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Strengthening U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Recommendations for Action
tions of the teams are better managed to ensure that qualified, knowledgeable staff who are available for the long term are assigned to teams, that upcoming staffing changes are communicated early, and that transitions of responsibility are planned to minimize the impact of staffing changes on the team’s effectiveness.
The joint committee recommends that U.S. and Russian program managers and experts enhance communication across and within all levels by employing a broad range of tools available to enhance communication. Enhanced communication is a requirement that underlies a strengthened U.S.-Russian partnership at all levels. Program websites, newsletters, workshops, and working groups and regularly scheduled telephone conferences are examples of means by which communication can be enhanced. The lessons that are learned and the best practices that are identified in connection with the web-based management systems in use by programs such as CRDF, Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (IPP), and ISTC should become the basis for a more standard web-based management and communication process.
Sharing and Protecting Sensitive Information
An essential element of enhanced communication that requires special attention is the ability to share and protect the sensitive information needed for effective planning and implementation. This requires each party to define “sensitive” information to distinguish between classified information and information that is proprietary to a country, and to obtain clear direction from its government that provides limits and guidelines for the sharing and protection of this type of information. This direction enables the participating parties to negotiate information boundaries and related processes that then must be observed.
Currently, with a few exceptions, U.S.-Russian cooperative programs operate formally in the regime of “unclassified, nonsensitive.” This does not imply any lack of discretion among Russian or U.S. participants or any lack of understanding of the intrinsically sensitive nature of much of the work. Rather, it is indicative of a missing and needed framework for the formal sharing of sensitive information between the two countries in areas of mutual benefit. Several areas of U.S. and Russian nuclear information could also usefully be examined to see if they actually continue to serve a tangible security benefit by being kept secret.
Therefore, the joint committee recommends that the governments of the United States and Russia revisit the question of signing a General Security of Information Agreement. Such an agreement does not require that classified information be shared; it merely permits the sharing of information under certain strict conditions, subject to policy direction from the U.S. and Russian governments.
The joint committee also recommends that the governments of the United States and Russia each undertake an examination of the nuclear information currently kept secret to determine if this continues to best serve U.S.-Russian cooperation. One controversial but relevant model is the “openness” initiative under U.S. Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary, which helped build trust with Russia by increasing the amount of information that could be shared by the U.S. side. Given the growing partnership between the United States and Russia in nonproliferation and the war against terrorism, common objectives might better be served by more openness between the two countries in certain areas.