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[casi] U.S. focus on Iraq obscures an immediate danger

The following shows how concerns over Iraq's WMD are exagerated for political
effect, and how U.S. defense policy is distorted as a consequence.  The key

(a) Nonproliferation efforts related to the former Soviet Union's arsenal are
underfunded and snarled in red tape;
(b) The threat represented by this arsenal is more immediate and consequential
than anything known of Iraq; and
(c) Because of U.S. inattention, efforts to secure the FSU arsenal have resorted
to private funding, chiefly from CNN founder Ted Turner.

The most dramatic annecdote comes from a recent raid to secure Belgrade's Vinca
research reactor.

On Aug. 22, a multi-national team removed 106 pounds of bomb-grade uranium
(enough for two nuclear weapons) from Belgrade's insecure Vinca reactor for
transit to a Russian mixdown site. To prevent the cargo from being hijacked,
decoy trucks moved in a convoy while 1,200 police and rooftop snipers sealed the
removal route.

CNN-founder Ted Turner donated $5M for this effort, part of a larger $250M
donation Turner made when U.S. nonproliferation funding languished.  Just last
year, the Administration proposed a $100 million cut in the nuclear
nonproliferation budget (restored by Congress after Sep. 11).  Even now, funding
continues at levels far below that recommended by a bi-partisan panel.

Operations such as those funded by Turner address the security of the FSU
arsenal, and it's vulnerability to black-marketeering, terrorist assault, and
simple theft.  The risks are enormous, as non-state (hence non-deterrable)
actors such as Al-Qaida, Chechen rebels, even Japan's Aum Shinrikyo cult have
all made attempts to obtain nuclear material.

The State Department site says, with diplomatic understatement: "The United
States Government expresses its thanks to the Nuclear Threat Initiative,
co-chaired by Ted Turner and Senator Sam Nunn for the funding provided by its
foundation for an essential part of the project."

Recent cost projections for an Iraq invasion exceed $200B, while
nonproliferation efforts must rattle the cup.  Defense contractors and the oil
industry donít benefit from operations like Vinca, but the public does.  Who
holds the reins in Washington?

Source material follows.

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA


[Good general news source]

[Vinca raid, 106 pounds of highly enriched uranium, decoy trucks, 1,200 troops]
- See the State Department statement and accompanying fact sheet, "Project
Vinca: Highly Enriched Uranium Removed from Belgrade Reactor in a Multinational
Public - Private Project", released August 23, 2002
See NTI's press release (PDF) "NTI Commits $5 Million To Help Secure Nuclear
Material", August 23, 2002
See also CDI's recap at

[Ted Turner's foundation of NTI] - See "Turner, Nunn Unveil 'Nuclear Threat
Initiative'", by Vernon Loeb, Washington Post, Tuesday, January 9, 2001; Page

[Languishing nonproliferation funding] - On proposed nonproliferation budget
cuts, see the Carnegie Endowment summary ("Nonproliferation Programs Face Major
Budget Cuts", March 20, 2001) at
Also see
On current spending rates, see "Nuclear Dangers Beyond Iraq", NYTimes, by
MICHAEL LEVI, September 23, 2002

[Groups seeking fissile material] - Well covered elsewhere, but per Aum group
see "The Demand for Black Market Fissile Material", by Matthew Bunn, STPP
Assistant Director, Harvard University's Managing the Atom Project,
November 06, 2001

[The good guys: Senators Lugar, Domenici, and (former Sen.) Nunn]

[Efforts to secure chemical weapons face similar hurdles],0,5377801.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dcomment%2Deditorials

Plan to destroy Russian weapons nears collapse
By Peter Eisler, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON ó The U.S. government has spent $230 million trying to build a
Russian plant to destroy thousands of tons of deadly chemical munitions from the
old Soviet arsenal. This month, unless Congress acts, the Pentagon will begin
closing down the project without laying a single brick ó or eliminating a single
weapon. ...

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