By: Soondos Mulla-Ossman ~Staff Writer~
Since the final years of the Cold War, Russia and the United States have signed and followed through with a series of accords to reduce the size of nuclear arsenals and limit nuclear usage.
In spite of souring relations over the past few years between the U.S. and Russia the agreements have remained intact.
This changed when Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree suspending his agreement for both the original Nuclear Security Pact and its many amendments.
This particular pact is significant not only because of its enactment but also what it involves: Both participants in the agreement were called on to dispose of surplus stocks of plutonium, a substance primarily intended for use in nuclear weapons.
Although the plutonium accord is not an immediate reversal of all the disarmament efforts from the post-Cold War era, the suspension carries powerful symbolism.
“Putin’s decree could signal that other nuclear disarmament cooperation deals between the United States and Russia are at a risk of being undermined,” Stratfor, a U.S.-based consultancy, warned in a commentary.
The reason behind this controversial move, as stated by the Kremlin, was that it was in response to unfriendly acts by Washington.
The Kremlin made its announcement shortly before Washington stated it was halting talks with Russia after attempting to end the violence in Syria.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby stated the halt occurred because Russia had failed to live up to its commitments under a ceasefire agreement.
Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, Russia has been staunchly supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Western diplomats caution that an end to the Syria talks leaves Moscow free to pursue military operations— and exacerbate violence.
Ukraine is not safe from these reduced communications either. The U.S. and Europe imposed sanctions on Russia after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014, and with Russia suspending the plutonium accord, there is no telling whether or not Russia can or will undermine the Ukraine sanctions as well.
A 2010 agreement concerning plutonium, signed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called on both sides to eliminate 34 tons of the substance by burning it in nuclear reactors. Clinton said that at the time, there was almost enough of the material to make 17,000 nuclear weapons. Russia assures in its decree that while it is suspending the agreement, Russia’s surplus weapongrade plutonium would not be seeing military use.