Protecting Against the Spread of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons: An Action Agenda for the Global Partnership
January 20, 2003
I welcome the opportunity to make a few remarks at this distinguished gathering. Although I do not presume to speak on behalf of my colleagues in Congress, my office affords me a useful vantage point regarding the general attitude among the members toward the problem posed by weapons of mass destruction. The thoughts and opinions are mine, but I do not believe that they are unrepresentative of those of my colleagues.
I should begin by praising the work of the Global Partnership, especially its preliminary report, which represents an invaluable guide to what we all understand to be an urgent and difficult challenge.
The enormous WMD stockpiles and related expertise inherited from the Soviet Union constitute an open-ended threat that will be difficult to contain even with the full cooperation of the Russian government. Unfortunately, that cooperation has been less than desired. Not only have the Wests efforts to eliminate or safeguard these stockpiles encountered obstacles and delays, but Russia remains an active proliferator, a notable example being the assistance it is currently supplying to Irans nuclear program.
For these and other reasons, the Russian government is often regarded more as a source of frustration in this process than as an asset. But I believe that we might be justified in seeing Russia as a willing, if imperfect, partner. Although its cooperation has been less than ideal in the past, we must understand that Russia is a country grappling with an enormous range of problems. There is considerable evidence that its tremendous economic needs have been a powerful incentive for its disturbing policies regarding Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere.
Given this, I believe that we might considerably improve our chances of securing genuine and substantive cooperation from the Russian government were we to provide it with sufficient economic incentives to carry out its responsibilities in what must become a common effort to deal with this threat.
However, Russia is not the only country whose active participation needs to be assured. There is a reflexive impulse, both in the U.S. and in the international community as a whole, to assume that the United States will take the lead in providing solutions to problems of common concern. This is not surprising. For over half a century, the United States has been the principal guarantor of peace and stability around the world, often with the assistance of our friends and allies, but alone if need be. We could always be counted on to act, such as in Serbia and Iraq, even if our actions did not always receive universal acclaim.
The danger is that, drawing on past experience, an attitude that the threat posed by WMD is someone elses responsibility may once again take hold. The Global Partnership deserves great praise for its understanding that this problem cannot be left to any one country or handful of countries but instead requires a broad alliance of states, great and small.
A very welcome indication that the need for common action is widely understood was the announcement of the "10 + 10 over 10" initiative at the G-8 Summit last June. This initiative has dramatically enhanced the prospects of our being able to deal effectively with Russias enormous WMD inventory. But history is littered with solemn pledges of action that never materialized. We must make certain that declared commitments become realities. The Global Partnership will be of great and continuing importance in that endeavor.
Which brings me back to the subject of how we might best engage Russia. The "10 + 10 over 10" initiative noted that Russias Soviet-era debt to the West could serve as a means of providing Russia with the financial resources and incentives to carry out its responsibilities regarding WMD. The United States views this approach as one of the most promising mechanisms under active consideration. I should note that last year Senator Biden and I worked together to pass a bill providing the President with the statutory authority to use the debt for this purpose.
We are hopeful that our friends and allies can be persuaded to adopt a similar path. The resources which Russia now devotes to repaying a debt incurred by the Soviet Union would be far better employed in addressing what all agree is an enormous and urgent task. Failing this, we would expect that some other form of financing will be quickly put in place that will allow our partners to redeem their commitments undertaken at Kananaskis. Only then can we expect that the Russian government will be able to undertake its responsibilities to ensure that the worlds security, as well as its own, is no longer threatened by this deadly legacy of the Cold War.
Finally, let me make a few comments about the situation in Congress regarding these issues.
In the aftermath of the events of September 11th, I believe the urgency of the problem of WMD is well understood by both the leadership and by the individual members. That is certainly the case with those bearing the responsibility for these issues. As you are aware, this subject has been a very high priority for Senator Lugar for many years, and he and I plan to work together to ensure that these programs remain at the forefront of this Congress agenda.
Obviously, any proposal must compete with many other demands for limited resources, and the restraints on funding imposed by the budget deficit are considerable. But I am confident that Congress understanding of the urgency and importance of the problem is sufficient to ensure that the necessary resources will be provided.
We will be looking to others to carry out their pledged commitments. However, we are familiar with the many failures of the past in this regard. I can only warn that our efforts in Congress will encounter many difficulties if the United States is once again seen as carrying a disproportionate amount of what is undeniably a common burden. I have great sympathy with the budgetary constraints in Europe and elsewhere, but we have our own as well, and this urgent problem cannot wait for ideal circumstances to present themselves.
I will end my remarks there. As we all know, this is a complex subject in need of much additional illumination, which I will now turn to my colleagues to provide.