Operational Effectiveness in a Political Environment

An essential step in overcoming an impediment to cooperation is identifying and understanding the source of that impediment. This is especially true because these programs are sometimes politically controversial. Opponents of such programs may exploit systemic or structural vulnerabilities in the programs to attack them, although the mechanism used to impede the program may have little connection to the reason for the attack. The true sources of impediments must therefore be identified before solutions can be effected.


Cooperation between nations on nuclear security involves acts of governance and diplomacy, which are by nature political. The political context is simply a fact that must be recognized in assessing impediments to progress on controlling nuclear proliferation. Indeed, were such efforts not political, they would have a life independent of the nations involved and would be unresponsive to each nation’s will. At the same time, however, for any program to be effective, it needs to be somewhat robust against political winds and attacks. Attacks that exploit or promote misunderstanding, in particular, are a perversion of truth and make cooperation on vital matters more difficult; in some extreme instances, such cooperation could be rendered impossible. There are sufficient misunderstandings in the ordinary nature of human intercourse without carrying the added burden of political argument and attack whether internal to the nation or external in the international community at large.

Categories of Barriers and Impediments

Recognizing that the sources of particular impediments to cooperation can be many and complex, it is nonetheless useful to group the sources of such barriers into five categories:

  1. Those generated by the sensitive character of security cooperation between sovereign states.

  2. Those generated inadvertently by established law, regulation, or policy.

  3. Those resulting from the lack of established law or regulation.

  4. Those generated by bureaucratic practice.

  5. Those generated by Cold War perceptions and attitudes.

1. Impediments Resulting from the Sensitive Character of Security Cooperation between Sovereign States


There are special problems attendant to international cooperation on matters of national security. The United States and the Russian Federation, as sovereign states, hold the mission of preserving their national security as among their highest priorities. Some information is kept secret or classified to preserve national security, and information about nuclear weapons is among the most highly restricted in any system. In the United States, there are special provisions for nuclear weapons data, including the notion that some information is classified from the moment it is created, or “born classified.”


National security interests also motivate international cooperation on security matters. Successful cooperation in this arena, however, requires that the parties share information that is sensitive or



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