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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Allots $5Bln to Ax Soviet Arms

WASHINGTON -- Five U.S. engineering and management firms have been awarded a defense contract totaling $5 billion to eliminate Russian nuclear and other arms and protect nuclear warheads, the Pentagon said Friday.

The contract, which will run through 2006, is part of a decade-old effort authorized and financed by Congress to help safely destroy former Soviet weapons of mass destruction in Russia and assure that they are not stolen.

The latest step to eliminate such weapons under arms treaties comes as the United States and Russia are embroiled in a dispute over President George W. Bush's plan to develop a controversial U.S. defense against missile attack.

The Pentagon said the new contract work will be shared by Brown and Root Services Division of Halliburton International Co., formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, Raytheon Co., Bechtel National Inc., Parsons Delaware Inc. and Washington Group International Inc. The last three are privately owned companies.

The work will include elimination of Russian missiles, bombers and submarines, most of the designated for destruction under treaties, as well as accounting for and safely storing of dangerous byproducts such as nuclear warheads.

The Pentagon said the work, part of the Nunn-Lugar law authorized by Congress, will also include efforts to eliminate facilities in Russia used to produce and store chemical and biological weapons.

The firms will help coordinate collaborative efforts between experts in the two countries aimed at nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The United States has about 7,000 nuclear warheads and Russia has some 6,000. But those totals are supposed to be brought down to about 3,500 each under the planned START-2 strategic arms reduction treaty.

Moscow, however, has warned that arms reduction treaties between Moscow and Washington could be in danger if the Bush administration goes ahead with a threat to withdraw from the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty so that it can move ahead on missile defense.

The Bush administration wants Russia to agree to jointly "move beyond" the ABM treaty, which forbids deployment of a national missile defense by either country, but Moscow has refused.

Senior officials from the two countries have been discussing the issue and Bush and President Vladimir Putin agreed at a meeting this summer to link talks on missile defense with further deep nuclear arms cuts.

Russia cannot afford to maintain its massive nuclear arsenal and Putin wants to cut the number of warheads to 1,500 on each side.

Bush has vowed to make deep cuts in U.S. nuclear weapons, but no decision has been made on a new number while the Pentagon conducts a major review of the American nuclear arsenal and how it fits into the nation's strategic planning.