Remarks at the 2013 Munich Security Conference

Thank you, Jane Harman, for your words of praise and your years of outstanding leadership.  It is a great honor to be recognized by this distinguished gathering of leaders who have made unmatched contributions to European and global security over many years.  On behalf of the Nunn-Lugar team, thank you, Wolfgang Ischinger, and members of the Conference, for this tribute. 

Dick Lugar has asked me to convey his regrets that he could not be here and his deep appreciation for this memorable recognition.  

The Nunn-Lugar program was a novel approach in a dangerous world – an approach using the most unusual means, with the most unlikely partners, to reduce the danger from the world’s greatest threats – weapons of mass destruction. 

Many people deserve credit for seeing the danger and helping pass this legislation, including Vice President Biden.   I have thanked them often.  But today I would like to offer a special tribute to the men and women who actually made Nunn-Lugar work.  In particular, we should recognize the patriotic and dedicated public servants in the United States Departments of Defense and Energy and in the Russian Ministry of Defense and ROSATOM.  These Cold War antagonists set aside 45 years of confrontation and worked together at a time of dire economic strain in Russia and the former Soviet Union.  It was a time of great worry that weapons, materials or expertise would be diverted to extremely dangerous hands. 

Scientists, security personnel, shipyard workers and members of the military – many of whom spent their careers building up the weaponry of the Cold War – embraced the duty of bringing down these dangerous inventories safely.  These were men and women who had opportunities to make vast sums of money from their access, their expertise or their knowledge of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, but instead performed their duty to their country and to humanity.   They will never all be named, but the world owes them a great debt. 

This praise also applies to many leaders and heroes in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus who led the way in safely eliminating more nuclear weapons than those contained in the entire nuclear arsenals of China, France, and the United Kingdom combined.

Let me name one example of the heroes we should be thankful for this morning.  Anatoly Matushenko, who recently passed away, was a premier Russian weapons designer who during the Cold War helped build the formidable Soviet weapons arsenals.  He knew firsthand the horrific destructive power of nuclear weapons from his involvement in Soviet nuclear tests.   Anatoly worked quietly for more than a decade with his counterparts in the United States and in Kazakhstan to secure at-risk plutonium – to make sure these materials would cause no harm to humanity. 

There are thousands of heroes like Anatoly in Russia and the former Soviet Union.  Their work reminds us that a sense of duty and a spirit of cooperation are indispensable if we are going to secure the future for our children and grandchildren. 

Today, we must look to the future.  With nine nations possessing nuclear weapons, with nuclear weapons-usable material and knowledge spread across the globe and with terrorists ready to use a nuclear weapon if they manage to buy, steal, or make one, the Cooperative Threat Reduction effort must become a global partnership.  The United States and Russia must be founding partners and must join together with other countries to secure weapons and materials globally and to reduce risks that pose a threat to us all.  We have made huge progress since the Cold War ended, but we have miles to go before we sleep -- as we clearly see in the challenges from North Korea and Iran.

Fifty years ago, Charles de Gaulle’s vision of a Europe “that stretched from the Atlantic to the Urals” was provocative and inspiring.  Today, decades after the end of the Cold War, the most significant obstacle in the way of achieving this goal remains a lack of trust, fueled by historical animosities and uncertainties in the European and global security landscape.

I have been working for many months with Wolfgang Ischinger, Des Browne and Igor Ivanov, as well as a host of distinguished former military and civilian leaders from Russia, Europe and the United States, on what we believe could be a game-changing concept for a new security strategy in the Euro-Atlantic region.

We believe that it is possible to move from the remnants of mutual assured destruction to mutual assured security – reducing risk, reducing costs and building trust in a dynamic and sustainable way.  We look forward to releasing our report on Building Mutual Security in the weeks ahead and discussing this concept with many of you.

Thank you for this tribute.  Dick Lugar and I will continue to do all that we can to earn it.

February 6, 2013

NTI co-chairman Sam Nunn speaks to the Munich Security Conference after a tribute to the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

Sam Nunn
Sam Nunn

Co-Chair, NTI