Long-time readers of this blog must be asking themselves, “seriously, nuclear terrorism again?!?” Yes again, because I find the issue of vital importance. Today, however, I have two new twists to the topic.
First, I am writing this post in a coffee shop in Portland, Oregon. So just a meaningless twist that adds nothing to the discussion, but since I’m on vacation this will be a shorter effort.
The second twist, and to the point of the topic, is that this assessment of the threat of nuclear terrorism was conducted together by a group of retired U.S. and Russian intelligence and military officials. Men who had worked tirelessly in the interests of their own nations during the Cold War, often at odds with their current collaborators, came together to assess the risks that both the U.S. and Russia face from nuclear terrorism.
It is an interesting report and should be read by those concerned about the issue of nuclear terrorism. The cases studies, technical analysis, and conclusions will seem familiar to those immersed in the topic:
Al-Qaeda and North Caucasus terrorist groups have both made statements indicating that they seek nuclear weapons and have attempted to acquire them; these groups are presented together as a case study to assess nuclear terrorism as a present and future threat. (The only other terrorist group known to have systematically sought to get nuclear weapons was the Japanese cult group Aum Shinrikyo.) This study makes the case that it is plausible that a technically sophisticated group could make, deliver, and detonate a crude nuclear bomb if it could obtain sufficient fissile material.
The study recommends measures to tighten security over existing nuclear weapons and the nuclear materials terrorists would need to make a crude nuclear bomb, along with expanded police and intelligence cooperation to interdict nuclear smuggling and stop terrorist nuclear plots. The report also calls for improved protection of nuclear facilities that might be sabotaged, and of radiological materials that might be used in a dirty bomb.
What is particularly striking who the group of people who authored the report:
Matthew Bunn. Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and Co-Principal Investigator of Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Colonel Yuri Morozov (retired Russian Armed Forces). Professor of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences and senior fellow at the U.S.A and Canada Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, chief of department at the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, 1995–2000.
Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. Senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, director of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy, 2005–2008.
Simon Saradzhyan. Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Moscow-based defense and security expert and writer, 1993–2008.
William Tobey. Senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and
International Affairs and director of the U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism, deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation at the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, 2006–2009.
Colonel General Viktor I. Yesin (retired Russian Armed Forces). Senior fellow at the U.S.A and Canada Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and advisor to commander of the Strategic Missile Forces of Russia, chief of staff of the Strategic Missile Forces, 1994–1996.
Major General Pavel S. Zolotarev (retired Russian Armed Forces). Deputy director of the U.S.A and Canada Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and head of the Information and Analysis Center of the Russian Ministry of Defense, 1993–1997, deputy chief of staff of the Defense Council of Russia, 1997–1998.
Adding additional gravitas to the authors’ collected credentials is the larger group of retired U.S. and Russian officials who make up the “U.S.-Russian Elbe Advisory Group” that reviewed and endorsed this report:
Organizer of the Elbe Group:
Brigadier General Kevin Ryan (retired U.S. Army). Executive Director for Research, Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Members of the Elbe Advisory Group:
Mr. Rob Dannenberg (retired CIA). Former Chief of Operations for the Counter Terrorism Center at the CIA.
General Eugene E. Habiger (retired U.S. Air Force). Commander in Chief of the United States Strategic Command from 1996 to 1998.
Lieutenant General Franklin L. (Buster) Hagenbeck (retired U.S. Army). Commanding General of the 10th Mountain Division and Superintendent of the United States Military Academy until his retirement in 2010.
Lieutenant General Mike Maples (retired U.S. Army). Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2005 until his retirement in 2009.
Mr. Rolf Mowatt-Larssen (retired CIA). Former Director of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy and Chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Department at the Counterterrorist Center at the CIA.
General Major Vladimir Dvorkin (retired Russian Armed Forces). Director of the Fourth Central Scientific Research Institute of the Russian Ministry of Defense in 1993-2001.
Colonel Vladimir Goltsov (retired Russian Interior Troops). Former Deputy Head, Department on Physical Protection of Nuclear Sites and Counteracting Nuclear Terrorism of the Russian Interior Troops.
General of the Army Valentin Korabelnikov (retired Russian Armed Forces). Chief of
the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces from 1997 until his retirement in 2009.
General of the Army Anatoliy Kulikov (retired Russian Interior Troops). Commander
of the Joint Group of Federal Forces in Chechnya in 1995, Interior Minister of the Russian Federation from 1995 to 1998, Deputy Prime Minister from 1997 to 1998 and State Duma member in 1999-2007.
General Colonel Anatoliy Safonov. First Deputy Director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in 1994-1997, and temporarily served as FSB Director in the summer of 1995. Currently Ambassador Safonov is Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation on International Co-operation in Combating Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime.
I believe it is fair to say that this group knows the topic of terrorism, understands the technical dimensions involved, and have had access to the best intelligence that both the U.S. and Russia have gathered on the topic.
The report, “The U.S.-Russia Joint Threat Assessment of Nuclear Terrorism,” is a joint project of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and The Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies. The entire report can be downloaded here in English:
Here in Russian: