Improving U.S.-Russian Nuclear Cooperation
Joint efforts to improve nuclear security are endangered by other political disputes. We must maintain the pace of progress.
Anticipating that nuclear proliferation problems might erupt from the disintegration of the Soviet Union a decade ago, the United States created a security agenda for working jointly with Russia to reduce the threat posed by the legacy of the Soviet nuclear arsenal. These cooperative efforts have had considerable success. Yet today, the administrations of both President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin are neglecting the importance of current nuclear security cooperation.
If these programs fall victim to that neglect or become a casualty of renewed U.S.-Russian tensions over the proposed deployment of a widespread U.S. ballistic missile defense system and the future of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, then international security will be imperiled. There is no value in renewed animosity between the world’s top nuclear powers, especially if it helps push nuclear weapons materials and scientists to other nations or terrorist groups that desire to develop or expand their own weapons capabilities. Both nations need to take action, individually and jointly, to continue and in some cases expand the programs underway, as well as to develop new programs to address emerging problems. Vast amounts of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons materials have yet to be secured or eliminated; export and border controls are grossly inadequate; and Russian weapons facilities remain dangerously oversized, and their scientists often lack sufficient alternative work. The need to aggressively address these threats is at least equal in importance to the need to counter the dangers posed by ballistic missile proliferation.