Washington's nuclear maneuver

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Tatyana Sinitsyna) - Quoting anonymous sources, the Western media are making a stir by saying that the United States is ready to freeze the intergovernmental agreement with Russia for peaceful nuclear cooperation because of the Georgian conflict.

The Financial Times called the agreement one of the obvious victims of the tensions between Washington and Moscow, which have rarely been so high since the end of the Cold War.

Japanese publications are even more pessimistic. They believe that a step toward freezing the agreement raises a question mark over the future of bilateral nuclear cooperation.

However, Russia and the United States have been cooperating in the nuclear sphere for many years, and nobody is going to cancel their contacts. The two great powers guarantee nuclear non-proliferation and development of civilian nuclear power industry. The agreement in question was signed on May 6 of this year.

This agreement establishes basic principles of cooperation in the nuclear sphere, and is designed to provide a legal foundation for direct contacts between Russian and American companies in civilian use of nuclear energy. Before, all business in this sphere was based on exclusive intergovernmental agreements, whereas this document will allow American and Russian companies to cooperate without asking their presidents for signatures on every occasion.

Businessmen have been waiting for this agreement for many years. Its absence was due to political rather than economic reasons. The vestiges of the Cold War were not fully overcome, and the confrontation between the two powers in the super-sensitive nuclear sphere politicized even civilian programs.

However, the situation has changed since then. Both possessing considerable nuclear potential, the United States and Russia decided to remove political obstacles and develop a mutually advantageous partnership. The agreement was signed by Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power (Rosatom), and U.S. Ambassador William Burns, who said that the two former rivals in this sphere were now partners.

For the agreement to enter into force, it has to be approved by the U.S. Congress. Some congressmen are ready to block it because of the events in South Ossetia, where Moscow resolutely came to the defense of Russian peacekeepers and South Ossetian civilians after Georgia attacked the city of Tskhinvali.

Will Congress approve the document now that the relations between the two countries are so strained? Common sense is unlikely to prevail over political considerations, particularly during the final stages of the presidential election race.

Moscow's position is pragmatic. First of all, passions have to abate. Washington is not likely to give up a beneficial agreement, either. The Western media were too quick to predict a negative reaction. It is perfectly obvious that under the circumstances, the agreement's withdrawal from Congress is advantageous for both sides.

Deputy chairman of the State Duma energy committee Konstantin Zaitsev said: "Russian-American tensions are high, and any decision on the documents which will define further cooperation would be hasty and emotional in the current situation. It would be best if the White House waits for the question to be depoliticized and assessed pragmatically."

If the document is not recalled from Congress, it will definitely be rejected. The outgoing U.S. administration did not pass the agreement through Congress in the allocated time (90 days from its signing). But if it withdraws it, it may have a chance to be endorsed by Congress under the new president.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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