The United States is interested in continuing talks with Russia on a US-funded Russian armaments disposal program, known as the Nunn-Lugar program, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Thursday.
“We, as a government, greatly value the ongoing Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. 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,” Nuland told a daily press briefing.
“It has to be done on an appropriate legal basis,” she said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the US proposals on extending the decades-old bilateral program aimed at dismantling weapons of mass destruction are out of synch with Moscow’s concept of cooperation in that area.
“We have received an American proposal on extending the 1992 Agreement, which is due to expire in June 2013,” ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said, referring to the Nunn-Lugar Agreement.
“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.” “A more modern legal framework” is needed for such interaction, he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Russian daily Kommersant quoted sources in the US State Department as saying Russia is no longer interested in the Nunn-Lugar program - also known as the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR) - which dates back to the early 1990s and helped decommission scores of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Nuland also said on Thursday: “The current agreement that we have for Nunn-Lugar cooperation expires in June of 2013. So in anticipation of that, we began talking to the Russian side back in July of this year about updating that agreement.”
“And we are continuing to have those conversations. I think you probably saw statements out of the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday clarifying that we are still in talks, in fact, and making clear that this is distinct and separate from the Russian decision to stop the AID program, which was different,” she said.
The move is the latest in Moscow’s review of its relationship with Washington, and comes after Russia stopped the United States Agency for International Development from working in the country earlier this month.
It also follows comments last week by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that the “reset” policy between Russia and the United States “cannot last forever.”
The CTR program began in 1991, and was extended twice - in 1999 and 2006. The current terms expires in 2013. The United States has reportedly spent an estimated $8 billion on CTR programs.
The program included measures to increase safety at nuclear plants in the former Soviet Union and generating alternative work for former institutes and production facilities which had been involved in making weapons of mass destruction, the CTR website says.
Meanwhile, deputy White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Thursday: “The President believes that the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program is a valuable program and has been beneficial for United States national security. There is certainly more work to be done in that program and we’re going to engage in that effort.”
“The President has a long record on these issues and we found the Russians to be good partners on these issues. Senator [Richard] Lugar himself commented recently… that in talking with his counterparts in Russia, it was his understanding that the Russians didn’t want to actually end the program, but rather that after 20 years of this program being in place, they wanted to update the program,” Earnest said.
“And that’s certainly something that we will work with him to do,” he said.