U.S., Russia Should Intensify Joint Fight Against Nuclear Terrorism: Report

None

Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
See more stories about...
Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
Oct. 2, 2013, 4:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — Former top Rus­si­an and U.S. of­fi­cials con­tend in a new re­port their coun­tries should do more to counter feared nuc­le­ar-ter­ror­ism at­tacks by be­ing will­ing to share sens­it­ive tech­nic­al data and to help oth­er na­tions im­prove their fis­sile-ma­ter­i­al-pro­tec­tion stand­ards.

The “Steps to Pre­vent Nuc­le­ar Ter­ror­ism” doc­u­ment — re­leased Wed­nes­day and jointly pro­duced by Har­vard Uni­versity’s Belfer Cen­ter for Sci­ence and In­ter­na­tion­al Af­fairs and the Rus­si­an Academy of Sci­ences’ In­sti­tute for U.S. and Ca­na­dian Stud­ies, or ISKRAN — has the back­ing of prom­in­ent re­tired U.S. and Rus­si­an mil­it­ary and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials.

The re­com­mend­a­tions are in­ten­ded to in­flu­ence plan­ning for next year’s Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Sum­mit in the Neth­er­lands, which is slated to be the second-to-last gath­er­ing of its kind and thus one of the fi­nal high-pro­file op­por­tun­it­ies to se­cure con­crete com­mit­ments by na­tion states to im­prove their nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity.

“As the world’s two greatest nuc­le­ar powers, the United States and Rus­sia have the greatest ex­per­i­ence and cap­ab­il­it­ies in se­cur­ing nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­als and plants and, there­fore, share a spe­cial re­spons­ib­il­ity to lead in­ter­na­tion­al ef­forts to pre­vent ter­ror­ists from seiz­ing such ma­ter­i­als,” the re­port reads.

The 34-page doc­u­ment re­com­mends es­tab­lish­ing dif­fer­ent sub­groups with­in the frame­work of the U.S.-Rus­sia Bi­lat­er­al Pres­id­en­tial Com­mis­sion, which Pres­id­ent Obama and then-Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Dmitry Med­ve­dev es­tab­lished in 2009 to strengthen bi­lat­er­al co­oper­a­tion.

The new sub­groups would fo­cus on, among oth­er things, co­ordin­at­ing ac­tions between the U.S. and Rus­si­an gov­ern­ments if there is an emer­gency in­volving a cred­ible nuc­le­ar ter­ror­ist threat, and also de­vel­op­ing guidelines for the bi­lat­er­al shar­ing of nuc­le­ar-forensics-re­lated in­form­a­tion.

The re­port fur­ther sug­gests Wash­ing­ton and Mo­scow re­cruit oth­er na­tions to join them in vol­un­tar­ily mak­ing new com­mit­ments to height­en pro­tec­tion stand­ards for nuc­le­ar war­heads, highly-en­riched urani­um and plutoni­um.

Mat­thew Bunn, a nuc­le­ar ex­pert who co-au­thored the re­port, sug­ges­ted any agree­ment on new vol­un­tary stand­ards could be an­nounced at the up­com­ing nuc­le­ar sum­mit.

Na­tions in­ter­est­ing in ad­opt­ing these heightened nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity stand­ards but lack­ing the re­sources to im­ple­ment them on their own might be able to re­ceive fin­an­cial as­sist­ance from oth­er na­tions par­ti­cip­at­ing in the nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity sum­mit pro­cess, Bunn said in an in­ter­view.

The re­port calls for Rus­sia and the United States, which to­geth­er hold the vast ma­jor­ity of the world’s fis­sile ma­ter­i­al, to fur­ther con­sol­id­ate their stock­piles of HEU ma­ter­i­al and plutoni­um “to the ab­so­lute min­im­um re­quired to sup­port the on­go­ing mil­it­ary and ci­vil­ian uses of these stocks.”

Bunn, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fess­or of pub­lic policy at Har­vard Uni­versity, said while im­prove­ments have been seen in re­cent years in the se­cur­ity of nuc­le­ar stock­piles held world­wide, there is still more that can be done.

“You shouldn’t think of it as something you flip a switch and it’s done, rather it’s something that re­quires … con­tinu­al im­prove­ment,” Bunn said.

Arms-con­trol ex­perts in in­ter­views were gen­er­ally sup­port­ive of the Belfer-ISKRAN re­port’s re­com­mend­a­tions.

“Pretty much any­thing to get the U.S. and Rus­sia work­ing to­geth­er to pre­vent nuc­le­ar ter­ror­ism is a good idea be­cause it’s one of the things that the two coun­tries agree on,” said Tom Col­lina, re­search dir­ect­or at the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­ation, who briefly com­men­ted to Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire on the re­port’s re­com­mend­a­tions.

Miles Pom­per, a seni­or re­search as­so­ci­ate at the James Mar­tin Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies, said he found the re­com­mend­a­tions to be strong and note­worthy be­cause of their en­dorse­ment by well-re­spec­ted former mil­it­ary and se­cur­ity pro­fes­sion­als in both na­tions.

The ques­tion, however, is “will the two gov­ern­ments ac­tu­ally be will­ing to un­der­take this — par­tic­u­larly on is­sues such as forensics and in­vent­or­ies that re­quire a lot of trans­par­ency and co­oper­a­tion and could prove dip­lo­mat­ic­ally em­bar­rass­ing,” Pom­per said in an e-mail.

Pom­per said he was par­tic­u­larly ap­pre­ci­at­ive of the re­com­mend­a­tion for form­ing a bi­lat­er­al sub­group to en­cour­age the shar­ing of in­form­a­tion re­lated to nuc­le­ar forensics — a field that en­com­passes a range of tech­nic­al cap­ab­il­it­ies that can de­term­ine where a par­tic­u­lar amount of nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al was pro­duced. It is hoped that rogue act­ors would be de­terred from car­ry­ing out a nuc­le­ar ter­ror at­tack if they know the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity pos­sesses the sci­entif­ic skills to trace back the source of the bomb ma­ter­i­al.

“The forensic sug­ges­tions are ex­cel­lent and hope­fully spur ac­tion,” Pom­per said. “But it is not clear if the Krem­lin would be will­ing to im­ple­ment them giv­en that in the past a sig­ni­fic­ant por­tion of smuggled HEU ap­pears to have come from Rus­sia and there is a lot of leeri­ness about provid­ing in­form­a­tion about forensic sig­na­tures.”

Of­fi­cials en­dors­ing the new re­port in­clude re­tired U.S. Cent­ral Com­mand head Army Gen. John Abizaid, former U.S. Stra­tegic Com­mand lead­er Air Force Gen. Eu­gene Habi­ger and pri­or head of the main Rus­si­an army’s dir­ect­or­ate of in­tel­li­gence, Gen. Valentin Ko­ra­bel­nikov.

The re­com­mend­a­tions were based on the find­ings of a 2011 U.S.-Rus­sia joint as­sess­ment on the nuc­le­ar ter­ror threat, also co-pro­duced by the Belfer Cen­ter and ISKRAN.

The re­port’s au­thors were in­flu­enced in part by the res­ults of a 2011 tab­letop ex­er­cise in Mo­scow in­volving former U.S. and Rus­si­an mil­it­ary, po­lice and dip­lomacy of­fi­cials. The sim­u­la­tion was aimed at learn­ing wheth­er the United States and Rus­sia have the abil­ity to ef­fect­ively co­oper­ate in re­spond­ing to a nuc­le­ar ter­ror­ism crisis.

The ex­er­cise found sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­ences in how the Rus­si­an and Amer­ic­an sides ap­proached the crisis in polit­ic­al and prac­tic­al terms.

“These dif­fer­ences were due to cul­tur­al factors, dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions of the threat of nuc­le­ar ter­ror­ism, as well as dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to in­ter­ac­tion with the me­dia and the pub­lic,” the re­port reads. “For ex­ample, ex­perts from Rus­sia ini­tially pre­ferred more re­strained and cau­tious steps, where­as their Amer­ic­an coun­ter­parts at once per­ceived the situ­ation as a full-blown nuc­le­ar crisis.”

The sim­u­la­tion also showed that de­term­in­ing the ori­gin of il­li­citly smuggled nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al that could be used in a bomb would re­quire both na­tions to swap ex­tremely sens­it­ive in­form­a­tion such as labor­at­ory data on seized atom­ic sub­stances. However there are no bi­lat­er­al pro­ced­ures in place to guide such ex­changes.

Cor­rec­tion: An earli­er ver­sion of this art­icle erred in its de­scrip­tion of the 2014 Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Sum­mit in the Neth­er­lands; an­oth­er such sum­mit has been planned for 2016 in Wash­ing­ton.
What We're Following See More »
‘PULLING A TRUMP’
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Source:
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
1 days ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
THE LAST ROUND OF NEW HAMPSHIRE POLLS
Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
18 hours ago
THE LATEST

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SECOND PLACE
CNN Calls the Primary for Sanders and Trump
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

Well that didn’t take long. CNN has already declared Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the winners of the New Hampshire primary, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight for the scraps. Five minutes later, the Associated Press echoed CNN’s call.

Source:
×