Congress Urges Urgent US Action on Russian CW Destruction
On July 31, the Senate adopted an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2003 Defense Appropriations Bill allowing President Bush to waive restrictions on American funding of Russia's chemical weapons destruction programme. The funding - principally to enable construction of a centralised CW destruction facility at Shchuchye in Siberia - is currently being held up by the administration's unwillingness to certify to Congress that Russia has adequately accounted for its CW stockpile and has developed an adequate programme for its destruction (see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 64, May/June 2002, pp. 62-63).
The amendment was introduced by Republican Senator Richard Lugar. In a July 31 press release, Lugar argued: "During a recent trip to Shchuchye, Russian scientists told me that the [two million plus] weapons stored at that site could kill the entire world's population 20 times over. These powerful weapons, and their small size, means that they are prime targets for terrorists. Therefore, it is incumbent that we help the Russians destroy these weapons, therefore removing them forever from the possibility that terrorists will acquire them. The Chemical Weapons Convention was ratified by the US and Russia five years ago with both countries pledging to destroy all chemical weapons in ten years. Virtually none of Russia's declared 40,000 metric tons have been destroyed to date. US-Russian cooperation to destroy all of the chemically-filled nerve gas shells at Shchuchye remains stalled by Congressional requirements."
The administration supported the Lugar amendment, apparently happy that its refusal to certify Russian candour and competence with regard to its CW stocks and destruction programme had sent a salutary message to Moscow. Earlier in the month (July 17), Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had fielded fierce questioning on the issue from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in particular from Lugar and Committee Chair Joseph Biden (Democrat). Professing himself bewildered by the administration's stance, Biden asked why the US trusted Russia enough to sign a scant, verification-free 3-page nuclear reductions treaty, yet not enough "for us to go forward and build a plant in Shchuchye that will allow us to destroy up to two million chemical-tipped shells?" Rumsfeld answered: "Secretary Powell...advised the President, and we were advised, and we agreed with him, that he is not in a position to make that certification. You're quite right - it is, I believe, the first time that that's happened, in recent times at least. And I think that that is an honest, direct reflection of the situation. He is simply not able to look you and the world and the Senate Committee in the face and say to them and the President that we can certify that they are, in fact, complying with all arms control agreements. And, of course, you have the kind of intelligence that we do that supports his decision..." The exchange continued:
"Biden: 'But...he doesn't have to certify anything other than that they're committed to comply... I don't understand why you just can't look at it practically as well and say, "look, there are two million warheads there, and they're ready to let us destroy them, and we should just go ahead and destroy them because it's clearly in our interest to do that."'
Rumsfeld: 'Well, Senator, that would require the Secretary of State to recommend to the President something that he doesn't believe is a fact. ... He did say that it is nonetheless important to move ahead with the program that you're describing, and he asked for the waivers so that he could proceed with it. It is not a matter of not wanting to do it, it is a matter of not wanting to certify to something that he does not believe is a fact.'
Biden: 'Well, this is the first time I'm aware of [that] we changed the standard of what he had to certify to. In the past, we used to look for evidence...that they had violated the treaty, and now we're saying we can't guarantee they haven't. Hopefully you will use every bit of your influence to get...a permanent waiver quickly... Because this is mindless, absolutely mindless. And I suspect and hope you share that view.'"
Note: on June 12, the British Ministry of Defence signed a $3 million agreement contracting US company Parsons Delaware Inc. to manage the construction of a water pipeline serving the Shchuchye CW destruction facility. The Ministry released details of the agreement on June 18. Under the terms of the contract, Parsons Delaware will supervise the construction of the pipeline by the Russian firm Stroyprogress. The work is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Related material on Acronym website:
Reports: Britain signs contract to manage construction of Siberian water pipeline, Associated Press, June 18; GAO to examine use of US money for protecting Russian chemical weapons, Associated Press, July 17; US Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, July 17, 2002, US Department of Defense transcript; Lugar amendment would release funds for chemical weapons destruction, Press Release, Senator Richard Lugar (http://lugar.senate.gov), July 31; Senate advances waiver for destroying Russian chemical weapons, Global Security Newswire, August 1.
© 2002 The Acronym Institute.