Blog Post - Nuclear Security Matters

Senators Nunn and Lugar on Nuclear Security in Russia

Jan. 28, 2015

By Nickolas Roth

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.

The op-ed identifies that “the United States and Russia share a fundamental interest in nuclear security and, with it, a special responsibility to cooperate in this realm” and that “American and Russian leaders cannot allow contention on other fronts to prevent them from pursuing mutually beneficial steps on nuclear security to avoid a disaster.” The two countries did not work together in this area “as a favor to one another but as a common-sense commitment, born of mutual self-interest, to prevent catastrophic nuclear terrorism.” They argue that ending cooperation sends “a dangerous message to the international community” and is “a major setback in the global effort to secure nuclear materials.”

Senators Nunn and Lugar call for a renewed partnership between the United States and Russia that should include: accelerating repatriation and elimination of U.S. and Russian-origin highly enriched uranium from other countries; collaboration on research and development of innovative nuclear security technologies; expanding nuclear security best-practice exchanges; and utilizing the extensive U.S. and Russian technical expertise to help support nuclear security improvements in other countries with nuclear materials.

The Washington Post also published an editorial echoing many of the arguments in the op-ed.  Additionally, the editorial notes that nuclear security cooperation with Russia demonstrated not only an unprecedented level of international cooperation, but also a level of domestic political cooperation on foreign policy no longer seen in the United States. Finally, the editorial makes the important point that this will likely not be the last time the international community needs to secure nuclear weapons and materials. It is entirely possible that other nations with nuclear weapons or materials could collapse. “Russia may be withdrawing, but the potential threats aren’t going away.”

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Senators Nunn and Lugar on Nuclear Security in Russia.” Nuclear Security Matters, January 28, 2015, https://nuclearsecuritymatters.belfercenter.org/publication/senators-nunn-and-lugar-nuclear-security-russia.