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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

05 March 2003

"Moscow Treaty is Full of Holes," by Senator John Kerry

(The Boston Globe 03/5/03 op-ed) (790)
(This column by Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), was published in The
Boston Globe March 5. The column is in the public domain. No
republication restrictions.)
(begin byliner)
Moscow Treaty is Full of Holes
By John F. Kerry
President Bush claims that his Moscow Treaty "will liquidate the
legacy of the Cold War" by eliminating thousands of nuclear arms left
over from a bygone era when the United States and Russia faced each
other across the nuclear divide. In reality, it does no such thing.
The treaty does not reduce the actual number of nuclear forces -- it
leaves these weapons and their lethal materials stockpiled across
Russia in constant danger of falling to terrorists or rogue nations
intent on doing great harm to the United States. Bush is correct that
our relationship with Russia should not be driven by Cold War
anxieties. But this hollow treaty misses an opportunity to address
proliferation and lost or loose nuclear weapons.
Despite its stated goal of reducing the number of US and Russian
deployed strategic nuclear warheads, the Moscow Treaty is missing the
essential components of a strong, enforceable, and meaningful
agreement. It does not require the destruction of missile launchers or
the dismantlement of nuclear warheads. It does not address the
tactical nuclear weapons so sought after by terrorists. It does not
contain verification provisions.
The treaty's most dangerous weakness is the rejection of Ronald
Reagan's doctrine of "trust but verify." The administration contends
that verifying compliance with the treaty is unnecessary given the new
strategic relationship with Russia. That view is shortsighted.
Verification is a requirement to ensure American security, even in
nonadversarial relationships.
The central problem with the treaty is that it could increase the
opportunities for nuclear theft and terrorism by expanding Russian
stockpiles of nuclear materials.
It is no secret that there are those who are eager to capitalize on a
deadly market for nuclear materials held in unsecured facilities
around the world. The General Accounting Office has documented
numerous failed attempts to smuggle nuclear materials out of Russia.
Out of 20 of these incidents over the last decade, the materials
involved in 13, and possibly 15, were traced back to Russian sources.
The potential consequences are undeniable. In October 2001, we picked
up warnings that terrorists had acquired a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb. If
detonated in New York City, hundreds of thousands of Americans would
have died, and most of Manhattan would have been destroyed.
If the war on terrorism is to be fought on all fronts, we should seek
verifiable reductions in Russia's nuclear arsenal and ensure the
dismantlement and destruction of its nuclear weapons and the secure
storage of nuclear materials.
It is troubling that this administration's approach to the menace of
loose nuclear materials is long on rhetoric but short on execution. It
relies unwisely on the threat of military preemption against terrorist
organizations, which can be defeated if they are found but will not be
deterred by our military might.
We can make our world more secure. We must create mechanisms to help
those who would be responsible stewards but lack the financial and
technical means to succeed. We must establish worldwide standards for
the security and safekeeping of nuclear material and define a new
standard of international legitimacy, linking the stewardship of
nuclear materials under universally accepted protocols to acceptance
in the community of nations. We must revitalize the Cooperative Threat
Reduction program by giving it the sustained leadership, attention,
and funding it deserves. Over the last decade, the United States has
spent about $7.5 billion to deactivate 6,000 warheads and destroy
thousands of delivery vehicles. We must make good on our pledge of $10
billion over 10 years to the Group of Eight threat reduction
partnership and encourage the good faith participation of our allies.
But we can't stop there. A new diplomatic effort should be undertaken
to fill the holes in the Moscow Treaty. The United States and Russia
should agree upon transparency measures, data exchanges, on-site
inspections, and eventually eliminating excess strategic nuclear
warheads and their delivery systems. We must also work with Moscow on
new arms control measures designed to eliminate each nation's smaller,
more portable, tactical nuclear weapons, thousands of which remain in
The legacy of the Cold War is nuclear weapons. Today's danger is that
these weapons will wind up in the hands of terrorists or rogue
nations. To "liquidate" this Cold War legacy in actions, not just
words, will take more than cosmetic treaties that leave Russia's
nuclear arsenal in place.
(John F. Kerry is a US Senator from Massachusetts.)
(end byliner)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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