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US Conduct Led to Putin's Decision to Halt Plutonium Cooperation

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The author is KP’s military observer and a retired colonel 

If Mikhail Lermontov (a great  Russian 19th century poet and author of the poem “Borodino" dedicated to a decisive battle near Moscow during the Napoleonic War of 1812 – ed.) lived today, he would write something like this: "We yielded long in silence, waiting, but Washington played us for fools”. They played Gorbachev for a fool by advancing on the East. With Yeltsin, they did everything they wanted. Now they seem to be trying to play Putin for a fool with nuclear disarmament, but the plan “went sour".

On Monday, Putin issued a decree that suspended the agreement between Russia and the USA on the disposal of plutonium.

If we take sentences from the decree, the decision was made

“because of the fundamental change of circumstances, the emergence of a threat to strategic stability, and as a result of unfriendly actions by the United States of America towards the Russian Federation, and inability of the United States to ensure the implementation of its obligations to utilize surplus weapons-grade plutonium, and as a result of the necessity to undertake immediate protection measures for Russia’s security”.  

There are three messages in this statement. 

1) “Fundamental change of circumstances”. The Plutonium Disposition Pact between Russia and the US was drawn up in the 90s and signed in 2000, when they were conning us with the “reset”. Today they are threatening us directly, with deployment of missile defense systems and a lighting strike — even terrorist attacks. The masks are off.

2) Let’s remember what this pact is about. We agreed with the United States that both sides would dispose of 34 tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. Back then, we had piled up 125 tons, while the Americans had 100 tons. The pact unequivocally refers to non-recoverable utilization i.e. the impossibility of further use for military purposes. Which means that the sides were denied the possibility of making at least 5,000 nuclear warheads! What more could one ask for?

But the difference in implementation was enormous. The US was ready to provide Russia with money for processing our plutonium into a useless form. Moscow insisted that this was a valuable resource and it would be wiser to process it for fuel (Mixed-Oxide fuel) for nuclear power plants. This can be done in specially built plants - like the one in Zheleznogorsk near Krasnoyarsk. We also built a reactor already loaded with the first batch of fuel. But the “advanced” Yankees wasted $8 billion trying to build a similar plant, ceasing construction midway. We managed to build both plant and reactor at only 3% of the cost wasted by the Americans, who failed. Or were they fooling us?

The White House is refusing to process weapons-grade plutonium into fuel, preferring storage, from which weapons-grade plutonium can be recovered..

3) Part 3 of the recent statement refers to “the need to undertake immediate protection measures for Russia’s security”.  Our “strategic partners” have started a program of “qualitative development” of their nuclear weapons, claiming that their nuclear arsenals are “in a sad condition”. Should we sit idly by and listen to their sweet words in this situation? I don’t think so...

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