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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lugar and Nunn Call For Treaty Extension

APLugar speaking to participants at a nuclear safety conference on Tuesday as he called for talks to extend START.
The co-founders of the U.S.-funded program to downsize and secure Russia's nuclear arsenal on Tuesday called for the extension of a key arms control treaty that Washington has been reluctant to negotiate.

That reluctance has been one of the sore points behind a steady worsening of Russian-U.S. relations.

Republican Senator Richard Lugar and former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn said Moscow and Washington should sit down and negotiate an extension of the START-1 treaty, which expires in 2009.

The two arrived in the city earlier this week to gauge the implementation of the U.S.-funded nuclear safety programs that they helped launch as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

"The United States and Russia must extend the START treaty's verification and transparency elements, which will expire in 2009," Lugar told a nuclear safety conference organized by the Carnegie Moscow Center and the PIR Center.

The treaty was signed by U.S. and Soviet leaders in 1991 and sets limits on strategic delivery systems for nuclear warheads and mandates the thorough verification of strategic arms cuts.

It also provides verification procedures for the Moscow Treaty signed by Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush in 2002 to take more nuclear warheads off duty.

Putin called for negotiations for an extension of the treaty more than a year ago. Senior Russian and U.S. diplomats have met repeatedly for discussions since then, but have been hampered by what analysts say is a reluctance on the part of the Bush administration to commit to a detailed, Cold War-style arms control regime.

Lugar appeared to be fully aware Tuesday of the reasons for the Kremlin's discomfort.

"I am concerned by reports that U.S.-Russian negotiations do not include discussions of a legally binding treaty or the continuation of a formal verification regime," he told the conference. "The current Russian-American relationship is complicated enough without introducing more elements of uncertainty into the nuclear relationship."

The treaty is not, however, the largest security bone of contention plaguing the two sides at present, something Nunn and Lugar acknowledged. Speaking at the Monday roundtable, both touched on U.S. plans to deploy elements of a global missile defense system in Central Europe.

Misha Japaridze / AP
Nunn commenting on the success of the nuclear arms destruction program.
The plans have prompted Moscow to take a number of countermeasures, including the abrogation of a ban on medium-range missiles that would target these countries and, most recently, proposing the establishment of nuclear weapons facilities in Belarus.

Nunn said both sides needed to "pause" and "take a deep breath" from the war of words over the planned deployment of 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic, The Washington Post reported.

"We could stumble to the precipice of strategic danger if we and our Russian friends play a foolish zero-sum game with missile defense," Nunn said.

Putin has proposed a radar site Russia leases in Azerbaijan as a substitute for the European installations, while diplomats and military officials have also proposed a site in southern Russia as an alternative.

Foreign and defense ministers from both sides plan to hold talks in September in Washington, but analysts in Russia and the United States are skeptical that the Bush administration will abandon the plans for Central Europe.

Graham Allison, a former U.S. assistant secretary of defense and head of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said Russia's "proposal is inadequate as a solution."

But he also said Tuesday that the proposal should still form the basis for "serious U.S.-Russian strategic discussions" on a potential nuclear missile threat emanating from Iran, among other security issues. Allison said such a dialogue should also address Russia's concerns about the expiration of the verification regimes stipulated by START.

He said Washington made "a premature proposal for deployment of missile defenses that do not work against a threat that doesn't exist yet" in what created "a conflict between the two actors who should be focused on the larger and more urgent challenge: preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear bombs."

Kevin Ryan, a former U.S. defense attache in Moscow and now a senior research fellow at the Belfer Center, said the position of the Gabala radar site in Azerbaijan is "highly advantageous" for early detection and tracking of any missiles from the Middle East.

But he agreed with Allison that the Gabala proposal was unrealistic, saying it would require the two sides to share more sensitive information than could be expected.

Ivan Safranchuk, head of the Moscow office of the World Security Institute, also said the proposal would likely be rejected, but expressed hope that the possibility of a Democrat winning the race for the White House next year could deliver a president more willing to discuss an extension of START.

Safranchuk added that it was time Russia took full responsibility for the funding and implementation of efforts to dispose of excess nuclear stockpiles safely.

"Russia should thank the Americans for running the Nunn-Lugar program when it could not afford to do so, but the time has come for Russia to take over as it now has money to do it all on its own," he said.

n Russia and the United States will sign a deal on peaceful nuclear cooperation by the end of the year, Nikolai Spassky, deputy head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, said Tuesday, Reuters reported.

Spassky's comments follow earlier delays to an agreement, which had been expected just before Bush and Putin met in July.

"An agreement on cooperation between Russia and the United States in the field of nuclear energy should be signed by the end of this year," Spassky said, the news agency reported.

In his comments, Spassky also defended nuclear cooperation with Iran, saying Moscow's help in building the Bushehr nuclear plant anchored Tehran into talks about its nuclear program.

"Our cooperation with Iran on the construction of the Bushehr power plant represents a very serious anchor that induces Iran to cooperate, to remain within the framework of the nonproliferation treaty and the [International Atomic Energy Agency]," he said.