the bongino report

Henry Sokolski and Andrea Stricker: Biden Is Letting America Help Fund Russia’s Nuclear-Weapon Complex

Vladimir Putin seems intent on threatening the West with nuclear war.

What’s bizarre is Washington and its allies are helping him.

The Russian dictator just proclaimed he may station nuclear bombs in Belarus.

The US intelligence community assessed in February that Moscow had “increased its reliance on nuclear weapons” following its invasion of Ukraine and would further expand its atomic capabilities.

Next, Putin killed the last remaining US-Russia nuclear-arms-control treaty and increased Moscow’s nuclear readiness.

Amid mounting losses in Ukraine, Putin has also threatened to use nuclear weapons.

What’s been Washington’s response?

To object to each of these actions rhetorically but insist on buying billions in nuclear goods from Rosatom, the entity responsible for developing and producing Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

Each year, Europe and the United States buy roughly $1 billion of civilian nuclear goods and services directly from Rosatom.

Hungary, Bulgaria and France are quite busy trading with the Russian conglomerate.

US uranium mining and enrichment is not the cheapest or most available, and that is why America buys Russian. US nuclear utilities purchase 14% of the enriched uranium they need to fuel their reactors from Rosatom.

This is disturbing, but it gets worse.

The US intelligence community recently warned, “Russia is expanding and modernizing its large, diverse, and modern set of nonstrategic systems, which are capable of delivering nuclear or conventional warheads.”

A Russian missile launcher being transported in an undisclosed location in Russia.
Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

Rosatom will play a key role in this expansion.

At last accounting, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute pegged Rosatom’s annual support for Russia’s nuclear-weapons budget at $2 billion a year.

Rosatom admits it is a “proponent of the uniform national policy” in “the nuclear weapons industry.”

Its director general sits on Russia’s Military-Industrial Commission, which coordinates Moscow’s defense industry.

“The military significance of atomic power (and Rosatom) to Russia is amply demonstrated by the fact that the corporation oversees Russia’s nuclear weapons complex, which develops, tests and produces all of the country’s nuclear munitions,” a NATO analysis concludes.

“Rosatom’s achievements have strengthened Russia’s national security and enhanced Moscow’s ability to challenge the US-led world order.”

But there’s more.

Rosatom is also a key player in Russia’s occupation and theft of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, where Ukrainian workers are routinely subject to Russian atrocities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director general, Rafael Grossi, has repeatedly decried Putin’s dangerous military assaults against Ukraine’s nuclear plants and has even had to station IAEA personnel at the Zaporizhzhia plant to deter attacks.

Rosatom’s punishment for this? Zilch.

Instead, the United States and the West continue to serve as clients and consider Russia an IAEA member in good standing.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi and staff members touring the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine on March 29, 2023.
Fredrik Dahl/IAEA/Handout via REUTERS

Finally, Rosatom is collaborating with Beijing, fueling a Chinese option to expand its nuclear stockpile.

Before Congress recently, Assistant Secretary of Defense John Plumb confirmed Rosatom sent tons of enriched uranium to China for Beijing’s fast-reactor program, which will produce extremely high-grade weapons plutonium.

The reaction from the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Armed Services committees’ chairmen was swift: “Every dollar and euro that Rosatom brings in directly finances the death and destruction we see in Ukraine, China’s nuclear weapon expansion, and is a direct threat to the American way of life,” they warned, demanding “the full application of sanctions” to stop Putin’s use of Rosatom to “challenge U.S. interests.”

Unfortunately, Biden has yet to act. His administration has been overly risk-averse to upsetting energy markets and the nuclear industry and to disrupting transatlantic unity over Ukraine.

The Biden team has stood down for months on sanctioning the Russian corporate behemoth, despite Kyiv’s numerous entreaties.

Nor has Congress passed any legislation on this matter.

The Biden administration has yet to sanction Rosatom.
Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Some European states — such as Germany and Finland — have cut their ties to Rosatom; others have not.

The European Union is debating whether and how to sanction Rosatom.

The United States should invigorate this debate by demonstrating its own willingness to cut off nuclear dependency on Russia.

Washington should announce it is ending imports of Russian uranium ore and buy replacement supplies from Canada and Australia.

For US reactors still dependent on Rosatom fuel, nuclear utilities can feed additional uranium imports to enrichment plants operating in Western Europe and New Mexico to make fuel. Washington might even elect to support this shift financially.

As for Europe and other countries, the White House and Congress should consider threatening secondary sanctions against foreign persons and entities that do not wind down business with Rosatom within a specific time period. 

If we are serious about limiting Putin’s most frightening nuclear activities, we should start by blocking their funding — from us.

Henry Sokolski is executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and was deputy for nonproliferation policy in the Department of Defense. Andrea Stricker is deputy director of the Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.



" Conservative News Daily does not always share or support the views and opinions expressed here; they are just those of the writer."

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