- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

CRAWFORD, Texas The Bush administration yesterday announced plans to accelerate construction of a chemical-weapons destruction plant in Russia and examine ways to cut costly inefficiencies in the disposal of plutonium in the former Soviet republic.
Also yesterday, the president signed a proclamation granting permanent normal trade relations status with China.
The moves on Russian-arms destruction come two weeks after President Bush notified Russia that the United States would unilaterally withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Although critics said the withdrawal would spark a new arms race between Russia and the United States, both sides have instead decided to slash their nuclear arsenals by two-thirds.
In an effort to speed this process, the Bush administration yesterday announced it had completed a detailed review of Washington's assistance to Moscow in dismantling the nuclear stockpiles of the Cold War era.
The United States currently spends $750 million a year to administer more than 30 programs aimed at helping Russia achieve "nonproliferation and threat reduction."
While most of the programs were found to be efficient and well-focused, the White House said several will be "restructured to focus more effectively on projects to help Russia reduce its nuclear-warhead complex."
Also, the Defense Department will turn over to the Department of Energy a program aimed at ending Russian production of weapons-grade plutonium.
Two days before announcing his withdrawal from the ABM pact, Mr. Bush emphasized the importance of helping Russia scale back its weapons programs.
"Together, we must keep the world's most dangerous technologies out of the hands of the world's most dangerous people," Mr. Bush said during a Dec. 11 speech at The Citadel in South Carolina. "A crucial partner in this effort is Russia a nation we are helping to dismantle strategic weapons, reduce nuclear material and increase security at nuclear sites."
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago, one of Washington's biggest concerns has been the prospect of rogue nations hiring displaced Soviet scientists with expertise in weapons of mass destruction. Yesterday, the White House announced plans to expand a program that redirects these scientists to more honorable employers.
That fulfills a promise made by Mr. Bush during his Citadel remarks on U.S.-Russian relations.
"Our two countries will expand efforts to provide peaceful employment for scientists who formerly worked in Soviet weapons facilities," Mr. Bush said.
"The United States will also work with Russia to build a facility to destroy tons of nerve agent," he added. "I'll request an overall increase in funding to support this vital mission."
Under a program administered by the Pentagon, construction of the plant in Shchuch'ye, Russia, will be accelerated "at no increased expense," the White House said yesterday. It did not provide specifics of costs or construction timetables.
The administration has also decided to expand a Department of Energy program aimed at increasing the "transparency" of Russia's inventory of warheads and fissile material.
Mr. Bush yesterday called the granting of normal trade status for China, effective Jan. 1, "the final step in normalization of U.S.-China trade relations and welcoming China into a global, rules-based trading system."
China formally became a member of the World Trade Organization on Dec. 11. Last year, Congress granted permanent normal trade status to Beijing on the condition that China join the WTO.
The president yesterday also terminated the 1974 Jackson-Vanik law that withholds normal trade relations with communist states that restrict emigration.
Mr. Bush spent much of yesterday relaxing at his ranch here on the first full day of his longest vacation since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The president, who arrived here from Camp David on Wednesday, began yesterday with a three-mile run and later cleared some brush around his 1,600-acre ranch.

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