Istanbul, Turkey: October 2010

Inaugural Meeting

In its inaugural meeting, the Elbe Group met from 18-21 October 2010 in Istanbul to discuss nuclear terrorism and US-Russian cooperation to prevent it. The group discussed a draft, unclassified threat assessment of nuclear terrorism being written jointly by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Russian Academy of Sciences’ US and Canadian Studies Institute.  The joint threat assessment was intended to set a basis for a common understanding of nuclear terrorism and the character of its threat and was scheduled for a second review by the Elbe Group by the end of 2010 followed by publication in early 2011.

The Elbe Group also came to strong agreement on a statement of principles and recommendations for addressing the threat of nuclear terrorism (see below). The Elbe Group’s Statement of Principles and Recommendations echoes Presidents Obama and Medvedev’s publicly stated concerns about nuclear terrorism and calls for our governments to use the current window of improved trust to work together in specific ways to address the threat.

Elbe Group Participants

The members of the Elbe Group are senior retired military and intelligence flag officers, all of whom have strong connections back into their governments.  General of the Army Valentin Korabelnikov is a former chief of GRU and has an office in the Russian defense ministry where he is an advisor to the Minister.  General-Colonel Anatoly Safonov was an acting director of the FSB before becoming the Russian President’s Special Representative on International Cooperation in Combating Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime.  In that capacity Safonov is also responsible for coordinating response to other threats such as cyber, biological, and chemical terrrorism as well as criminal organizations. General of the Army Anatoly Kulikov was the Minister of Internal Affairs (one of the key organizations responsible for nuclear security in Russia) before becoming President of the “Club of Military Leaders” (an organization with former 3 and 4-star generals who advise the Russian government regularly on a variety of security and military issues).  Russian participants also included General Vladimir Dvorkin – whoheaded the 4th Central Scientific Research Institute of the defense ministry and Colonel Vladimir Goltsov who served in the Interior Troops.  US participants included General Eugene Habiger - former commander of STRATCOM with responsibility for all strategic offensive weapons, Lieutenant General Franklin Hagenbeck; former Commander of the 10th Mountain Division and Superintendent of the United States Military Academy; and Lieutenant General Michael Mapleswho is a former director of DIA. Robert Dannenberg, former Chief of Operations for the Counter Terrorism Center at the CIA; and Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, former Chief of Counter Intelligence and Intelligence at Department of Energy, are also participants from the US side.  A followup meeting was proposed for June 2011.

Take Aways from the Elbe Group Meeting:

  • US and Russian participants readily agreed the threat of nuclear terrorism is a priority threat for the US and Russia.
  • Both sides endorsed the draft threat assessment being developed by Belfer and USA Canada Institute and agreed it fills a gap in US and Russian cooperation.  The group asked to remain involved in reviewing the assessment and suggested their names be included in an endorsement to in the final version.
  • A senior Russian participant with intelligence background suggested that in thinking about the threat from nuclear terrorism we should remember that addressing the origins of “classical” terrorism is key to preventing nuclear terrorism.  The technical aspects of the problem should not outweigh the human factors in our efforts to design plans to prevent nuclear terrorism.
  • The Russian side agreed that the threat from “insiders” stealing nuclear materials and selling them on the black market was a real possibility that must be addressed.
  • The group decided during the discussions that it would issue a statement of principles and recommendations concerning nuclear terrorism.  That statement will be used by group members in contacts with government officials and other colleagues.
  • One recommendation (in the group’s statement of principles) for closer cooperation between special services was made by a senior Russian with intelligence background and, his intent was to urge closer and more active cooperation among all the intelligence and security services, including FSB, GRU, CIA, DIA, and FBI.
  • The Russian side assessed that we are in a window of opportunity with regard to the level of trust between the US and Russia.  They said that trust is higher than before, but still insufficient and requiring improvement.  They see cooperation against nuclear terrorism as an avenue not only for building security but for strengthening mutual trust.
  • One Russian participant with intelligence background said the effort to prevent nuclear terrorism consisted of three “blocks:” 1) warning, 2) technical measures for security at bases and in transit and, 3) operations to prevent or to respond to a nuclear terrorist act.
  • One Russian participant suggested creating a headquarters led by the US and Russia, that would include other nuclear states such as the “five nuclear states” and would facilitate continuous planning and quick response to nuclear threats.  The headquarters would enable “coordination on a deep level.” (Not included in the group’s final recommendations)
  • All participants agreed that the US and Russia should share best practices with third countries.
  • In discussing the risk in transport of nuclear materials (from materials in nuclear weapons to radiological isotopes) a Russian participant said that the lack of a central controlling agency in Russia made it difficult to properly track all nuclear materials as they move within the country.  He said a senior advisory panel he was on had recently recommended that the defense ministry be that central agency within Russia.
  • Both Russian and US participants indicated they had already contacted government officials about this meeting and would provide feedback at its conclusion.

21 October 2010


The Elbe Group, having met in Istanbul from 18 to 21 October 2010 to assess the threat from nuclear terrorism, has agreed on the following principles and recommendations for measures to address the threat of nuclear terrorism:


  • There are many terrorist threats that are more likely than nuclear terrorism but none are more dangerous.
  • We concur with our two Presidents that terrorism in general, and nuclear terrorism in particular, are the greatest threats to our nations.  The improving level of trust between the US and Russia at this time presents a unique opportunity for more active joint measures to address the threat from nuclear terrorism.
  • The nuclear appetite of terrorists is growing and, the abundance of nuclear material, together with the financial and technical resources available to terrorists, make a nuclear attack a real possibility that demands immediate action.
  • Despite years of study on nuclear terrorism, there is insufficient operational cooperation, information sharing and planning between our two governments to provide adequate warning and response to a nuclear attack by terrorists.
  • Technical and scientific experts, together with the general public, can have an important influence on governments and international organizations to take the necessary steps to ensure security of nuclear materials and protection from terrorist attack.


  • We support the development of a joint US-Russian assessment of the threat from nuclear terrorism to provide a basis for a common understanding of the threat and its component parts.
  • We support the employment of state and social organizations to raise awareness of the threat of nuclear terrorism among the general population.
  • We encourage the sharing of “best practices” for securing nuclear and radiological materials and preventing their unsanctioned use including: development of international technical standards for categorizing dangerous nuclear materials and identifying their locations.
  • We recommend combined operational planning and preparedness to prevent nuclear terrorism and to actively respond to the increasing threat of nuclear terrorist acts.
  • We suggest to fully utilize the Interpol police capabilities, the inherent potential of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the example set by the Washington Nuclear Security Summit in countering the threat of nuclear terrorism.
  • We suggest, in the interests of warning of potential and existing threats from terrorist use of nuclear devices, to increase coordination between US and Russian special services.  In this regard, when cooperating in the struggle against terrorism, priority should be given to preventing nuclear terrorism.

21-ого Октября 2010


Группа Эльба, на своей первой встрече в Стамбуле 18-21 октября 2010 года, с целью путей анализа предотвращения ядерного терроризма договорилась о нижеследующих принципах и рекомендациях по мерам противодействия угрозе ядерного терроризма.


  • Существует много террористических угроз, которые более вероятны, чем угроза ядерного терроризма, но угроза ядерного терроризма наиболее опасна по своим последствиям.
  • Мы поддерживаем наших Президентов в том, что терроризм в общем, и ядерный терроризм в особенности представляют собой опаснейшие угрозы для наших стран. Возрастающий уровень доверия между США и Россией в настоящее время предоставляет уникальную возможность для принятия более активных совместных мер для борьбы с угрозой ядерного терроризма.
  • Ядерные аппетиты террористов растут, а обилие ядерных материалов, наряду с финансовыми и техническими ресурсами в распоряжении террористов, делают угрозу ядерного теракта реальной возможностью, что требует принятия незамедлительных мер противодействия.
  • Несмотря на годы изучения проблемы ядерного терроризма, мы не имеем достаточного уровня оперативного сотрудничества, обмена информацией и планами между нашими государствами с целью обеспечения надлежащего предупреждения о и предотвращения террористического акта с применением ядерных материалов.
  • Технические эксперты и ученые, наряду с широкой общественностью, могут внести свой существенный вклад в усилия государств и международных организаций с целью принятия необходимых мер по обеспечению надежной сохранности ядерных материалов и их защиты от атак террористов.


  • Мы поддерживаем проведение совместной российско-американской оценки угрозы ядерного терроризма для создания основы для единого понимания этой угрозы и ее составляющих.
  • Мы поддерживаем идею привлечения государственных и общественных организаций к работе по повышению грамотности населения в области противодействия ядерному терроризму.
  • Мы рекомендуем наладить обмен передовым опытом с целью обеспечения надежной сохранности ядерных и радиологических материалов и предотвращения их несанкционированного использования, включая разработку международных технических стандартов для классификации опасных ядерных материалов и идентификации их мест базирования.
  • Мы рекомендуем применение практики объединенного оперативного планирования и обеспечения готовности сторон предотвращать ядерный терроризм и активно реагировать на возрастающие угрозы ядерных терактов.
  • Мы предлагаем в полной мере использовать возможности Интерпола, потенциал Глобальной инициативы по борьбе с актами ядерного терроризма, и Вашингтонского саммита по ядерной безопасности для противодействия угрозе ядерного терроризма.
  • Мы предлагаем в интересах предупреждения о потенциальных и возникших угрозах применения террористами ядерных компонентов активизировать взаимодействие специальных служб России и США. При этом, в качестве приоритетного выделить направление по борьбе с ядерным терроризмом.