Russian and US officials on Friday formally opened a massive plant in Siberia that is to destroy some 2 million chemical weapons shells, hailing the move as a milestone in global security and in cooperation between Moscow and Washington.
The village-sized plant in Shchuchye, about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) east of Moscow, was largely funded by the United States under the Cooperative Threat Reduction initiative that started a year after the Soviet Union's collapse. The US contribution exceeds $1 billion.
"The path to peace and prosperity for both Russia and the United States depends on how we resolve the threats posed by the arsenals built to fight World War III. Thankfully that confrontation never came. But today we must ensure that the weapons are never used, and never fall into the hands of those who would do harm to us or others," US Senator Dick Lugar, a Republican, said at the opening ceremonies. He is a co-author, with former Sen. Sam Nunn, of the legislation that led to the CTR.
"The United States and Russia have too much at stake and too many common interests to allow our relationship to drift toward conflict. Both of our nations have been the victim of terrorism that has deeply influenced our sense of security," he said.