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DoD Helps Create Nuclear-Free Nations

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 1997 – The world was left with a deadly legacy at the end of the Cold War -- many former Soviet states held arsenals filled with chemical and biological weapons, nuclear warheads, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and submarines.

That these weapons of mass destruction could fall into the hands of terrorists or rogue regimes became a serious concern. In 1991, U.S. Sens. Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar initiated the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, also called the Nunn-Lugar Program, to reduce this possibility.

Since then, Congress has allocated $1.6 billion to help Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia dismantle nuclear weapons. As a result, Kazakhstan became nuclear free in 1995, followed by Belarus and Ukraine in 1996.

With U.S. help, Russian defense officials safely dismantled and moved more than 24,000 excess warheads to a central storage site. This included more than 3,300 warheads from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

The former Cold War foes united to draw down weapons capable of creating worldwide nuclear holocaust. In Pervomaysk, Ukraine, for example, U.S. and Ukrainian military leaders turned a strategic missile site into a field of sunflowers. They removed warheads and missiles, blew up silos and planted seeds of peace.

At a Russian air base, workers literally ripped apart Soviet heavy bombers using tools provided by Uncle Sam. Above the Arctic Circle, Russian shipyard workers removed reactors from nuclear submarines and cut up the vessels, salvaging such scrap materials as miles of copper wire.

These events symbolized a new era in defense cooperation and threat reduction, according to DoD officials. After witnessing the destruction of a former Soviet missile silo in January 1996, then-Defense Secretary William J. Perry said, "By our acts today, we will be converting a missile field into a wheat field. And by so doing, we are creating a world of peace for our children and our grandchildren."

DoD officials cite program accomplishments in "Cooperative Threat Reduction," a booklet published in August. For example, more than 15,000 former Soviet scientists and engineers who used to work on weapons are now employed in nonmilitary endeavors. Former defense companies are now linked with U.S. partners and have begun making commercial products. There have been more than 500 military exchanges between the United States and the militaries of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia.

Currently, Nunn-Lugar funds are being used to help eliminate weapons, enhance material security and control, train emergency response specialists and engineers, and establish more military and defense contacts.

In Belarus, for example, officials are eliminating 81 mobile missile launcher foundations. About 1,000 tons of liquid rocket fuel are being destroyed in an incinerator provided by the threat reduction program. In Ukraine, the program funded an SS-19 missile neutralization and destruction facility, scheduled to be in operation by the end of 1998. Program funds will also help eliminate Ukraine's SS-24 missiles.

In Russia, Nunn-Lugar equipment has been used to destroy 68 SS-18 missiles and another 32 are scheduled for destruction this year. U.S. defense officials also will help eliminate 945 solid rocket motors and upgrade neutralization facilities to destroy all SS-18s.

In Kazakhstan, the program funded more than 60 events with Kazakhstani defense forces, U.S. National Guard visits to help with military environmental cleanup, and Kazakhstani participation in air doctrine symposiums. Communications equipment has been installed to create a permanent link with the United States to support arms control. A former Soviet nuclear weapons test site is being sealed at Degelen Mountain, Kazakhstan.

The threat reduction program has also helped Russia accelerate its chemical weapons destruction program. Russia's weapons dismantlement effort is two years ahead of START I levels, DoD officials said.

This year, another five countries became eligible for Cooperative Threat Reduction Program funds: Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. DoD officials said emphasis in these countries will be on improving border controls and safeguarding material and technology related to weapons of mass destruction.

Despite accomplishments so far and activities presently under way, DoD officials say, more work is needed -- the threat remains a reality. Russia still has about 6,700 nuclear warheads and 1,200 missiles to carry them.

DoD officials say the potential also exists for the spread of nuclear weapons material from Russia's "vast, underpaid nuclear weapons complex." About 40,000 metric tons of chemical agents and the ability to produce nuclear, chemical and biological agents remain in the former Soviet territory.

"Hostile regimes and instability threaten U.S. interests in key regions," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told the House National Security Committee in February. "The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the ballistic missiles that deliver them continue to be a serious concern."

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