By Rita Grossman-Vermaas – Unknown to many people, the US and the international community have the ability to deny terrorists access to weapons of mass destruction. The mechanisms to do so have been there since the early 1990s through cooperative programs between the US and the states of the former Soviet Union. The US has invested $12 billion over the past 15 years to stem the proliferation of unsecured weapons, materials and technologies of destruction, and the G8 and others have invested billions more on similar efforts in the FSU and around the globe. While these programs were successful in the immediate post-Cold War years, they have lost visibility and political support as new, sexier defense programs to fight 21st century threats have emerged. But, neglecting this body of work could be a mistake.
The US threat reduction and nonproliferation programs remain the best and most cost-effective means to mitigate the threat of terrorist groups acquiring WMD capabilities. To remain valuable, they need to be reconfigured and expanded. They need to incorporate the factors that contribute to stability and security in the FSU and elsewhere. These include economic development, international public health, and institution building. The programs must also become sustainable beyond the eventual withdrawal of US funding. This demands engaging the private sector in the US and abroad as full partners. Implementing an expanded array of such basic, feasible steps is essential for preventing the further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their materials and associated expertise. Not doing so would represent an appalling failure on the part of the US government and the international community.
For further analysis on this issue, see the newly released book, Cooperative Nonproliferation: Getting Further, Faster and its policymakers’ companion guide, 25 Steps to Prevent Nuclear Terror, by Brian Finlay and Elizabeth Turpen.