- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 29, 2002

Russia's uneasy place among the world's great powers was on sharp display at the just-concluded Group of Eight summit in Canada, simultaneously playing the roles of coequal and charity case with the leading industrial democracies.
Domestic opinion in Russia was divided over President Vladimir Putin's decision to accept a $20 billion U.S.-sponsored program to protect or dismantle its nuclear and chemical weapons stockpile dating to the Soviet era.
Under the 10-year program, the United States would contribute up to $10 billion in grants and debt relief, and Canada, Japan and four European countries would match that in an effort to prevent terrorists from obtaining materials for weapons of mass destruction in Russia and other former Soviet states.
Previous efforts to safeguard the Russian arsenal had bogged down over Moscow's suspicions of outside interference and fears, especially in Europe and Japan, there would be no monitoring of the funds spent. President Bush and Mr. Putin apparently reached the accord in a one-on-one meeting at the summit, but officials said many implementation details have yet to be worked out.
An ebullient Mr. Putin said the agreement "will make a decisive contribution to the eradication of global terrorism."
But critics inside Russia said the agreement highlighted Moscow's weakness at the G-8 table.
"This is to a large extent the payment for concessions made by Russia" on NATO, on missile defense and other security issues, said Alexei Arbatov, vice chairman of the State Duma's committee on defense. "But the motives of the West are, above all, the motives of its own security."
The Russian daily Izvestia yesterday predicted "difficult" implementation talks ahead, as the West presses for tight controls on the money and Russian military officials worry about revealing security secrets. Some of the money will go to decommission weapons stocks in other ex-Soviet states, in particular Kazakhstan.
The agreement represents a personal triumph for Mr. Bush, who pushed hard for the accord despite skepticism both from the Russians and from other G-8 nations. Many analysts predicted there would not be enough time to nail down the agreement.
According to the G-8 summit statement, the funds from the program will be used to decommission weapons, secure nuclear and biological weapons stockpiles and secure nuclear reactors. Priorities include destroying chemical weapons, safeguarding mothballed nuclear submarines and finding jobs for former Soviet weapons experts who might be tempted to work for hostile elements.
U.S. officials said Mr. Putin had agreed to provide the other G-8 countries with access to disposal sites, such as facilities where nuclear submarines are dismantled, and promised to give donors some auditing and oversight rights.


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