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Associated Press, June 28, 2002

Some in Russia skeptical about the G8 decision to help the Kremlin dispose of its deadly Soviet-era arsenal


MOSCOW - The decision by the world's wealthiest industrial nations to help Russia dispose of its arsenal of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons won support from some quarters here on Friday, but angered others as a sign of Russia capitulating to the West.

Retired Gen. Leonid Ivashov, known for his hawkish statements, warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin was leading his country into a potentially dangerous relationship with the West, first by agreeing to closer cooperation with NATO and with the full entry of Russia into the Group of Eight, which was approved at the G8 summit in Canada this week.

The summit wrapped up on Thursday with a pledge of up to dlrs 20 billion to help keep Russia's arsenal from falling into the hands of terrorists.

"Russia is invited to join, but we are treated like a beneficiary not as an equal," said Ivashov, who added that he had some questions about "the West's motive" in offering the funds.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov criticized the pledge of money as a discreet, backdoor way for the West to further weaken Russian defensively.

"Despite all the buzz and propaganda, it is clear that the billions of dollars to be allocated to Russia by Western countries are designed to completely annihilate Russia's nuclear missile shield," he said, according to Interfax news agency.

But Sergei Kiriyenko, who heads a state committee for the disarmament of chemical weapons, called the G8 pledge "a personal victory for the Russian President."

He said that Russia last year removed the detonators from its 40,000 tons (44,000 short tons) of chemical weapons and therefore the weapons don't "pose a combat threat to anybody except ourselves."

The G8 nations said the funding will support a 10-year program to secure Russia's aging nuclear weapons, dismantle decommissioned nuclear submarines and ensure that Russian scientists have adequate employment.

Putin has denied that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists, but said that Russia was grateful for the assistance.

Putin's increasing cooperation with the West following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States has not been embraced by all Russians. Some fear that the Kremlin has moved too quickly to bind Russia to the international community without receiving any tangible results.

Ivashov warned that the United States was moving toward a "unipolar world" and Putin in his haste to build ties was giving up Russia's natural position as a counterbalance. Alexei Arbatov, a deputy chief of the Russian parliament's defense affairs committee, said he feared that Russia was focusing too intently on the United States and not enough on Russia's more natural partners in Europe.

"It is important to remember that the West is not only America," Arbatov said.

See also:

Arms Control

Associated Press, June 28, 2002

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