Twenty years ago last December, US Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar introduced legislation to help Russia dismantle its nuclear arsenal after the end of the Cold War.
The Cooperative Threat Reduction Program has:
• deactivated 7,527 strategic nuclear warheads;
• destroyed 2,331 missiles;
• upgraded security at 24 nuclear weapons storage sites in Russia;
• converted 400 metric tons of highly enriched uranium to the grade used in nuclear power stations, which now supplies 10% of US electricity;
• reduced nuclear arsenals in Russia from 30,000 in 1991 to about 12,000 warheads today. To match the effort in Russia, the United States has: • dismantled more than 13,000 warheads since 1990;
• destroyed 90% of its nonstrategic nuclear weapons, going from 7,600 to 760 warheads.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says, “It took nearly 50 years to build the most dangerous arsenals in history; it has taken less than 20 years to dismantle and store more than 75% of the world’s nuclear weapons. This is a moment for celebration”.
However, these huge achievements have gone largely unnoticed by the world. The Bulletin argues that, on the Russian side, there may be some who “view America’s assistance in dismantling their nuclear weapons as an assault on their country’s sovereignty and an affront to their perceived superpower status”. Similarly, for some in the US, “the thought of helping a vanquished foe – even to disarm it — makes no sense”. For others, building peace is tedious and boring, after the” excitement” of war. “Nevertheless, they are the very steps that will prevent a nuclear holocaust, safeguard weapons materials, and increase global security. It’s time to celebrate the accomplishments of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program; it’s also time to finish the job”.