URANIUM ONE AND NEW START
Some U.S. national security officials are urging an investigation of the burgeoning Uranium One scandal to focus on whether the New START arms treaty with Russia was compromised by Moscow payoffs and not just by Obama administration policies that sought to curry favor with the Kremlin.
The Obama team, through the Treasury Department-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), approved the 2010 sale of 51 percent of Canada-based Uranium One to JSC Atomredmetzoloto, or ARMZ, the mining arm of Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear energy agency. The merger gave Russia control of some 20 percent of U.S. uranium extraction capability.
In 2015, it was revealed that nine lobbyists for Uranium One paid the Clinton Foundation, Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charitable organization, $145 million before, during and after the deal was approved. Bill Clinton also traveled to Moscow, where he was paid $500,000 by a Russian government-linked bank for a speech.
Last month, the Uranium One case resurfaced when news reports revealed that the FBI apparently covered up information about illegal Russian attempts to lobby then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The deal was approved by senior Obama officials, including Mrs. Clinton, apparently without knowledge of an FBI probe that led to the conviction of a Russian lobbyist linked to the deal who was found guilty of bribery and kickbacks. A confidential source used in the prosecution was forced to remain silent and only recently revealed details of the payoffs.
Since the disclosures, Congress has jumped on the Uranium One deal and is investigating, including potential links between conciliatory policies toward Moscow by the Obama administration and the New START treaty.
President Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin in February that New START was among several bad deals concluded by the Obama administration.
One U.S. national security official told Inside the Ring that the Uranium One deal is symptomatic of a bigger scandal involving the compromise of American security in the New START treaty, a pact that contains less-than-robust verification procedures.
“What is more valuable to Putin: a few billion dollars worth of uranium, or the leverage the compromised New START deal allows Putin to make with Obama?” the officials said. “Have the Russians reduced our arsenal while at the same time buying time to modernize their own, knowing full well Obama was not going to invest a dime in nuclear weapons?”
Mrs. Clinton, as secretary of state, lobbied hard to win ratification of New START during a lame-duck Senate session in December 2010. In November 2010, Mrs. Clinton called the treaty “critical” to the U.S.Russian relationship she was trying to “reset.”
Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon nuclear official, said there are national security implications to the Uranium One deal — but not much linkage to New START.
“Russia has enough plutonium and highly enriched uranium for a nuclear force vastly larger than the one it can possibly produce in the next two decades,” he said.
“We have killed our uranium enrichment capability, which in turn has killed our tritium production capability. The emerging tritium crisis eliminates any potential to hedge against a greater-than-expected threat, and we will soon start losing capability that even the Obama administration thought was necessary.”
Uranium One will solidify Moscow’s hold on the uranium enrichment market and will increase leverage on nations that use low-enriched uranium-powered reactors.
“Uranium One is a symptom of Third World corruption coming to the United States,” Mr. Schneider said.
“The Russians bought the secretary of state with massive bribes — $500,000 for a speech and $145 million for the Clinton Foundation, their personal piggy bank,” he said. “The Democrat leadership in the Congress does not care. Unless they are punished, this is just the beginning.”