Comment by the Foreign Ministry on the presidential executive order suspending the plutonium management and disposition agreement
October 3, 2016
The President of Russia has issued an executive order suspending the 2000 Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation Concerning the Management and Disposition of Plutonium Designated as No Longer Required for Defence Purposes and Related Cooperation (PMDA).
The agreement was signed at a time when our relations with the United States were on an upswing. It entered into force in 2011 during the “reset” in Russian-US relations. There was considerable hope that the role of force in politics would decline, international tension would lessen and the practice of politically motivated sanctions would become history.
Unfortunately, these hopes were dashed. In 2012, the United States adopted the Sergei Magnitsky Act, which applied unprecedented sanctions-related pressure on our country under contrived pretexts.
Since 2014, following the reunification of Crimea with Russia, the US administration has taken a series of hostile steps aimed at directly undermining our economy and social stability. At the same time, an active build-up of NATO’s military infrastructure and the numerical strength of US forces began near Russian borders, which drastically changes the strategic balance in Europe and is fraught with an escalation of military confrontation and tension.
The administration of Barack Obama has done all it could to destroy the atmosphere of trust, which could have encouraged cooperation. Washington’s actions have brought about a fundamental change in Russian-US relations with regard to strategic stability, compared to the situation that existed at the time the agreement was signed and came into force. Under these circumstances, Russia’s decision to suspend the PMDA is fully in accord with the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969.
This step that Russia was forced to take is not designed to aggravate relations with the United States. We want Washington to understand that it will not be possible to introduce sanctions against us in areas where that can be done quite painlessly for the Americans while at the same time continuing selective cooperation in areas that are beneficial for them.
There is another point with regard to the PMDA case. The United States set the course toward altering the plutonium disposition method as agreed with us in the 2010 Protocol to the Agreement, citing the need to save resources and time. Instead of “burning” plutonium in nuclear reactors, the US intends to use a simplified analogue of the immobilisation method, namely, the “dilution” and burial of plutonium. Meanwhile, this option was considered previously and rejected, since it makes it possible to reverse course. It is telling that the US took this step at a time when we had practically finished building rather costly plutonium disposal facilities.
We would like to stress that Russia is not abandoning its nuclear disarmament obligations. The presidential executive order provides that Russian plutonium designated as no longer required for defence purposes will remain outside the arms sphere.
We stress that Russia is not terminating the PMDA but only suspending it. We hope that our position will be duly taken into account and that measures will be taken to restore trust and eliminate the causes that led to the drastic change of circumstances in the sphere of strategic stability. In that case we will be ready to resume the PMDA.
Source: Foreign Ministry of Russia