Five Next Steps to Increase American Security

This article was co-authored by Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione and Program Officer Haleh Hatami

There's one less threat to America this week, but there are 21,000 others waiting to explode. That's the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Russia. In a new report, experts from both nations warn of the dangers and offer five easy steps towards a solution.

In supporting the 2010 New START Treaty between the U.S. and Russia, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said it was time to shed the Cold War machinery and redirect Pentagon programs to stem 21st century threats. The treaty was a modest step in that direction. This week, a unique group of U.S. and Russian experts has hammered out a series of next steps to keep up the momentum created by the treaty's passage.

The experts, including Amb. Anatoly Antonov, retired Gen. Evgeny Buzhinsky, Amb. Steven Pifer and Dr. David Holloway, are part of a new Sustainable Partnership with Russia Group (or SuPR Group). Their joint paper is circulating this week among top policy makers in Moscow and Washington with a compelling set of proposals for strengthening American and Russian security.

This team of seasoned defense experts urges the two countries to continue working towards reductions in their respective nuclear stockpiles. They warn:

The ratification and entry into force of the New START Treaty is a positive achievement - which helped the United States and Russia to "reset" their relationship - but is only a first step in nuclear disarmament. There is a 50/50 chance that this relationship could relapse into a cold pause and not find the momentum necessary for future cooperation.

The New START Treaty reactivated the weapons inspection regime between the two countries and put them back on the road to reducing the two largest nuclear stockpiles in the world. But since then, momentum has slowed.

The SuPR group detailed specific, feasible steps to resolve tensions over some of the thorniest issues facing both countries and to get the process moving again. Among their key recommendations, the expert teams exhort the US and Russia to:

  • Accelerate the reductions mandated by New START to ensure completion prior to the next Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in 2015.
  • Establish greater transparency with regard to U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, including disclosures of the number of weapons dismantled each year.
  • Make progress on NATO-Russia missile defense cooperation and the Conventional Forces in Europe regime.
  • Take an active role in facilitating the success of the 2012 Conference on the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.
  • Widen participation of Middle Eastern states in international nonproliferation discussions, including the Nuclear Security Summit.

Together, the experts say, these and other recommendations lay a path for reducing the role of outmoded, dangerous and costly nuclear arsenals. Many of these recommendations, particularly on increasing transparency and early implementation of New START, were also identified by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in their recent New York Times op-ed on reducing nuclear arms.

Ploughshares Fund was pleased to support this effort financially and to participate in the deliberations of the group in Moscow and Switzerland. The group plans to convene again in Washington at the end of 2011.

Huffington Post