Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Gap

Cooperative Threat Reduction, the preeminent program aimed at stopping the proliferation of Russian WMDs has had several shortcomings. The 2007 CTR report to Congress said that
Construction of Russia’s first Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility (CWDF) for nerve-agent-filled, proliferable weapons continued…. In February [2005]… the lack of an approved practical plan for the elimination of Russia’s stockpile of nerve agents was addressed.
Meaning, in nearly 15 years of CTR no CWDF had been built and no plan for eliminated nerve agents developed.

But more fundamentally, US efforts generally fail on five key points.
* First, most US policies address state uses and transfers of WMDs, rather than non-state transfers.
* Second, they deal with
legal, not black market trade.
* Third, many US policies ignore the pitfalls posed by the
dual-use quality of biological and chemical weapons.
* Forth, US policies tend to suffer from “nuclear blindness,” address the nuclear threat but in so doing ignoring the
biological and chemical threat.
* Finally, US policy fails to address the essential question of
why Russia has been reluctant to cooperate with CTR.
Russian obfuscation can be explained in several ways. The Russian government may perceive that the threat of global terrorism, while affecting Russia, is more of an American problem than a Russian one. Furthermore, it is understandable that the Russians are hesitant to have American inspectors crawling all over some of their most sensitive sites, destroying weapons; while it is not in Russian interests to have their biological and chemical weapons stolen or sold on the black market, the sensitive nature of the weapons and technology involved creates a reluctance among the Russian military to fully cooperate with American requests. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported that
Although the United States would have liked to allocate more funds for chain of custody efforts, officials in Russia did not share this priority.
Put simply, Russian calculations of the cost and benefit of American threat reduction programs may conclude that such programs are not in Russia’s overall interest. In addition, the Russian government may be reluctant, for the sake of pride, to admit that it is unable to take care of its own weapons, that it does not know where they all are and cannot ensure their security. At the most basic level, the Russian regime is an authoritarian one, conspiratorial and suspicious; these are traits carried in its political DNA. A government that bullies its own people and its neighbors finds it difficult to believe that others might actually be interested in the common good; furthermore, a regime that makes routine use of censorship and deception does not take kindly to notions of transparency and openness.


Aaron said...

For those skeptical of America's myopic understanding of state and non-state transfers, might I point out that the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review devotes a total of one paragraph out of 113 pages to Russia. While “the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” and Russian “sales of disruptive weapons technologies” are mentioned in passing, neither specifically Russian WMDs nor the question of non-state transfers are addressed. (See Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report [2006], 28-9;

Aaron said...

Following the 1995 nerve gas attack by the Aum Shinryo cult in Tokyo, Congress increased the Nunn-Lugar emphasis on biological and chemical weapons. (See CRS, “Nunn-Lugar,” 4.) However, today CTR remains heavily weighted towards the nuclear threat, as are more recent national strategy documents.