Russia's Role in the Fight Against Catastrophic Terrorism

February 03, 2003 // 11:00am12:00pm

In a recent seminar at the Kennan Institute, Charles B. Curtis, President, Nuclear Threat Initiative, discussed the importance of developing a more effective U.S./Russian security relationship. Below is an abridged version of his remarks. To read the full remarks, go to

"The danger to our security posed by asymmetrical threats is not a new or unanalyzed danger. What is new is the emergence of a particular virulent form of "sacred terrorism" operating on a global scale with substantial resources and with a demonstrated willingness to kill on a grand scale.

To counter the threat from catastrophic terrorism, we will need an unprecedented level of international security cooperation. The greatest dangers we now face are threats all nations face together and no nation can solve on its own. And no effective strategy addressing weapons of mass destruction is possible without Russia's active and enthusiastic cooperation.

Among the family of nations, the Russian Federation as heir to the Soviet Union's vast stores of weapons of mass destruction clearly has the biggest job to account for and secure what it has and to ensure these weapons, weapons materials and weapons know-how do not get into the hands of the world's most dangerous people or states. The decade-long cooperative effort to address these vulnerabilities by our Departments of State, Energy and Defense under what is generically referred to as the Nunn-Lugar program, has made great progress, but much more remains to be done – and urgently so.

The United States and Russia have now developed a coincident view of the security dangers they face. So what is now required to translate this common view into concrete action that will make the world safer from these dangers?

Here, I offer eight steps to a more effective US/Russian security relationship:

Step One: Speed the Work of Nunn-Lugar
Step Two: Build Trust – De-Alert Nuclear Weapons, Reduce Stockpiles, Increase Decision Time
Step Three: Provide an Accounting of Tactical Nuclear Weapons
Step Four: Share Best Practices with Other Nations to Secure and Protect Their Inventories
Step Five: Jointly Manage a Clean Out of Unsecured Materials at Soviet and US Supplied Research Reactors and Related Facilities
Step Six: Expand Cooperation on Bio Threat Reduction and Intelligence
Step Seven: Make the G8 Global Partnership Real and Truly Global
Step Eight: Engage a More Cooperative Diplomacy to Reduce Dangers in the World's Hot Spots

The relations between our two heads of state are warm. Our perception of our common interest is closer than it has ever been. Yet, if this new relationship is going to improve our security, then it must be able to melt the suspicion that has kept us for so many years from working together for our common security. There is ground for optimism, but we are not yet approaching this mission with the urgency it requires. We are not moving as fast as we can or as fast as we must. The costs of failure in this regard are staggering and simply unacceptable. "

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