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Nunn Lugar's Unfinished Agenda

Journal Article, Arms Control Today, volume 27, issue 7, pages 14-22

October 1997

Authors: Jason Ellis, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 1997-1998, Todd Perry

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Managing the Atom

 

The assertion by retired Russian General Alexander Lebed in mid 1997 that several dozen nuclear "suitcase bombs" could not be accounted for has fueled the latest political drama relating to the post Cold War security of Russia''s nuclear arsenal and weapons usable nuclear materials. Lebed''s claim seemed frighteningly possible, especially considering the evident weaknesses of an accounting system dependent upon the proverbial "babushka with a notepad." In order to know whether something is missing, it is first necessary to know what exists; a fact which, in this case, has been difficult to establish. Accordingly, while Lebed has not been able to substantiate his claim, Russian officials have not fully disproved it.

Against the backdrop of an "ongoing revolution" in Russia and the other newly independent states (NIS) of the former Soviet Union, the dangers posed by the dissolution of a nuclear superpower remain real. Continuing concerns over nuclear "leakage" coexist with recurrent questions over the viability of Russia''s evidently fraying command and control apparatus. Approximately 1,200 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and nearly 200 tons of plutonium are spread across an estimated 50 sites in Russia and the other former Soviet republics. The continuing dismantlement of 1,000 to 2,000 Russian nuclear warheads per year guarantees that the non weaponized stocks of fissile materials that constitute roughly half of those totals will grow over the next several years. Additionally, a growing crisis in funding plagues the Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM), the primary custodians of the Russian nuclear establishment.

In 1991, the United States established a wide ranging security assistance initiative to help alleviate the adverse risks associated with many NIS nuclear related problems. Informally called "Nunn Lugar" for its initial sponsors, Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Sam Nunn (D-GA), the program is often referred to by its advocates as "defense by other means." For the rough equivalent of three tenths of 1 percent of annual U.S. military expenditures, the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of State each administer and fund elements of the program. With a cumulative seven year price tag of under $3 billion— less than the annual cost of missile defense research and development efforts— Nunn Lugar has had a considerable impact in the NIS and has proven to be a wise investment in U.S. national security.

The security imperative is clear, and many of the tools and processes are already in place to help mitigate residual NIS nuclear (and other) threats. The question now is whether the United States will marshal the politi cal will and devote the resources necessary to sustain the program. Weighed against the prospective and ongoing risks associated with the post Soviet transition, the cost of not doing so may ultimately be much higher.

Scope and Composition

Since its creation, Congress has variously expanded and curtailed the Nunn Lugar program. The fiscal year (FY) 1997 Defense Authorization Act defines "cooperative threat reduction [CTR] programs" writ large as those which:

  • facilitate the elimination, and the safe and secure transportation and storage, of nuclear, chemical and other weapons and their delivery vehicles;
  • facilitate the safe and secure storage of fissile materials derived from the elimination of nuclear weapons;
  • prevent the proliferation of weapons, weapons components and weapons related technology and expertise; and
  • expand military to military and defense contacts.

Accordingly, Nunn Lugar has three major program areas: destruction and dismantlement; safety, security and non proliferation; and demilitarization and defense conversion. While functionally autonomous, these areas overlap. Budgetary and administrative responsibility for each of the areas is split between DOD, which implements the CTR program; DOE, which is the executive agent for fissile material, protection, control and accounting (MPC&A) efforts and the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (IPP) program; and the State Department, which is responsible for the science centers in Moscow and Kiev and, along with the Department of Commerce, for export control efforts in the former Soviet Union.

Destruction and Dismantlement

Nunn Lugar funds have been provided to enable or accelerate the dismantlement and destruction of nuclear, and, to a lesser extent, chemical and biological weapons and delivery systems. Indeed, the removal of all Soviet strategic nuclear weapons from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine by the end of 1996 was a milestone for the program. These states did not have adequate financial resources or capabilities to dismantle, destroy and denuclearize following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. CTR funds both provided material aid (such as mobile cranes, plasma cutters, laptop computers and incinerators to destroy liquid rocket fuel) and proved a key incentive for these states to forgo the nuclear option— a key U.S. non proliferation objective.

As the agreed sole nuclear successor state to the Soviet Union, Russia presented a very different case from the outset. With a common interest in denuclearizing the three non Russian former Soviet republics, Moscow and Washington cooperated extensively to that end. At the same time, however, Russian officials remained reluctant to involve their U.S. counterparts in the actual dismantlement of nuclear warheads. Although U.S. Russian arms reduction agreements do not, so far, require warhead dismantlement, Clinton administration officials can correctly argue that CTR assistance has helped expedite— by as much as two years— Russian compliance with the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I).

With Nunn Lugar assistance, more than 3,300 strategic nuclear warheads had been transferred by April 1997 from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to Russia for dismantlement; roughly 1,200 Russian strategic nuclear warheads had been removed from deployed systems; and 150 ICBM silos had been eliminated, complemented by the destruction of 128 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers and 35 strategic bombers. While Russia should continue to shoulder the bulk of the implementation costs associated with the START process, U.S. aid can continue to act as a positive material incentive for meeting destruction timetables.

The destruction of an estimated 40,000 metric tons of Russian chemical weapons (CW) agent has traditionally been a second order concern for CTR planners. Intended to "jump start" the process of CW destruction, CTR assistance has focused on the construction of a pilot CW destruction facility, demilitarizing a former Russian production facility and helping Uzbekistan destroy a former CW production facility. But U.S. Russian disagreements over the appropriate technology for CW destruction, and obstacles in Russia associated with local, state and federal licensing and implementation issues (similar to those in the United States) slowed progress. After lengthy delays, initial funding was provided in 1996 for the pilot destruction facility at Shchuche that will have a modest capacity of 1,200 tons per year. Russia''s ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in November 1997 added renewed impetus for CW destruction, but resource availability and a mutually acceptable U.S. Russian division of labor for the pilot plant''s final design, construction and operation remain unsettled. Moreover, the threat posed by the lack of security at CW storage sites arguably equals the security threat posed by insecure Russian fissile materials.

Biological weapons (BW) destruction presents an even more difficult case. While some small scale CTR funding was provided in FY 1997 to Kazakhstan for converting a former BW production facility, Russia maintains that it does not need assistance in this area. Indeed, until Moscow fulfills its 1992 pledge to terminate its involvement in BW production and stockpiling, or perceives a need to destroy BW stocks with external assistance, there is only a limited amount that Washington can do to encourage cooperation in this area. However, Nunn Lugar may provide some motivation for full Russian compliance with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

Safety, Security and Non Proliferation

The most difficult part of building a nuclear explosive device is securing the requisite weapons usable ingredients— plutonium or HEU. Consequently, plutonium storage, ending plutonium production for weapons purposes and protecting non weaponized fissile material have all become U.S. concerns, largely addressed through Nunn Lugar and the U.S. purchase of Russian HEU from weapons. Supply side prevention, interdiction and consequence mitigation together form the essential elements of a "layered defense" strategy designed to meet the challenges inherent in the "loose nukes" problem.

Warhead Security: While assembled nuclear weapons are, probably, less subject to theft or diversion than stocks of fissile material or constituent components, their security is of obvious importance. For the consolidation of Soviet strategic nuclear weapons in Russia, railcar enhancements, the provision of armored blankets and similar measures help ensure the safety and security of the weapons during transit. Ongoing DOD led efforts emphasize weapons security measures, the construction and provision of fissile material storage containers and a permanent plutonium storage facility at Mayak.

Plutonium Storage and Production: Plutonium storage, long a matter of U.S. Russian controversy, appears to be making headway. Although an early CTR concern, construction did not begin on the Mayak facility until early 1996. Subsequently, DOD stated that it would not completely disburse programmed funds "unless and until transparency measures have been worked out with Russia." Since that time, considerable progress has been made on transparency— ensuring that the appropriate material goes into storage, is secure while stored and exits only for agreed, non weapons "disposition" purposes.

In September 1997, after considerable delay on both sides, Washington and Moscow reached an agreement on converting the cores of three plutonium producing reactors at Seversk and Zheleznogorsk (the former "nuclear cities" known as Tomsk-7 and Krasnoyarsk-26) by 2001 under joint DOD MINATOM responsibility. Implemented by DOD with technical assistance from DOE, and funded equally by the United States and Russia, the $150 million project will convert the three reactors, which together have continued to produce 1.5 tons of plutonium per year in addition to the heat and electricity for neighboring cities. Additional funds may be required to either create special low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel or to assure the secure transportation and MPC&A for an alternative HEU fuel stored on site.

MPC&A: A properly functioning MPC&A that addresses the risks of existing fissile material diversion is also centrally important in reducing the NIS nuclear threat. Lawrence Gershwin, a senior CIA official, testified in 1992 that the Soviet system underemphasized material protection due to its focus on external threats. For the United States to have any assurances at all that NIS officials can control and account for their non weaponized fissile materials, three conditions must be satisfied. First, physical protection, provided by alarms, sensors and other barriers designed to deter, delay and defend against intruders and insiders attempting to remove protected material. Second, material control, provided by locked vaults for nuclear material storage; portal monitors equipped to detect nuclear materials (which prevent workers from carrying nuclear material off site); continuous monitoring of storage sites with tamper proof cameras, seals and alarms; and a requirement for personnel to enter sites containing sensitive materials in pairs. Finally, material accounting, which provides a regularly updated, measured inventory of nuclear weapons usable material, based on routine measurements of material arriving, leaving, lost to waste and remaining within the facility. Personnel reliability might also be improved by systematic background checks, training and reliable salaries for nuclear custodians. External oversight by a regulatory and inspection agency with real enforcement powers would also enhance MPC&A.

Although most of the early cooperative work involved destruction and dismantlement, material protection issues have become a growing concern for program planners. With the 1993 advent of a dual track approach— bottom up lab to lab and top down government to government efforts— cooperation intensified rapidly. While DOD contributed financially to these efforts through 1995, in 1996 DOE became the executive agent for MPC&A efforts. By mid 1997, cooperative agreements were in place at 46 nuclear sites in the NIS, and the heretofore elusive prospect of even limited cooperation at Russia''s four nuclear weapons dismantlement facilities (Arzamas-16, Penza-19, Sverdlosk-45 and Zlatoust-36) appeared to be within reach. Because this roster constitutes virtually the entire universe of known NIS civilian and military sites where weapons usable materials are located, the task now is to deepen the extent of cooperative MPC&A in each of these locations in the most expedient manner possible.

In one instance where U.S. officials feared a potential diversion of fissile material, they mounted a massive effort to move the material out of harm''s way. In November 1994, DOD and DOE officials undertook Project Sapphire, the airlift of more than 600 kilograms of unsecured HEU from Kazakhstan to the United States. Carried out under the aegis of Nunn Lugar, the operation was a spectacular non proliferation success. There may be other instances involving non Russian states where similar efforts may be warranted.

Science Centers: With the breakup of the Soviet Union, U.S. officials were concerned by early 1992 that scientists and technicians with weapons related knowledge would emigrate to such potential proliferant countries as Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea. Aware that this human potential was perhaps the central element needed by countries with nuclear weapons ambitions, DOD helped fund, along with the European Union and Japan, the creation of the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow and the Science and Technology Center Ukraine in Kiev. By funding basic research and development in a wide range of disciplines, the centers have helped prevent a "brain drain" of scientific expertise in the former Soviet missile and nuclear weapons complexes. In 1995, the State Department adopted responsibility for the centers, and by the end of 1996 almost 19,000 NIS scientists and technical experts— out of a total of some 65,000 personnel involved in weapons areas— had taken part in this initiative. These low cost non proliferation centers remain underutilized, however. In FY 1997, although other countries funded other projects, $64 million in proposals met the highest standards of U.S. peer review, while only $12.6 million in U.S. assistance was available to fund them.

Export Controls: Since 1992, there have been hundreds of reported cases of nuclear smuggling or attempts at nuclear theft in the former Soviet Union, but only a half dozen of these actually involved weapons grade or weapons usable materials, and then in very small quantities. However, the propensity for such illicit transactions on the black market remains acute. A sound export control system must be put in place as a "second line of defense" against the diversion of vulnerable fissile material stocks by proliferating states or sub state actors. However, a functioning system throughout the NIS that effectively regulates the transfer of items on the control lists of various international regimes is only now being established.

At the outset, NIS export control efforts were plagued by weak state structures and an initial unwillingness on the part of Russian export control officials to engage in assistance programs with DOD officials. With the help of Western non governmental organizations (NGOs), Russia and many other NIS are now adopting legal based export control laws and regulatory structures. But NIS officials, like their counterparts in other states'' export control bureaucracies, often have neither the technical information nor the political incentive to balance the prospective economic gains realized by export controls against the international security implications of such transfers.

On the U.S. side, it is evident that the relatively low priority status attached to export controls in general and Washington''s minimal funding for NIS export control assistance have slowed progress. Only recently have State Department officials begun treating export control assistance efforts as low cost, high yield tools worthy of higher funding requests. As such, the integration of export control related programs that also include the Department of Commerce, DOE and U.S. Customs may now hold greater promise than ever before.

Demilitarization and Conversion

The Soviet successor states inherited a very large military industrial complex consisting of 2,000 to 4,000 production enterprises, research and development facilities and other related entities which employed between nine million and 14 million people. In addition, the Soviet Union employed almost 1 million people throughout its large nuclear complex. NIS officials were faced with a critical problem: What to do with the surplus human element and production dimension of the nuclear and military industrial establishments?

Congress established two new defense conversion programs in 1994: the Defense Enterprise Fund (DEF) and the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program. Although some 300 facilities previously devoted to weapons related work were identified by DOD as desirable conversion targets, only a handful had received any sort of significant attention by 1996, and the DEF came under severe attack on Capitol Hill because of early concerns about program performance and management. Together, inconsistent and inadequate funding levels, a perception by private industry that investment in Russia and other NIS was high risk, and an inevitable time lag in implementing policy all compounded these perceptions.

Although subject to periodic congressional attacks, the IPP contains the seeds of a more promising non proliferation program. The IPP helps identify and commercialize private ventures, funded by U.S. industry, that employ former Soviet weapons personnel, and create the economic basis for improved and enduring nuclear security in the NIS. Like the science center projects, some IPP projects also include efforts to improve indigenous monitoring, measuring and verification technologies for MPC&A and other nuclear related activities like Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty verification, plutonium disposition and nuclear reactor safety.

Since 1994, 371 projects have entered IPP''s research and technology validation phase, and 77 have moved to the product development stage, which requires the direct participation of and matching funds from industry. With a new and expanded IPP management team now in place, efforts are now underway with DOE and with a consortium of IPP participating industries to move a substantial number of these projects into the production stage, in which projects become self sustaining ventures between U.S. private industries and NIS partners. DOE''s IPP reforms, combined with an explicit mandate from the FY 1998 defense appropriations bill to increase IPP activities in the Russian nuclear cities, has prompted closer collaboration between the IPP and State Department science center managers so that the core competencies of these and other programs are efficiently brought together to maximize the effects of U.S. funded non proliferation efforts.

Reflecting the decidedly long term nature of threat reduction, these programs, along with the science centers, attempt to reduce the capacity and economic pressures in the NIS to continue production of weapons of mass destruction. U.S. defense conversion assistance, its advocates argue, both encourages the development of a market based economy in the recipient states and helps prevent the proliferation and sale of advanced weaponry, as well as the incentives for relying on such sales for income.

Nevertheless, although Congress established defense conversion programs in early legislation, and while these programs received strong support from NIS recipient states and from senior Clinton administration officials, CTR defense conversion funds proved to be among the most controversial elements of the entire Nunn Lugar program. While the IPP continues, its funding has fluctuated considerably, and in 1995 Congress ended CTR funding for the DEF. Other demilitarization efforts such as environmental site restoration or the provision of housing for demobilizing NIS military officers were also congressionally sanctioned in 1992-93, but met with congressional disapproval by 1995. They are not likely to be dealt with under the aegis of the CTR program, but might be usefully addressed elsewhere. While defense conversion writ large will likely remain beyond CTR''s purview, devoting attention to the steadily eroding and critically important nuclear complex would be prudent.

Military to Military Contacts: In the FY 1993 legislation, defense and military contacts were added to CTR''s mandate to promote transparency through increased information exchange, institutionalized dialogue and increased mutual understanding between the armed forces of the United States and those of the NIS. By 1997, more than 500 such contacts had taken place, and steps were taken to expand them into all eligible NIS.

The Role of Congress

Nunn Lugar was originally a creature of Congress, and congressional supporters have often intervened to improve program implementation and to alter program directions in response to new threats and priorities. At the same time, congressional critics have often voiced concerns about Russian behavior in relation to program objectives, fencing or capping specific program funds and monitoring recipient states'' compliance in the context of the six conditions placed on CTR expenditures by Congress in the original legislation. The president must certify to Congress every year that Russia is "committed to":

  • Making a substantial investment of its resources for dismantling or destroying such weapons;
  • Forgoing any military modernization program that exceeds legitimate defense requirements;
  • Forgoing any use of fissionable and other components of destroyed nuclear weapons in new weapons;
  • Facilitating U.S. verification of weapons destruction carried out in conjunction with U.S. assistance;
  • Complying with all relevant arms control agreements; and
  • Observing internationally recognized human rights.

While debates as to the interpretation of these conditions have often been heated— such as over "legitimate" defense requirements or "relevant" arms control agreements— they have served as the basis for additional legislative requirements and recommendations relating to Russia''s chemical weapons program, plutonium production and plutonium storage plans, as well as other Russian policies with a direct bearing on the purposes of Nunn Lugar. Significantly, these conditions largely affect DOD''s CTR program; DOE and State Department efforts do not face similar standing certification hurdles in their respective authorization and appropriations subcommittees. As such, much of the annual Nunn Lugar debate occurs in connection with CTR.

Beginning in 1994, one key development instrumental in reshaping Congress'' role was the "Republican revolution," which witnessed the elevation to leadership roles of House Republicans intent upon limiting or eliminating a range of Nunn Lugar programs. Most of the criticisms leveled against Nunn Lugar by the new leadership were extensions of the same concerns raised earlier. Of particular importance, these leaders rejected the previous majority view that Nunn Lugar was a national security initiative, and they actively promoted the notion that most, if not all, of these programs were foreign aid. This made them vulnerable to reductions when debates about how to fund other national security priorities came to the fore.

The first effort in 1997 to redirect Nunn Lugar funds came in an amendment offered by Representative Gerald Solomon (R-NY) to the FY 1997 supplemental defense appropriations bill. Although the amendment was eventually withdrawn for a lack of support, Solomon''s intent to transfer unobligated CTR funds rather than use the DOD operations and maintenance account to help pay for unanticipated costs associated with peacekeeping activities in Bosnia and other DOD funding requirements, was initially received enthusiastically by both fiscal conservatives and defense hawks, but was defeated in the face of considerable lobbying efforts by supportive members of Congress and administration officials.

Later in 1997, attempts were made both in the House and Senate to cut Nunn Lugar funding. At the insistence of Senator Bob Smith (R NH), chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, the Senate defense authorization bill included a $60 million cut for CTR and a $25 million cut for MPC&A. A successful counterattack was subsequently launched by Senators Lugar, Pete Domenici (R-NM), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Carl Levin (D-MI) to restore full funding and to demonstrate the enduring bipartisan Senate consensus behind Nunn Lugar. Their floor amendment to the Senate defense authorization bill was accepted by voice vote, demonstrating that despite Senator Nunn''s retirement, Nunn Lugar would continue to be a Senate national security priority for the foreseeable future.

House National Security Committee cuts to FY 1998 Nunn Lugar funding were even more extensive and potentially debilitating than those in the Senate. House authorizers slashed $97.5 million from the administration''s $382 million request for FY 1998. Cuts were targeted to specific programs, including the complete elimination of plutonium reactor conversion and IPP funding. Senate negotiators subsequently forced their House counterparts to accept the Senate position that the administration''s entire request be approved, highlighting Senate dominance in this issue area. Nonetheless, House Republican leaders are likely to continue attacking Nunn Lugar in the years to come, using three arguments that have emerged in House debates over the past several years:

Argument #1: Don''t spend money on Nunn Lugar if Russia misbehaves.
House action during 1997 came on the heels of "killer" amendments to the FY 1996 and FY 1997 defense authorization bills. These amendments placed a number of conditions on CTR expenditures whose provisions were either impossible to evaluate or to satisfy. In the first of these efforts, Representative Robert Dornan (R-CA) successfully attached conditions to the FY 1996 House defense authorization bill, later removed in conference, which prohibited CTR funding unless and until the president could certify that the Russian government had terminated research into its reportedly ongoing offensive BW program. Other language in the draft bill would have deleted the phrase "committed to" from the certification requirements, thereby forcing the administration to make a technical rather than political certification that Russia was in compliance with, rather than committed to, the six conditions— a task that the Clinton team could not comfortably do.

The following year, Solomon attempted to attach an expanded list of 10 largely uncertifiable or unachievable conditions to the FY 1997 defense authorization bill. The floor amendment to the bill contained conditions ranging from terminating military activities in Chechnya to ending Russian intelligence sharing with Cuba. Due to a concerted effort by House and Senate Nunn Lugar supporters, and because of the intervention of Cabinet secretaries, the National Security Council (NSC), the office of the vice president and a coalition of outside NGOs, the amendment was defeated by a vote of 220-202.

Argument #2: Nunn Lugar funding frees resources for Russian weapons development.
The FY 1997 Solomon amendment also called the entire CTR effort into question by asserting that Nunn Lugar funding allowed Russian officials to transfer resources from nuclear weapons elimination to nuclear weapons modernization accounts. This funding "fungibility" allegation against Nunn Lugar was based upon the twin notions that ongoing Russian strategic nuclear weapons programs were actually receiving substantial funding, and that, in the absence of a modernization program, the Russian government would have allocated resources to weapons protection and elimination. Administration officials, of course, have consistently argued the opposite: that cash poor Russia needs dismantlement assistance, the provision of which also serves U.S. interests. Moreover, it is far from clear that Russia would, in fact, have channeled limited funds into weapons protection or elimination in the absence of CTR.

The near victory of the amendment was partly a reflection of the disagreement of many new House members with previous bipartisan U.S. national security policy. In this environment, Solomon''s attempt to undercut Nunn Lugar with the fund diversion argument was enhanced by the Russian government''s refusal to disclose the purpose of an underground military complex at Yamantau Mountain. This compounded the misperception that the Russian strategic systems under development were unnecessary, unwarranted or posed serious threats to U.S. strategic interests. By contrast, most defense and arms control specialists agreed that new Russian weapons programs were START compliant, had the potential to further stabilize the U.S. Russian strategic balance by increasing the number of single warhead missiles (while simultaneously eliminating multiple warhead missiles) in the Russian arsenal, and would reduce the likelihood of crisis by improving the survivability of Russian nuclear forces.

Argument #3: Nunn Lugar is inappropriate if Russia or Ukraine are uncooperative on U.S. security priorities.
In 1997, Representatives Solomon and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) also nearly succeeded in fencing off all CTR funding unless Russia canceled plans to sell the 1970s era, short range, nuclear capable "Sunburn" anti ship missile to China. This amendment to the FY 1998 House defense authorization bill replicated an amendment successfully attached to the FY 1998 House foreign assistance authorization bill by Rohrabacher. The Rohrabacher amendment conditioned all $348 million in foreign assistance spending to Russia upon Moscow''s cancellation of the planned sale.

The Rohrabacher Solomon amendment initially passed by a vote of 213-205. But in a complex and rare parliamentary maneuver, Representative Ron Dellums (D-CA) used his prerogative as the ranking member of the National Security Committee to call for a re vote. With the assistance of senior committee member John Spratt (D-GA), a sufficient number of members reconsidered their position, and Rohrabacher Solomon was defeated by a vote of 215-206.

The re-vote on Rohrabacher Solomon highlighted several emerging trends in the House. Despite the cross party appeal of the amendment''s terms, the Democratic members remained united behind Nunn Lugar. As in the past, Spratt and key administration officials successfully secured the support of conservative, pro defense Democrats like Norm Dicks (D-WA), John Murtha (D-PA), Ike Skelton (D-MO) and Gene Taylor (D-TN). For his part, Dellums had managed to secure the support of liberal Democrats who share concerns with Republicans about Russian proliferation related activities.

On the Republican side, a small and consistently supportive group of Republicans has emerged. House National Security Military Research and Development Subcommittee Chairman Curt Weldon (R-PA) voted against Nunn Lugar cuts in 1997, but did not play the leadership role that he had in prior years. In contrast Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX) has emerged as a leading Nunn Lugar proponent, and has demonstrated a willingness to confront Nunn Lugar opponents in the National Security Committee and on the floor. Other Republican representatives who have consistently supported Nunn Lugar include Doc Hastings (R-WA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Bill Redmond (R-NM) and Christopher Shays (R-CT). Thornberry, Hastings and Redmond all represent DOE laboratories or facilities that store nuclear weapons, wastes or materials, and therefore have more experience with these issues than many other House members.

Whatever their motivations, a common thread between Nunn Lugar supporters of both parties is their agreement that these programs contribute directly to U.S. national security interests. This fact was perhaps best illustrated by a "Dear Colleague" letter opposing Rohrabacher Solomon circulated by Representatives Thornberry and Ed Markey (D-MA), in which they stated that although they had voted for the amendment to the foreign affairs legislation, they rejected the wisdom of placing these same conditions on CTR. This is not to suggest that the national security imperative will indefinitely hold together a pro Nunn Lugar constituency in the House. Indeed, Dellums'' impending exodus might well adversely affect Nunn Lugar, since Dellums was one of the few seasoned legislators on either side of the aisle who was willing and able to clearly articulate the national security purposes of these programs.

The Executive Branch

Strong support for Nunn Lugar throughout the national security bureaucracy in the first Clinton term prevented it from becoming merely a footnote on the nation''s national security policy agenda. As the scope of the Gore Chernomyrdin Commission expanded to include a growing range of Nunn Lugar issues, Defense Secretary William Perry and Energy Secretary Hazel O''Leary were joined by Vice President Al Gore in internal policy debates over the value of expanding U.S. Russian nuclear related cooperation. The often heated exchanges between officials in DOD, DOE, the State Department and the NSC, which characterized the early years of Nunn Lugar, were alleviated considerably by the 1995 "balkanization" of the program. In this compromise, budgetary and administrative responsibility for several program elements were transferred from DOD to DOE and State. Although some officials worried that this would fragment a cohesive national effort to the detriment of programmatic effectiveness, allocations for many of these programs actually increased in subsequent years.

One key benefit of the political compromise was increased interaction between DOE and MINATOM, with expansion of lab to lab MPC&A work. O''Leary also developed a personal rapport with the much criticized director of MINATOM, Viktor Mikhailov. This positive relationship, combined with DOE contracting practices that are less formalized and more quickly implemented than those used by DOD, proved crucial to the continued expansion of Nunn Lugar. DOE''s involvement, along with elements of the NSC and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, meant that MPC&A work in the NIS could be rapidly expanded, and a whole range of MINATOM related problems such as reactor core conversion could be at least discussed at the informal, technical level. The addition of Energy and the State Department to the list of agencies responsible for executing Nunn Lugar programs also contributed to larger than expected increases in Nunn Lugar funding for the MPC&A program just as that program was prepared to absorb these increases.

However, support for Nunn Lugar at the cabinet level did not translate into political attentiveness in the White House. The narrow defeat of the first Solomon amendment in 1996 had little noticeable effect on the program''s low priority. To be sure, mid and senior level NSC and DOD staff played crucial roles in responding to CTR''s "near death experience" resulting from the amendment. However, internal administration fights over issues such as how to manage and fund reactor core conversion distracted the main players from their shared objective of sustaining Nunn Lugar. At the same time, congressional concerns that Nunn Lugar was not effectively coordinated arose, and even administration officials conceded that they were less aware of their counterparts'' specific activities as the NSC coordinated Nunn Lugar working group met less and less frequently. The ultimate price of "balkanization" was an increasing lack of coordination among the principal Nunn Lugar implementing agencies.

Many of the key players left office by the end of Clinton''s first term, and, while this undoubtedly afforded opportunities to move beyond first term interagency politics, the administration lost some of its institutional memory. In 1997, key administration officials were actively engaged in defeating the Solomon Rohrabacher amendment. But the general leadership void on these issues remained. Indeed, the recently announced reorganization of the DOD branch which coordinates CTR policy, an initial void in DOE leadership after its primary advocates left by early 1997, and the continuing prospect of State Department absorption of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency together called into question the administration''s commitment to non proliferation. While the leadership void at DOE has now been filled, many in the administration are taking a wait and see approach to the Pentagon''s reorganization plans.

At least as far as Nunn Lugar is concerned, some of this is now changing at the cabinet level. In one of the first pro active cabinet level interventions since the Perry era, Defense Secretary William Cohen and Energy Secretary Federico Peña made a joint presentation on Nunn Lugar for nearly a dozen senior senators in November 1997. With at least the political support for the CTR and MPC&A programs seemingly secure, the only remaining question is whether Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will be able to take steps to assure the continued funding of programs in the purview of her department. Questions surrounding the State Department''s capacity to replace science center and export control funding once provided by DOD remain to be answered. State Department budget officials appear especially hard pressed to find funding for these important non proliferation tasks during a period of contracting State Department budgets, even though these items represent only a modest percentage of regional assistance efforts.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The following programmatic recommendations would strengthen each major Nunn Lugar program and improve the ability of mid and upper level officials to integrate the work between their respective programs within existing structural and political constraints:

DOD should allow CTR to expand as fast as the Russian government will let it grow. In early 1997, the Russian Ministry of Economy informed CTR officials that the ministry had prepared a list of 29 additional START related projects. The specifics of these projects are not now publicly known. However, it remains in the U.S. national interest to carry on the START process using the inducements available through the CTR program. Economic conditions will result in the further reduction of Russian strategic nuclear weapons toward START II levels in the short term, and probably well below these levels over the next decade. Using CTR, the United States should continue to expedite a structured and verifiable build down and restructuring of Russian strategic forces by providing any additional funds that could be effectively absorbed by Russia above and beyond the FY 1998 CTR allocation of $382 million.

Increase and help identify outside funding for Russian chemical weapons demilitarization. When the Duma ratified the CWC in 1997, it stipulated that Russian CWC compliance would be contingent upon the several billion dollars in assistance necessary to complete a minimally sufficient chemical weapons destruction campaign. Yet, only up to $500 million in Nunn Lugar funds is planned for this purpose. Progress toward CWC implementation will require sustained CTR contributions over the next few years, combined with a renewed U.S. led effort to integrate potential European Union and other contributors into a long term Russian CW destruction effort. Enabling Russian compliance with the CWC is crucial not only to the goal of securing and eliminating chemical weapons worldwide, but to sustaining Russian political support for continued nuclear security cooperation.

Fully fund Russian plutonium reactor conversion, and make additional funds available for the chosen reactor fuel. The $41 million in appropriated CTR and DOE funds in FY 1998 combined with CTR''s planned $30 million FY 1999 request puts the United States on track to contribute its portion of anticipated expenses by the time the reactors are all converted by 2001. But a reactor fueling decision has not been made. If the HEU fueling option favored by Russia is chosen, the United States should accelerate its MPC&A expenditures to safeguard easily diverted HEU fuel elements. However, if it is technically and politically feasible to bring the reactor agreement in line with its policy to reduce the use of HEU in foreign reactors, the United States should help supply the resources needed to manufacture specialized, LEU fuel for the reactors.

Expand MPC&A as quickly as possible. DOE''s MPC&A program appears well poised to help secure hundreds of metric tons of fissile materials over the next decade. Even under optimistic MPC&A funding scenarios, however, the NIS will spend only a fraction of the amount annually spent by DOE to protect U.S. nuclear materials and non deployed warheads. To broaden and accelerate the extent of cooperation at all 50 NIS sites, the MPC&A program could easily absorb an additional annual investment of $30 million to $50 million over the FY 1998 allocation of $137 million. Specifically, this increased funding would allow the program to accelerate MPC&A upgrades within the large sites of Russia''s nuclear weapons complex and at Russian naval nuclear fuel sites, expand MPC&A training activities and strengthen national nuclear regulatory systems within the NIS.

Place the science centers on a reliable funding path. Over the past year, the science centers have turned away thousands of peer reviewed studies with the potential of employing thousands more former NIS weapons scientists and technicians. This has been due in part to the termination of DOD cash transfers to the State Department for the centers, and in part because of internal State Department politics in the context of downward pressure on foreign policy resources. After allocating $15 million in funding last year, and after using the remainder of the previously transferred DOD funds, State is expected to request roughly $25 million for the science centers in FY 1999. However, increasing program funding by 15-20 percent beyond this level would allow a larger share of unfunded proposals to receive funding while at the same time maintaining rigorous program standards.

Redouble U.S. efforts to improve NIS export control systems. State Department export control programs in the NIS totaled $3.6 million in FY 1998. Spending on these programs has not amounted to more than several million dollars over each of the past two years. Ongoing development of NIS export control institutions offers a growing opportunity for effective U.S. assistance. As the anticipated, three fold increase in the State Department''s FY 1999 request for the region suggests, a more concerted effort must be made to integrate the key roles played by State as well as other relevant agencies.

Highlight the range of non proliferation benefits emerging from the IPP while providing additional resources when required to expand the range and scope of U.S. industry participation. Given the inherent difficulties associated with any product development project, especially in the NIS, the half dozen fully commercialized IPP projects and the scores of second stage projects already attracting private investment demonstrate the commercialization potential of this program. Between FY 1994 and FY 1997, the IPP sometimes received no funding at all, and at other times received as much as $35 million. DOE is likely to request $30 million for FY 1999, the same amount received this year. Rather than making these funds available exclusively to projects already identified by U.S. lab officials, some funding should be set aside for newer, more promising initiatives to improve economic opportunities in the closed nuclear cities.

The President''s Role

Beyond the existing Nunn Lugar work, the United States has other national security and non proliferation priorities in the NIS. Some, like the HEU purchase agreement, are already funded but could possibly be accelerated. Still other priorities, such as warhead dismantlement (under the START process or outside of it) and plutonium disposition, require additional diplomatic progress and financial resources before being realized. Some low level Nunn Lugar programs actually address these issues; a DOE project is underway that demonstrates for Russian officials how plutonium "pits" can be efficiently destroyed, and the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow has funded various research projects on plutonium disposition. Unfortunately, the leverage represented by these low level projects, not to mention the overall political and economic leverage represented by Nunn Lugar as a whole, will not be brought to bear on these larger objectives without a significant, high level effort.

Thus, in addition to the above programmatic recommendations, the following two steps should be taken by the president to further increase the internal coherence of Nunn Lugar and make it more amenable to the pursuit of broader U.S. NIS objectives:

Remedy the effects of programmatic "balkanization" while drawing on its successes. Nunn Lugar''s 1995 fragmentation ultimately afforded greater resources in the near term than might have otherwise been available for U.S. NIS cooperative nuclear security relations, while at the same time broadening the scope of interaction between U.S. and NIS officials and scientists. But it also had longer term negative effects on program coordination and focus. At present, Ambassador Richard Morningstar, special advisor to the president and secretary of state on assistance to the NIS, has formal jurisdiction over all NIS aid efforts, including Nunn Lugar. But in practice the coordination of U.S. NIS nuclear cooperation is lacking, and implementation is, of course, in the purview of the various semi autonomous executive branch agencies.

While some of the larger CTR dismantlement endeavors essentially stand alone, other CTR activities (like reactor conversion) along with many IPP, science center and MPC&A efforts related to fissile material production and control issues, each target different aspects of larger problems. Thus, although threat reduction priorities may be complementary, cumulative resources and political leverage could be greater and programmatic gaps plugged. For example, although substantial resources are employed to help achieve U.S. security objectives relating to the Russian nuclear cities, no program is currently devoted to helping Russia develop indigenous MPC&A capabilities. Similarly, while there have been some modest low level IPP and science center interactions with biological and chemical weapons personnel throughout the NIS, these remain underutilized as levers to achieve broader policy objectives.

Overall, the executive branch needs a better mechanism to coordinate what have become a disparate set of non proliferation efforts in the NIS. While the Gore Chernomyrdin Commission provides a useful umbrella for brokering projects often conceptualized at the mid level, additional, sustained White House leadership is essential to advancing a comprehensive agenda with adequate resources. To this end, President Clinton should appoint a senior special advisor on the NSC staff to lead a revitalized Nunn Lugar interagency working group and coordinate the relevant work of all involved agencies.

The special advisor must have the capacity to propose initiatives and technical solutions to the many challenges facing the Nunn Lugar program. Appropriately staffed involvement at the technical level could help break the bureaucratic logjams that have slowed innovation and resulted from the lack of non proliferation leadership.

Work more effectively with Congress to secure long term support for Nunn Lugar. The work of the proposed coordinator should have a positive impact on congressional critics who have argued that Nunn Lugar as a whole has often been inadequately coordinated within the executive branch. However, it is the job of the president and his senior security policy officials to engage Congress and the American electorate, which are fearful of nuclear diversions, proliferation and terrorism. As such, Nunn Lugar should virtually sell itself if placed in the context of a possible theft or purchase of weapons usable materials by a state or terrorist organization.

If the administration wishes to maintain maximum flexibility while blunting anti Russian attacks on security cooperation from skeptical legislators and other critics, it must more fully discuss the proliferation threat so that future targets of opportunity— similar to the November 1997 CTR purchase of 21 MiG-29 aircraft, including 14 nuclear capable versions, from Moldova (see "U.S. Buys Moldovan Aircraft to Prevent Acquisition by Iran," ACT, October 1997 ) or the 1994 airlift of approximately 600 kilograms of unsecured HEU from Kazakhstan— can be accommodated.

Administration officials must continue to underscore that Russian vulnerabilities in the nuclear complex often pose security risks for the United States, and that Nunn Lugar has already brought a degree of order and accountability to demoralized and impoverished nuclear institutions, but more work remains.

Although Washington and Moscow obviously disagree on some matters of security policy, their common interests in nuclear stability and non proliferation remain prima facie justifications for a continued, robust Nunn Lugar program.


Jason D. Ellis is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. Todd Perry is Washington representative for arms control and international security at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Reproduced with permission

 

For more information about this publication please contact the ISP Program Coordinator at 617-496-1981.

For Academic Citation:

Ellis, Jason, and Todd Perry. "Nunn Lugar's Unfinished Agenda." Arms Control Today 27, no. 7 (October 1997): 14-22.

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