Libson, Portugal, June 2011

On 6 and 7 June, the Elbe Group met outside Lisbon, Portugal where it reviewed and endorsed the recently published Joint Threat Assessment on Nuclear Terrorism and set goals for disseminating the report’s insights. The group also set objectives for further US-Russian cooperation including work in preventing nuclear terrorism and missile defense cooperation. (See attached statement)


  • The group endorsed the Joint Threat Assessment and committed to personal involvement in dissemination of the report and publicizing the threat of nuclear terrorism.
  • Members urged the two governments to increase cooperation among intelligence services and law enforcement agencies to combat nuclear terrorism.
  • The group encouraged the governments to proactively interdict illegal trafficking in nuclear materials (nuclear black market) including writing a joint assessment of the issue.
  • The Elbe Group singled out missile defense cooperation as a key US-Russian issue, the resolution of which affects not only the strategic balance but other cooperation.
  • General Kulikov offered to host round tables leading to the next Elbe meeting; the goal is to flesh out ideas for combating nuclear terrorism and missile defense cooperation.
  • Through their prepared statements, Russian members delivered several clear messages:
    • Potential for nuclear terrorism will only increase with growth of nuclear materials
    • US - Russian cooperation is still hampered by a lack of trust
    • US missile defense plans (global and European) are a threat to Russia
  • The group recognized again the importance of building trust between the two countries.
  • The group unanimously agreed to meet again.

Joint Threat Assessment. 
The group agreed that both the US and Russian governments would benefit from the establishment of a “domain” for combating nuclear terrorism (similar to the nuclear security domain, it would recognize that nuclear terrorism should be understood as a cross-cutting issue requiring responsible champions and clearly identified structures in the government). The group will help identify ideas administrations might be better organized for addressing this domain.

The Elbe Group urged the US and Russian governments to “raise the priority and sharpen the focus of joint US and Russian intelligence and law enforcement cooperation to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism.” “Specifically, the US and Russia should develop a joint assessment of the threats of illegal trafficking of nuclear materials” (black market).

The Elbe Group encouraged both governments to increase the number and quality of exercises (bilateral and multilateral) for interdiction and consequence management of nuclear catastrophes. Members pointed out that the situation at Japan’s Fukushima reactors demonstrated the continuing need for preparedness.

Missile Defense. 
Besides continuing its work on preventing nuclear terrorism, the group discussed a number of issues in the US-Russian relationship the resolution of which could improve cooperation and mutual security. Foremost among these issues was missile defense and its impact on the strategic balance. General Valentin Korabelnikov (former chief of Russia’s military intelligence) delivered a report on the Russian perspective on US missile defense plans. His main arguments reflected already public comments by leadership of the Russian defense ministry(Anatoly Serdyukov, Nikolai Makarov and Anatoly Antonov) and, coming two days before the outbrief of the NATO talks on missile defense, confirmed the difficulties involved in reaching agreement on cooperation. US and Russian members understood that the success or failure to reach agreement on missile defense affects not only the strategic balance but also prospects for many other initiatives. One Russian member noted that the lack of agreement on major security issues like missile defense inhibits the building of trust which in turn hinders agreements in other spheres. The concern over missile defense reflects the position of the Russian military (and maybe special services), but it is not clear whether that position is dominant in the Russian government or whether it will affect relations much outside the security domain.

Round Tables. 
The offer by General Anatoliy Kulikov (former Minister of Interior and Duma member) to host round table talks leading to the next Elbe Group meeting represents an important and new Russian commitment of resources to what has previously been a US-resourced effort. Kulikov’s “Club of Military Leaders” would host sessions to flesh out ideas for missile defense cooperation as well as cooperation in preventing nuclear terrorism. The entire group considered this a good opportunity to help identify ideas to advance cooperation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.


Elbe Group Members at June Meeting

General Eugene Habiger. Commander in Chief of the United States Strategic Command from 1996 to 1998.

Lieutenant General Mike Maples. Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2005 until his retirement in 2010.

Lieutenant General Franklin Hagenbeck. Commanding General of the 10th Mountain Division and Superintendent of the United States Military Academy until his retirement in 2010.

Mr. Robert Dannenberg. Former Chief of Operations for the Counter Terrorism Center at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Mr. Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. Former Director of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy and Chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Department at the Counterterrorist Center of the Central Intelligence Agency.

General of the Army Anatoliy Kulikov. Commander of the Joint Group of Federal Forces in Chechnya in 1995, Interior Minister from 1995 to 1998, Deputy Prime Minister from 1997 to 1998 and State Duma member in 1999-2007.

Colonel General Anatoliy Safonov. First Deputy Director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in 1994-1997, and Special Representative of the President on International Co-operation in Combating Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime from 2004 to 2011.

General of the Army Valentin Korabelnikov. Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces from 1997 until his retirement in 2009.

Colonel General Viktor I. Yesin. Senior fellow at the U.S. and Canadian Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and advisor to commander of the Strategic Missile Forces of Russia, chief of staff of the Strategic Missile Forces, 1994–1996.

Colonel Vladimir Goltsov. Head, Department on Physical Protection of Nuclear Sites and Counteracting Nuclear Terrorism of the Interior Troops.


7 June 2011


The Elbe Group
As US and Soviet forces converged in Germany in the final days of WWII, soldiers from both armies met at the River Elbe near Torgau. That historic meeting of comrades, united in the face of common threats, is the inspiration for the creation of a unique group, the Elbe Group.

The purpose of the “Elbe Group” is to maintain an open and continuous channel of communication on sensitive issues of US-Russian relations.

The members of the Elbe Group are senior retired military and intelligence flag officers, all of whom have strong connections back into their governments.

Mutual Trust 
The Elbe Group recognizes that” trust” is fundamental to achieving and maintaining productive and friendly relations between the US and Russia. There are growing levels of trust in many areas of US-Russian relations, such as cooperation in counter terrorism, business and technological cooperation. But, due to the lack of mutual understanding about threats in such areas as missile defense, which has a direct impact on the strategic balance, the level of trust remains insufficient.

The Joint Threat Assessment and Preventing Nuclear Terrorism 
The Elbe Group endorses the Joint Threat Assessment on Nuclear Terrorism, published May 2011 by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center and the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute for US and Canadian Studies, which is the first of its kind by experts from the world’s two major nuclear powers. The study concludes: “If current approaches toward eliminating the threat are not replaced with a sense of urgency and resolve, the question will become not if, but when, and on what scale the first act of nuclear terrorism occurs.”

The Elbe Group fully concurs with the recommendations of the Joint Threat Assessment and urges government, non-government, academic, private, and commercial entities to embrace the recommendations within the report

The report highlights the importance of intensifying efforts to reduce the risks of nuclear terrorism by leveraging existing US-Russian bilateral working groups and international mechanisms in which US and Russia play leading roles, notably the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the upcoming nuclear security summit in Seoul.

In addition, it is vital to raise the priority and sharpen the focus of joint US and Russian intelligence and law enforcement cooperation to reduce the risks of nuclear terrorism.

Specifically, the US and Russia should develop a joint assessment of the threats of illegal trafficking of nuclear materials. This joint assessment can be used as a basis for leading global action to resolve all cases involving this trafficking activity.

Way Ahead

The Elbe Group considers the issue of improving mutual trust between Russia and the U.S. as a top priority. The next Elbe Group meeting will include a focus on mutual trust building measures as the foundation for countering nuclear terrorism and addressing other global threats.

Joint Threat Assessment and Preventing Nuclear Terrorism
Both governments would benefit from the establishment of a “domain” for combating nuclear terrorism – a recognition that nuclear terrorism, like nuclear security, should be understood as a cross-cutting issue requiring champions and clearly responsible leaders in the government. Government efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism would benefit from clarification of the architectures for addressing this domain. The Elbe Group will help facilitate success of those structures.

US and Russian relevant government agencies, including the special services, should lead international exercises to prepare for interdiction and consequence management of a terrorist attack with a nuclear device.

The catastrophe at Fukushima nuclear plant made clear the need for better preparedness plans and resources to eliminate the consequences of such events.

The Elbe Group supports the continued allocation of resources by US and Russian governments to sustain and strengthen efforts to combat all forms of terrorism, in particular nuclear terrorism.

Elbe Group members will work to achieve the broadest dissemination of the Joint threat Assessment on Nuclear Terrorism including:

  • Government offices
  • 16 Working Groups in Joint US-Russian Bilateral Commission
  • Key media news outlets
  • Civil and commercial nuclear sector
  • Research Institutes
  • Academia
  • International Organizations such as IAEA, UN, and others

The Elbe Group recognizes the need to continue work on definitions (terminology set) in the area of countering nuclear terrorism.

Strategic Balance and Missile Defense
The deployment of a global missile defense system affects not only the ability to maintain the strategic balance between the two countries but also the ability to achieve consensus in other areas. In this connection there is a need to step up discussions on the issues of global and euro BMD in support of strategic stability and prevention of damage to the US and Russian national security interests. The Elbe Group will seek to clarify US and Russian positions and find new ways of resolving this problem in the course of the follow-up Elbe Group meetings.