REMARKS BY FORMER SENATOR SAM NUNN
CO-CHAIRMAN, NUCLEAR THREAT INITIATIVE
NTI-ROYAL NORWEGIAN EMBASSY CONFERENCE, WASHINGTON, DC, APRIL 4, 2003
Thank you, Foreign Minister Petersen, for your welcoming remarks and for your gracious agreement to host this conference. Thank you, Ambassador Vollebaek for your leadership in arranging this conference. The people of Norway are wise. They understand that the best path to permanent peace is generous, energetic engagement in global affairs. Your hosting of this conference is just one more example of this, and we thank you.
I am honored to be here with such a distinguished group of panelists representing the governments of Norway, Russia, France, Canada, and the United States and private institutions such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Harvard University, and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
I also want thank those of you who are here to listen, make comments, and ask questions of these panels, because the issues that we will discuss and consider today are at the center of international security in the 21st century.
Years ago, if you had wanted to read compelling evidence that human beings are inter-connected, you might have read philosophy or theology or scripture. Today, you can just read the newspapers. Last November, a mysterious disease began infecting hundreds of people in Guangdong province in China. As of early this week, there were more than 2,200 confirmed cases with 78 deaths across 16 countries with uncertainty, fear and economic disruption felt across Asia and around the world. If anyone believes that one nation can assure its citizens' security alone, this example demands a sobering change of view.
On the positive side, the WHO has issued a worldwide alert, set up a network of 11 infectious disease laboratories in nine countries, and the labs are holding daily SARS teleconferences to track down the disease, determine its cause and begin work on treatment.
On the down side, local health officials failed to disclose the cases promptly and a slow process of getting samples to labs have delayed efforts at diagnosis.
While the global response is far from perfect, we should pause and ask: How many more cases might there be if the WHO had not put together a worldwide network of disease laboratories? Also, how many fewer case might there be if the outbreak had been reported immediately and there were a better coordinated response to new cases?
These questions go to the heart of our global safety and security. Whether any health outbreak is naturally occurring or deliberate terrorism, early warning, communication, cooperation and rapid response are the keys to our health security. In this interconnected world, the principles of communication and cooperation apply not only to health threats, but also to our common defense against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, particularly in the nuclear realm.
We started our foundation, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, in early 2001 because we believe that:
1. The gravest danger in the world today is the threat from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
2. The likeliest use of these weapons is in terrorist hands.
3. Preventing the spread and use of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons should be the central organizing security principle for the 21st century.
Twelve years ago, the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union created a vulnerable supply of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and materials, as well as know-how. The recent rise of global terrorists created a new demand for these weapons and a new willingness to use them.
The acceleration of scientific discovery and the increased access to new technology combined with this rising supply and demand has put us in a perilous new arms race: terrorists are racing to acquire nuclear, biological and chemical weapons -- we ought to be racing to stop them.
The bottom line for me, and the reason I am spending much of my time on public policy again, is that I believe we are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe.
Our cooperation must improve immediately and dramatically. I do not mean to minimize the importance of the cooperation we've already achieved.
Much has been done with the United States, Russia and other nations working together:
We have assisted Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus destroy the nuclear weapons they inherited from the Soviet Union. That was a huge step that was taken in the early 1990's with strong leadership from the U.S., Russia, and most particularly from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus; and
Over 800 missiles, over 800 launchers and over 100 bombers have been destroyed over 6,000 nuclear warheads have been deactivated.
As Russian Ambassador Ushakov wrote this week, the U.S. and Russia have a unique responsibility as the two largest nuclear powers. And history will not forgive us if we fail to meet the challenge.
Other countries have made important contributions as well, including:
Environmental restoration of destroyed missile launchers;
Securing nuclear weapons materials;
Offering employment opportunities to former Soviet scientists; and
Norway has taken the lead on improving nuclear safety in northern Russia and is beginning to help destroy general purpose submarines.
These are all enormously important accomplishments and are strong steps in the right direction. But we are far from finished. A gazelle running from a cheetah is taking steps in the right direction but the outcome will depend on speed.
In Russia alone:
More than 20,000 nuclear warheads still sit in more than 120 separate nuclear weapons storage sites.
Hundreds of metric tons of bomb-making materials are dispersed through Russia's network of nuclear facilities, which employ nearly one million people.
Nearly two million rounds of nerve agents are housed in a decaying chemical weapons storage facility in Shchuchye. One artillery shell alone is small enough to fit in a briefcase, but powerful enough to kill 50 to 100,000 people.
Unfortunately, the threat extends well beyond Russia and the former Soviet Union. There are over 130 nuclear research reactors and other facilities in 40 countries using highly enriched uranium.
This is the raw material of nuclear terrorism some of it secured by nothing more than an underpaid guard sitting inside a chain-link fence. Terrorists seeking a bomb won't necessarily go where there is the most material; they'll go where the material is most vulnerable.
To stop them, we have to ensure that all nuclear materials are safe, secure, and accounted for in every country and facility that has them. Countries like Kazakhstan that have renounced nuclear weapons for all time provide an example and can provide valuable leadership on these issues. One of the things I hope we can do is pay some real attention, and put in a leadership role, countries that have given up their nuclear weapons.
Success will not come from one nation alone. It will require the cooperation of every nation that has something to safeguard or has something to contribute toward safeguarding it.
For some time, Senator Lugar and I have been preaching the Gospel of the urgent need to create a global partnership against catastrophic terrorismwhether nuclear, chemical or biological.
Last summer in one of the most significant developments in a decade of cooperative threat reduction the G8 launched the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. The G8 nations committed to providing $20 billion over the next ten years with half coming from the United States and half from the other countries to support projects to "prevent terrorists, or those that harbour them, from acquiring or developing nuclear, chemical, radiological and biological weapons; missile, and related materials, equipment and technology."
NTI and the Center for Strategic and International Studies are working on a project with 19 non-governmental security organizations from 15 countries to build the necessary political and public support for this Global Partnership. This effort must extend far beyond the G8, and I am grateful that Norway is leading an effort to expand this partnership.
We are here today to do all we can to turn these pledges and commitments into action. As we begin our discussions, we should keep two simple but profound questions in mind:
If terrorists were to attack one of our countries with weapons of mass destruction and eliminate a great city and its people, what would we wish we had done to prevent it? Why aren't we doing that now?
I look forward to hearing from our panelists.