MOSCOW — Russia said Oct. 10 that it had notified the United States it no longer wanted to extend a two-decade-old U.S.-funded arms disposal initiative that has helped Moscow decommission thousands of nuclear warheads.
The so-called Nunn-Lugar program — named after former Sen. Sam Nunn and current Sen. Richard Lugar — had been due to expire in May 2013 after last being extended in 2006, said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
“The American side knows that we do not want another extension,” Ryabkov told Russia’s Interfax news agency. “This is not news to the American side.”
The report said Ryabkov was responding to Russian newspaper speculation that the initiative had been shut down as a consequence of the Kremlin’s decision to kick out the USAID development program organized by the U.S. embassy in Moscow.
USAID has been ordered out of the country over accusations it supported opposition leaders who helped organize a wave of demonstrations against President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
But Ryabkov said the Nunn-Lugar decision was in no way related to the USAID case.
“There is no connection,” he said.
The Nunn-Lugar plan was created in 1992 after the breakup of the Soviet Union at a time of international worries over the fate of the USSR’s vast arsenal of nuclear as well as chemical and biological weapons.
The program applies to all the former Soviet republics and has helped each contain the potential spread of dangerous material abroad.
It had also been hailed as one of Washington’s most successful post-Soviet initiatives related to Russia.
The program’s website said it has helped Russia organize and pay for the decommissioning of more than 6,000 nuclear warheads as well as ex-Soviet chemical and biological weapon stockpiles.