Presidents Back U.S.-Russian Civil Nuclear Pact

By Horner, Daniel | Arms Control Today, May 2009 | Go to article overview
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Presidents Back U.S.-Russian Civil Nuclear Pact


Horner, Daniel, Arms Control Today


President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have agreed to move ahead with a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement between their countries, but a senior Department of State official said the Obama administration may need some time to address congressional concerns about the pact.

Speaking April 7 at a luncheon session of the Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference, Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, said the process of consulting with lawmakers will be "slow and, I think, deliberate" because of "the difficult issues that confront the agreement on Capitol Hill." Nevertheless, she said, "I hope that this is an agreement that can be fairly quickly brought before the Congress again."

In May 2008, President George W. Bush submitted the agreement to Congress but withdrew it three months later in the wake of Russia's military action in Georgia. Even before the clash with Georgia, the pact was facing resistance from some influential members of Congress. The main focus of their concern was Russia's relationship with Iran, particularly with regard to Tehran's nuclear program.

Last year, the two top members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and ranking member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) - introduced legislation that would have made the issuance of licenses for U.S. nuclear exports to Russia contingent on a presidential certification that Russia was not providing Iran with assistance relevant to nuclear or certain other types of weapons. The president also would have had to certify that Russia was "fully and completely" supporting U.S. efforts to impose "effective" international sanctions on Iran.

At the April 7 luncheon, Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, said such conditions were "absolutely irrelevant" to the agreement.

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