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russia still holds onto its chemical weapons.

  1. croupier

    5,447 Posts.

    CDI Russia Weekly

    C O M M E N T A R Y

    MOSCOW, January 23 /from Victor Litovkin, RIA Novosti military analyst/ - US President George W. Bush signed resolutions to resume financial aid to Russia as it destroys its chemical arsenals. Simultaneously, Russia established an information and analytical centre on chemical agent destruction and safe storage in Gorny, a township in the Saratov Region on the Volga.

    US aid has no direct bearing on the Gorny centre. Nevertheless, there is an in-depth link between them, to say nothing of a coincidence in time. The link is mainly due to a wide range of problems with chemical arms destruction. Official statistics place Russia the world's first for chemical arsenals, with 40,000 tonnes-and chemicals are about the most dire heritage of the Cold War. Indicatively, they open the list of mass destruction weaponry.

    Russia signed the chemical arms ban convention in 1993, and ratified it in 1997-but started actual destruction as late as mid-December 2002, and that only in Gorny, one of its seven chemical arsenals. Slightly over fifty tonnes of yperite and lewisite has been destroyed for today, while April 29 is the deadline for Moscow to report to the world chemical arms ban organisation that 400 tonnes, 1% of the total stock, has been destroyed. An entire 1,160 tonnes stockpiled in Gorny is to be neutralised within the two next years. Construction is to start simultaneously of similar works in Kambarka, Udmurtia, and Schuchye, Kurgan Region.

    Russia explains a procrastinated start of arsenal destruction by economic hardships. That is true-but not the whole truth. Related allocations were necessary to provide safety and environmental cleanliness of the projects, and tackle local social problems. Russia was looking forward to overseas aid. Almost all Western countries made generous promises-but Europe alone was good on its word. Germany, the best donor of all, allocated US$50 million-the bulk of Gorny construction costs, and came up with technical assistance and expert advice.

    Self-seeking civil servants of Saratov were playing up public phobias, and fed the local and federal press with unsavoury sensations on disastrous environment pollution by the Gorny works. All were surprised after the brainwash to see the efficiency, foolproof safety and environmental cleanliness of the new project. The many international commissions were fully satisfied.

    The appearance of an information centre in Gorny will put an end to psychological tensions-"cure the Saratov people of chemophobia"-with telling everything there is to know about project performance, the environmental situation, and health of the personnel and the population nearby. That will be exhaustive and unbiased information, says Sergei Kiriyenko, presidential envoy plenipotentiary to federal district Volga and head of a government interbranch commission for chemical disarmament.

    We cannot say for sure that none other than Gorny success prompted the US Administration to resume aid as Russia is building a similar project southward, in Schuchye. There is, however, no chance to deny an impact of the Gorny breakthrough on America untying its purse strings. The USA promised, quite some time ago, to donate $880 million to help Russia destroy organophosphorous agents. Stockpiled in the Kurgan Region is 13% of Russia's total chemical arsenal-5,462 metric tonnes of sarin, soman and VX gases in mines, artillery shells, jet projectiles, and tactical and operational-tactical missile warheads. All kinds of explanations have been coming from the USA to justify aid suspension. In particular, America pointed out that Russia was not coping with its obligations to provide engineering networks for the blueprinted project, and was shrugging off the local population's social problems.

    More grudges came after Russia coped with all that. The US Congress made a thunderbolt demand of Moscow to announce chemical arms not accounted for to this day-Novice class binary agents were meant, explained the American press; to provide information about biological arsenals, and admit US inspectors to whatever chemical and biological projects chosen in Washington, D.C. Congressmen never cared that Russia was not Iraq. Who pays is to meet obedience, was their simple logic.

    Russia could not put up with that-not merely because it did not intend to report to the USA things which the USA itself chooses to conceal from the world public; and not because commercial and technological, let alone state secrecy, of goings-on at Russian chemical and biological works and research institutes. It would be preposterous to divulge secrets merely because US Congressmen want to know them.

    Then, if America is reluctant to finance Russian chemical arms destruction, it ought to say so out loud. Sergei Kirienko and Zinovi Pak, Director of Russia's Ammunitions Agency, which bears responsibility for chemical agent disposal, pointed that out more than once at international forums of the chemical arms ban organisation. In fact, Russia could cope singlehanded, though behind the convention schedule, they stressed. The US Administration did not say either yes or now to Russian official inquiries-and never allocated a cent to the Schuchye project. Things went on like that for three years. Why, now, has President Bush determined to finish aid suspension? After all, Russia has not done anything to satisfy Congress.

    As independent Russian experts explain, it is improper not to contribute any longer to international aid to Russia after all leading European countries have done their bit for Russian chemical arsenal destruction. There is really a world of difference between Moscow and Baghdad. It is pointless and unwise to face Russia with ultimatums which America's allies are extremely unlikely to support. More than that, Russia has by now started implementing its pledges. One can go on finding fault with Russia on minor points, but no longer on principal matters. America is facing an unpleasant prospect-the cause will go on without its contribution, and its public image will be tarnished.

    There are another several major reasons. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana now leads the Senate foreign affairs committee. The Republican activist is a household figure-a programme on which allocations are made to destroy Russian chemical arms bears his name side by side with that of Democratic Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia. Now, President Bush can play a political trump by helping the head of one of the leading Senate committees on the noble cause of cleaning the world of the Cold War aftermath. Besides, Congress allocations are to go not right to Russia but, partly, to US-based companies who are assisting Russia with its chemicals.

    True, the $160 million allocated by the USA for now to Schuchye industrial construction will not suffice to get the works going and destroy the huge local organophosphorous arsenal, which closely approaches 5,500 tonnes. The vast task will take an entire $880 million the USA formerly pledged. The related political situation remains as vague-the US Congress has not given up its demands to Russia but merely shoved them backstage for a time, and may resume them at the most untimely instant.

    All that is not of essential importance any longer, reassure Russian experts. Russian chemical disarmament has got on a practical footing, and it is harder to stop it than certain American political leaders may think. If America wants to help, it is to help-or stay away from the endeavour. Then, it will have to keep modest silence on its efforts to put an end to the Cold War curse.

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