Column: Termination of MOX will be dangerous step
As the world watched Russian soldiers invade the country of Ukraine by air, land, and sea two weeks ago, President Barack Obama made a rare Friday afternoon television appearance and declared Russia would have “consequences” for its aggressive actions. Unfortunately, it has become far too evident that the president’s empty decrees no longer carry weight within the international community. We can see the repercussions of his hollow words from Caracas to Pyongyang to Crimea.
While it is an understatement to say that grave reservations exist regarding his foreign policy platform, South Carolina’s Second Congressional District is directly impacted by the president’s inconsistency. Obama released his budget proposal – albeit a month late – March 4 and called for the discontinuation of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication (MOX) facility located just outside of Aiken, which fails to promote environmental cleanup.
Once again, the administration is showing weakness by choosing to leave nuclear weapons grade material in the Palmetto State. However, this time, the president is not only placing our safety at risk, he’s also jeopardizing our national security.
This project currently under construction at Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site was chosen by the Clinton Administration in 2000 as the vehicle to domestically dispose of 34 metric tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium in the U.S.-Russia Plutonium Disposition Agreement.
By agreeing to these terms, the Russians indicated they, too, would dispose of the same material.
Given the critical junction at which we currently stand, the United States cannot walk away from this facility, breaking the nonproliferation agreement, as it will most certainly embolden Russia to halt disposal of its weapons-grade plutonium. We can engage in lively political debates over many items, but playing politics with nuclear material is not up for discussion.
In 1994, the Russians signed a voluntary agreement with the Ukrainians. The term of the Budapest Memorandum specifically stated that if Ukraine agreed to reduce its nuclear weapons stockpile, Russia would acknowledge its territorial sovereignty.
Vladimir Putin’s recent decision to violate international law and invade Ukraine makes it very clear that Russia does not value its own international agreements.
At a time when it is clear that Russia is determined to carry out its agenda without fearing consequence, the United States should stand firm and demand that Russia hold true to its obligations. The president’s decision to walk away from the MOX project places the United States in violation of its our agreement, which in turn grants Russia the flexibility to opt out, as well.
The world does not need a Russian Federation with excess amounts of nuclear material. Former President Ronald Reagan’s approach of “Peace through Strength” has been practiced since the 1980s and has effectively kept the world safe. Backing down on the MOX facility by default breaks our agreements and damages our international reputation. It also puts our allies around the world at risk during this critical time in history. It is time for the president to stand up, honor our international commitments and in the process, show that America is the leader the rest of the world so desperately needs right now. Let’s finish MOX and force the Russian regime to follow the law. In a time of international turmoil, the United States must not allow Russia to dictate our foreign policy and give Vladimir Putin the upper hand.
Joe Wilson serves Aiken County as the District 2 representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.