The critical post-Cold War challenge for the United States is to prevent the re-emergence of the nuclear danger that characterized the world throughout the Cold War. The nuclear threat to the United States is today greatly reduced and of a different form. Cooperative efforts to reduce and eliminate nuclear weaponry in the former Soviet Union have contributed significantly to our security.
These developments are neither complete nor irreversible. The Russian arsenal remains the only force capable of threatening United States national survival. Furthermore, the spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction now poses a larger and growing threat to the United States and global security. The former Soviet Union is a potential source of nuclear material for states eager to develop their own nuclear capabilities. The task before the United States is to avoid a return to the large arsenals of the Cold War and to prevent proliferation of such weapons.
The United States is continuing the process of reducing strategic arms and stabilizing their structures as represented by the START II Treaty. Nunn-Lugar assistance helped encourage Ukraine to sign the nuclear proliferation treaty (NPT) and as a result the START I treaty was finally entered into force. In effect, Nunn-Lugar helped to break the START I logjam.
For both Russia and the United States, Nunn-Lugar helps to carry out nuclear arms reduction agreements. Indeed, an important emphasis of the Nunn-Lugar proposal in the coming period will be to assist Russia in meeting the costs of START II dismantlement requirements and to accelerate progress even prior to START II coming into effect.
The START I Treaty and the Lisbon Protocol were a critical beginning to the process, but as Senator Nunn and I recognized in creating the program, the actions required to carry out the pledges and the commitments under these agreements presented a challenge of Herculean proportions for the states of the former Soviet Union, which were then and are still in the midst of domestic political and economic revolutions.
Nunn-Lugar technical assistance makes the nuclear dismantlement process in these countries both more certain and certainly much more rapid. In addition, the Nunn-Lugar program has helped to sustain the commitment of the states of the former USSR to dismantle their weapons of mass destruction as well as put them on a practical path to do so. The Nunn- Lugar program has given us a voice at the table as these nations make decisions about the disposition of their weapons, their military forces, and defense production capabilities.
Above all, the Nunn-Lugar program has focused the attention of the leaders of these states on the nuclear issue as an urgent priority in the midst of all sorts of other priorities, when they might otherwise have been preoccupied exclusively with their political and economic problems, which are severe. The prospect of Nunn-Lugar assistance has eased somewhat the political and economic costs for them in making tough decisions to dismantle the weapons located on their territories. At the same time, our assistance motivates these states to add their own significant resources to the dismantling effort.
I chaired the final Foreign Relations committee hearing on the START II Treaty in the Senate yesterday. The Committee will seek to mark up the treaty after the April recess, and we will look to potential floor action during the middle of the month of May. It is a good treaty, but it is one thing to have reached agreements and understandings; it is another to have them fully implemented.
To reach the START II limits by the year 2000 or 2003 will require enormous effort and cost, particularly on the Russian side. This would be difficult in the best of times, but it is particularly challenging given the political and economic revolution engulfing Russia today.
This political and economic turbulence means that there is inevitably some uncertainty associated with the process of implementation within Russia of the START II Treaty and other agreements regarding the reduction of nuclear weapons. One does not respond to this uncertainty by scrapping the START II Treaty. Rather, support for the Treaty must be accompanied by a number of steps which can help reduce the risk associated with the current turbulent state of affairs in Russia.
First, the United States needs to continue its efforts to assist Russia financially and technically in implementing agreed reductions and to do what we can to speed implementation of these reductions on the Russian side so we can speed implementation on our own. Both sides should expend their efforts to deactivate, disable, and disassemble nuclear delivery systems slated for destruction even though their actual destruction may not come until a later point.
Second, the United States should push ahead with efforts to encourage the Russians to undertake the steps to improve command and control over their nuclear forces and their safety and security of those forces. This should help the risk of unauthorized or accidental launch of nuclear weapons as a result of political turmoil should it spread to the military forces who are custodians of those weapons.
Third, the United States should assist Russia in ensuring that the technical know-how, trained personnel, special nuclear materials, and even nuclear weapons themselves do not move outside its borders and fall into unfriendly hands. We should cooperate with Russia to ensure the security and safe storage and disposition of nuclear warheads and special nuclear materials. We must work for transparency and full accountability of these very important nuclear materials.
We are doing some of these things now, and we need to do more of them. This is the Nunn- Lugar program. Ratification of the START II treaty must be accompanied by a commitment by both the Administration and the Congress to continue such steps and to do so steadily throughout the years. This will require both political courage and stability and financial support at a time of budgetary austerity and electoral politics in this country. Such a program is an essential complement to minimizing the potential risks of instability in Russia associated with the on-going political and economic turmoil. It is an essential component, as well, to the full implementation of the START treaties and attendant efforts to prevent the reemergence of the nuclear dangers that characterized the Cold War.