Nuclear Risk Reduction Should Be on the Agenda for Trump-Tillerson-Lavrov Meetings

As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives in Washington to meet with President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, tensions between the world’s two largest nuclear powers remain high, thousands of nuclear weapons remain on hair trigger-alert, and the risk of nuclear miscalculation or accident continues to represent a real and present danger that must be addressed.

Though the crises in Ukraine and Syria demand attention and action, so do several areas of existential common interest – including prevention of nuclear miscalculation and catastrophic nuclear and radiological terrorism. NTI has recently published several reports, policy papers, and blog posts that provide recommendations on how to address these common challenges.

Here is a snapshot of NTI’s latest recommendations and resources on U.S.-Russian relations:

Rising Nuclear Dangers: Steps to Reduce Risks in the Euro-Atlantic Region. This paper advances nine specific recommendations on measures to avoid accidents, enhance military predictability, and build confidence.

These measures include: an agreement to require all military aircraft to fly with transponders turned on; restoration of NATO-Russia military-to-military communication; transparency measures related to deployment of nuclear-capable ballistic missile systems and missile defense systems in Europe; 

reduction of notification thresholds for all military exercises; and a joint reaffirmation at the highest political levels that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."

Pathways to Cooperation: A Menu of Potential U.S.-Russian Cooperative Projects in the Nuclear Sphere. This report advances 51 potential projects for mutually-beneficial cooperation between the United States and Russia on a range of thematic areas, including nuclear security, nuclear safety, nuclear science, nuclear energy, and nuclear environmental remediation.

Among the recommendations are a new U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent WMD Terrorism; development of proliferation-resistant nuclear fuels; improvements in safety and reliability of nuclear reactors; 

and best practice exchanges regarding nuclear environmental remediation (all the more important given the recent nuclear emergency at Hanford). 

Not One-Sided: The Many Benefits of the New START Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty. This blog post outlines the considerable value of the New START Agreement in ensuring predictability, stability, and transparency between the United States and Russia – and calls on the Administration to consider extension of the New START agreement as its limitations expire in February 2021.

As Secretary Tillerson and Foreign Minister Lavrov consider the future of the U.S.-Russian relationship, they should make sure that addressing weapons of mass destruction and disruption remains a front-burner issue on the bilateral agenda. Towards this end, they should consider the recommendations listed above and establish a dedicated dialogue on nuclear risk reduction, empowering relevant agencies to work on developing a strategy for threat reduction on areas of existential common interest, including prevention of nuclear miscalculation and prevention of catastrophic nuclear and radiological terrorism.

It is only through dialogue and action that we can achieve meaningful risk reduction on these existential challenges.

May 9, 2017
Leon Ratz
Leon Ratz

Program Officer, Materials Risk Management


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