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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nunn and Lugar Look to Safeguard Weapons

APRichard Lugar, right, and U.S. Senator Pete Domenici discussing safeguards Monday.
Worried about the apocalyptic prospect of international terrorists obtaining nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, U.S. and Russian officials and analysts met Monday to help draft possible new safeguards.

Former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, a U.S. senator from Indiana -- who together launched the decade-old U.S. effort to help contain the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union -- described the threat of "catastrophic terrorism" as possibly the gravest challenge to global security.

"We are in a new arms race," Nunn said at a conference organized by the Nuclear Threat Initiative foundation he co-chairs with CNN founder Ted Turner. "Terrorists and certain states are racing to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and we ought to be racing together to stop them."

The Nunn-Lugar program has helped Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus become nuclear-free nations and provided assistance to Russia in costly efforts to dismantle its nuclear weapons, secure nuclear and chemical stockpiles and find civilian jobs for former weapons scientists.

Lugar noted that much remained undone: Only 40 percent of nuclear storage sites in Russia have received U.S. assistance to upgrade security, and only 20 percent had received complete security systems.

Despite the program's success, Lugar said it faced some opposition in the U.S. Congress because of Russia's failure to provide full information about its activities in the chemical and biological weapons area -- including Moscow's refusal to allow monitors into four biological laboratories run by the Defense Ministry.

"Continued [Russian] transfers of weapon technology to Iran are also disturbing and weaken support for an expanded and improved relationship," Lugar said.

The joint threat reduction program was launched in December 1991 and has been promoted through more than two dozen projects. About $8.5 billion has been earmarked for the program through 2003.

Lugar proposed that the program be extended to further upgrade security at nuclear storage facilities, help reduce the threats from tactical nuclear weapons, dismantle more nuclear-powered submarines and address other issues.

Alexei Arbatov, a deputy chief of the State Duma's defense affairs committee, warned that the international community may face new tough dilemmas such as dealing with national liberation movements linked with terrorists. "If such a movement is spotted to have links with international terrorists, it must be destroyed by combined global efforts," he said.