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U.S., Russia extend pact to curb weapons
Program targets arms of mass destruction

Setting aside policy differences over Kosovo, Iraq and other contentious issues, the United States and Russia concluded an agreement in Washington on Wednesday extending for seven years programs to reduce the threat posed by nuclear, biological, chemical and other weapons of mass destruction.

In a ceremony at the Russian Embassy on Wednesday morning, Ambassador Yuri Ushakov signed the agreement and shook hands with senior Defense Department officials to celebrate the extension of the umbrella agreement that authorizes the Cooperative Threat Reduction program.Started in 1991 by former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the Cooperative Threat Reduction program has spent $2.7 billion from 1992 to this year helping Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan and other former Soviet republics reduce, control and eliminate unconventional weapons in their military inventories. The bulk of these funds, about $1.7 billion, has been spent on projects in Russia.

"We expect to spend at least that much, and perhaps a little more, over the next seven years," said a senior Pentagon official.

According to Pentagon data, the program has already helped Russia deactivate 1,538 nuclear warheads; destroy 254 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 30 submarine-launched ballistic missiles and 40 heavy bombers and eliminate 50 silos for long-range missiles and 148 launchers for submarine-launched missiles -- all in keeping with Moscow's commitments under treaties to reduce strategic nuclear and other unconventional weapons systems.

The program has also helped Russia finance the construction of storage facilities for fissile material and chemical weapons and the installation of equipment for safer storage of tactical and strategic warheads scheduled for destruction. And the program helped pay to eliminate weapons-grade plutonium by converting the cores of Russia's remaining plutonium production reactors and dismantle and convert for peaceful use facilities that once made material for chemical or biological weapons.

Pentagon officials vigorously argue that the program is neither charity nor foreign aid but a cost-effective investment in U.S. national security, a view supported by many independent defense analysts.