For more than two decades, the United States and Russia have worked together to secure Soviet stockpiles of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and materials, but now the future of this unprecedented partnership, the Cooperative Threat Reduction agreement, is in jeopardy. After several months of negotiations, Russian officials have publicly stated that they will not renew the current agreement, which forms the legal basis for cooperation between the two countries and is set to expire in July 2013. In early October, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement explained: “Our American partners know that their proposal is at odds with our ideas about the forms and basis for building further cooperation in that area. To this end, we need a more modern legal framework.” And yet, the Russian vision for the future is not clear.
American officials are stressing the national security value of Cooperative Threat Reduction programs and the administration’s sincere desire to continue working with Russia to reduce the vulnerability of weapons of mass destruction and related materials to theft, proliferation, and sabotage. US-Russian weapons security and dismantlement programs were created at the end of the Cold War and have been hailed as successful models of international cooperation for extremely sensitive security issues. Cooperative Threat Reduction collaborations underscore both the transnational nature of the weapons security threat and the ability of even the staunchest of adversaries to put aside other issues to address it. These are critical concepts to sustain.