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News Review Special Edition

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International Developments, November 15, 2002 - February 1, 2003

UN Urges Redoubled Efforts to Combat WMD Terrorism as Bush Releases CTR Funding

On January 20, the UN Security Council met at foreign ministerial level to discuss the threat to global peace and security posed by international terrorism. As reflected in resolution 1456 (2003), adopted by the Council at the end of the meeting, measures to combat the ultimate terrorist threat - an attack involving weapons or materials of mass destruction - have assumed central importance in the response of the international community to the new, dark era opened by the atrocities of September 11:

"The Security Council...reaffirms that:

  • terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to peace and security; ...
  • there is a serious and growing danger of terrorist access to and use of nuclear, chemical, biological and other potentially deadly materials, and therefore a need to strengthen controls on these materials..."

The resolution lists twelve recommended measures to strengthen the UN's counterterrorism programme. The seventh step reads: "International organizations should evaluate ways in which they can enhance the effectiveness of their action against terrorism, including by establishing dialogue and exchanges of information with each other and with other relevant international actors, and directs this appeal in particular to those technical agencies and organizations whose activities relate to the control of the use of or access to nuclear, chemical, biological and other deadly materials; in this context the importance of fully complying with existing legal obligations in the field of disarmament, arms limitation and non-proliferation and, where necessary, strengthening international instruments in this field should be underlined".

Addressing the meeting, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan argued that "greater efforts are needed to ensure the universality, verification and full implementation of the key treaties related to weapons of mass destruction, to tighten national export controls over items needed to produce them, and to criminalize the acquisition or use of such weapons by non-state groups."

Since 1991, US strategy to prevent the diversion of WMD to proliferant states or non-state groups has been dominated by the evolving implementation of the 'Nunn-Lugar' Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programme, named after its Congressional sponsors and champions, Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, now co-chair of the independent Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), and Republican Senator Richard Lugar, now chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. In recent years, however, the CTR effort has been seriously hampered by conditions placed upon the release of funding by Congress. These conditions require the administration to certify the highest standards of Russian compliance with a range of political, financial, technical and other aspects of its nuclear, chemical and biological stewardship and non-proliferation programmes.

Last year, the administration controversially declared itself unable to make such a certification, and unwilling to waive its requirement to do so. On January 14, however, President Bush did announce such a waiver, immediately freeing around $450 million of CTR funds. Senator Lugar was quick to express his relief: "These waivers...mean that destruction of Russia's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons stockpile can continue. Russian stockpiles of weapons and materials are the most likely source for terrorists attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Destroying these weapons at the source is imperative to our national security." On January 16, chief Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Yakovenko declared that "Moscow has received with satisfaction news of the signing of a waiver...that permits Congress to release [CTR] funds... We welcome this important decision of the US President, reflecting his consistent belief in the need to expand the genuinely partner[ship] relations between our countries, directed to a joint struggle against common threats, including on the basis of the historic agreements reached in the course of the G-8 leaders' summit in Kananaskis [the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction]. We would like to hope that this decision will give positive impetus to solving old problems hampering full-scope Russian-American cooperation on non-proliferation issues."

On January 13, US Representative John Spratt, a Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee, told a meeting of the Arms Control Association in Washington that a new Congressional approach to CTR-certification was badly needed: "These petty restrictions, these hurdles that have to be cleared, are wholly disproportionate to the enormity of the problem before us. It's the nature of the Congressional process, but this is something that the President, the administration, could deal with with forthright public statements saying that this is impeding important progress that affects our national security... There will [always] be someone who wants to exact a concession [from Moscow]... But we need to make it clear to everybody that what we're talking about is not Russia's security, but our security..."

Spratt further suggested that elements within the administration shared the scepticism of many Congressional Republicans concerning the utility of various Nunn-Lugar projects. Funding for one programme - the Nuclear Cities Initiative, now renamed the Russian Transition Initiative - had been severely curtailed since President Bush took office, Spratt noted, despite progress made in providing non-military employment for former Soviet nuclear scientists and technicians. Such efforts, he claimed, "have never been terribly popular among my colleagues from across the aisle... I know from a personal engagement that [National Security Adviser] Condoleezza Rice was not particularly impressed with the Nuclear Cities Initiative... It's in jeopardy of coming down even more... [yet] this is one of the areas where we should be really worried..."

The administration's Fiscal Year 2004 budget request seeks $40 million for the Russian Transition Initiative, a small increase - 1.7 percent - over the previous request. The budget for the Nuclear Cities Initiative in FY 2002 was $57 million.

Related material on Acronym website:

Reports: Bush approves resumed funding for destruction of Soviet arms, Washington File, January 14; In connection with reopening of Nunn-Lugar, Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 97-16-01-2002, January 16; Lawmaker calls for fewer CTR restrictions, Global Security Newswire, January 17; Ministerial-level Security Council meeting calls for urgent action to prevent, suppress all support for terrorism, UN Press Release SC/7638, January 20; Menace of terrorism requires global response, says Secretary-General, stressing importance of increased United Nations role, UN Press Release SG/SM/8583, January 20; Security Council urges more action to fight terrorism, Washington File, January 20; FY 2004 Budget Request, released February 3, US Department of Energy website.

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