Don’t Let Nuclear-Security Cooperation with Russia Lapse
July 3, 2014
by Nickolas Roth and Robert Gard
Republicans and Democrats alike have traditionally understood that investing in nuclear security is a small price to pay compared with the devastating economic, political and social costs of nuclear terrorism. That’s why U.S. cooperation with Russia and other countries to secure vulnerable nuclear material has enjoyed bipartisan support.
Unfortunately, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee—whose chairman, Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID), acknowledged in April that nuclear security cooperation with Russia was “in our own interest, not just Russian interest and the world’s interest”—recently approved a bill that would block this cooperation. Citing the situation in Ukraine, his Committee recommended stripping funding for nuclear-security cooperation between the United States and Russia.
For more than twenty years, Russia, which has the most nuclear material in the most facilities of any country in the world, worked with the United States on improving its own nuclear security through the Cooperative Threat Reduction program. As a result of this collaboration, Russia has made significant progress in improving security for its nuclear material, and the most egregious problems have been fixed.
Despite this accomplishment, the United States’ nuclear-security mission in Russia is not yet complete. Russian facilities housing nuclear material are still susceptible to diversion and insider theft. For example, in 2012, senior managers at one of Russia’s largest nuclear material processing facilities were caught embezzling millions of dollars. Ongoing cooperation allows the United States and Russia to reduce the likelihood of this type of event and theft by upgrading security equipment and practices at facilities. It also protects the billions of dollars already invested in this effort by providing the United States with the opportunity to influence how security upgrades are implemented and sustained.
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