As part of the USA Freedom Act, Congress yesterday passed key legislation that will finally permit U.S. ratification of two important treaties that strengthen international nuclear security. While the Senate gave its advice and consent for ratification of the 2005 amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) and the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) years ago, the treaties require parties to criminalize certain acts related to nuclear terrorism, so passage of implementing legislation was needed before the United States could ratify them. Failure to ratify these key treaties on nuclear security and nuclear terrorism before any of the first three nuclear security summits, when the United States was pushing the world to act on nuclear security, has been a substantial embarrassment. Read more about Congress Gives Thumbs Up to International Nuclear Security Conventions
Matthew Bunn, William Tobey, and I have a new op-ed in The Hill’s Congress Blog, “Don’t weaken our defenses against nuclear smuggling.” We wrote it in response to proposed legislation that would prohibit funding for fixed radiation detectors to catch nuclear smugglers – both for installing new ones and even for maintaining the ones U.S. taxpayers have already paid billions to install. We argue: Read more about Bunn, Tobey, and Roth on Nuclear Smuggling
The Obama administration is proposing to boost Department of Energy nonproliferation funding to $1.94 billion—more than a $300 million increase from what Congress appropriated last year—in fiscal year 2016. But this is an increase over the very low fiscal year 2015 budget proposed by the administration and then further cut by Congress. Both Congress and the Russian government have cut back on further U.S.-funded nuclear security work in Russia, and the Obama administration has yet to develop major new initiatives that could absorb those resources. Read more about Summary of Nonproliferation funding in Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2016 Budget Request
In 1991—recognizing the global danger posed by inadequately secured Russian nuclear weapons and materials— Senators Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) led the Congressional charge in passing the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act. This seminal piece of legislation created the first major U.S. effort to work with Russia on preventing the theft of Russian nuclear weapons and materials. In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Senators Nunn and Lugar responded to the recent news that Russia had halted this cooperation. Read more about Senators Nunn and Lugar on Nuclear Security in Russia
More than two decades of U.S.-Russian cooperation to keep potential nuclear bomb material out of terrorist hands largely came to an end last month, as The Boston Globe reported Monday. Although the dangers have not gone away, Russia is no longer interested in working on most nuclear security projects with the United States— yet another victim of increasing tension between the two countries. The Belfer Center has been centrally involved in these efforts since their inception. Belfer Center experts Graham Allison, Matthew Bunn, and William Tobey offer their thoughts. Read more about Belfer Experts: The End of U.S.–Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation?
Last weekend, the New York Times published a debate on whether, as a result of tension over Ukraine, the United States should cut off nuclear security cooperation with Russia. As the Times reported before the debate, Russia may be bringing nearly all of this cooperation to an end–but there are some in the United States saying the U.S. government should act to end it whether or not Russia is willing to continue. Given the deteriorating relationship between the two countries, this issue should be debated now. We are continuing the debate on Nuclear Security Matters and welcome readers to send us their thoughts. Read more about The United States Should Chew Gum and Walk on Nuclear Security
Yesterday, the New York Times published an article revealing that, at the end of 2014, Russia plans to reduce its cooperation with the United States on securing nuclear materials within its borders. The United States and Russia have made substantial progress in securing nuclear material over the past two decades, but more work is needed. Halting cooperation not only risks future progress on reducing the risk of nuclear terrorism, but also jeopardizes progress to date.
Most U.S. policymakers support critical U.S. investments in improving security to prevent the theft of nuclear weapons and weapons usable material in Russia. A few, however, are starting to raise doubts about whether this cooperation is a good idea. Skeptics argue that, because of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, the federal government needs to make a stronger case for nuclear security cooperation with Russia. They argue that the U.S. case needs to address issues like the cost of nuclear security programs, the fungibility of money given to Russia for security upgrades, and the marginal benefit of nuclear security spending in Russia. The problem with these concerns is that they do not acknowledge the purpose of nuclear security cooperation: reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism.