Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

U.S.-Russia Tensions Jeopardize Effort to Lock Down Loose Nukes

  • Dan De Luce
  • Reid Standish
| March 31, 2016

When President Barack Obama hosts leaders from dozens of countries at a summit in Washington on Thursday to discuss nuclear security, the nation with the world’s biggest atomic arsenal — Russia — will not be at the table.

Russia’s boycott of the Nuclear Security Summit reflects a widening rift between Moscow and Washington that has undermined the U.S.-led effort to lock down radiological material, effectively destroyed prospects for arms control between the two powers, and even raised the risk of a potential nuclear confrontation not seen since the Cold War.

Russia has an indispensable role to play in any effort to prevent nuclear terrorism because it has a vast amount of nuclear material on its territory — by far the most of any country in the world. And U.S.-Russian collaboration has formed the cornerstone of groundbreaking efforts over the past two decades to secure weapons stockpiles across the former Soviet Union and prevent the theft of material that could be used to make atomic bombs or more crude “dirty bombs.”

That cooperation has come to an end, much to the alarm of many U.S. officials. The Defense Department is concerned by the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction and trafficking of radiological material, “particularly as we are no longer able to ensure that nuclear material is being controlled at the source in Russia,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza said in an email.

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For Academic Citation: De Luce, Dan, Standish, Reid, Tobey, William H..“U.S.-Russia Tensions Jeopardize Effort to Lock Down Loose Nukes.” Foreign Policy, March 31, 2016.

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