Unites States hinders Russia's chemical disarmament

27/ 04/ 2006

MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti military commentator Viktor Litovkin)

A third chemical weapons destruction facility will be commissioned in Russia
in Maradykovsky, Kirov Region on the Volga, in the middle of 2006. It has a
stock of 6,890 metric tons of aviation bombs with organophosphorus nerve and
blister chemical warfare agents (CWA).

The facility for the destruction of lewisite was commissioned in Kambarka
(Udmurtia, in the Western part of the Middle Urals) in December 2005. Its
warehouses contain 6,349 metric tons of lewisite (15.9% of all of Russia's
prohibited chemical weapons). As of early April, more than 50 tons of
lewisite have been destroyed there.

A total of 1,143.2 metric tons of yperite, lewisite and yperite-lewisite
mixture have been destroyed in Gorny (Saratov Region on the Volga), where
Russia's first CWA destruction facility was commissioned in December 2002.

Russia is likely to fulfill its obligations under the second stage of the
chemical weapons convention by April 29, 2007, cutting its CWA arsenals by
20% or 8,000 tons. By 2012, it is to destroy 40,000 metric tons of CWA.

The above facts and figures were made public at last week's international
conference organized by non-profit public organization PIR Center for policy
studies in Russia. Experts from many countries, who spoke at the conference
titled "G8 Global Security Agenda: Challenges & Interests. Towards the St.
Petersburg Summit", said that despite problems, such as the shortage of
funds, Russia was working consistently to fulfill its obligations under the
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

This conclusion fits the spirit of the G8 Kananaskis summit, where the heads
of the world's industrialized states decided to help Russia get rid of the
Cold War heritage, notably to fulfill the CWC. They pledged to allocate $20
billion for this purpose in two equal parts within ten years. Ten billion
dollars are to be allocated by the United States and the other $10 billion
by the other G8 member states, including Russia.

The PIR Center's conference in Moscow summed up the provisional results of
that project.

It was stated there that Russia had substantially increased its contribution
to the CWA destruction program, notably from $200 million in 2000 to $600
million this year. By the April 29, 2012 deadline, Moscow expects to have
spent at least $7 billion on the program, including 160.4 billion rubles
(nearly $6 billion) from the federal budget and 34.2 billion rubles (more
than $1 billion) in foreign assistance.

However, foreign assistance is not coming as actively as promised in
Kananaskis.

Some states, notably Germany, are fulfilling their obligations in full.
Germany has provided 20% of investment into Gorny in the form of equipment
and specialists, who worked jointly with Russians to assemble and test an
yperite and lewisite neutralization system, and to create an environmental
and security monitoring system. Berlin also provided 34% of allocations to
the construction of the lewisite destruction facility in Kambarka.

Dr. Rolf Herden, the head of the Disarmament Cooperation/Global Partnership
Projects section of Germany's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at the
conference his government was prepared to invest another 150 million euros
in the construction of a facility for the destruction of blister and nerve
CWA stored in Leonidovka in the Penza Region on the Volga.

London, which was charged with monitoring allocations to Russia from
Belgium, Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden
($49.5 million), is trying to keep up with Germany in this respect. The
money accumulated by UK experts is mostly spent on the Shchuchye facility in
the Kurgan Region (Urals), which has 5,456 metric tons of sarin, soman and
VX nerve gases. Britain and its co-sponsors are supplying equipment to
Shchuchye, notably for its power plant, automatic control system and
production site, and building a water supply system.

However, Washington should have supplied the bulk of funds - more than $850
million - to Shchuchye. Moscow designed the facility as the main site
crucial for the fulfillment of its obligations under the CWC. It should have
been operational from 2005 to 2008. But the United States has three times
halted allocations to its construction, and is not doing much today either.

The Pentagon has reported to the Congress that it had spent $1 billion on
Russia's disarmament, but Dr. Natalia Kalinina, Russian expert on chemical
disarmament, assesses allocations on Shchuchye in the form of equipment and
the construction of a water intake system at barely $280 million. Where did
the rest of the money go? The Americans alone know the answer, because
Russia may not compare promised allocations against real ones.

Moreover, the G8 countries should not only provide the promised money but
also do it on time.

Italy promised to allocate nearly $360 million on the construction of the
Peschano-Kaledino-Shumikha-Shchuchye gas pipeline and on the facility in
Pochep, Bryansk Region in central Russia, where 7,498 metric tons of nerve
CWA are stored. It has signed all the documents, including blueprints, but
recent elections hindered their ratification in the Rome parliament and
hence the provision of the money.

If the construction of the above facilities does not start this year, the
CWA stored there will not be destroyed by the deadline stipulated in the
convention.

The obstacles created by the Italian elections are understandable and will
be eventually removed. But problems in relations with the U.S. are quite
another matter. Washington gives one reason after another for halting the
allocation of the promised funds to Russia. Have bilateral contradictions
become so serious?

Experts say the Pentagon, which is to destroy its CWA also by April 29,
2012, is lagging behind the schedule although it has no financial problems.
Maybe it does not want Russia to snatch the lead in the chemical disarmament
race?

Dr. Kalinina said Moscow would fulfill its obligations under the chemical
weapons convention one way or another, with or without Washington's
assistance