G-8 Extends WMD Initiative

By Crail, Peter | Arms Control Today, June 2011 | Go to article overview

G-8 Extends WMD Initiative


Crail, Peter, Arms Control Today


Leaders from the Group of Eight (G-8) major world economies agreed during a two-day annual summit in Deauville, France, to extend a 10-year effort aimed at reducing threats from nonconventional weapons.

The eight countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) launched the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction at the group's 2002 summit in Kananaskis, Canada. They pledged $20 billion over 10 years to fund projects safeguarding and destroying nonconventional weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union.

In a May 27 declaration from Deauville, the G-8 leaders welcomed "the concrete achievements and measurable results" of the Global Partnership and agreed to extend the initiative for an unspecified period beyond its 2012 expiration. Rather than pledging a given amount of funding for additional threat reduction projects as in 2002, the declaration said that participants in the partnership "will decide on funding of such projects on a national, joint, or multilateral basis."

In a May 31 interview, Bonnie Jenkins, the Department of State coordinator for threat reduction programs, said the G-8 partners will focus on determining funding and specific projects over the next year, adding that the benefit of agreeing on an extension a year early is that there is time to agree on the details. The G-8 also said it would expand membership beyond the 23 countries that currently participate in the partnership. Jenkins said new partners would likely include participants in last year's nuclear security summit and other countries already involved in funding similar initiatives.

The G-8 first took up the prospect of extending the partnership during the annual summit last year in Muskoka, Canada, but G-8 diplomats said last month that the eight countries could not reach agreement on extension at that time due to opposition from Germany. The diplomats said that Germany's concerns about extending the initiative were related both to financial considerations stemming from the global recession and to uncertainties about new types of projects in which it would be more difficult to determine whether funds were being used effectively.

Global Partnership projects initially were carried out in Russia and Ukraine and focused on destroying chemical weapons, dismantling nuclear submarines, disposing of nuclear weaponsusable material, and employing scientists who had worked on nonconventional weapons. The G-8 agreed in 2008 to expand the initiative's activities worldwide and has increasingly engaged in threat reduction efforts beyond the four priority areas. (See ACT, September 2008.)

Highlighting some of the changes in the nature of Global Partnership efforts since 2002, a State Department official told Arms Control Today last October that "now we're in a new CTR [Cooperative Threat Reduction] environment that's not as clear-cut as before," adding that "we need time to figure out where the threats are, what the priorities are, and what to fund first. …

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