Technology & Trade

The Race to Secure Russia’s Loose Nukes: Progress Since 9/11

in Program

Four years after a bipartisan Task Force
recommended an acceleration of programs to secure Russia’s vulnerable
nuclear weapons and materials by 2009-2011, the United States has failed
to dramatically hasten efforts. At the current rate, the United States
may not reach that goal until 2020- 2030. Today, enough Russian
bomb-grade material for tens of thousands of nuclear weapons remains
potentially vulnerable to theft. With al Qaeda and other terrorist
organizations having stated their intent to acquire a nuclear device,
this potentially catastrophic synthesis of factors has led to realistic
fears of a nuclear 9/11.

In January 2001, a bipartisan Task Force
led by former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-TN) and former
White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler outlined a strategic plan for dealing
with Russia’s so-called “loose nukes” problem. Finalized before the
onset of the bitter partisanship that divides the country over the
course of national security policy today, the plan represented the
unvarnished consensus of a distinguished, bipartisan group of leading
national security experts. The Task Force concluded that implementing
the proposed strategy would require sustained, active presidential
leadership backed by a new senior-level White House coordinator, an
infusion of financial resources, and strengthened cooperation with
Russia. The Task Force’s overarching recommendation was for a rapid
increase in the pace of programs to secure Russian weapons, material and

Brian Finlay, Senior Associate at the Henry
L. Stimson Center, and Andrew Grotto, Senior National Security Analyst
at the Center for American Progress, analyzed the US Government’s
progress toward achieiving the Task Force’s goals, and offer further
recommendations to prioritize existing activities.


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