President George W. Bush on Monday froze a lucrative civilian nuclear pact with Russia, the first big penalty imposed on Moscow after its war with Georgia but one that can be reversed.
"The president intends to notify Congress that he has today rescinded his prior determination regarding the U.S.-Russia agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation, the so-called 1-2-3 Agreement," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
While Bush's decision to withdraw the agreement from congressional review was seen as punitive, it was also meant to preserve the deal, a senior U.S. official said.
That official said the administration wanted to ensure the accord did not go to a vote in Congress, where it could have been rejected following Russia's military action in Georgia. If rejected, it would be difficult for a new presidential administration to pursue the agreement in the future.
"It (the nuclear accord) was likely to be killed simply as a protest in the Senate and so therefore what we are doing is rescinding the certificate that he (President Bush) had to give due to the situation in Georgia," said the senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"It is something that we can reverse at any time either by sending a new certificate or lifting this action," he added. "What it does is freezes the status of it."