MOSCOW – Russia said Wednesday it had no intention to automatically extend a 20-year old deal with the United States helping secure the nation's nuclear stockpiles, a move that comes amid a growing isolationist streak in Kremlin policy.
Under the 1992 program initiated by Sens. Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, the U.S. has provided billions of dollars in equipment and know-how to help Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbors deal with Soviet nuclear legacy.
The Cooperative Threat Reduction Program provided reinforced rail cars to carry nuclear warheads, high-tech security systems for storage sites and helped pay for the dismantling of mothballed nuclear submarines and other weapons. It played a major role in preventing the deadly weapons from falling into the wrong hands while the Russian government was facing a severe money crunch amid an economic meltdown and political turmoil that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that it wouldn't accept a U.S. offer to extend the deal that expires in 2013 without a major overhaul.
"American partners know that their proposal doesn't correspond to our ideas about what forms and what foundation we need to develop further cooperation," it said in a statement. "For that, we need, in particular, a different and more modern legal framework."
While the ministry wouldn't elaborate further on the motives behind Moscow's decision, or spell out its demands, representatives of Russia's top military brass have long complained that the Nunn-Lugar program gives the U.S. too much access and information about the nation's military technologies and weapons sites.
Lugar said in a statement that during his trip to Russia in August, Russian officials told him that they would like to make changes in the original agreement instead of simply extending it. "At no time did officials indicate that, at this stage of negotiation, they were intent on ending it, only amending it," he said.
He added that Russia's space agency officials also welcomed prospects for future work during his visit to a facility dismantling mothballed missiles.
Moscow's move follows its decision last month to end the U.S. Agency for International Development's two decades of work in Russia. Moscow explained that decision by saying that the agency was using its money to influence elections — a claim the U.S. denied.
President Vladimir Putin, who was re-elected to a third term in March despite massive demonstrations in Moscow against his rule, has permeated his campaign with anti-American rhetoric, accusing Washington of fomenting protest.
Following Putin's inauguration in May, the Kremlin-controlled parliament quickly rubber-stamped a series of repressive laws that sharply hiked fines for taking part in unauthorized protests, recriminalized slander and required non-government organizations that receive foreign funding to register as foreign agents. Yet another bill under discussion expands the definition of treason to include handing over information to international organizations.