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FMWG - Fissile Materials Working Group, 11 Oct 2012. Global Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Fissile Materials Working Group (FMWG), a coalition of domestic and international experts dedicated to preventing nuclear terrorism, urged the United States and Russia to reach an agreement to continue key threat reduction work under the so-called Nunn-Lugar program.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, indicated on Wednesday that Russia would not seek an extension of the current agreement authorizing vital security cooperation on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) between the two countries.

Senator Richard Lugar and others have indicated that Russia may be open to an amended agreement, although it is unclear what Russia’s preferred changes are or if they would undercut the effectiveness of the program if instituted.

Ken Luongo, FMWG co-chair and President of the Partnership for Global Security said “It would be a huge blow to allow the critical threat reduction work of the Nunn-Lugar program to lapse. Enhancing protections against WMD terrorism has been one of the most important areas of cooperation between the United States and Russia, and that partnership has been mutually beneficial and greatly enhanced global security.”

Over the past 20 years, the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program has enabled substantial improvements in defenses against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism in the states of the former Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, control of the vast Soviet WMD complex began to unravel. The Nunn-Lugar program, launched in 1991, enabled the United States to assist Russia in safely dismantling and destroying WMD and enhancing security of key sites. The bipartisan program’s many accomplishments include the removal of nuclear weapons from three former Soviet states, the deactivation of 7,610 strategic nuclear warheads, destruction of 25,000 tons of chemical agents, and enhanced security at 24 nuclear weapons storage sites. Without a further agreement between the United States and Russia, this critical work will end in the spring of 2013.

“The decision to move forward on this agreement is one for the Russians to make, but the implications and consequences of that choice are global,” Luongo continued. “If the agreement is terminated, then it sends one of the worst signals to the international community about the importance of cooperation to enhance protections against WMD terrorism, precisely when more bilateral and multilateral action and transparency are urgently needed.”

“There is still time for the United States and Russia to find common ground and reach an agreement that will ensure that this pivotal work continues,” said Dr. Paul Walker, director of the Environmental Security and Sustainability Program of Green Cross International. “If the two sides could put aside their Cold War animosity twenty years ago, then surely a mutually beneficial agreement could be reached today.”

The FMWG, a coalition of U.S. and international experts, was formed to improve fissile material security through the development of actionable policy proposals and advocacy for government adoption and implementation of improved policies.

 

 

Irma Arguello, Founder and Chair of NPSGlobal Foundation, is member of the FMWG Steering Committee

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