Congressman Curt WeldonEstablishing a New Framework for U.S. Russian Relations
"A NEW VISION FOR RUSSIA"
Working with my colleagues in the Duma, I have developed a Joint statement of principles governing Western and IFI assistance to Russia. For too long, the United States has poured money into Russia without proper control or oversight. As a result, this money has lined the pockets of the wealthy, while average Russians have seen no improvement in their standards of living. Therefore, I am working on a bold new agenda so that this money will be made available to reforM-minded regional governments. In order for financial assistance to make an effect on the lives of the Russian people, we must ensure that the system is reformed before the money is invested.
Stabilizing Russia's Nuclear Arsenal
An original supporter of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, I have worked tirelessly against proposed funding reductions in that effort - working to defeat amendments that would cut CTR funds and related amendments which would withhold CTR funds pending official reports and action from the Russian government. I was also instrumental in extending Nunn-Lugar assistance beyond dismantlement support to assisting former Soviet states with better protection of their nuclear assets, as well as establishing better systems of control and accountability.
Empowering the Russian State Duma
In 1996, I created the Duma-Congress Study Group, an on-going parliamentary exchange between the U.S. Congress and the Russian Duma. The goal of the Study Group is to foster closer relations between our two legislatures so that we can help address key bilateral issues, across a wide range of substantive issues. The future of Russia's democracy is dependent on the strength of the Duma, and I hope that these continuing discussions on substantive issues will provide a basis upon which to continue building. I have also initiated a similar exchange program for staff members of the U.S. Congress and the Russian Duma in an effort to establish a personal and direct communication link for the staff support of our two countries' legislatures.
Creating a Russian Middle Class
A successful mortgage finance system will reduce unemployment, increase democratization, strengthen the banking system, create wealth for Russian families, encourage commercial reforms, and increase the housing stock. With mutual support between the Russian Duma and the United States Congress, I believe that these goals can be achieved. I remain committed to the establishment of a mortgage finance system, and I will continue to pursue legislation in this area in the U.S. Congress.
Developing Russia's Energy Sector
In 1992, recognizing that energy was the key to transforming the former Soviet republics, and that energy cooperation between the United States and the FSU could infuse much-needed hard currency into the three energy-producing republics of the former Soviet Union, I formed the United States - Former Soviet Union Energy Caucus. The group, composed of U.S. Iegislators, works with U.S. oil companies and Russian Duma and government counterparts to enable energy development projects in oil and gas-rich Russia. Development benefits Russians by ensuring economic development in their country and providing them with sorely-needed cash, and U.S. energy companies and the American people with new sources to meet our continuing energy needs.
Encouraging Investment in Russia
In January of 1998, I was the U.S. representative to Speaker Seleznev's conference on Russian Economic Development. I have also been working actively in my home state of Pennsylvania to encourage U.S. companies to invest in Russia. My work in this arena has included the creation of the Pennsylvania-Russia Business Council which has, with my assistance, conducted five successful workshops on U.S. investment in Russia.
Assuring Russia's Social needs
Education is the key to the future. In order for Russia's democracy to succeed, a new generation of Russians must be educated in the tenets of freedom. I am currently advocating a program which would enroll 15,000 Russian students in American colleges and universities. Following their graduation from these programs, these students would be required to return to Russia and become part of a qualified corps of future leaders and specialists.
Improving the Health of the Russian People
Healthcare is rapidly becoming a global service. In Greater Philadelphia, the region which I represent, I am currently supporting an effort in which the hospitals have agreed to work cooperatively on a new initiative to jointly provide healthcare services for international patients. I am also working on a proposal to bring modular hospitals to Russia. These two unique efforts will provide increased access to quality healthcare for the Russian people.
Developing Russia's Technology
As Chairman of the House Military Research & Development Subcommittee, I have played a lead role in sustaining and expanding U.S-Russian cooperative technology development programs. Not only have I worked to ensure funding for early warning sharing programs like RAMOS and APEX, but I established a separate line item in the missile defense budget specifically for cooperative work in this field. This year, the Clinton Administration has canceled the RAMOS program, suggesting that alternative cooperative projects be pursued. Recognizing the critical role of this program in establishing cooperative links on early warning sharing and in enabling pursuit of mutual defenses, I will lead the fight this year to preserve the RAMOS effort.
Working with Russia's Scientists
In an effort to sustain the work of Russian scientists and prevent proliferation of critical technologies, I have asked Academician Velikhov of the Kurchatov Institute to develop a proposal that would enable Russian scientists and engineers who developed missile technology comparable to that which was transferred to Iran for application in its Shahab-3 to work with the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization in identifying those technologies transferred to Iran and in helping the U.S. counter that technology. In addition, I am supporting other proposals that would ensure continued U.S. support for underemployed Russian scientists and engineers.
Helping Russia combat Radioactive Waste
I have been a leader in the U.S. Congress in raising awareness regarding the need to confront and cooperatively address the issue of radioactive waste dumping in the Arctic Ocean. I held hearings on this matter, and called Alexei Yablokov to testify on the findings of the Bellona Foundation, which documented volumes of evidence on Russian nuclear dumping which was previously unconfirmed. I have since worked to fund Navy research on this issue and worked through Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE) to encourage continued attention to and research on this problem. I have also supported U.S.-Russia collaboration on nuclear waste identification and cleanup work, holding several hearings on U.S. and Russian waste problems and potential cooperative projects, and securing funding through the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation program in 1999 for sponsorship of a conference in Russia to address this issue.