- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Getting rid of weapons of mass destruction is a great idea embraced by all nations, with one implicit condition: The United States must pay for almost everything. June 1-3, President Bush travels to the French Alps for three days of talks with leaders of the world’s largest economies and Russia — the G-8. This year’s host, France, suggests focusing the summit on several major themes, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction — good advice, but no more than that unless the French president helps to implement already existing agreements within the exclusive club. The group’s principals, the leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations, need a reminder that worldwide nonproliferation projects demand of them real financial contributions, not just idle chatter.

During last year’s summit in Canada, the G-8 decided on an ambitious funding strategy to support nonproliferation and disarmament efforts in the states of the former Soviet Union, and eventually elsewhere. Under the arrangement, the United States would contribute $10 billion over the next decade, with the group’s other charter members — Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom — plus the European Commission raising an equal amount over the same period.

Disappointingly, the “10-plus-10-over-10” plan has only highlighted an unwillingness on the part of G-8 members to address serious nonproliferation issues. Paris, for example, recently announced that it had earmarked only $750 million for the nonproliferation effort over 10 years, a relatively tiny share given the size of France’s economy. Most other members have promised as much or less, with one state committing just $200 million to date.

All told, our wealthiest allies have identified $6 billion, three-fifths of their pledge, while the United States — on track to meet its funding requirement years ahead of schedule — will boost its nonproliferation and disarmament spending by about 14 percent next year, most of it from the Department of Energy and an already overburdened Department of Defense. Unfortunately, our friends’ tightfisted attitude toward the 10-plus-10-over-10 plan is merely a symptom of a larger cooperation problem facing the United States. Despite Washington’s sustained appeals to do more, our European allies have only reluctantly contributed to U.S.-led nonproliferation projects in the former Soviet Union.

In fact, our European friends have collectively contributed a little more than 1 percent of the costs of building a billion dollar facility intended to destroy nerve gas-filled munitions in the Russian town of Shchuch’ye. Some European states, which stand to gain as much from the project as the United States have promised additional funds to the risky project, but none of the nominal contributions exceed $6 million a year. Few, if any, European capitals have yet to make Russia’s residual weapons of mass destruction a spending priority. By contrast, the United States is on track to spend nearly $2 billion on worldwide nonproliferation and disarmament projects in 2004, with American taxpayers likely handing over $170 million on the Shchuch’ye initiative alone.

Enhanced funding from Russia also will help prevent another “Krasnoyarsk” — a city in central Russia, where U.S. taxpayers recently funded a $100 million plant to neutralize volatile missile fuel. It will never be operated, because the Russians diverted the fuel to their space program before the plant was even completed — and never bothered to tell us.

President Bush should not miss the opportunity to argue for larger European, Canadian and Japanese contributions; but Congress, too, needs to act. Proposed legislation would begin this process, making a portion of the Shchuch’ye project’s funding contingent on foreign assistance. The House Armed Services Committee recently endorsed H.R. 1588, bipartisan legislation that would guarantee more than $70 million and match, on a two-to-one basis, up to another $100 million. In other words, the committee recommends creating a financing mechanism that would create incentives for other countries to honor their commitments to nonproliferation.

A second provision in this year’s bill would help enforce guidelines established in last year’s G-8 agreement by creating incentives for Russia to open up its secret biological research facilities, some of which are suspected of harboring illegal weapons programs and others that would benefit from security upgrades to prevent theft. Another section would give teeth to the G-8 guideline requiring “clearly defined milestones” by requiring Russia to obtain and transfer to Washington land-use permits necessary to construct and operate disarmament facilities, so nonproliferation dollars are not unnecessarily wasted on facilities that cannot be used because of Russian red tape.

Taken together, these and other elements in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act would ensure accountability, promote transparency and improve nonproliferation cooperation in Russia,and among other members of the G-8 ,whose rhetorical commitment to eliminating threats from weapons of mass destruction has so far surpassed their willingness to commit real resources. The United States should continue to take the lead in combating proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; it serves our interests to do so. However, America’s commitment must not become an excuse for other countries to duck their financial responsibilities. The funding formulas, requirements for accountability and incentive structures created in legislation the House are the best means of ensuring that our global nonproliferation focuses on results, rather then rhetoric.

Rep. Duncan Hunter is a California Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

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