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Summary

This study offers the consensus findings and recommendations of a joint committee established by the U.S. National Academies and the Russian Academy of Sciences to identify methods of strengthening the cooperative nuclear nonproliferation programs of the United States and Russia. The study builds upon a previous joint effort of the two academies, a 2003 workshop to examine impediments to U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation. This event resulted in a workshop report: Overcoming Impediments to U.S. Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Report of a Joint Workshop.1

Since 1992, the U.S. Departments of Defense, Energy, and State have worked with their counterparts in Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union to develop and implement a number of joint nuclear nonproliferation initiatives, many of them under the Cooperative Threat Reduction framework. This effort has significantly advanced the goals of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, particularly as it pertains to the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons and materials stocks. These joint programs of the United States and the Russian Federation have enjoyed a number of important successes during the past several years. The high points of this cooperative effort have been the enhancement of security for nuclear storage facilities; the commercial blenddown and sale of surplus Russian enriched uranium as power plant fuel; and the elimination of nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

The goal of the present study is to provide recommendations for streamlining and accelerating these cooperative nuclear nonproliferation programs. Indeed, the work of the joint committee has focused heavily on examining the specific challenges that these programs face, developing practical approaches for making the programs more effective, and exploring the views of Russian and American experts on the programs. Although the charge to the joint committee could be interpreted narrowly to limit the study to the specific examination of programmatic issues, the members of the joint committee concluded that such an interpretation was not in keeping with the true intent of the task set before them. In addition to examining practical challenges, therefore, the joint committee considered a more fundamental issue that had become a central concern in the daily vagaries of cooperation: the nature of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia on nuclear nonproliferation.

The joint committee found that, in the course of 15 years of cooperation, the nonproliferation and threat reduction initiatives of the United States and Russia have matured in a way that suggests a potential for true partnership. This maturity has been hard won, with slow progress accumulated over time, often as Russian and U.S. agency leaders and project managers have worked out solutions in the course of implementation. It is formed, as many partnerships are, on the mutual confidence that results from having experienced project teams, time-tested working methods, more or less stable budgets, and predictable project plans. Although problems in the joint nonproliferation and threat reduction work remain, in many cases, significant progress in resolving these problems has been made.

Thus, the notion of a true Russian-U.S. partnership on nonproliferation and threat reduction is not new; it is part of a natural progression. Because of the frequency with which questions about the fundamental nature of the U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship on nuclear nonproliferation came to the surface during the discussions of and research on specific program problems and solutions, the members of the joint committee conducting this study decided that it was time to consider this progression more fully. In particular, they recognized that the potential exists for U.S. cooperation with Russia to shift farther away from an assistance relationship—which was the necessary result of the economic crisis that struck after the demise of the Soviet Union—and toward partnership.

1  

National Research Council, Overcoming Impediments to U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Report of a Joint Workshop (Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2004).



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Strengthening U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Recommendations for Action Summary This study offers the consensus findings and recommendations of a joint committee established by the U.S. National Academies and the Russian Academy of Sciences to identify methods of strengthening the cooperative nuclear nonproliferation programs of the United States and Russia. The study builds upon a previous joint effort of the two academies, a 2003 workshop to examine impediments to U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation. This event resulted in a workshop report: Overcoming Impediments to U.S. Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Report of a Joint Workshop.1 Since 1992, the U.S. Departments of Defense, Energy, and State have worked with their counterparts in Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union to develop and implement a number of joint nuclear nonproliferation initiatives, many of them under the Cooperative Threat Reduction framework. This effort has significantly advanced the goals of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, particularly as it pertains to the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons and materials stocks. These joint programs of the United States and the Russian Federation have enjoyed a number of important successes during the past several years. The high points of this cooperative effort have been the enhancement of security for nuclear storage facilities; the commercial blenddown and sale of surplus Russian enriched uranium as power plant fuel; and the elimination of nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. The goal of the present study is to provide recommendations for streamlining and accelerating these cooperative nuclear nonproliferation programs. Indeed, the work of the joint committee has focused heavily on examining the specific challenges that these programs face, developing practical approaches for making the programs more effective, and exploring the views of Russian and American experts on the programs. Although the charge to the joint committee could be interpreted narrowly to limit the study to the specific examination of programmatic issues, the members of the joint committee concluded that such an interpretation was not in keeping with the true intent of the task set before them. In addition to examining practical challenges, therefore, the joint committee considered a more fundamental issue that had become a central concern in the daily vagaries of cooperation: the nature of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia on nuclear nonproliferation. The joint committee found that, in the course of 15 years of cooperation, the nonproliferation and threat reduction initiatives of the United States and Russia have matured in a way that suggests a potential for true partnership. This maturity has been hard won, with slow progress accumulated over time, often as Russian and U.S. agency leaders and project managers have worked out solutions in the course of implementation. It is formed, as many partnerships are, on the mutual confidence that results from having experienced project teams, time-tested working methods, more or less stable budgets, and predictable project plans. Although problems in the joint nonproliferation and threat reduction work remain, in many cases, significant progress in resolving these problems has been made. Thus, the notion of a true Russian-U.S. partnership on nonproliferation and threat reduction is not new; it is part of a natural progression. Because of the frequency with which questions about the fundamental nature of the U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship on nuclear nonproliferation came to the surface during the discussions of and research on specific program problems and solutions, the members of the joint committee conducting this study decided that it was time to consider this progression more fully. In particular, they recognized that the potential exists for U.S. cooperation with Russia to shift farther away from an assistance relationship—which was the necessary result of the economic crisis that struck after the demise of the Soviet Union—and toward partnership. 1   National Research Council, Overcoming Impediments to U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Report of a Joint Workshop (Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2004).

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Strengthening U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Recommendations for Action For this reason, the joint committee decided that future cooperation should be considered in two aspects. First, can the two countries implement existing programs in the former Soviet Union as full partners, working in the most efficient and effective way possible? Second, can they expand their cooperation to include joint efforts to solve proliferation problems in other countries and regions of the world? Exploration of the potential for a cooperative relationship that progresses to a fuller partnership was seen as an important goal for this study. Despite the many accomplishments of U.S. and Russian cooperative threat reduction efforts to date, impediments to joint work have limited progress in the past and threaten to do so in the future. Some of these problems are the result of restrictive practices that flowed from the U.S. reaction to the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and subsequent initiatives to combat international terrorism. Others are residual constraints not yet eliminated from the Cold War era. Still others involve legal issues, such as taxation and liability, managerial and organizational problems, project financing, and weaknesses in U.S.-Russian scientific and technical cooperation. Many of these challenges originate in legitimate concerns about national security matters in both countries and different perspectives on current international issues. Indeed, political leaders in Moscow and Washington often have very different objectives based on their own national interests as well as their own political doctrines and outlooks. Many thorough and serious studies have reported on the continuing impediments to cooperation and the necessity of overcoming them to speed up joint work on securing fissile materials (such as uranium-235 and plutonium-239) and other critical tasks.2 Recognizing this very real problem, the U.S.-Russian committee responsible for this study sought answers that would be practical and that could be pursued either in Moscow or in Washington, wherever they would be most relevant. The fact that they are offered as consensus U.S. and Russian recommendations makes them unique and, it is hoped, powerful in both capitals. This report’s emphasis on solutions, however, in no way downplays the very real challenges that continue to obstruct the joint cooperation. This report responds to these challenges in three ways. First, it provides an in-depth exploration of methods of overcoming impediments to existing cooperation. Second, it examines the potential for expanded cooperation based on a fuller concept of partnership. Third, it offers specific conclusions and recommendations that can be used to achieve the first two goals. The report records the consensus of the Russian and the American committee members on concrete and well-defined steps toward improving cooperation that will have utility and relevance in both countries. This executive summary provides a synopsis of the report and identifies the key recommendations from each of the report’s main sections. Additional recommendations are presented in the full text of the report. Finally, it should be noted that members of the joint committee relied primarily on two mechanisms for gathering the information on which this report is based: commissioned papers by U.S. and Russian experts and meetings of joint committee members with small groups of experts in Moscow and Washington in January and February 2005.3 POLITICAL ISSUES To accomplish the vision of full partnership described above, the joint committee agreed on a two-tiered approach: first, a short-term commission should examine past progress and determine a joint strategy for future cooperation; second, a joint group made up of agency representatives from the governments of both countries should supervise cooperative efforts for the indefinite future. As a first and fundamental step, the joint committee recommends that the presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States establish a Joint High-Level Commission with the responsibility of preparing a strategy for current and future U.S.-Russian cooperation to combat nuclear proliferation. This High-Level Commission could be organized in several ways. For example, its membership could include current and former government officials as well as eminent nongovernment experts, or it could be made up of government officials supported by an advisory group of nongovernment experts. In any case, the joint committee believes that experts from outside the government should participate in the commission’s work. The rationale for this approach is linked to the joint committee’s view that the cooperation is progressing to a new stage—fuller partnership—that has both positive potential and a number of continuing pitfalls that must be countered. The definition and description of a strategy for this new stage will require a brainstorming approach that might not be possible under the constraints of a purely governmental body or with only one type of expert—e.g., individuals from the scientific community—in the room. The main emphasis should be on developing new ideas and directions for the cooperation. For this reason, the joint committee concluded that the premium for the organization of the group should be placed on bringing a variety of viewpoints and backgrounds to the table. Thus, despite the difficulties of organizing a mixed governmental-nongovernmen- 2   See, for example, the study by Matthew Bunn and Anthony Wier, Securing the Bomb 2005: The New Global Imperatives. Online. Available at http://bcsia.ksg.harvard.edu/publication.cfm?program=CORE&ctype=media_feature&item_id=398&ln=releases&gma=49. Accessed May 6, 2005. 3   The list of meetings is provided in Appendix E.

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Strengthening U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Recommendations for Action tal body with members from both the United States and Russia, the joint committee believes that the effort in this case is justified. It is the only way in which, in the view of the joint committee, the result envisioned can be achieved: a fundamentally new strategy that would effectively continue and complete existing work in the Russian Federation and develop practical, imaginative steps toward cooperation on nonproliferation initiatives in new countries and regions. To develop new ideas for cooperation or methods to streamline the joint work, the commission might appoint special working groups that would investigate specific issues. This report also offers recommendations on issues that might benefit from the attention of such working groups. It is anticipated that, once the commission has completed the process of designing a strategy for the short-term and long-term future of U.S.-Russian cooperative nonproliferation programs, it would be disbanded. An appropriate tenure would be approximately two years. The partnership that this commission will facilitate is grounded in the fact that Russia and the United States, the leading powers possessing both nuclear weapons and stockpiles of fissile material, bear special responsibility for protecting and preventing them from falling into the hands of international terrorists or states attempting to acquire nuclear weapons clandestinely. The challenges involved in implementing the programs designed to pursue nonproliferation and threat reduction goals are considerable, however. Although President George W. Bush of the United States and President Vladimir Putin of Russia have clearly stated their concerns about the threat and their support for the joint cooperation, they have many other concerns, both domestic and international. Thus, these two individuals cannot always be available to focus on the programs, nor can lower-level leaders in the departments and ministries of either government. The joint committee therefore welcomed the Senior Interagency Group that was established by Presidents Bush and Putin at the Bratislava Summit. Chaired by the Secretary of Energy and the Director of the Russian Atomic Energy Agency, the group will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of U.S.-Russian cooperative efforts on nuclear security.4 Presumably, this means that the group will have the authority to resolve issues that arise in the existing cooperation, with the possibility of raising them to the presidential level as needed. In the joint committee’s view, the Senior Interagency Group is the necessary second tier of the proposed two-tiered approach. It is a wholly governmental entity formed at a high level and focused on ensuring the efficient implementation of cooperative efforts on nonproliferation. The joint committee envisions that the Senior Interagency Group will have effective communication channels to the Joint High-Level Commission as the commission makes its recommendations on strategy. The Senior Interagency Group, along with other governmental entities, will have the responsibility for translating those recommendations into policy. The joint committee recommends that the Senior Interagency Group also be empowered to create working groups to address specific issues that arise in the implementation process. The present study describes several such issues that the joint committee believes would benefit from detailed and careful discussions by working groups. Financing issues are among the key challenges for bilateral nuclear nonproliferation programs. One potential source of additional resources for nonproliferation is the nuclear energy industry in both the United States and Russia. It is in the interest of nuclear energy providers to promote nuclear security and nonproliferation because it will both increase the security of their facilities and bolster public confidence in the safety and security of nuclear power plants. Where it is possible to align economic incentives and national security objectives, the results are self-sustaining efforts of greater durability than programs that rely on political and bureaucratic processes that are less infused with the commercial self-interest of the parties. LEGAL OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES U.S.-Russian nuclear nonproliferation cooperation is built on a framework of government-to-government agreements and national laws. Although much of this framework serves joint efforts well, disagreements over legal issues have in some cases significantly impeded cooperation on nonproliferation efforts. The United States and Russia must together overcome these legal impediments. Doing so would not only facilitate the more rapid implementation of current cooperative nonproliferation programs but would also establish an improved framework for future U.S.-Russian work in this arena. One of the most persistent and challenging impediments to U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation is the disagreement between the two governments about liability protection. The governments of the United States and Russia disagree about the level of liability protection that should be afforded agents and contractors of the U.S. government who are working on projects involving nuclear technology in Russia. The U.S.-Russian impasse over liability protection has had a significant negative effect on cooperation on nonproliferation. Solving this problem should be a very high priority. The joint committee recommends that the governments of the United States and Russia, as a long-term and comprehensive solution to the liability issue, adopt and ratify the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. 4   Joint Statement by President Bush and President Putin on Nuclear Security Cooperation, Bratislava. Online. Available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/02/20050224-8.html. Accessed April 26, 2005,

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Strengthening U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Recommendations for Action Taxation issues also continue to hinder cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation. These problems stem from the fact that the U.S. government is unwilling to have its contributions to bilateral nonproliferation efforts taxed by the Russian government. Exemptions must therefore be provided for contractors and grantees who receive U.S. funding for work performed in Russia. However, there are often problems with providing and implementing these exemptions. The joint committee recommends that the Russian government take steps to reduce or remove these impediments, such as improving the mechanism for the value-added tax exemption, amending the Russian tax code to exempt gratuitous assistance from the excise tax, and addressing and resolving issues of exemption from the payment of regional and local taxes. Access to sensitive facilities has also been a long-standing challenge to cooperation on nonproliferation. The United States seeks access to Russian locations at which U.S.-funded work is taking place to ensure that U.S. assistance is spent on the intended purposes. For the Russian government, however, access requests can raise national security concerns. U.S. requests for access to Russian facilities can most easily be accommodated by Russian nuclear and military agencies if the requests are for access that is as nonintrusive as possible; the purpose of the visit is as narrowly tailored as possible, consistent with the goals of the visit; and the visits include only personnel who have been cleared in advance to participate. The joint committee recommends that the U.S. government require U.S. agencies and contractors to define their requests for access so that they are as clear and as narrowly tailored as possible, link their access requests to the achievement of specific goals, and make use of mechanisms such as preset master lists of visitors whenever possible. They should also coordinate their visits to the maximum extent possible, to minimize the administrative burden for Russian facilities. A lack of reciprocal access has been a particular concern for the Russian Federation. The United States has long emphasized that it is seeking access to Russian facilities only to ensure that its assistance funds are being used for intended purposes and that reciprocal visits to U.S. facilities are therefore not relevant. If, however, the United States and Russia are engaged as partners to address proliferation problems around the world, then they will need to work closely together to develop improved counterproliferation technologies and procedures and exchange best practices. Visits by Russian experts to U.S. sites would facilitate this collaboration, would enable those experts to see how various techniques have been implemented at individual U.S. facilities, and would provide opportunities for joint research. The joint committee recommends that the governments of the United States and Russia collaborate actively to identify the practical steps that would be required to implement President George W. Bush’s recent call for more reciprocal access. PROGRAM ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT What began more than a decade ago as a political commitment by the governments of the United States and the former Soviet Union to cooperate on nuclear nonproliferation has resulted in tangible improvements in nuclear safety and security across the former Soviet Union, particularly Russia. The translation of that early political commitment into successful programmatic cooperation was the task of a complex mix of ministries, departments, agencies, national laboratories, institutes, and contractors. The resulting years of joint cooperation have yielded a wealth of experience for Russian and American experts tasked with bringing projects to successful completion. Use of these experts’ valuable insights and knowledge to strengthen current efforts in the short term and to inform the evolving strategic partnership in the long term is crucial to overcoming impediments to Russian-American cooperation. Many of the current U.S.-Russian nuclear nonproliferation programs have specific strategic plans that drive implementation; however, few of these strategic plans are actually joint U.S. and Russian plans that reflect jointly developed program objectives and priorities. One approach to facilitating greater participation and partnership is the development of programmatic strategic master plans, each based on a systems approach similar to that used by Russia in its development of the Strategic Master Plan for Complex Disposition of Nuclear Submarines.5 The joint committee recommends the development of joint U.S.-Russian program-level strategic master plans under the authority of the implementing agencies or ministries. The inclusion of Russian experts in the strategic planning activities of the programs is critical to their becoming full partners in the entire process of program organization and management, from the initial development to project implementation and evaluation, and to maximizing the long-term sustainability of nonproliferation goals. The importance and high degree of visibility of the U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation to the respective governments and the need to balance nonproliferation objectives with other national security objectives, such as homeland security, often translate into a perceived need by central agencies and ministries to closely control all details of program implementation. Such tight central control, however, has several negative ramifications. These include inefficiencies in implementation because of the additional layers of agency or ministry review and approval of technical decisions; limited creativity in technical problem solving and a growing sense of risk aversion; the need for government program managers to accompany all delegations on travel; and the diversion of agency or ministry resources from core missions, such as strategic program direction and coordination with other stakeholders. 5   A summary of this plan appears in Appendix H of the full report.

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Strengthening U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Recommendations for Action The joint committee recommends that the relevant U.S. and Russian government agencies and implementers work together to establish and maintain a clear division of responsibility between those managing the program (central control) and those implementing the program (local control) while working together to achieve the objectives of U.S.-Russian cooperation. Furthermore, the joint committee recommends that, to the extent possible, federal authorities in both countries give primary problem-solving responsibility for projects to program managers and implementers and reward them for the good results that they produce by being creative and taking responsible risks. By more clearly delineating the responsibilities of the central and local levels of program organization and management, managers and implementers will have more effective guidance and support to mutually reinforce program objectives, which will work toward achieving the overall goals of the partnership. Finally, as the previous report observed, there is a need for improved interactions at all levels, from individual project teams to the international community. At the highest level, within the international community, nuclear proliferation is clearly a widely shared concern. Although its implementation requires improvement, the nuclear nonproliferation regime has had a history of some success. The pivotal role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continues to be critical. Once the United States and Russia have defined a joint strategic vision for the current and the future stages of the cooperation, it would be beneficial to explore the role that IAEA can best play in supporting the achievement of that vision. The role of the G-8 partnership is another key element to be integrated. In each case, a range of potential actions, such as meetings, workshops, and bilateral or multilateral initiatives, can be identified and implemented. SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL COOPERATION There are a number of reasons why the United States and Russia (preceded by the Soviet Union) have found it useful to collaborate on science and technology and why it is important that they continue and expand that cooperation. First, each of the two countries has a significant pool of scientific and technical expertise on which to draw, as well as extensive research and development infrastructures that were established during their years of Cold War rivalry. Second, the personal and institutional relationships that are built in the course of scientific and technical cooperation help to strengthen the overall ties between the two nations and create a firm foundation for cooperative efforts at reducing the proliferation threat. Third, as their relationship matures into a partnership, the collaboration between the United States and Russia on science and technology can contribute substantially to their joint efforts to promote nonproliferation goals around the world. Both Russian and American scientists articulate an interest and willingness to tackle hard technical issues that might genuinely advance the cause of nonproliferation, not only in a bilateral context but also internationally, if they could do so genuinely as scientists seeking innovative new technologies in an atmosphere of partnership with their peers. It is important that future programs be structured to take advantage of this talent pool before it becomes irretrievably lost to nonproliferation efforts. Specifically, this can be done by providing an appropriate degree of flexibility and autonomy regarding technical decisions to the participants from both countries in both the project definition and the project execution phases. The joint committee recommends that agency leaders and project planners actively seek opportunities to incorporate appropriate scientific flexibility for participants from both countries in future projects so that scientific expertise can be used as effectively as possible and so that such projects can be made more attractive to the best scientific talent in each country. From the Russian perspective, there is a growing need for a new formally recognized science and technology relationship. During discussions in Moscow, Russian experts whom the joint committee consulted argued that it would be desirable to sign a new, high-level framework agreement on collaboration in science and technology. The framework agreement could cover issues generic to all areas of collaboration, including intellectual property and liability for damage. The Russian experts noted that a new high-level government-to-government agreement on science and technology would be difficult to pursue, because the process of building consensus for such an agreement, let alone negotiating it, can be very lengthy. They argued, however, that ongoing cooperative efforts could be allowed to continue during the negotiations, as could new efforts that are ripe to proceed. Russian experts also suggested that science and technology collaboration in the field of nuclear nonproliferation might especially benefit from such an agreement, because it is a sensitive subject with certain constraints on both sides. Given this clearly expressed Russian perspective, the joint committee recommends a U.S.-Russian review of currently operative agreements and an assessment of the nature and the scope of any new agreements that might be needed. A number of potential avenues for mutually beneficial cooperation on science and technology exist. Some of them offer not only an opportunity for the two nations to collaborate on science and technology but also a chance for the United States and Russia to use their relationship to further their joint nonproliferation goals beyond the borders of the United States and the former Soviet Union. Two of the most pertinent of these are the development of nuclear energy technology and cooperation against the threat of radiological terrorism. The joint committee therefore recommends the establishment of a joint technical working group on risk assessment and mitigation relating to nuclear energy

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Strengthening U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Recommendations for Action projects in non-nuclear-weapons states under the charter of the Joint High-Level Commission described earlier. The joint committee also recommends the establishment, under the same charter, of a bilateral scientific and technical working group on combating radiological terrorism. CONCLUSION Cooperative efforts are at a turning point. No longer should or can the Russian Federation be solely the recipient of assistance. It is now able, politically and economically, as well as militarily, to take its place as a true partner of the United States in the effort to contain the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world. It is therefore time for the two sides to forge a full partnership in this regard. To accomplish this, a two-pronged program is required. First, the remaining impediments to existing and contemplated programs of cooperation must be removed or, at the least, their effects must be diminished. Second, a long-term approach to the establishment of a true partnership is required to reduce and eliminate the threat of the further proliferation of nuclear devices, the material needed to construct them, and their delivery systems. As the nations with the world’s largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons and fissile material, the United States and Russia have not only an opportunity but also an obligation to strengthen their cooperative nuclear nonproliferation programs and make them as effective as possible.