There are many challenges associated with ensuring the adequacy of material protection, control, and accountability (MPC&A) systems in Russia over the long term. First, the installation of upgraded MPC&A systems that meet international standards at all Russian facilities where direct-use material is located will take large expenditures over a period of a decade or longer. After such systems are installed, substantial annual expenditures for the indefinite future also will be needed to operate them properly. Until such time as the Russian economy recovers, the capacity of the Russian government to pay these expenses will be limited.
Second, there is a need to develop a pool of skilled Russian manpower capable of assuming responsibility for modern MPC&A systems. Although progress has been made, the number of qualified specialists needs to be increased significantly. In addition, the personnel responsible for operating the systems must be committed to avoiding shortcuts or exceptions to prescribed procedures; and they should not hesitate to report to central authorities any irregularities during operation of the systems. Such commitments will depend on professional pride, on the likelihood of severe personal penalties for violations of security requirements, and on an awareness of the importance of their responsibilities both for Russia and for the world.
Third, Russia needs a strengthened industrial and physical infrastructure at the national and local levels for supporting MPC&A systems. This includes indigenous capabilities to produce and service equipment used in the systems, uninterrupted power and communication services, and reliable rail and road networks for transporting material. The degraded condition of the infrastructure is linked directly to economic problems, and it will be difficult to improve it rapidly. Indeed, during the inevitable delay in the revitalization of industrial, transportation, and communication capabilities, special measures will be needed to ensure that the MPC&A systems remain effective.
Fourth, there is a need for a strengthened regulatory framework for ensuring security measures. Although many of the necessary laws and regulations are in place and others are under development, effective enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance have not yet been established. The concept of an independent regulatory agency (GOSATOMNADZOR) has been stressed repeatedly by Russian officials, but this agency has been plagued by a lack of resources, an unclear mandate, and historical dependence on MINATOM to carry out its responsibilities.
Fifth, there is uncertainty as to the future political leadership of Russia and its commitment to nonproliferation goals. A new government consumed with economic problems could consider MPC&A activities a diversion from the development of programs that promise economic advance. The U.S. government, in cooperation with other governments and international organizations concerned with the possibility of nuclear proliferation, should take steps at the highest political levels to ensure a continuing Russian commitment to nuclear nonproliferation.
Sixth, there is the reality that cooperation could be set back by U.S.-Russian disagreements over nuclear policies, such as the appropriateness of Russian nuclear exports to Iran and other countries of concern. Skill, patience, and perspective will be required to ensure that such disputes do not jeopardize the achievement of enhanced security for both sides.
Finally, there is the challenge on the U.S. side of maintaining the momentum of the program over a possibly extended period. No doubt there will be continuing concerns over the levels of budgetary support for the program, wavering attention by high-level U.S. government officials, waning interest of leading U.S. specialists in traveling to Russia, and consternation with Russian leniency in nuclear export policies. Political disagreements, such as conflicting views on developments in Kosovo, also could disrupt cooperative efforts.
Notwithstanding these formidable challenges, the program of MPC&A cooperation presents an unusual and valuable opportunity to promote the interests of both countries. Vast resources were spent by each side in developing nuclear arsenals, and the amounts being spent in moving away from the nuclear abyss are slight in comparison. Indeed, the expenditure of funds to help ensure the security of nuclear material in Russia is an extraordinarily cost-effective investment in strengthening the national defense of the United States. Seen in this light, the United States should press forward with increased vigor and determination. As noted in the closing of the 1997 report: Seize the opportunity!