World War 3 Nuclear Saber Rattling? Russia Backs Out Of Plutonium Treaty

Norman Byrd

Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced a bill Monday which could be considered by the Duma as early as Wednesday that would effectively withdraw Russia from the plutonium disposal treaty it has with the United States. Citing the United States' relatively recent "unfriendly actions" in the past few months, Russia says there is still a chance the treaty will remain in effect, but conditions will have to be met by the U.S. Unfortunately, the conditions, as written, have little chance of gaining support -- which may have been intentional.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported this week that a bill submitted by Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, will seek to immediately dissolve Russian participation in the U.S.-Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement that the countries entered into in 2010. The Russian Duma, which has been on hiatus, reconvened Wednesday, but it was as yet unclear as to its schedule and whether or not it would get to the bill anytime soon.

The agreement was a nuclear non-proliferation measure meant to move Russia and the United States into a process of nuclear deescalation and disposal of surplus plutonium. It required the signatories, according to AFP, "to dispose of at least 34 tons of weapon-grade plutonium by irradiating it or transforming it into so-called MOX (mixed oxide) fuel."

Earlier this year, Putin charged that the United States was not honoring the tenets of the agreement. Putin accused the United States of disposing of plutonium in such a manner that it retained its defense capabilities. He said that the methods, other than irradiation and MOX fuel transformation, only diluted the plutonium, leaving it in a state where it could be reconstituted to weapons-grade functionality.

The United States had turned to dilution methods when plans for an irradiation plant for disposing of the plutonium were scrapped due to prohibitive costs.

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has stated that the political move was a "necessary" response to the hostility being shown to Russia by the U.S., hostility that included economic sanctions over the Ukraine border crisis and the push to amass an increasing number of NATO forces near Russia's western border. Lavrov said talks regarding the disposal treaty would only work if the U.S. stopped using the "language of sanctions and ultimatums" while it sought to "maintain selective cooperation when it benefits the US."

From an official statement about the suspension of the plutonium disposal treaty from the Russian foreign ministry (per Reuters), "The Obama administration has done everything in its power to destroy the atmosphere of trust which could have encouraged cooperation.

"The step Russia has been forced to take is not intended to worsen relations with the United States. We want Washington to understand that you cannot, with one hand, introduce sanctions against us where it can be done fairly painlessly for the Americans, and with the other hand continue selective cooperation in areas where it suits them."

Lavrov said the new bill offered Washington a way to save the treaty. The bill proposed that in order for the U.S. and Russia to remain treaty-bound, the U.S. would have to move its military forces out of European countries that became part of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) after 2000, suspend "all sanctions" currently leveled against Moscow, and compensate the Russian Federation for the financial losses that had resulted from said sanctions.

As Reuters points out, Putin's suspension of the plutonium disposal treaty indicates that Russia is attempting to leverage nuclear weapons disarmament as a bargaining tool. Ostensibly focused on the economic sanctions against Russia, the treaty can also be used in negotiations with regard to the mounting tensions in Ukraine, where small border skirmishes are still occurring, and Syria, where that country's civil war ceasefire talks have recently fallen apart.

Russia and the U.S. have been positioned as opposites since the United States backed Ukraine in its border dispute with Russia, not to mention lending support for Ukraine in its official contest to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russia entered the Syrian civil war in December 2015 in support of the Bashar al-Assad regime against the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels.

Although there has been limited cooperation with regard to the fight against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), Russia and the U.S. have settled into a policy of mutual accusation with regard to both Syria and Russia's western border. Both sides (the U.S. through NATO) have increased the number of military exercises in the region, not to mention the number of troops stationed there. As the Inquisitr has reported, fears of World War 3 loom over the map from the Baltic States in northern Europe to the border of Ukraine in the south. And those fears have been stoked with the added worry of nuclear engagements, where talk of limited nuclear weapons use has been given added credibility by Russia's attention to modernization of its nuclear arsenal, a policy that, according to the Inquisitr, has been recently matched by the United States.

And now surplus plutonium that would have been slated for disposal will be available for nuclear weapons manufacture. The nuclear saber rattling between Russia and the U.S. just got a little louder.

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