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Nunn-Lugar Revisited

Documents detail "proliferation in reverse" success story

U.S.-Russian cooperation on threat reduction from the Soviet Union in 1991 to Syria in 2013

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 447

Edited By Tom Blanton and Svetlana Savranskaya with Anna Melyakova

For more information contact:
Tom Blanton 202/994 7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu


Remarks by the President at Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony
President Obama, November 20, 2013

U.S.-Russia uranium deal sends its last shipment
By Will Englund, November 14, 2013

Saving the world at Plutonium Mountain
By David E. Hoffman and Eben Harrell, August 16, 2013


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Senator Sam Nunn details the politics of denuclearization at the Musgrove conference; to his right, Bill Perry and Gloria Duffy, September 2013.

Washington, DC, November 22, 2013 – The final shipment of highly enriched uranium from former Soviet nuclear warheads to the U.S. on November 14, and President Obama's award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Senator Richard Lugar on November 20, have brought new public attention to the underappreciated success story of the Nunn-Lugar initiative — the subject of a new research project by the National Security Archive, which organized the first "critical oral history" gathering this fall of U.S. and Russian veterans of Nunn-Lugar.

The former Soviet Union in the 1990s achieved an unprecedented "proliferation in reverse" with the denuclearization of former republics and the consolidation of nuclear weapons and fissile material inside Russia. Notwithstanding the well-grounded fears of policymakers on both sides of the waning Cold War in 1990-1991, the dissolution of the Soviet Union did not result in a nuclear Yugoslavia spread over eleven time zones. Instead, the "doomsday clock" of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists marched backwards, in its largest leaps ever away from midnight. Key to this extraordinary accomplishment was the U.S.-Russian Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, colloquially known as Nunn-Lugar after its two leading sponsors in the U.S. Senate, Sam Nunn of Georgia and Richard Lugar of Indiana.

Sergei Rogov describes Nunn-Lugar origins; to his left, Gen. Victor Yesin.

Unfortunately, this success did not get major publicity at the time, and remains largely unknown today outside the expert communities in both countries. This lack of appreciation culminated in 2012 with Russia's withdrawal from the program and assertion of independence from foreign aid. Yet below the radar the cooperation continued, for example with the February 2013 U.S.-Russian removal of enriched uranium from the Czech Republic, and the September 2013 agreement to work together to destroy Syrian chemical weapons — clear signals of the continuing relevance of the two-decade-long Nunn-Lugar experiment.

When Senator Lugar received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 20, President Obama remarked: " I'll always be thankful to Dick for taking me — a new, junior senator — under his wing, including travels together to review some of his visionary work, the destruction of Cold War arsenals in the former Soviet Union -- something that doesn't get a lot of public notice, but was absolutely critical to making us safer in the wake of the Cold War. Now, I should say, traveling with Dick you get close to unexploded landmines, mortar shells, test tubes filled with anthrax and the plague. (Laughter.) His legacy, though, is the thousands of missiles and bombers and submarines and warheads that no longer threaten us because of his extraordinary work. And our nation and our world are safer because of this statesman."

One week earlier, on November 14, the Washington Post reported from St. Petersburg, Russia: "Take a canister, fill it with down-blended uranium worth $2.5 million, secure it and 39 others to the deck of a container ship, send it off toward Baltimore, and you've just about completed a deal that provided commercial uses in the United States for the remains of 20,000 dismantled Russian nuclear bombs."

The story, headlined "U.S.-Russia uranium deal sends its last shipment," by Will Englund, reported: "The program provided jobs to nuclear technicians at a time when Russia was in chaos; it sparked the development of a dilution process than enables bombs to become fuel for power plants; and it may have helped to keep poorly secured nuclear materials out of the wrong hands — at least that's what Americans say. Russians strongly deny that the materials were not secured."

"Both sides agree that it was a solid example of the ways in which Americans and Russians can cooperate, if they have a mind to do so. Despite the tensions between Moscow and Washington, Russian uranium today provides 50 percent of the output of American nuclear power plants, or 10 percent of all U.S. electricity."

Rose Gottemoeller makes the Nunn Lugar connection to Syrian chemical weapons.

The negotiation of that uranium deal 20 years ago provided one of the opening topics of discussion at the first "critical oral history" gathering of Nunn-Lugar veterans and scholars at the Musgrove conference center on St. Simons' Island, Georgia, on the weekend of September 26-29, 2013. Strikingly, the conference took place at the exact time the United Nations Security Council was approving the U.S.-Russia brokered deal for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons — which became the focus of the concluding session at Musgrove and many side conversations throughout.

Participants at Musgrove included Senator Sam Nunn and former Secretary of Defense William Perry, together with retired Maj. Gen. William Burns (who negotiated the uranium deal in 1992); Nunn-Lugar implementers and current Obama administration officials Rose Gottemoeller, Laura Holgate and Andy Weber; Nunn-Lugar veterans Gloria Duffy and Harold Smith; former Nunn aide Richard Combs; retired Russian Strategic Forces generals Evgeny Maslin and Victor Yesin; nonproliferation experts William Potter and John Steinbruner; the director of Russia's USA and Canada Institute, Sergei Rogov; and Pulitzer-Prize-winning author David Hoffman. Other experts at the table included the National Security Archive's Nunn-Lugar project director Dr. Svetlana Savranskaya, nuclear documentation project director Dr. William Burr, American University professor Sharon Weiner, and Georgia Tech professor Adam Stulberg (see participant biographies). The Archive's director, Tom Blanton, chaired the conference (see the agenda for key questions addressed).

The Nunn-Lugar conference participants, Musgrove, September 28, 2013: From left to right: Bill Perry, Adam Stulberg, Victor Yesin, Bill Potter, Rose Gottemoeller, Sergei Rogov, Tom Blanton, Svetlana Savranskaya, Richard Combs, Gloria Duffy, John Steinbruner, Evgeny Maslin, Laura Holgate, Sharon Weiner, Patricia Nicholas, Harold Smith, Andy Weber, David Hoffman, Bill Burr, Sam Nunn, Sue Bechtel.

With the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, as well as the Arca and Brenn foundations, the Musgrove conference marks the beginning of a multi-year research project on the Nunn-Lugar experience, seeking to open the still-secret files in Washington, Moscow, and elsewhere, and convene eyewitnesses and experts for a systematic forward-looking review of Nunn-Lugar to draw lessons and models for U.S.-Russian cooperation and future denuclearization efforts. The Archive effort includes a series of interviews of key protagonists who could not attend the first session at Musgrove (such as Senator Lugar), and a series of follow-on gatherings of veterans in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine.

The Archive's method of "critical oral history" brings together eyewitnesses, experts, scholars and documents in mutual interrogation about the recent history and the future lessons of Nunn-Lugar. This methodology, originally developed by professors James Blight and janet Lang (at Harvard, Brown, and now the Balsillie School at the University of Waterloo, Canada) with the Archive's documentary support, has produced remarkable revelations and insights (and multiple award-winning books and films) on topics ranging from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the escalation of the Vietnam War to the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe to current US-Iran relations.

The Nunn-Lugar conference organizers, Svetlana Savranskaya, Tom Blanton, David Hoffman.

To ground the Musgrove discussions in the primary sources, Archive staff prepared a 450-page conference briefing book containing 70 key documents, primarily on the early Nunn-Lugar years from 1991 through 1997, but also including the March 2013 summary of Nunn-Lugar success that is featured on The Lugar Center website. The documents range from telcons of President George H. W. Bush's conversations with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev about safe dismantling of nuclear warheads in 1991, to the memcons of the Bush meetings with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992 on nuclear weapons withdrawal from the former Soviet republics, to the State Department cables about negotiations with Ukraine over the Soviet-era nuclear weapons located there.

Sources of the documents range from Freedom of Information Act requests to the Bush Presidential Library, to donations by veterans such as Ambassador James Goodby and experts such as David Hoffman, to files at the Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow and at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

Today's posting is the first in the Nunn-Lugar series of electronic briefing books in Russian and English that will make widely available the documents from all sides. The transcripts of the "critical oral history" conferences organized by the Archive will provide the foundation for one or more books analyzing the Nunn-Lugar experience, and will guide further research both by the Archive staff and by the conference participants. Maintaining this expert dialogue about the cooperative threat reduction experience will also make a significant contribution to the ongoing challenge of U.S.-Russia engagement.

Conference Agenda

Participant Biographies


1. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation between President Bush and President Gorbachev, September 27, 1991

2. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation between President Bush and President Yeltsin, September 27, 1991

3. Memorandum from Philip Zelikow to Graham Allison, Robert Blackwill, Al Carnesale, Ash Carter, Bill Hogan, "Harvard Discussion with Kravchuk on Nuclear Weapons," September 30, 1991

4. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation between President Bush and President Gorbachev, October 5, 1991

5. Main Content of the Conversation between A.N. Yakovlev and the U.S. Undersecretary of State Reginald Bartholomew, October 8, 1991

6. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation between President Bush and President Yeltsin, October 25, 1991

7. Interagency Intelligence Memorandum. "Soviet Tactical Nuclear Forces and Gorbachev's Nuclear Pledges: Impact, Motivations, and Next Steps (Key Judgments Only)," November 1991

8. Letter from President Yeltsin to President Bush, November 1991

9. Information Memorandum for Brent Scowcroft from Ed. A. Hewett, "Ukrainian Approach to Defense Matters," November 8, 1991

10. Statement by Senator Nunn, "Soviet Defense Conversion and Demilitarization," Congressional Record, November 13, 1991

11. Draft Cable to USNATO for November 27 NAC Session on Ukrainian Independence, November 1991

12. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation between President Bush and President Yeltsin, November 30, 1991

13. National Intelligence Estimate, "The Winter of the Soviet Military: Cohesion or Collapse?" December 1991

14. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation between President Bush and President Yeltsin, December 23, 1991

15. Cable, American Embassy Moscow to Secretary of State, "SSD [Safety, Security, and Dismantlement] Non-Paper," January 24, 1992

16. Memorandum for President Bush from James Baker, "My Meetings in Moscow," Excised copy, January 29, 1992

17. Memorandum of Conversation between President Bush and President Yeltsin, February 1, 1992

18. Cable, American Embassy Alma Ata, "Defining American Interests in Kazakhstan," February 18, 1992

19. "Trip Report: A Visit to the Commonwealth of Independent States by Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Senator John Warner (R-VA), and Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)," March 6-10, 1992

20. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation between President Bush and President Yeltsin, March 19, 1992

21. Cable, Defense Intelligence Agency Washington, "Defense Intelligence Report ODB 27-92, Ukraine – Nuclear Withdrawal Suspension," March 27, 1992

22. Cable, Defense Intelligence Agency Washington, "Dynamics of Change in Eurasia" [Excerpts], May 5, 1992

23. Letter from President Nazarbayev to President Bush, May 19, 1992

24. Letter from James Baker to President Nazarbayev, May 19, 1992

25. Draft Agreement between the Russian Federation and Ukraine on the Development, Serial Production and Operation of Missiles, Missile Launchers, and Space Vehicles; List Of the Most Important Projects on Missile and Missile-Space Technology, circa May 1992

26. Letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to Vitaly Kataev, May 22, 1992

27. Memorandum from James Baker to President Bush, "Your Meetings with Boris Yeltsin," June 11, 1992

28. Memorandum from Brent Scowcroft to President Bush, "Overview for your Upcoming Meetings with Boris Yeltsin, June 16-17," June 13, 1992

29. Memorandum of Conversation between President Bush and President Yeltsin, "First Expanded Meeting with President Boris Yeltsin of Russia on Military and Security Issues," June 16, 1992

30. Memorandum of Conversation between President Bush and President Kravchuk, July 9, 1992

31. Cable, Secretary of State to American Embassy Alma Ata, "Presidential Letter to Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev," August 28, 1992

32. Talking Points for Under Secretary of Defense Frank Wisner for Meetings in Moscow on the Soviet Biological Weapons Program, September 17, 1992

33. Cable, Defense Intelligence Agency Washington, "Dynamics of Change in Eurasia" [Excerpts] October 26, 1992

34. Press Conference, Senator Sam Nunn and Senator Richard Lugar, "Report from their Tour of the Russian Republics," November 25, 1992

35. Privacy Channel Message from President George Bush to President Yeltsin, November-December 1992

36. Cable, White House to Ambassador Popadiuk, "Message to President Kravchuk from President Bush," December 5, 1992

37. Cable, Secretary of State to American Embassy Moscow, "SSD: U.S.-Russia MC and A and Physical Protection Seminar," December 10, 1992

38. List Prepared by the Supreme Soviet: "Issues About the ISTC Raised by the Supreme Soviet," April 1993

39. Excerpt from Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Problems of the Convention on Chemical and Biological Weapons Anatoly Kuntsevich Letter to President Boris Yeltsin, April 1, 1993

40. Department of State, Talking Points for Ambassador Goodby on SNDV Dismantlement, April 19, 1993

41. Office of Under Secretary of Defense, Memorandum from Colonel Richard Roszak, Chairman, SNDV Dismantlement Group, to Ambassador Goodby, "Ukrainian Experts Visit," April 26, 1993

42. "Draft Security Assurance," circa July 1993

43. State Department telegram 247966 to U.S. Embassy Kiev, "July 30 Timbie-Sulzynsky Telcon," August 13, 1993

44. U.S. Embassy Kiev telegram 005481 to State Department, "Goodby-Gottemoeller Telecon, 8/30/93," August 31, 1993

45. U.S. Embassy Kiev telegram 005539 to State Department, "SSD: August 31 Meetings," September 1, 1993

46. Under Secretary of Defense Frank Wisner Letter to Senator Sam Nunn, November 17, 1993

47. Department of State, Talking Points and Non-Paper for Meetings with Ukrainians, circa December 3, 1993

48. "Ukraine Chronology," prepared by Ambassador James Goodby, circa January 1994

49. U.S. Embassy Kiev telegram 4448 to State Department, "SSD: Ukrainians Press for U.S. Detargeting Commitment," February 16, 1994

50. Department of State, Memorandum of Conversation, "SSD : Goodby Meeting with Mikhailov," March 15, 1994

51. Cable, American Embassy Moscow, "Goodby Meeting with Atomic Energy Minister Mikhailov, March 23, 1994," March 24, 1994

52. Memorandum from James E. Taylor, Executive Director for Operations, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Technical Review of the Proposal from the Kurchatov Institution on Nuclear Material Control and Accountability (NUMACS Project)," March 24, 1994

53. Statement of Charles B. Curtis, Under Secretary of Energy U.S. Department of Energy, before the Committee on Armed Services Military Application of Nuclear Energy Panel on the Department of Energy's Plans for Surplus Fissile Material Control and Disposition, April 19, 1994

54. Cable, American Embassy Moscow to Secretary of State, "Official-Informal No 143, Sent 08/23/94," August 23, 1994

55. Report by Vitaly Kataev on the State of Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine, September 16, 1994

56. Department of State, "Nuclear Stockpile Data Exchange with the Russian Federation," Non-paper provided to Russians, October 1994

57. Cable, American Embassy Moscow to Secretary of State, "Overview of Nuclear Material Protection, Control and Accounting in Russia," November 16, 1994

58. Presentation and Q&A on Nunn-Lugar at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington D.C., March 30, 1995

59. Information Note to I.P. Rybkin on the State of U.S.-Russian Relations, April 25, 1995

60. Letter to the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation V.S. Chernomyrdin, May 1995

61. Summary Report on One-On-One Meeting between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin, Moscow, May 10, 1995

62. Memorandum to the Secretary of State from Strobe Talbott, "From Moscow to Halifax, and Beyond – U.S. Policy toward Russia through 1996," May 17, 1995

63. Ambassador James E. Goodby, "Strategy for Transparency and Irreversibility," circa September 1995

64. Department of Defense, CTR Program Office, "CTR Accomplishments During the Clinton Administration," October 31, 1995 [incomplete copy]

65. State Department telegram 11322 to European Political Collective, "Presidential Statement: Removal of Nuclear Warheads from Ukraine and Agreement on CFE Flank Issue," June 1, 1996

66. Statements by Sen. Nunn on "Nunn-Lugar-Domenici" and "National Security and the Information Age," Congressional Record, September 9 & 28, 1996

67. Cable, Secretary of State, "INR Viewpoint: Eurasian Foreign Policy Update," May 23, 1997

68. Cable, Secretary of State, "Syria: Chemical Weapons" [Excerpt], July 7, 1998

69. Conference presentation, "Origins of the Nunn-Lugar Program," Ashton B. Carter, November 10-12, 2005 (with cover note dated November 14, 2005)

70. Chart, "The Nunn-Lugar CTR Scorecard," as of March 31, 2013


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