Libya's disarmament, Khan's exposure and the ongoing war in Iraq -- signature events in Bush's nuclear record -- do not address what intelligence agencies describe as the major source of terrorist risk: "the vulnerability of Russian WMD materials and technology to theft or diversion," as Tenet put it last year.
Half the world's stockpile of plutonium and highly enriched uranium is in Russia. About 600 metric tons are warehoused in some form. Of that quantity, the Department of Energy reported at the end of 2003 that 22 percent is satisfactorily secured with U.S. technical and financial assistance. The department predicted that such "comprehensive" upgrades would cover 26 percent of the stockpile by the end of this year.
Extrapolating from those figures in his first debate with Bush, Kerry said it would take 13 years to secure Russia's bomb ingredients at the current pace.
"The big gorilla in the basement is the material from Russia and Pakistan," said Robert L. Gallucci, dean of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service and a classified consultant to the CIA and Energy Department laboratories. "This is the principal, major national security threat to the United States in the next decade or more. I don't know what's in second place."
Bush has spoken in favor of "cooperative threat reduction programs" funded under 1991 legislation sponsored by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and then-Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.). He has also sought to reduce their budgets. His 2005 budget request would cut the Defense Department's efforts to secure foreign nuclear stockpiles by $41 million, or 9 percent.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
In the Washington Post today:
Posted by Grey Matter at 8:03 AM