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May 27, 2002
Volume 80, Number 21
CENEAR 80 21 p. 16
ISSN 0009-2347


U.S.-Russia plan to cut nuclear weapons likely to fall short in time of terrorism

An arms pact expected to be formally signed late last week by President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin will cut both countries' strategic nuclear weapons by two-thirds over the next 10 years.

A chorus of arms control experts applauds the deal but warns that it is unlikely to diminish the threat of nuclear terrorism and may even increase it.

SIGNING & DISARMING Strategic nuclear weapon holdings in the U.S. and Russia are set to decline by two-thirds over the next decade. Whitehouse photo
Under the agreement, Russia and the U.S. will reduce strategic nuclear weapons to around 1,700 to 2,200 each by 2012. However, at Bush's insistence and over Putin's objections, the warheads need not be dismantled; the U.S. intends to put 2,400 into ready storage, available if future needs dictate.

A study by experts at Harvard's Kennedy School and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) says the pact, by not requiring dismantling or at least close monitoring and controls, has missed an opportunity to reduce proliferation of nuclear weapons and material.

"Terrorists are racing to get weapons of mass destruction," notes Sam Nunn, former chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee and cochairman of NTI. Nunn is joined by former defense secretary William J. Perry and Gen. Eugene E. Habiger (Ret.), former commander of U.S. strategic nuclear forces, in urging the two leaders to take a much more aggressive approach, including launching a global coalition to control nuclear weapons and materials.

They also urge Bush to move away from recent U.S. proposals to increase reliance on tactical nuclear weapons.

These weapons are not discussed in the agreement, but the U.S. and Russia combined have some 30,000, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and other groups. The weapons are more easily transported, harder to control, and a greater terrorist threat than strategic weapons.


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Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society

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