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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Balking on Nuclear Agreement

WASHINGTON -- Russia has balked at implementing any of the nuclear security and weapons inspection agreements announced by presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin at their summit meeting last May, throwing up a major roadblock to U.S.-Russian cooperation on key security issues, U.S. officials said.

After a promising start on discussions aimed at carrying out the agreements, the Russians pulled back and have essentially suspended the talks, according to several officials who said they were perplexed and frustrated by the developments.

Officials at the State Department, the White House and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency said it is unclear why the Russians have backed away, and there may be multiple reasons. What is clear, they said, is that the mutual inspections and data exchanges on weapons and nuclear materials -- which the presidents said would happen -- are not about to happen.

The failure to carry through on the deals does not by itself threaten U.S. security or U.S.-Russian relations, officials said. But in the context of other recent developments in Russia, it adds to a troubling recent pattern that has clouded Washington's relations with Moscow.

"We hope to implement all the agreements presidents Clinton and Yeltsin arrived at during their Moscow summit," State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said. "Over the past couple of years we have found that some of these arms agreements are very difficult, and it is sometimes necessary to bring in senior officials because the bureaucracy in both countries can only take them so far," Burns said. He added that the United States and Russia are cooperating on many other issues, such as the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

Clinton and Yeltsin on May 10, 1995, issued a "Joint Statement on the Transparency and Irreversibility of the Process of Reducing Nuclear Weapons," containing measures by which each country could assure itself that the other was carrying out promised nuclear weapons reductions. They said the two countries would "exchange on a regular basis" detailed information on their stockpiles of weapons and nuclear materials.

They also said the two countries would undertake "reciprocal monitoring" of the facilities where they store nuclear materials removed from dismantled warheads. And they said they would "seek to conclude in the shortest possible time" a legal agreement ensuring protection of the exchanged data.

None of it has happened. The legal agreement was never negotiated, making it impossible to exchange classified data and develop the "chain of custody" agreement sought by the United States. And the United States refused to allow Russian officials to inspect the only U.S. nuclear weapons dismantlement facility in Texas because Russia would not allow U.S. inspectors to visit a comparable plant in Russia.

In the same joint declaration, Clinton and Yeltsin "urged progress" in carrying out a 1994 agreement by which Russia was to cease producing plutonium, the key building block of nuclear weapons. The United States has been unable to come up with the money to replace the electric power and heat generated by the Russian plutonium-producing reactors, so the reactors still are operating.