SUMMARY OF WORKSHOP DISCUSSIONS
On September 22-23, 2003, the National Academies of the United States and the Russian Academy of Sciences held a workshop at the International Atomic Energy Agency to identify both impediments to U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation and strategies that these partners can use to address or overcome impediments (see Appendix A for the statement of task). The academies convened a group of independent experts and government officials from the Russian Federation and the United States (a list of participants can be found in Appendix B). Prior to the meeting, the workshop chairs circulated background papers (in Russian and English) based on discussions with the workshop participants and other current and former government officials working in this arena. These papers may be found in Appendixes D and E.
In this report, the joint committee has endeavored to capture the ideas and insights on these issues that were expressed during the workshop, consisting of the discussions and the background papers on which discussions were based. The joint committee has organized the information, ideas, concepts, and perspectives in a coherent fashion that is true to the ideas and opinions expressed in the workshop. The report describes the context of and motivations for U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation (Section 1); presents the histories and characteristics of programs that have patterns of success (Section 2); describes existing impediments to cooperation, with analysis of these impediments elicited from the workshop (Section 3); and presents options or strategies for addressing and mitigating impediments in the future (Section 4). Although no relevant topics were intentionally excluded from the discussion, no attempt was made to comprehensively cover all aspects of cooperation between the United States and Russia on nuclear nonproliferation. Meeting participants brought up issues they considered important within the specific context of the discussion, rather than trying to achieve an objective goal of completeness across the range of issues surrounding nuclear nonproliferation. By the same token, this report of the workshop discussions does not constitute an exhaustive survey of the topic.
In the interest of promoting candid discussions, the workshop was held with the understanding that comments would not receive individual attribution in the report. As a record of those discussions, the report includes opinions and recommendations from individuals and groups who attended the workshop.1 The opinions expressed in this report, however, do not necessarily
reflect the views of all workshop participants, the committee, the National Academies, or the Russian Academy of Sciences, or the official positions of the United States or Russian governments. The report does not contain consensus findings or recommendations from the workshop participants as a whole, or from the steering committee.
Despite positive and encouraging progress in U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation over the last decade, workshop participants observed that a variety of problems and impediments have emerged which significantly reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of joint efforts. Participants acknowledged the complex and interrelated character of emerging difficulties and impediments to cooperation, noting that no single remedy will be able to solve these problems. It nevertheless seemed possible and useful to describe the experiences and lessons of cooperation and to identify opportunities, strategies, tools, and resources that may be useful in overcoming impediments to cooperation.
THE INTERNATIONAL NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION REGIME
Containment and reduction of nuclear-weapons capability is crucially important to reduce threats to international security from nuclear conflicts, hostile actions by aggressor states, and nuclear terrorism or blackmail. The United States and Russia possess what are by far the world’s largest nuclear arsenals, and they recognize the need to ensure their own national security and to maintain international stability through their bilateral cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation. Several workshop participants noted that this entails maintaining and strengthening the international nuclear nonproliferation regime as a component of the international collective security system. This regime, which depends heavily on the results of bilateral U.S.-Russian cooperation, comprises a set of legal, organizational, administrative, and technical measures directed to prevent the diversion or undeclared production of nuclear fissionable materials. The Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is a key element of this regime and places restrictions and obligations on all of the parties to the treaty. The threat of nuclear terrorism by non-state actors has become a critical concern as groups such as Aum Shin Rikyo, Al Qaeda, and others attempt to acquire nuclear weapons or weapons-usable material. Against both this threat and the spread of nuclear-weapons capability, participants noted, the United States’ and Russia’s interests coincide.
SCOPE, RESULTS, AND GOOD PRACTICES OF THE U.S.-RUSSIAN COOPERATION ON NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION AND RELATED AREAS
Workshop participants saw it as useful to examine programs that are generally regarded as having succeeded in overcoming impediments to cooperation. Background on these programs is presented in detail within the report but is condensed here for brevity. The key programs discussed are the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR); the Fissile Material Disposition Program’s Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Purchase Agreement (also called Megatons to
the following text can be considered to represent the views of the majority of Russian participants. At the workshop, this also resulted in many instances where there was a consensus among Russian participants.
Megawatts); the dismantlement of strategic ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) under the Strategic Offensive Arms Elimination agreement (SOAE); the Materials Protection, Control, and Accounting (MPC&A) program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy; export control programs; the Joint Verification Experiments; the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC); and the International Nuclear Safety Program (INSP). Some workshop participants held up aspects of these programs as possible models for current and future projects. Some workshop participants argued that the features listed below are program strengths that should be emulated.
The ability of the CTR agreement to expand and adapt in response to evolving circumstances. Supplementary agreements have been used to broaden CTR’s role to include a wide range of bilateral interactions and to address implementation problems and resolve disputes between the two sides.
The HEU Purchase Agreement is possibly the most successful U.S.-Russian effort in this arena, as costs are defrayed through commercial sales, and funds received by Russia are designated to upgrade the safety of the nuclear power plants, “convert nuclear cities,” and conduct research and development on advanced nuclear reactors and fuel cycles.
Dismantlement of decommissioned nuclear submarines is a high priority for Russia for several reasons, and United States assistance in elimination of strategic armaments by dismantling strategic ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) has moved along well.
The Materials Protection, Control, and Accounting (MPC&A) program, which is administered jointly by DOE and the Ministry of Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation (Minatom), has a long list of accomplishments to its credit, including developing MPC&A standards and regulations, building new, secure nuclear material storage facilities in Russia, and upgrading instrumentation, metrological, and methodological support for the control and accounting of nuclear materials.
Bilateral cooperative export control programs are administered by several agencies to address a wide range of dual-use technologies. Under the aegis of the Russian interagency Export Control Commission, Minatom coordinates export control in the nuclear sector by involving representatives of all ministries with responsibilities in this sector to reduce bureaucratic impediments to cooperation.
Scientists from the United States and U.S.S.R. conducted experiments, known as the Joint Verification Experiments,2 in 1988 to assess their technical ability to verify compliance with the Treaty on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests, also known as the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT). In the experiment, the two governments agreed that each would conduct an underground nuclear explosion, at their usual test sites, on a pre-agreed date. This enabled scientists from the two countries to carry out measurements of the explosions at their counterparts’ test site. Impediments to this experiment were overcome because prior negotiations produced an inter-governmental agreement that resolved many issues, and high-level managers who headed both teams of experts were empowered to resolve urgent problems.
The International Science and Technology Center’s (ISTC’s) success was attributed in part to the fact that key issues were formalized at the outset as an international agreement. These included requirements for project proposals, mechanisms for coordination with
Russian governmental bodies, project review procedures, audit issues and access to Russian institutions, exemption from taxes and customs duties, payment mechanisms, and operational support of ISTC projects by its Executive Directorate.
The International Nuclear Safety Program (INSP), which was created to improve the safety of Soviet-built nuclear power reactors after the Chernobyl accident, was remarkable for its transparency and free access to financial and project information. This information was posted on the Internet along with progress reports.
IMPEDIMENTS AND THEIR CAUSES
Participants in the workshop also looked at programs that have not consistently succeeded in overcoming barriers to progress, observing a number of “weak points” and impediments hindering and, at times, even halting some programs. Barriers and impediments to cooperation take many forms, but the impediments identified within the workshop can be understood in terms of six kinds of issues: (1) political issues, (2) legal issues, (3) issues related to scientific and technical cooperation, (4) issues related to program organization and management, (5) issues related to the legacy of the Cold War mentality, and (6) funding issues.
As argued in the American background paper, to be effective a program must have both constancy and consistency despite operating within a sometimes turbulent political environment. Programs can be impeded, often unwittingly, when their timing makes them a political issue in one or both countries. The Russian background paper suggests that bilateral cooperative programs and their impediments be considered in terms of how they affect and reduce international proliferation risk, minimizing the effects of domestic political trends of the day in the United States and Russia.
Several workshop participants, from both countries, pointed to what they considered insufficient political will as a fundamental source of political impediments to cooperation. Decisions made at the highest levels can facilitate bilateral cooperation in general, and expressions of high-level support can enhance interactions at all levels of the governments and between the two societies more generally. However, a lack of political will, or the absence of strong, high-level political support for a program, can manifest itself in many ways. Some participants argued that the inconsistent positions of the governments in both countries have undermined programmatic efforts that build mutual confidence in the area of arms reduction.
Several types of impediments to cooperation related to political issues were discussed during the workshop.
Linkage of U.S. Funding for Cooperative Programs to Actions Outside of the Programs: Because the U.S.-Russian cooperative programs meet vital interests of both countries, linkage of their implementation to any extraneous political condition seemed counterproductive to some participants. But the United States sometimes links bilateral program activities to issues that do not fall directly under the purview of those programs. For example, cooperation on nuclear
energy technology has been hampered by U.S. insistence that Russia cease all work with Iran on the Bushehr reactor project.
Access Issues: U.S. officials need some access to Russian nuclear facilities receiving U.S. funds to monitor how the funds are used and what results are achieved. Yet, as both Russian and American participants suggested, Russian officials and site managers generally have been unwilling to grant open access to the sites, and sometimes impede access to the facilities where U.S.-funded work is taking place. Several Russian participants argued, however, that U.S. officials have at times sought more detailed data and more extensive access than appeared necessary to monitor use of funds. The lack of clarity regarding what information is really needed and what information is truly too sensitive to share has resulted in conflicts that undermine cooperation and delays that impede progress.
Visas: Several participants noted that obtaining entry visas for Russian nationals traveling to the United States has become more difficult as visa policies have tightened under the USA PATRIOT Act.3 A number of participants stated that the current visa system interferes with both the specific and general goals of security collaboration with Russia and that it should be possible to meet the need for enhanced visa screening without imposing undue burdens on beneficial international collaborations, especially those that support national and international security.
Internal Interagency Difficulties: Both American and Russian participants described difficulties in their respective governmental interagency processes. Neither government is organized for maximum efficiency in implementing the cooperative nuclear nonproliferation programs.
Specific legal impediments to U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation were highlighted in the Russian background paper.
Taxation: Several of the cooperative programs have an economic-aid component, wherein the U.S. government provides funds to support activities by ministries, groups, and individuals in Russia. By agreement, “donors” and “recipients” of these cooperative-program funds are tax exempt. The exemptions enhance the effectiveness of the funds, and avoid use of American assistance for activities other than the cooperative programs. The Russian team stated that some areas of collaboration have avoided serious complications, but a number of problems still remain to be addressed: (1) Lack of a clear tax exemption mechanism for participants in the scientific and technical assistance programs; (2) lengthy bureaucratic procedures for granting tax-exempt status because of the lack of capacity to review the numerous applications for small projects outside of large agreements; and (3) lack of a federal law exempting such projects from regional taxes.
Nuclear Liability: The original CTR agreement provided blanket liability protection for contractors, and the United States insists on including this provision in every new or renewed agreement. Russian participants stated that Russia is willing to implement a liability exemption
within the framework of international law, but is unwilling to continue providing blanket protection. Negotiations on this subject have virtually reached a deadlock, and some cooperative programs have not been renewed as a result.
Issues Related to Scientific and Technical Cooperation
International Promotion of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy: Russian participants characterized the lack of U.S.-Russian cooperation on promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy as an impediment to cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation more broadly.
Technical Feasibility of Proposals: Some U.S.-Russian agreements, such as the plutonium production reactor conversion agreement, have explicitly or implicitly required technical work that may not be scientifically feasible, as noted in the Russian background paper.
Issues Related to Program Organization and Management
The bureaucratic structures and processes created to implement cooperative programs can, unwittingly, impede the programs in many ways. If either the goals of a cooperative program or specific programmatic procedures are in tension or conflict with established bureaucratic approaches, progress may be delayed, operations may be halted, or funding may be put at risk. Such barriers and impediments can be seen by partners as evidence of a lack of commitment to cooperative efforts.
Personal Relationships and Managerial Flexibility: Program implementers must maintain a balance between the managerial flexibility made necessary by the different managerial and work cultures that prevail in each country and the structural consistency necessary for institutional stability as they work together to carry out projects. Several workshop participants noted that flexibility is attained in part based on personal contacts between program managers as they gain a better understanding of each other’s problems and develop mutual trust and confidence.
Authority and Responsibility at Laboratories Implementing Programs: Some Russian participants observed that laboratories implementing cooperative programs express a desire to avoid excessive administrative or bureaucratic burdens, but seek support and authority from their ministries or departments when impediments arise, such as issues of access control or taxation.
Travel Authorizations and Other Bureaucratic Obstacles: Some American workshop participants observed that participants in cooperative programs often must obtain permission from several agencies within their own government to allow international travel. Similar to the process for travel authorization, concurrence requirements apply to approval for many other program activities, often resulting in long lead times to process paperwork for even minor actions.
Evaluation and Personnel Issues: American participants noted that at an organizational level, the United States lacks institutionalized mechanisms for evaluating and learning from experience to improve cooperative programs. With respect to personnel issues, turnover in U.S. personnel has resulted in instances where Russian partners have had to work with a different counterpart in the
same program nearly every year. Also, the United States and Russia have sometimes put personnel in positions for which they do not have the needed skills.
Issues Related to the Legacy of the Cold War Mentality
Several workshop participants noted that personal attitudes and relationships can be critically important, and residual Cold War thinking can undermine cooperative efforts. Despite our nations’ non-adversarial relationship today, mistrust and suspicion often cause unnecessary tension during negotiations, delay or eliminate funding, and hinder efforts to establish effective arrangements. Cold War attitudes may also manifest themselves more subtly within cooperative programs, taking the form of explicit or implicit disrespect or mistrust.
The United States provides nearly all of the funding for bilateral U.S.-Russian cooperative programs on nuclear nonproliferation, although Russia has pledged two billion of its own dollars for work in Russia under the G8 Global Partnership over the next 10 years. It often happens that appropriations laws in the United States are not passed by the beginning of the new fiscal year, and “continuing resolutions” allow the U.S. government and the programs it supports to continue to operate as though the previous year’s appropriations continued to apply to the new period. This creates difficulties for programs in both countries. In addition, the Russian background paper argues that the funding of the majority of U.S.-Russian nuclear nonproliferation programs is not sufficiently transparent.
Preferences Given to Large Research Centers: Some Russian participants noted problems with the United States’ preference for funding large research centers, to the neglect of smaller institutes, in the lab-to-lab cooperative programs.
Difficulties with Alternative Funding Mechanisms: Tax problems and the difficulties mentioned above make grants, such as those through the ISTC and Civilian Research and Development Foundation, more attractive for those applying for and receiving funding. But some Russian participants stated that getting approval for funding through these mechanisms is a time-consuming procedure. Further, if dual-purpose goods and technologies subject to export control must be procured, then the project gets caught between incompatible Russian export control laws and ISTC rules. Yet, dual-use projects are natural alternative research subjects for scientists who previously conducted research on weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
An American participant also noted that programs that do not produce readily measured evidence of threat reduction, such as the “brain drain” programs, sometimes face political disadvantages. The U.S. Congress, in this participant’s view, more readily supports programs that provide visible proof of progress, such as weapons destruction programs. Many of these programs’ successes, however, are not quantifiable, so that assessments of visible results may be unreliable as measures of progress.
TOOLS FOR OVERCOMING IMPEDIMENTS TO COOPERATION
Many workshop participants stated that the United States and Russia have found no single solution, no “silver bullet,” to overcome impediments. Workshop participants, therefore, worked to identify tools and strategies for overcoming impediments, which are described in the following subsections.
A workshop participant also offered a list of characteristics that improve a program’s chances for success: specific program goals, to which both sides agree at the outset; an agreed list of specific actions that will signal attainment of program goals; links between funding and the agreed goals and actions; and an agreed plan for transfer of project and funding responsibility from the United States to Russia. It was noted that, while these characteristics are necessary, they are not sufficient to guarantee program success, particularly for programs whose goals and progress are difficult to quantify.
Mechanisms for Interaction at Multiple Levels
Interactions Within the International Community: Based on the threat that nuclear proliferation poses to international security, some workshop participants argued that nuclear nonproliferation efforts are often most effectively addressed in the context of the international community. While acknowledging the difficulties of operating in a multinational environment, they said the benefits of multinational cooperation may be considerable once agreement is reached. In particular, shared responsibility can reduce project risks due to changes in bilateral relations and financial circumstances. The G8 and the NPT frameworks, with their affiliated regimes and agencies, provide many opportunities for strengthening the global nuclear nonproliferation regime through multilateral cooperation.
Government-to-Government Interactions: Many workshop participants pointed out that the support of high-level political leadership is important to the success of joint nuclear nonproliferation programs. Russian participants suggested that a cooperative program has a better chance of success if its major goals, subject scope, organization, and management issues are discussed and established in intergovernmental agreements, which enjoy high legal and political status in the two governments.
Joint Coordinating Committees: Both Russian and American participants noted that joint coordinating committees provide a high-level mechanism for making decisions and addressing problems. Because they meet on a regular basis, they can give an impetus to cooperative programs by imposing regular deadlines upon project managers. A joint committee with a high-level membership is also in a political position to lend support to program managers who need it to meet their short-term goals.
Agency-to-Agency Agreements: Workshop participants noted that agreements between implementing agencies of both countries are also vital to successful cooperation. With the CTR Agreement as the legal umbrella, DOE and Minatom have negotiated and signed their own implementing agreements to address the particular issues and concerns related to their specific programs, which was described as being especially important in overcoming impediments
because the agreements flow from the particular experiences and concerns accumulated in project implementation.
Manager-to-Manager Working Methods: Several workshop participants also suggested that project managers develop methods and procedures during the course of particular project work. It was suggested that a key to the success of manager-to-manager relations across programs has been the maintenance of small, consistent project teams.
Information-Sharing and Coordination: Workshop participants suggested that effective communication has been a challenge for cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation between the United States and Russia, but that some programs have devised mechanisms for encouraging effective communication. According to some Russian participants, INSP is a particular example of this.
Informal Discussion Meetings: Several participants in the meeting from both countries expressed a belief that informal meetings similar to the workshop would be useful in the future. They found it beneficial to have candid interactions with their counterparts outside of the protocols that govern official meetings, and without concern that their comments would later be used against them or their programs.
Exchanges of Personnel as Confidence-Building Measures: To overcome mistrust inherited from the Cold War, some workshop participants argued that one of the priorities of bilateral programs should be the education, training, and promotion of the next generation of specialists and managers. In particular, expanded and more balanced exchanges between the students of military and civil universities and colleges, groups of officers and scientists could contribute to the effectiveness of interactions and cooperation in solving nuclear nonproliferation issues.
International Development of Proliferation-Resistant Nuclear Energy Technologies
Most of the Russian participants emphasized heavily the potential role of cooperation on commercial nuclear energy in the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. In their view, attempting to restrict the access of non-nuclear weapon states to nuclear energy technology has achieved limited success. They suggested that, as an alternative, the United States and Russia should cooperate with the international community to embrace a more positive approach that facilitates the adoption of commercial nuclear energy in ways that strengthen rather than weaken the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. It was suggested that U.S.-Russian collaborative measures in peaceful uses of nuclear energy might simultaneously help overcome obstacles to bilateral cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation and bolster the international nuclear nonproliferation regime.
Changes in National Law, Policy, or Procedures
Pursuit of new laws can be difficult and time consuming, and so has not often been used to speed or ease implementation of the nuclear nonproliferation programs. In the U.S. case, legislative activity has been focused on providing authorization and appropriations for the programs. Some laws not specifically directed at the nuclear nonproliferation programs have had an enormous
impact on the programs, as in the case of changes in visa regulations that have flowed from the USA PATRIOT Act, mentioned previously. Implementing procedures, such as those for review of entry visas, or regulations can also be changed without changes in law.
The need for mechanisms to establish priorities within cooperative nuclear nonproliferation programs was expressed repeatedly during the workshop. It was argued that failures to establish agreed program priorities when programs were just beginning have increased the difficulty of completing the projects and resulted in misplaced efforts.
Participants noted that some have called for the appointment, in each government, of a single official who has direct links to the president and is responsible for facilitating interagency coordination of all cooperative nuclear nonproliferation activities.
Mechanisms for Disseminating the Benefits of Experience
Workshop participants suggested that a multi-program effort such as MPC&A will be most effective when the people involved in specific programs are aware of the situation in other programs and how their work relates to the overall effort. It was suggested that it is important to actively encourage and guide the development of institutional knowledge to increase the effectiveness of personnel and institutions. Similarly, there may be substantial benefit in establishing a unified program evaluation system that is transparent to program participants.
Other Tools or Fixes
Exemptions and Waivers: Some workshop participants argued that exemption and waiver systems could help address the types of bureaucratic roadblocks that are inevitable in a collaboration such as this one. The use of tools such as exemptions and waivers provides the opportunity to solve immediate problems without having to wait until their more fundamental causes have been addressed.
“Ad Hoc” Arrangements: Ad hoc arrangements in the early programs arose out of the necessity of getting work done despite the lack of agreements. As is argued in the American background paper, ad hoc arrangements have been useful to the programs historically, but have receded as the programs develop a system of agreements and procedures to underpin implementation; nevertheless, it was suggested that they must not be abandoned all together. At times, intervention from an individual willing to take responsibility might be necessary to accomplish an urgent project goal.