The Corner

Where The Wmds Are (2)

In response to an earlier post (on Congressional delays in the funding of the programme under which the US funds the destruction of old Soviet WMDs), a reader sends me this from something called the Arms Control Association (yes, yes, suspicious name…) earlier this year:

“Bush is seeking $409 million in fiscal year 2005 for the Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program—about 10 percent less than the $451 million allocated for CTR activities in fiscal year 2004. Most of the proposed difference comes from slashing spending on the destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons stockpile by more than 20 percent, from $200 million to $158 million. This would slow spending on the controversial Shchuch’ye chemical weapons destruction facility, whose funding has long been a bone of contention between Lugar and Republican conservatives in the House and the Pentagon. At a Feb. 12 Senate Foreign Relations hearing, the panel’s ranking Democrat, Joseph Biden Jr. (Del.), blamed the Bush’s proposed cut on “ideological idiocy” among some members of the administration, whom he said feared that the Russians “are going to take $200 million they would have spent and do something really bad with it to us.”

If the situation is as Biden describes, that would indeed be idiocy. The idea that the Russians (who are awash in oil revenues) would use the $200m to spend on something bad is nonsense. If they are going to spend $200million in that way they will, quite frankly, do it any way. They’ve got the money in the bank, but not, alas, the same priorities as we do. The US (and the rest of the West) needs to focus on one thing – getting this stuff safe, secured and destroyed as soon as possible. Money, quite frankly, should be no object – and if that means dropping a high tech weapons project or even, good heavens, putting an axe to some congressional pork, so be it.

During the election, the President said, “The biggest threat facing this country is weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist network.”

That was true in 2004. It’s still true today. If I may borrow somebody else’s catchphrase, “faster please.”

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