Defense analysts in Russia have welcomed the award of contracts worth $5 billion to eliminate Russian nuclear weapons. The contracts have been given to U.S. firms and will run over the next five years.

The Pentagon awarded the contracts to five American management and engineering firms. The work will include eliminating Russian missiles, bombers and submarines, as well as accounting for and safely storing dangerous by-products, such as nuclear warheads.

Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer says he welcomes the announcement. "That the Pentagon wants to continue this rather successful program that has helped to destroy Russian nuclear weapons and delivery systems is a very good sign," he said.

This latest step is part of a decade-long effort by the U.S. Congress to supervise the destruction of former Soviet nuclear and conventional weapons, and make sure they are not stolen. The projects are authorized under treaties between the United States and Russia. Funding is tightly controlled. Washington monitors performance and pays on proof of results.

In the past, the Pentagon has awarded contracts to several Russian firms and shipyards. Military analyst Pavel Felgenahuer warns that the award of contracts to American firms could cause dissatisfaction in Russia. "If the U.S. decides that all contracts go to American firms," he said, "then the Russians will cooperate less."

The $5 billion contracts will also cover efforts to eliminate Russian facilities for producing chemical and biological weapons. In the past, Washington froze funding for the destruction of Russian chemical weapons because the projects were not being implemented.

Last week, Russia conceded that it had failed to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, which remains the largest in the world.