USIA - U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda, September 1999
|The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program has made impressive progress in its efforts to dismantle and prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union, says Senator Lugar, an Indiana Republican. "The administration's plan to increase funding for Nunn-Lugar and its companion programs by some 65 percent over the next five years is a testament to its value and its contributions to U.S. national security," he says. Lugar is the Senior Republican Member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees and Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.|
When the Soviet Union collapsed just over eight years ago, a new era in world history began. Many suggested that the dangers of nuclear war had been dispelled by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Instead, nearly eight years later, we face a world that is more turbulent, unpredictable, and, in some respects, more violent than the one we left at the beginning of this decade.
As a consequence of the collapse of the Soviet totalitarian command and control society, a vast supermarket of weapons and materials of mass destruction has become accessible. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the subsequent decay of the custodial system guarding the Soviet nuclear, chemical, and biological legacy has created a new threat to our security.
Rogue states and terrorist groups can now seek to buy or steal what they previously had to produce on their own. Indeed, the defining danger of proliferation is not Iran's purchase of civilian nuclear reactors that may assist Iranian nuclear ambitions a decade hence. It is the threat, today or tomorrow, that Iran, Libya, or a radical group like Hamas, will purchase nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, or delivery vehicles from some fragment of the current or former Russian military.
The Western press has documented the extremely low morale of Russian troops. Stories of Russian soldiers unpaid for months on end and without food rations are commonplace. There are widespread incidents of desertion and suicide throughout the Russian military forces. Reports indicate that many units have sold valuable military equipment for currency. Others point to a barter system in which troops trade equipment and ammunition for food. In some cases troops have left valuable military equipment unprotected and unguarded in the field as the unit forages for food.
The terrifying reality is that the threat of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons as a terrorist tool is no longer far-fetched. Technically, the world has already experienced an incident of nuclear terrorism. In November 1995, Chechen rebels placed a 30-pound package of radioactive material in a Moscow park. Although the container was not equipped with the explosives needed to disperse the cesium, the Chechens demonstrated a credible terrorist capability to employ nuclear material.
The Japanese "Doomsday Cult," the Aum Shinrikyo, recruited scientists and technical experts in Japan, Russia, and elsewhere to develop weapons of mass destruction. They succeeded in producing chemical weapons and attacked the Japanese subway system with sarin gas in 1995. We have since learned how much more devastating the attacks could have been if the cult had perfected their delivery systems.
In Prague, local police acted on an anonymous phone tip in 1994 by seizing almost three kilograms of nuclear material from the back seat of a car parked on a busy street in the Czech capital. Police arrested the Czech owner of the car and his two companions from Ukraine and Belarus. All three had worked in nuclear power stations and had quit their jobs because of unpaid or low wages.
In another alarming case, inspectors from the Russian Defense Ministry reportedly discovered an unattended SS-25 missile battery. The SS-25 is a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead. Its crew had left the site for several hours to find food.
Similar situations are reported in Russia's scientific community and the facilities where nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and related materials are manufactured and stored. The scientists and engineers employed in these fields often are not paid, and, in some cases, their government has abandoned them entirely.
Because desperate people do desperate things, we should pay attention to any region of the world where hunger and economic hopelessness are prevalent. But when desperate people have access to weapons of mass destruction, we must do more than pay attention.
As I have explored the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, one point has become increasingly clear. If we are to have any chance of stopping the detonation of a weapon of mass destruction, prevention and deterrence must start at the source -- the weapons and materials depots and research institutes of the former Soviet Union.
As the Soviet Union began to break apart in 1991, mutual acquaintances on the Russian side, including some from the military, came to former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia and me and pointed out the dangers of the dissolution of a nuclear superpower. The viability of their entire weapons custodial system was in doubt. Hundreds of tons of nuclear weapons material were spread across multiple sites in Russia and other former Soviet states. Russian leaders requested our cooperation in securing and protecting Russia's nuclear arsenal and weapons-usable materials. This was the genesis of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which provides funding to dismantle weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.
While much more remains to be done, the Nunn-Lugar scorecard is impressive. Nunn-Lugar has facilitated the destruction of 365 ballistic missiles, 343 ballistic missile launchers, 49 bombers, 136 submarine missile launchers, and 30 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. It also has sealed 191 nuclear test tunnels. Most notably, 4,838 warheads that were on strategic systems aimed at the United States have been deactivated.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus became the third, fourth, and eighth largest nuclear powers in the world. The addition of three more nuclear weapons states would have completely changed the geo-strategic landscape. Without Nunn-Lugar, these countries would still have thousands of nuclear weapons. Instead, all three countries are now nuclear weapons-free.
To put this into perspective, Nunn-Lugar has dismantled more nuclear weaponry than the countries of Great Britain, France, and China currently possess in their combined stockpiles and arsenals. All of this work has been done at a cost of less than one-third of one percent of the annual U.S. defense budget.
But nuclear weapons are not the only proliferation threat from Soviet arsenals. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union manufactured enormous stockpiles of chemical weapons. The Russian stockpile is stored in seven sites across that country and its security is affected by the Russian economic crisis.
We cannot permit these weapons to be stolen or sold to the highest bidders.
Nunn-Lugar is addressing this threat. It is scheduled to begin construction of Russia's first chemical weapons destruction facility at one of that nation's largest storage sites where 5,500 metric tons of VX and other nerve agents are stored in artillery rounds. We hope the Nunn-Lugar destruction plant will be completed by 2003. When operational, it will be capable of destroying 500 metric tons of chemical weapons per year. In addition to chemical weapons destruction, Nunn-Lugar is also dismantling the facilities that produced the chemical weapons.
Over the past few years, we have begun to learn more and more about the former Soviet biological weapons program. Last November, I participated in a three-hour discussion with the directors of 13 former civilian biological weapons facilities from across Russia. These men were intimately involved in the Soviet biological weapons program. They communicated their current predicament of unpaid wages and abandonment by Moscow and their hopes of entering into cooperative relationships with their counterparts in the West. Nunn-Lugar is currently engaged in eight pilot projects at these civilian biological research institutes. Our efforts must continue and expand to prevent the emigration of the finest minds who have been involved in the most deadly weapons programs.
Our programs will not be perfect. The sheer size and scope of our endeavors will negate the possibility of a perfect batting average in this regard. We may lose some of the thousands of people involved in these programs. Some may immigrate to rogue nations and continue their former work. But we owe it to the American people and the world to do everything in our power to reduce these threats.
Nunn-Lugar is not foreign aid. It utilizes American firms to dismantle former Soviet weapons. Eighty-four percent of Nunn-Lugar funds have been awarded to American firms to carry out dismantlement operations in the former Soviet Union. To ensure that Nunn-Lugar funds are being utilized for the proper purposes, more than 70 audits and examinations have been completed. They all report that funds are being used for approved dismantlement operations. The administration's plan to increase funding for Nunn-Lugar and its companion programs by some 65 percent over the next five years is a testament to its value and its contributions to U.S. national security. The reason for these increases is clear. Conditions in Russia are worse. The Russian economic collapse in August 1998 has exacerbated many problems.
The fundamental question is whether there exists sufficient political will in Western capitals, particularly in the U.S. Congress, to devote requisite resources to these programs. If we are not willing to devote the requisite resources, the time, and the international leadership necessary to control, regulate, and otherwise circumscribe this threat, then the task of defense at home is made far more difficult and probably ultimately impossible.
I believe the United States and its allies have a window of opportunity to reduce the danger of former Soviet weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of rogue states and terrorist groups. We must not squander this opportunity. In the past, great powers have never possessed the opportunity to work with a former adversary to remove a threat that confronts them. With bipartisan vision, statesmanship, and patience we can do that, and ensure a safer world for ourselves and our children.