Lugar and Obama Urge Destruction of Conventional Weapons Stockpiles

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

DONETSK, Ukraine – U.S. Senators Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Barack Obama (D-IL) called for the immediate destruction of 15,000 tons of ammunition, 400,000 small arms and light weapons, and 1,000 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) or shoulder missile launchers that are often sought by terrorists.

Lugar and Obama toured the Donetsk State Chemical Production Plant, a conventional weapons destruction facility where the U.S. has taken the lead in a three-year NATO program to destroy the weapons. Another 117,000 tons of ammunition and 1.1 million small arms and light weapons are slated for destruction within 12 years.

So far, the U.S. has contributed $2.1 million to the project, and Austria, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have contributed $1.2 million.

While the destruction is ready to begin, the Ukrainian Rada (parliament) first must pass a law exempting the foreign assistance from taxation. Lugar and Obama discussed this issue with Rada Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and President Viktor Yushchenko in meetings yesterday. All three leaders indicated they would promote action before the March 2006 parliamentary elections.

The visit underscores the importance of legislation Lugar and Obama have authored that would commit additional U.S. resources and expand authorities in cooperative threat reduction of conventional weapons around the world. The bill is part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Bill that is pending in the Senate and will be introduced as a free-standing bill by the senators this fall.

“We discussed MANPADS, landmines and other very highly dangerous explosives. Ukraine has huge stockpiles leftover from previous times that are dangerous to people of this country as well as the possibility for proliferation to other countries,” Lugar said. “We are working to obtain funds to secure and destroy these weapons in cooperative threat reduction. We are encouraging the U.S. and Ukraine to work together and to obtain more funds. We came here to see the problem and the solution with our own eyes.”

By the late 1980’s, 75 percent of all Ukraine’s industrial capacity was used to produce Soviet weaponry, including strategic weapons. In June 1996, the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program successfully achieved the removal of all 1,240 deployed SS-19 and SS-24 strategic nuclear warheads from Ukraine.

“Vast stocks of conventional munitions and military supplies have accumulated in Ukraine. Some of this stockpile dates from World War I and II, yet most dates from Cold War buildup and the stocks left behind by Soviet withdrawals from East Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungry and Poland,” Obama said. “We need to eliminate these stockpiles for the safety of the Ukrainian people and people around world, by keeping them out of conflicts around the world.”

Estimates by the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency suggest a significant proliferation and public safety threat from the 7 million small arms and light weapons and 2 million tons of conventional ammunition stored in more than 80 depots across Ukraine. These depots were never designed to hold such large stockpiles and remain vulnerable to those seeking such weapons or their components, or to spontaneous detonation in some of the older and larger ammunition stockpiles.

In March, the Foreign Relations Committee added the Lugar Disarmament Initiative (LDI) to the Foreign Affairs Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007. The LDI is modeled on the original Nunn-Lugar Act. Its purpose is to provide the Department of State with a focused response to the threat posed by vulnerable stockpiles of conventional weapons around the world, including tactical missiles and MANPADS. Such missile systems could be used by terrorists to attack commercial airliners, military installations and government facilities in the U.S. and abroad. Reports suggest that Al Qaeda has attempted to acquire these kinds of weapons. In addition, unsecured conventional weapons stockpiles are a major obstacle to peace, reconstruction and economic development in regions suffering from instability.

This bill declares it to be the policy of the United States to seek out surplus and unguarded stocks of conventional armaments, including small arms and light weapons, and tactical missile systems for elimination or safeguarding. It authorizes the Department of State to carry out an accelerated global effort to destroy such weapons and to cooperate with allies and international organizations when possible. The Secretary of State is charged with devising a strategy for prioritizing, on a country-by-country basis, the obligation of funds in a global program of conventional arms elimination. Lastly, the Secretary is required to unify program planning, coordination and implementation of the strategy into one office at the State Department and to request a budget commensurate with the risk posed by these weapons.

During the trip, the senators have inspected a nuclear warhead storage facility and missile destruction facility in Russia and biological laboratories in Russia and Ukraine. On Thursday, they will review sea interdiction exercises on the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan.

In 1991, Senator Lugar (R-IN) and former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) authored the Nunn-Lugar Act, which established the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. This program has provided U.S. funding and expertise to help the former Soviet Union safeguard and dismantle its enormous stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, related materials, and delivery systems. In 1997, Lugar and Nunn were joined by Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) in introducing the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, which expanded Nunn-Lugar authorities in the former Soviet Union and provided WMD expertise to first responders in American cities. In 2003, Congress adopted the Nunn-Lugar Expansion Act, which authorized the Nunn-Lugar program to operate outside the former Soviet Union to address proliferation threats. In October 2004, Nunn-Lugar funds were used for the first time outside of the former Soviet Union to secure chemical weapons in Albania, under a Lugar-led expansion of the program.

The latest Nunn-Lugar Scorecard shows that the program has deactivated or destroyed: 6,760 nuclear warheads; 587 ICBMs; 483 ICBM silos; 32 ICBM mobile missile launchers; 150 bombers; 789 nuclear air-to-surface missiles; 436 submarine missile launchers; 549 submarine launched missiles; 28 nuclear submarines; and 194 nuclear test tunnels.

Beyond the scorecard’s nuclear elimination, the Nunn-Lugar program secures and destroys chemical weapons, and works to reemploy scientists and facilities related to biological weapons in peaceful research initiatives. The International Science and Technology Centers, of which the United States is the leading sponsor, have engaged 58,000 former weapons scientists in peaceful work. The International Proliferation Prevention Program has funded 750 projects involving 14,000 former weapons scientists and created some 580 new peaceful high-tech jobs. Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan are nuclear weapons free as a result of cooperative efforts under the Nunn-Lugar program. They otherwise would be the world’s the third, forth and eighth largest nuclear weapons powers, respectively.

For more information on the Nunn-Lugar Program, visit

Lugar is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Obama is a new member of the committee this year.