The Energy Department will spend the money for nuclear security activities overseen by an international organization known as the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Program in Russia (MNEPR). It is not yet clear exactly how the funds will be used, writes Bill Gert for Business Insider.
How will the money be used?
One possibility is that they could be used to remove nuclear material which Russia dumped in the Arctic Ocean, or they could be put towards talks and other “feel good” measures designed to promote nuclear nonproliferation.
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“Cooperation with Russia on nuclear security remains an important element to the global effort to reduce the threat posed by nuclear terrorism, and therefore, supports key interests of not only the United States but the international community,” said Derrick J. Robinson, a spokesman for the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
Robinson refused to answer questions about the plan, which could mean that it is classified information. However, Robinson did specify that the money would be used in order to keep Russian nuclear material safe.
Back in January, Russia announced that it would no longer receive funds from the U.S. as part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which was intended to secure nuclear materials following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Figures in the Obama administration are trying to continue the program in the name of the MNEPR.
Fears abound over misappropriation of funds
However there are concerns that Russia will misuse the money, potentially in order to reduce the effects of economic sanctions placed upon the country due to the crisis in Ukraine. Continued financial assistance to Russia has come in for criticism, and former Pentagon official Eric Edelman claimed that “we are in effect having U.S. taxpayers subsidize Russia’s nuclear buildup.”
Russia is undertaking a nuclear buildup which includes new missile systems, new submarines and a new bomber, and has also threatened to put nuclear missiles in Crimea. A debate will take place in the House this week concerning U.S. funding for nuclear security programs in Russia. Some members, including Rep. Jim Bridenstine, (R., Okla.), are pushing for an end to the funding, claiming that Russia has enough money to secure its own nuclear material.
Situation in Ukraine comes to the fore
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, is also against the plans. “Russia has consistently sought to divert funds from destroying [weapons of mass destruction] or related efforts to projects with a higher priority to Moscow,” he said. “Especially in light of the Ukraine situation, the White House should be insisting on the strictest accountability and transparency before any U.S. funds are expended.”
Phillip Karber, a Georgetown University professor and specialist on Ukraine, also weighed in on the matter, calling the proposed funding plan “crazy.”
“It undermines western sanctions — how can we argue Europeans need to hang tough on sanctions when we are subsidizing the wrong people in Russia?” Karber said.
News of the plan comes at a sensitive time, when officials are openly worried about Russian aggression in eastern Europe. Defense Secretary Ash Carter claimed that Moscow is seemingly getting ready to undertake further military action in eastern Ukraine, in violation of the ceasefire agreement.
He went on to claim that sanctions imposed by the E.U. are having the desired effect on the Russian economy. “If there is anything that will influence Russian behavior, it is the combination of economic sanctions and the fall in oil prices,” said Carter, speaking to the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee. “That is what is punishing Russia now.”
Russia represents significant threat to Europe
Army General Martin Dempsey spoke alongside Carter, and also voiced his concerns. He claimed that Moscow’s recent actions “have threatened NATO’s eastern flank.” He also warned of Russia’s growing military power, claiming that Moscow “is investing deeply in advancing their capabilities across the board, especially in anti-access area-denial and cyberspace.”
Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of the U.S. European Command and NATO commander, was even more frank in his assessment, telling a Senate hearing that Moscow presents a major security threat to Europe.
“Russia is blatantly attempting to change the rules and principles that have been the foundation of European security for decades,” Breedlove told reporters following his Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “The challenge posed by a resurgent Russia is global, not regional, and enduring, not temporary.”
Opposition is mounting to the controversial plan, but every avenue should be explored in order to halt nuclear proliferation.