review and states that "most U.S. programs to assist Russia in threat reduction and nonproliferation work well, are focused on priority tasks and are well managed." Original reports suggested that the review was highly critical of on-going programs and slated several for major cutbacks and cancellation.
The review endorses many of the on-going programs begun or expanded during the Clinton administration, and mentions four slated for expansion. These include programs to secure vulnerable Russian nuclear weapons-usable materials, improve the transparency and accountability of Russian nuclear warheads and fissile materials, and to employ former Russian weapons scientists, especially those in the biological weapons area. In addition, the review endorses an accelerated construction of a chemical weapon destruction facility in Russia. Programs slated for adjustment or revision include those to dispose of excess Russian plutonium and efforts to encourage the development of long-term civilian jobs in Russia’s former weapons labs and facilities.
These steps are a positive development, and it is believed that the budget to be submitted to Congress by President Bush this month will include major increases for many of the programs. If so, this represents a major positive evolution in the direction of the administration in pursuing cooperative threat reduction with Russia. The 2001 budget proposal from the White House actually sought reductions in many key programs now slated for expansion. It remains to be seen how all threat reduction programs will fare in the next budget, but it appears that the administration has overcome its initial skepticism regarding these programs and their benefits for U.S. security.