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Monday, August 16, 2004

Lugar targets Bush/Kerry

Senator Richard G. Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations delivered a speech entitled "Nunn-Lugar in an Election Year" at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on August 11, 2004. The full transcript is available on the Senator's website.

The bipartisan Nunn-Lugar legislation has for many years funded efforts to dismantle and secure WMD and missile assets in Russia. The successes so far have been impressive (this is a partial list):
To date, the weapons systems deactivated or destroyed by the United States under these programs include:

6,312 nuclear warheads;
537 ICBMs;
459 ICBM silos;
11 ICBM mobile missile launchers;
128 bombers;
708 nuclear air-to-surface missiles;
408 submarine missile launchers;
496 submarine launched missiles;
27 nuclear submarines; and
194 nuclear test tunnels.
As Lugar notes in this speech, he has been concerned with this issue for many, many years. In the 1996 presidential campaign, Lugar argued that nuclear terrorism should be the #1 issue of the day and he made nonproliferation the center of his own campaign. The public and media paid scant attention.

Now, of course, people are eager to hear about this problem. Nicholas Kristof just penned a couple of pessimistic op-eds. In both, he claimed that some experts expect a 10 KT bomb to be detonated in DC or NY in the next decade.

One news blog called the first piece a "quick read to unsettle your nerves." If this sounds like fertile material for blogging, you are right. Many voices in the blogosphere have been debating the implications of the proliferation threat.

What should the US do about it?

Lugar, of course, confronts this query -- and wants to start with improvements for Nunn-Lugar.

However, the Indiana Senator first highlighted some unfortunate resistance the program has faced over the years:
Nevertheless, from the beginning, we have encountered resistance to the Nunn-Lugar concept in both the United States and Russia. In our own country, opposition often has been motivated by false perceptions that Nunn-Lugar money is foreign assistance or by beliefs that Defense Department funds should only be spent on troops, weapons, or other warfighting capabilities. We also have encountered latent and persistent Cold War attitudes toward Russia that have led some Nunn-Lugar opponents to be suspicious of almost any cooperation with Moscow.
Frankly, it seems as if Lugar has problems with many of his Republican colleagues (and the Bush White House), since they tend to be the ones who make these charges and establish most of the roadblocks.

What about the Democrats? Well, Lugar certainly has their attention:
During the recent Democratic primary season, we even experienced a bidding war in which candidates competed to offer the most effusive endorsements and the largest funding increases for the Nunn-Lugar program and other non-proliferation efforts. Howard Dean and John Edwards called for a tripling of funds devoted to Nunn-Lugar, while John Kerry called for a “major” increase in funding without specifying an exact amount.
Of course, cash alone isn't enough.

Stop me if you've read this before, but Lugar argues that the success of non-proliferation efforts hinges on diplomacy as well.
At this stage, diplomatic breakthroughs with resistant Russian authorities are almost a prerequisite to putting major funding increases to work. Although the Russian government has opened a remarkable number of facilities to the Nunn-Lugar program, others remain closed. Convincing Russia to accelerate its dismantlement schedules, to conclude umbrella agreements that limit liability for contractors, and to open its remaining closed facilities are the most immediate challenges for Nunn-Lugar. Whoever wins election in November must make the removal of these roadblocks a priority.
Again, this sounds like one of Kerry's talking points.

Lugar closed with a dozen non-proliferation goals, though he was really mixing ends (stopping North Korean and Iranian bombs) and means (diplomacy, transparency, etc.). Still, the US clearly needs to have a multi-faceted policy and anyone serious about WMD proliferaiton will need to ponder the range of problems Lugar mentions.

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