Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More on the 123 Russian Nuclear Agreement

Members of Congress are getting energized to oppose the 123 Agreement for nuclear cooperation with Russia that President George W. Bush submitted yesterday. Unfortunately, their reasons for the opposing the 123 agreement are misplaced.

Most members are focusing on Russia’s cooperation with Iran as the central reason why they should not allow the agreement to go through. In the House of Representatives, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) has prepared and is circulating a resolution of disapproval that I have been told focuses on Russia’s cooperation with Iran. In the Senate, there is a renewed push for S. 970, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act, with the reasoning that Section 6 of the bill would make it possible to block such agreements with Russia. As Bill Reinsch, head of the National Foreign Trade Council, noted in an April Senate Finance Committee hearing, S.970’s passage would come at a hefty price and “have serious unintended consequences which will be manifested rather quickly, and which would make our efforts to change Iran's behavior significantly more difficult.” S. 970 has 70 co-sponsors and is the house version of H.R. 1400, which passed 397-16 on September 25, 2007.

As a senior Senate committee staffer said today, it is not helpful to focus on Russia’s cooperation with Iran as a reason to disapprove of the agreement. Instead, Congress should be focusing its efforts on the real concerns that the agreement will enable a costly, proliferation-prone program - the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

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