On Wednesday, the Russian government said it will not seek to extend the Nunn–Lugar program after the program expires next year.
The Nunn–Lugar program has been a useful tool for increasing transparency and reducing the likelihood of diversion of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the countries of the former Soviet Union. The Russian statements further underscore the failure of the Administration’s “reset” policy and will complicate strategic calculations when it comes to Russian policies, particularly for U.S. allies in the European theatre.
In addition, it is possible that Moscow is preparing grounds for the next round of arms control with the U.S. in which the Russian leadership will try to obtain further concessions from the United States.
Pursuant to the Senate’s resolution of ratification to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the next round of arms control must include short-range strategic systems. Termination of the Nunn–Lugar agreement means that it will be harder to gain insight into how many and what types of short-range ballistic missiles the Russians have. This means that the Russians will have more negotiating leverage regarding verification of potential short-range nuclear weapons reductions; this means that it will be harder to agree on verification measures.
The Obama Administration gave away almost all American negotiating leverage in New START, which mandates U.S. unilateral reductions and limits the U.S. missile defense program. In addition, the Obama Administration reneged on its pledges to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and failed to provide adequate resources for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. This cut is particularly devastating, as the laboratory had already been coping with absorbing the $300 million cut the Administration had imposed on it already.
The U.S. is unilaterally disarming, a process that is going to be accelerated by the impending sequestration cuts to the defense budget. The cuts would impact the nuclear part of the budget and make the current defense strategy un-executable.
The U.S. is the only nuclear weapons state without a substantive nuclear weapons modernization program. Meanwhile, the Russians plan on tripling their strategic missile production between now and 2015. This is not the time to engage in yet another round of nuclear weapons reductions that will ultimately be detrimental to U.S. security.