Paper - Institute of Nuclear Materials Management

Steps for Rebuilding U.S.-Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation

| July 2017

Cooperation between U.S. and Russian nuclear scientists and engineers represents an important opportunity for rebuilding U.S.-Russian relations. The United States and Russia possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, the world’s largest stocks of weapons-usable nuclear material, and the world’s largest nuclear complexes, giving them a special responsibility for nuclear security and preventing nuclear terrorism. Unfortunately, in 2014, the Obama administration unwisely cut off U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear energy R&D and nuclear science after Russia’s seizure of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine. Predictably, Russia responded by cutting off almost all cooperation on nuclear security (which it had long had concerns about for other reasons). Although the most urgent nuclear security upgrades had already been completed, there was still important joint work to do to ensure that sophisticated thieves could not steal nuclear material and provide it to terrorists. Indeed, nuclear security work is never “done,” as nuclear security, like safety, must focus on continuous improvement in the face of evolving threats, changing technologies, and newly discovered vulnerabilities. Today, both President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin say they want a more cooperative U.S.-Russian relationship. Toward that end, they should direct their nuclear establishments to restart cooperative work on nuclear energy, nuclear security, nuclear science, nuclear safety – and, eventually, on topics such as developing new procedures and technologies for arms control verification as well. Such cooperation will not be like the Nunn-Lugar assistance of old, which is no longer appropriate or politically sustainable in either Washington or Moscow. Instead, it should be a partnership-based approach, based on principles of equality, mutual respect, and mutual benefit, with each party funding its own participation. Despite the deep disputes the two governments still have, such a partnership approach at the technical level is a realistic prospect. This paper focuses on one aspect of such renewed cooperation, providing an initial outline of cooperative initiatives that could be pursued on nuclear and radiological security.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Bunn, Matthew, “Steps for Rebuilding U.S.-Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation,” Institute of Nuclear Materials Management, July 2017.

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