This nation, of course, is the Soviet Union and
its successor state, Russia.
While many have turned their attention to China
or other parts of the world, I believe that the most important threat
to the security of the United States continues to lie within the
borders of the former Soviet Union - in the form of stockpiles of
nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and materials.
We are in a race against time to prevent these weapons
from getting in the hands of international terrorist organizations
or rogue states. And the path to this potential disaster is easier
than anyone could imagine: there are a number of potential sources
of fissile material in the former Soviet Union in sites that are
poorly secured; the material is compact, easy to hide, and hard
to track; and weapons designs can be found on the internet.
Today, some weapons experts believe that terrorist
organizations will have enough fissile material to build a nuclear
bomb in the next 10 years. That's right - 10 years.
I rise today to instill a sense of urgency here
in the Senate. I rise today to ask how we are going to deal with
this threat -- tomorrow; a year from now; and a decade from now.
The President has just completed an international
trip that included a visit to Russia.
I want to commend the President for taking this
trip and making our relationship with Russia a priority.
During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet
Union produced nearly 2,000 tons of plutonium and highly enriched
uranium for use in weapons that could destroy the world several
times over. To give you an idea of just how much this is, it takes
only five to ten kilograms of plutonium to build a nuclear weapon
that could kill the entire population of St. Louis.
For decades, strategic deterrence, our alliances,
and the balance of power with the Soviet Union ensured the relative
safety of these weapons and materials.
With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of
the Soviet Union, all of this changed.
Key institutions within the Soviet national security
apparatus crumbled, exposing dangerous gaps in the security of nuclear
weapons, delivery systems, and fissile material. Regional powers
felt fewer constraints to develop nuclear weapons. Rogue states
accelerated nuclear weapons programs.
And while this was happening, international terrorist
organizations who were aggressively seeking nuclear weapons gained
strength and momentum.
Thanks to the leadership of Senators Nunn and Lugar
in creating the Cooperative Threat Reduction program at the Department
of Defense, there is no question that we've made some great progress
in securing these weapons. These same leaders continue to work tirelessly
on the problem to this day -- Senator Nunn through the Nuclear Threat
Initiative and Senator Lugar through his Chairmanship of the Foreign
And so today, the situation in Russia and the rest
of the former Soviet Union today is drastically different that it
was in 1991 or even 1996 or 2001.
But the threat is still extremely dangerous and
extremely real. In March of this year, a senior Russian commander
concluded that 39 of 46 key Russian weapons facilities had serious
security shortcomings. Many Russian nuclear research sites frequently
have doors propped open, security sensors turned off, and guards
patrolling without ammunition in their weapons.
Meanwhile, the fanatical terrorist organizations
who want these weapons continue to search every corner of the Earth,
resorting to virtually any means necessary. The nuclear programs
of nations such as Iran and North Korea threaten to destabilize
key regions of the world. And, we are still learning about the tremendous
damage caused by A.Q. Kahn, the rogue Pakistani weapons scientist.
Looking back over the past decade and a half, it
is clear that we could and should have done more.
And so as the President returns from his trip to
Russia, we should be thinking - on a bipartisan basis - about some
of the critical issues that can guide us in the future to ensure
that there are no more missed opportunities.
The situation is too dangerous. The threat to our
security too grave.
The first question that we should be thinking about
is what is the future of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program?
Where do we go from here? In other words, what is our plan?
I believe that the Administration must spend more
time working with Congress to chart out a road map and strategic
vision of the program.
There are two things that the President can do to
move on this issue. First, in the National Security Strategy to
Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction of 2002, the Administration said
the National Security Council would prepare a 5 year government-wide
strategy by March, 2003. To my knowledge, this has not been completed.
In addition, Congress required the Administration
to submit an inter-agency coordination plan on how to more effectively
deal with non-proliferation issues. This plan is due at the end
of this month.
Completing these plans will help U.S. better address
critical day-to-day issues, such as liability, resource allocation,
Having a better strategic vision will also help
us work more efficiently and effectively with other international
donors, who have become increasingly involved and are making significant
contributions to these efforts. This is an important issue, as the
contributions of other donors could help us make up valuable lost
Mr. President, the second set of questions I would
like to raise concerns the U.S.-Russian relationship. Where is this
relationship heading? Will Russia be an adversary? A partner? Or
something in between?
I don't ask these questions simply because I am
a nice guy and I want to get along with the Russians. I ask these
questions because they directly impact our progress towards securing
and destroying stockpiles of nuclear weapons and materials.
In the last few years, we have seen some disturbing
trends in Russia - the rapid deterioration of democracy and the
rule of law; bizarre and troubling statements from President Putin
about the fall of the Soviet Union; the abuses in Chechnya; and
Russian meddling in the former Soviet Union from the Baltics to
Ukraine to Georgia.
The Russians must understand that their actions
on some of these issues are completely unacceptable.
At the same time, I believe that we have to do a
better job of working with the Russians to make sure that they are
moving in the right direction. This starts by being thoughtful and
consistent about what we say and what we do. Tone is important here.
Some of the statements by our own officials have
been confusing, contradictory, and problematic. At times, I have
been left scratching my head about what exactly is our policy and
how Administration statements square with this policy.
Another issue is the level of sustained engagement
I am glad that the President and Secretary of State
have made a number of trips to Russia.
But, as these trips are but a few days every year
or so, this is only one aspect of the relationship. An additional
part, which has suffered in recent years, is our foreign assistance
programs to Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union.
These programs are an essential way for the United
States to maintain our engagement with Russia. They aren't just
giveaways; they are programs that advance U.S. interests by strengthening
democracy and civil society, enhancing economic development, and
dealing with international health issues - in addition to curbing
the nonproliferation threat.
At a time when these programs are desperately needed,
their budgets have been cut dramatically. At a time when we should
be doing more to engage and shape the future of Russia, we seem
to be doing the exact opposite.
The non-proliferation threat does not exist in a
vacuum. The issues I just mentioned -- along with other important
issues such as our own strategic nuclear arsenal -- must also be
considered as we move forward.
Finally, Mr. President, I would like my colleagues
to consider how our relationship with Russia, and our efforts to
secure and destroy weapons and materials inside the former Soviet
Union, fits in with our broader non-proliferation goals.
Russia is a major player in the two of the biggest
proliferation challenges we currently face - Iran and North Korea.
Russia's dangerous involvement with Iran's nuclear program has been
well documented, and there is no question that their actions will
be pivotal if the President is to successfully resolve this deteriorating
The Russians are also an important voice in trying
to make progress on the deteriorating situation in North Korea.
The Russian city of Vladivostok is home to 590,000 people and is
very close to the North Korean border - putting the Russians smack
in the middle of a crisis that we need to resolve.
In addition to all of this, Russia holds a veto
on the UN Security Council, which could consider the Iranian and
North Korean issues in the very near future.
Developing strong bilateral and multilateral strategies
that deal with Russia's role in these growing crises will be extremely
important, both in terms of resolving these crisis, advancing our
non-proliferation goals within the former Soviet Union, and our
long-term relationship with Russia.
I realize that right now, none of us have all the
answers to these extraordinarily difficult questions.
But if we hope to successfully fight terror and
avoid disaster before it arrives at our shores, we must start finding
those answers. We have work to do.
I believe that it is worth putting in place a process
- one that involves senior Administration officials, a bipartisan
group of Members of Congress as well as retired senior military
officers and diplomats - in an effort to dramatically improve progress
on these issues.
I am interested in hearing from the President about
his trip. I am also interested in hearing if he believes that an
idea, similar to the one that I put forward, is worth considering.
Delay is not an option. We need to start making
more progress on this issue today. I urge my colleagues to act.