Despite U.S. Aid, Soviet Nukes Remain

March 18, 1996

A U. S. military program intended to dismantle and destroy thousands of nuclear, chemical and other weapons in the former Soviet Union isn't working and may actually threaten U.S. security.

In 1991, Congress was concerned that nuclear weapons in the newly independent states might be sold to terrorists. It authorized $1.6 billion for the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR), also called the Nunn-Lugar Act, to provide technicians, equipment and training to Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus to dismantle nuclear weapons.

However, a defense analyst suggests the program is wasting money and helping Russian military development.

  • Due to delays, only $177 million has been spent so far, but the projects funded include conversion of defense industries and housing for former Soviet military officers -- which have little to do with curbing nuclear proliferation.
  • More ominously, other projects are helping give Russia the tools to store and deploy new strategic weapons, such as railcars, containers for fissile material and assorted heavy machinery.
  • Although Russia has refused to allow the U.S. to inventory its weapons, it wants to use the bulk of the funds for a new weapons storage facility.

Money spent on CTR is taken from U.S. defense spending, but allows the Russian military to spend its limited resources elsewhere -- for defense modernization and the continuing development of biological and chemical weapons.

The other republics with nuclear weapons decided to dismantle their arsenals soon after independence, but are now delaying while they negotiate for U.S. and Russian aid.

Source: Rich Kelley, "The Nunn-Lugar Act: A Wasteful and Dangerous Illusion," Foreign Policy Briefing No. 39, March 18, 1996, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001, (202) 842-0200.

 

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