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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 53, December 2000 - January 2001

Report Urges Renewed US-Russia Non-Proliferation Effort

Report Urges Renewed US-Russia Non-Proliferation Effort

On January 10, the US Secretary of Energy Advisory Board released a Report Card on the Department of Energy's Non-Proliferation Programs with Russia. The study, commissioned by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, was authored by the Advisory Board's Russia Task Force, co-chaired by Howard Baker, former Republican Senator, and Lloyd Cutler, White House counsel under Presidents Carter and Clinton. As set out in the Executive Summary, the report card's main finding was that existing efforts to secure and safeguard Russia's nuclear stockpile and infrastructure were seriously inadequate:

"1. The most urgent unmet national security threat to the United States today is the danger that weapons of mass destruction or weapons-usable material in Russia could be stolen and sold to terrorists or hostile nation states and used against American troops abroad or citizens at home. This threat is a clear and present danger to the international community as well as to American lives and liberties.

2. Current non-proliferation programs in the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and related agencies have achieved impressive results thus far, but their limited mandate and funding fall far short of what is required to address adequately the threat. ... The Task Force believes that the existing scope and management of the US programs addressing this threat leave an unacceptable risk of failure and the potential for catastrophic consequences.

3. The new President and leaders of the 107th Congress face the urgent national security challenge of devising an enhanced response proportionate to the threat."

The report details a single, broad, and ambitious recommendation: "The President, in consultation with Congress and in cooperation with the Russian Federation, should quickly formulate a strategic plan to secure and/or neutralize in the next eight to ten years all nuclear weapons-usable material located in Russia and to prevent the outflow from Russia of scientific expertise that could be used for nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction." The financial commitment required by the proposed invigoration of US efforts is summarised as follows:

"[An enhanced national security programme] could be carried out for less than one per cent of the US defense budget, or up to a total of $30 billion over the next eight to ten years. The Russian government would, of course, be expected to make a significant contribution commensurate with its own financial ability. The national security benefits to US citizens from securing and/or neutralizing more than 80,000 nuclear weapons and potential nuclear weapons would constitute the highest return on investment in any current US national security and defense program. The new President should press other major powers such as the European Union, Japan and Canada to assume a fair share of the costs of these efforts designed to enhance the security of these countries. Contributions from other countries could significantly reduce US costs."

The study identifies five challenges as being key to the success of such a programme: securing Russian nuclear weapons and material; eliminating excess Russian highly-enriched uranium; managing excess Russian plutonium; downsizing the nuclear complex; and planning for Russian financing of sustainable security.

Reports: A report card on the Department of Energy's Nonproliferation Programs with Russia, Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, January 10 http://www.hr.doe.gov/seab); $30b sought to secure Russian nukes, Associated Press, January 10; Panel urges $30 billion to secure Russian nuclear arms, Washington Post, January 11.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.