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Threat-Reduction Program Marks 15-Year Anniversary

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2007 – When the Soviet Union lifted its Iron Curtain after the Cold War, Moscow left behind a lethal legacy in former Soviet bloc countries -- arsenals filled with chemical and biological weapons, nuclear warheads, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and submarines.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
A Russian shipyard worker uses a cutting torch to break down a large bulge section of a Russian Oscar Class submarine at the Little Star shipyard in Severodvinsk, Russia, May 29, 1996. Russian ballistic submarines were dismantled as part of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Todd P. Cichonowicz, USN

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

But 15 years ago today, in the midst of rising fears that rogue regimes or terrorists sought the remaining stockpiles, U.S. Sens. Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar initiated the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, also called the Nunn-Lugar Program. Since 1992, the program drastically cut the number of leftover weapons, dismantling more than 2,000 intercontinental missiles, eliminating 1,000 missile launchers and deactivating 7,000 nuclear warheads in former Soviet Union states.

“Cooperative threat-reduction programs are a critical tool used to address one of the gravest threats we face: the danger that terrorists and proliferators could gain access to weapons or materials of mass destruction,” President Bush said in a statement today.

Dedicated to securing, eliminating and accounting for large-scale deadly weapons, Bush said, cooperative threat-reduction programs represent “the cornerstone for U.S. funding” outlined in multilateral nonproliferation partnership efforts.

At a roundtable discussion yesterday at the Carnegie Center in Moscow, Lugar, who co-sponsored the program, called it “a concept through which we attempt to take control of a global threat of our own making.”

“(The Cooperative Threat Reduction Program) became the primary tool through which the United States works with Russia to safely destroy its massive nuclear, chemical and biological warfare capacity,” he said. “Both sides recognized the importance of this endeavor to our mutual security.”

Together, the United States and Russia convinced Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan to eliminate all nuclear weapons from their territories, and in all, the program has disabled more nuclear weapons than exist in the combined arsenals of the United Kingdom, France and China.

“The significance of this is often underestimated,” said Liz Sherwood, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia from 1993-96. Sherwood, who helped build the Nunn-Lugar framework on the Defense Department’s behalf, noted that Ukraine possessed the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal when it gained independence in 1991.

“We largely don’t notice the dogs that didn’t bark, but Ukraine with nuclear weapons would have been a very different challenge for us,” she said. “Basically, that hasn’t been something we had to worry about at all, because we managed to denuclearize them so easily.”

Sherwood commended Nunn and Lugar for their efforts, calling their program “important and inspirational.”

“In an era in which are very worried about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” she said, “it is important to take note of how much we can do to prevent proliferation.”

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