US Arms Official Plans Moscow Talks

Rose Gottemoeller file photo

WASHINGTON, February 4 (RIA Novosti) ­ The US State Department’s top arms control official will visit Moscow next week to discuss a range of bilateral issues with her Russian counterparts, the State Department said Monday.

Rose Gottemoeller, the US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, is scheduled to hold three days of meetings with Russian officials, beginning Feb. 12, to “review key issues on our bilateral and international arms control, nonproliferation and international security agenda,” the State Department said in a statement.

Officials in Washington did not give further details about the planned talks, but Monday’s announcement comes amid signals from Moscow and Washington that both sides are open for talks about renewing a decades-old armaments disposal program set to expire in June.

Russian officials said in October that the Kremlin is not interested in extending the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR)­broadly referred to as the Nunn-Lugar program­in its current form.

The US-funded program dates back to the early 1990s and has helped decommission scores of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The United States has reportedly spent an estimated $8 billion the program, which was extended in 1999 and 2006.

The program is seen in Washington as one of the nation’s most successful national security programs, and top US officials have publicly supported another extension.

At an event in December honoring the founders of the program­ — former US senators Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn­ — President Barack Obama indicated a willingness to negotiate with Russia on the terms of a new deal.

“Russia has said that our current agreement hasn’t kept pace with the changing relationship between our countries,” Obama said. “To which we say­let’s update it. Let’s work with Russia as an equal partner. Let’s continue the work that’s so important to the security of both our countries.”

Citing a source in the Russian delegation at the Munich Security Conference, the Russian newspaper Kommersant on Monday reported that Russia may sign an extension if the new program is financed equally by both sides and “fairly distributes responsibility” between the two countries.

Moscow could also insist on limiting the access of Americans working on the program to Russian facilities, Kommersant reported.