Reports that American-Russian cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation has been called off are false, says Edward Held

American-Russian cooperation under the Nunn-Lugar Program, created to establish joint efforts to ensure the non-proliferation of nuclear materials, is to continue.

The Nunn-Lugar Program provides for the assistance of the U.S. to countries of the former USSR in the disposal of decommissioned nuclear and chemical weapons and methods of their delivery. The total budget of the program, according to data published by the journal Vzglyad, is $8.79 billion.

In 2012 the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the U.S. proposal to extend the program was no longer in accordance with Moscow’s concepts on how cooperation in this sphere should develop. The U.S. expressed readiness to discuss this issue.

In the end, it was decided to alter the program and, instead, an interim bilateral framework agreement was concluded in June 2013. In accordance with the agreement, the number of joint projects between Russia and the U.S. has decreased and the access of U.S. inspectors to nuclear sites has been limited. Nevertheless, the countries are maintaining cooperation in the spheres such as the protection and disposal of nuclear materials, customs control, the conversion of highly enriched uranium, and the secure storage of nuclear submarines.

American-Russian cooperation under the Nunn-Lugar Program, created to establish joint efforts to ensure the non-proliferation of nuclear materials, is to continue. On April 8, the Acting Administrator and Acting Undersecretary for Nuclear Security at the US Department of Energy, Edward Held, spoke about the program’s future at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. 

Held underscored that Russian-American cooperation in the sphere of nuclear non-proliferation and the allocation of American funds to projects in this area are “dictated by the national interests of the U.S.”

This was the answer given to Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s question on the appropriateness of a recent request by the Department of Energy for $100 million for the joint program with Russia. The legislator insisted that the Department of Energy’s request may contravene the directions of the administration in circumstances such as the suspension of American-Russian intergovernmental cooperation on a number of questions related to the crisis in Ukraine.

“This is about the defense of the national interests of the U.S. and not a subsidization of the Russians in any sense,” declared Held. At the same time, the energy department official added that in the present circumstances the joint financing of the program with Russia is a “very precarious issue.” He expressed willingness to continue discussion of the question with American legislators. “If it is determined that these funds would not serve U.S. interests, then we must not ask for them,” he concluded.

In the opinion of Held, American officials “have always put a lot of effort into keeping non-proliferation issues apart from the ups and downs in strategic relations (between Russia and the U.S.).”

In the course of his testimony, he also denied reports about the program’s supposed suspension. I am aware of the news items. They are inaccurate. This is inconsistent with what she (Anne Harrington – the representative of the US National Nuclear Security Administration) stated, as evident from the transcript of the session,” said Edward Held in answer to the questions of congressmen about stories appearing in the press earlier about the closure of the Nunn-Lugar Program.

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