November 08, 2010

NUNN-LUGAR GOES GLOBAL

Lugar Details New Strategy for Most Successful Arms Control Initiative

In a major policy speech today in Madrid, Spain, United States Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-IN), the former Chairman and now Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, detailed how the most successful arms control initiative in history is expanding globally to confront risks posed by biological weapons.

“The global spread of advanced technologies, the rise of asymmetric warfare, and the growing interdependence of societies and economies have made discerning the intentions of potential adversaries more important than ever before,” Lugar said. “The footprint of weapons-producing laboratories and the size of today’s strategic weapons grow smaller every day.  A delivery system may be as mundane as a commercial cargo carrier.  In the case of infectious pathogens, the delivery system could be an individual human being.”

To read Senator Lugar’s entire speech go to http://lugar.senate.gov/news/record.cfm?id=328481&&. For updates on Lugar's Africa Mission search Twitter updates with #NunnLugar or follow him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/senatorlugar.  More Africa Mission information is available at http://lugar.senate.gov/nunnlugar/africa/

Lugar gave the keynote address to the first International Conference on Science and International Security: Addressing the Challenges of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Proliferation and Terrorism at the Madrid Polytechnic University.

The annual conference is organized by the Institute of Nuclear Fusion at the Polytechnic University of Madrid and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory of California. The forum will bring together leading thinkers, policymakers, and scientists to explore weapons control, science and security.

The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program was established by Lugar and former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) in late 1991 as the Soviet Union collapsed. Nunn-Lugar successfully removed all nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and has destroyed almost eight thousand nuclear warheads, three thousand missiles and launchers, and millions of tons of chemical and biological weapons during the past 19 years.

“Discovering potential WMD threats is far more challenging now than when the Nunn-Lugar program began,” Lugar said to more than three hundred international scientists and arms control experts in Spain. “Having the capacity to evaluate and respond to threats will depend on the lines of communication we have established around the world. If the United States and its allies engage only where we know weapons are being produced, we will fail to detect and prevent numerous threats.”

American Nunn-Lugar experts discovered that biological weapons developed by Soviet scientists mostly came from Africa. The fatal and contagious Ebola, Marburg and Anthrax diseases are common in Africa, and Soviet scientists worked to make them into weapons that could kill tens of thousands of troops and civilians.

Nunn-Lugar, with the assistance of the Russian government, shut down these programs, but the laboratories in Africa where the diseases are studied are mostly un-secure. They are located in a volatile region of the world where terrorism and civil upheaval are prevalent.

Following his Madrid speech, Lugar travels to Uganda, Burundi and Kenya with a team of Pentagon experts to inspect a number of disease laboratories and weapons sites. They plan to forge cooperative security and research agreements with the governments in those countries.

Lugar in his Madrid speech called for more international scientific cooperation to counter the spread of new forms of weapons of mass destruction. He said:

“The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the diffusion of scientific knowledge are inextricably linked. Agents used in chemical weapons became part of chemotherapy.  Rockets designed to carry nuclear warheads also deliver modern communications satellites into orbit.  And advancements in life-science technologies and biochemical engineering can enable the development of biological weapons.  Communications technology ensures that scientific achievements will travel the globe swiftly.  Today, any scientist here could post his or her research online, and within moments it is available to those seeking to use that knowledge for either constructive or destructive purposes…

“When the Soviet Union dissolved, the potential proliferation of weapons, materials, and knowledge from Russia and other former Soviet republics represented a new and dangerous threat.  This proliferation threat resided not strictly in the military, but also in the scientific establishment.  Indeed, the Soviets had built upon the scientific traditions that originated in 19th century Russia, particularly in areas of virology and pathology, to construct the deadliest state-run biological weapons program in history.  In addition to the vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons, weapons-usable fissile materials, and an equally-daunting stockpile of chemical weapons, the possibility that this knowledge could proliferate posed an immediate danger of catastrophic proportions.

“One of the founding principles of the Nunn-Lugar program was that scientific engagement would create a powerful disincentive to proliferate this knowledge.  More broadly, the engagement achieved through the Nunn-Lugar Program has been a bulwark against detrimental shifts in the bilateral U.S.-Russian relationship. 

“Many of the scientists who have cooperated with American counterparts through the Nunn-Lugar program and other programs, such as the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow, have become colleagues and friends.  Their strategic competition has been replaced by scientific cooperation.  If continually resourced and appropriately guided, we can build on this existing success and globalize this concept.  As experience taught during the breakup of the Soviet Union, we will not be able to completely eradicate the threat of weapons of mass destruction.  Rather, global engagement with a dedicated scientific community is essential to minimizing the threat, while maximizing constructive scientific advancements…

“As we look to the future of the Nunn-Lugar program, biological threat reduction is an area that is rapidly increasing in importance.  The work of securing dangerous pathogens, building central reference laboratories, and establishing disease surveillance and monitoring is critically needed in many parts of the world.  Nunn-Lugar biological engagement directly serves vital U.S. interests, including safeguarding the welfare of our troops overseas, preventing terrorist use of deadly pathogens, and detecting emerging infectious diseases and pandemics before they threaten the American people… 

“U.S. Government resources applied in the Sub-Saharan region have been focused heavily on human health issues, with multiple government agencies implementing programs designed to target reductions in the indices of preventable human diseases—primarily the HIV/AIDS pandemic, malaria, TB, and avian and  pandemic influenza.  However, this human health focus has not addressed the threat of intentional use of pathogens.  African nations do not have the surveillance, detection, diagnosis, and reporting capacities to deal with the potential for global bioterrorism.  Research laboratories in the Sub-Saharan region lack elementary security systems, and pathogen collections are often poorly inventoried, meaning thefts would be almost impossible to detect or quantify.

“The most serious threats in East Africa to the United States and America’s allies are al-Qaeda linked cells in the region and increasing levels of radicalization among sectors of the Muslim population.  Africa is home to a number of terrorist groups, including those seeking weapons of mass destruction.  Recent terrorist attacks in East Africa combined with terrorist activity in the Sahel and Maghreb have brought this threat into sharper focus…”

To learn more about Nunn-Lugar visit http://lugar.senate.gov/nunnlugar/history/. 

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Press Contact

Mark Helmke • 202-224-5918 • mark_helmke@lugar.senate.gov