Monday, October 16, 2006

What about Russia's loose nukes?

Front paged at Booman Tribune

Back in January 2001, the US Department of Energy released A Report Card on the US Department of Energy's Nonproliferation Programs with Russia. The three points in the Executive Summary Section are as follows:
1. The most urgent unmet national security threat to the United States today is the danger that weapons of mass destruction or weapons-usable material in Russia could be stolen and sold to terrorists or hostile nation states and used against American troops abroad or citizens at home.


2. Current nonproliferation programs in the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and related agencies have achieved impressive results thus far, but their limited mandate and funding fall short of what is required to address adequately the threat.


3. The new President and leaders of the 107th Congress face the urgent national security challenge of devising an enhanced response proportionate to the threat.


And yet, here we are, nearly six years later, with this as yet another overlooked but dangerous failure of the Bush administration and the rubber stamp republican Congress.


So what does Bush immediately do in response to this Report Card? Well, just what any party in charge would do to keep its country safe - they cut funding for this program:

That's why there's now bipartisan alarm at President Bush's decision to cut $100 million from highly successful federal programs that keep tabs on Russia's nuclear weapons and material and prevent those materials from falling into the hands of hostile states and terrorists.


The cuts are part of the administration's 2001 budget, which was approved by Congress last Thursday. Many in the security field are particularly distressed by the cuts to the Department of Energy's Nuclear Nonproliferation Office, which oversees a variety of programs dealing with both the "loose nukes" and the "brain drain" problems, in Russia especially.


You may ask what Bush had in mind instead - well he wanted the money diverted to a massive multi-billion dollar "Star Wars" missile defense program, which we all know how successful that program has been.


Flash back to 1991, when Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) co-sponsored an act which was dedicated to reducing and destroying the immense stockpile of loose nuclear materials in Russia after the fall of the USSR. And in January 2003, Lugar (a republican, mind you), wrote the following in an OpEd article in the Washington Post:

Contrary to the media-inspired illusion that foreign policy is determined by a series of decisions and responses to crises, most of the recent failures of U.S. foreign policy have far more to do with our inattention and parsimony between crises. For example, in 2002, amid speculation about terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction, inaction by Congress effectively suspended for seven months new U.S. initiatives to secure Russia's immense stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Congressional conditions also have delayed for years a U.S.-Russian project to eliminate a dangerous proliferation threat: 1.9 million chemical weapons housed at a rickety and vulnerable facility in Russia.


---snip---


Meanwhile, between 1995 and 2002 the United States -- economic engine of the world -- effectively constrained itself from entering into significant new trade agreements by failing to pass trade promotion authority. This monumental political failure hurt U.S. workers and businesses, perplexed allies, ceded markets to competitors and weakened development overseas.


Hmmm, now who was in charge of Congress between 1995 and 2002? And who was in charge of Congress in 2002 when there was seven months of delay in dealing with securing Russia's loose nukes? ESPECIALLY at a time after our country was just attacked and there was a frenzy being whipped up about being attacked again, mushroom clouds and all of the "weapons of mass destruction program related activities" that were not um, "were" going on in Iraq.


In July 2002, there was a hearing held in the House's Committee on International Relations where these dangers were addressed. Here is an excerpt from the opening statement by Chairman Hyde:

For well over a decade, we have been alert to the dangers posed by the combination of this deadly legacy and the frayed guarantees of its continued control. To secure these weapons and materials and the vast infrastructure that made possible their creation and manufacture, we have invested billions of dollars and tremendous effort, and there are many successes to report. But the task is far from over and is made more urgent by the efforts to terrorists and rogue states alike to secure access to weapons of mass destruction. The smallest gaps in our defenses can have unimaginable consequences, and the first and most important line in our defense must be to prevent that access from occurring.


In a 2004 article examining the non-proliferation policies of Bush vs. Kerry by David Krieger, who is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, he writes:

In evaluating the candidates in regard to their willingness and ability to deal with the threats of nuclear proliferation, we should consider also the commitments made in 2000 by the parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the US , to achieving 13 Practical Steps for Nuclear Disarmament. These steps include ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the strengthening of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the creation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, making nuclear disarmament irreversible, and an unequivocal undertaking to achieve the total elimination of nuclear arsenals. These steps are important not only because they are international obligations, but because the future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the non-proliferation regime in general rests upon the nuclear weapons states as well as the non-nuclear weapons states fulfilling their obligations.


In nearly all respects President Bush has failed to meet these obligations. He has opposed ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, opposed verification of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, made nuclear disarmament entirely reversible under the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty and, rather than demonstrating leadership toward the elimination of nuclear arsenals, has sought to create new nuclear weapons.


It is difficult to imagine any US president achieving so dismal a record on so critical an issue. It is time for presidential leadership that will restore US credibility in the world and not betray the national security interests of the American people.


A 2005 article regarding Russia's loose nukes talked about the Baker-Cutler task force, which was focused on Russia's nuclear program being the key to national security, indicated the following:

Russian "stubbornness over allowing U.S. personnel sufficient access to sensitive sites" is partially to blame for the failure to meet Baker-Cutler recommendations. It encourages the U.S. to develop closer relationships with the Russian government to improve the cooperation.


The Baker-Cutler Task Force found that enough bomb-grade material existed in Russia for tens of thousands of nuclear weapons to be manufactured. In order to secure the nuclear materials, the Baker-Cutler report recommended that the U.S. oversee and fund the consolidation of storage sites in Russia and increase security and inventory procedures to protect the sites.


While some "discreet progress" has been achieved, Boorstin said, the CAP/Stimson report concluded that the U.S. might not be able to finish the task of securing the Russian weapons and materials until 2020 or possibly even 2030.


Harvard University professor Graham Allison said the pace at which weapons have been secured in Russia in the four years since Baker-Cutler is as slow as it was in the four years prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


And in today's Bergen Record (sorry, link not available online), Former head of the 9/11 Commission (and republican) Tom Kean has the following to say from an interview with columnist Mike Kelly:

Kean said US and world leaders have still not come up with a plan to track down supplies of enriched uranium inside the former Soviet Union. Kean said he is baffled at predictions by US authorities that they need 14 years to find the nuclear material.


"I think we could do it in tow or three years"


So, with Iran possibly 5-10 years away from making a bomb, and North Korea already back in the bomb making business, and all of the blustering by BushCo, that leaves you wondering why Bush, Rice and the other neocon war criminals have done so much to piss off Putin, why the republicans in Congress stand by and make no mention anymore of this dire threat to our national security, and why nothing is said or done about it.


It only leads to the conclusion that the republicans don't care about national security.

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