The Russian government yesterday cautiously welcomed a U.S. proposal which would increase American financial assistance aimed at improving nuclear security in Russia and other former Soviet states. The proposal, which U.S. President Bill Clinton made during his State of the Union speech on January 19, would increase funding of the Nunn-Lugar program by nearly two-thirds over the next five years. “We must expand our work with Russia, Ukraine and the other former Soviet nations to safeguard nuclear materials and technology so [that] they never fall into the wrong hands,” Clinton said. He also called on Russia and the United States to further reduce their nuclear arsenals (International agencies, January 20). In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Moscow would study the U.S. proposal carefully and that he expected it to be on the agenda during U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s upcoming visit to Moscow. Ivanov said that current Russian-U.S. cooperation programs in this area, including Nunn-Lugar, had long proved their usefulness (Russian agencies, January 20).
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, who has spearheaded government efforts to win ratification of the START II treaty, was a bit more effusive in praising the proposed American initiative. According to his press secretary, Anton Surikov, Maslyukov underscored the fact that Russia’s difficult financial circumstances made the prospect of increased U.S. financial aid and know-how “most welcome.” Surikov said that funding was especially needed for scrapping nuclear weapons that had exceeded their service life (Russian agencies, January 20).
…BUT REITERATES COMMITMENT TO NONPROLIFERATION EFFORTS.