THE end of the Soviet era dramatically altered the political landscape. In less than a year, President Reagan's "Evil Empire" disintegrated, and for the first time in history, Russia was not ruled by an autocracy. However, the former Soviet republics had virtually no experience with constitutional government. Neither did they have the economic prosperity or political stability that are the foundation of Western-style democracy.|
As Russia struggles to turn the idea of democracy into reality, we cannot forget that it is the only country with a nuclear weapons stockpile capable of annihilating the United States. Even though the Russian Duma ratified the bilateral Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II in April 2000, stockpile reductions will take years to achieve. Clearly, we must continue to address the Russian nuclear reality. But instead of the Cold War approach of developing more nuclear weapons in response to the threat, today's approach is one of engagement and assistance.
The U.S.-Russian programs grew out of reciprocal visits and collaborative experiments in the late 1980s by U.S. and Soviet scientists, coupled with forward-looking planning by the Department of Energy and its national laboratories. Over the past decade, DOE's Russian programs have grown from a handful of informal lab-to-lab contracts to a portfolio of formal activities to reduce nuclear threats and prevent proliferation.
These programs are an integral component of our nation's multilayered nonproliferation strategy. They address the heart of proliferation prevention-arms reduction, protection of weapons-usable nuclear materials, and nonproliferation of weapons know-how.
The arms-reduction programs are the largest effort (approaching a billion dollars per year). Conducted primarily by the Defense Department, they implement formal treaties and agreements aimed at reducing the number of delivery systems, weapons, and warheads and eliminating stockpiles of weapons-usable nuclear material (including material from dismantled warheads). Livermore is involved in work associated with the secure storage facility at Mayak, in monitoring the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Purchase Agreement, and in joint activities for plutonium disposition.
Programs that address the threat posed by weapons-usable nuclear materials comprise the next level of effort (hundreds of millions of dollars a year). Vast quantities of nuclear materials are located, sometimes under less than adequate protection, at many sites across Russia. Together with our sister laboratories, we are working with the Russians to secure these materials in place and to prevent nuclear material from leaving Russia.
At the third level of effort (tens of millions of dollars annually) are programs that address the human aspect of nonproliferation. Lawrence Livermore was instrumental in initiating programs to engage former Soviet weapons scientists in nonweapons research, contributing to their decisions to remain in Russia rather than possibly emigrating to find employment with proliferators. Other programs provide assistance in creating commercially viable regional employment and market opportunities.
In the decade since these programs were initiated, the U.S. has become an even more effective partner with Russia as both countries develop a much more complete understanding of each other's nuclear complex. Joint planning and execution of projects has led to increased trust between U.S. and Russian personnel. As a result, we are being granted access to increasingly sensitive aspects of the Russian nuclear enterprise, and previously inconceivable joint projects are being proposed by the Russians. The downside of this increased openness is the revelation that securing Russia's at-risk nuclear materials and assisting in redirecting the Russian nuclear weapons complex are much larger undertakings than previously thought.
Views of the value of these Russian programs vary widely. In the U.S., the programs are either lauded as an unprecedented opportunity to gain access to Russia's nuclear facilities and essential for national and global security or reviled as excessively expensive and ineffective welfare for Russia. Views in Russia are similarly wide-ranging, where the desire for economic assistance runs counter to fears of spying, exploitation, and loss of national prestige.
Despite rhetoric to the contrary, these programs are beginning to have a real effect in Russia. Large quantities of at-risk nuclear materials have been secured. Thousands of weapons workers are turning to peaceful projects. Transparency is coming into once-dark corners of the Soviet nuclear enterprise. Most important, a foundation of trust has been laid between the U.S. nuclear laboratories and their Russian counterparts-trust that can help address both nations' vital security concerns, today and in the future.