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Boston Globe
November 16, 2001
A US-Russian alliance against megaterrorism
By Graham Allison and Andrei Kokoshin

Graham Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School. Andrei Kokoshin is director of the Institute for International Security Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a former secretary of the Security Council of Russia.

PRESIDENT BUSH has warned the world that Osama bin Laden is ''seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction.'' To meet this threat, the United States and Russia should take the lead in establishing an Alliance Against Megaterrorism. What should have been a crowning achievement of this week's summit was sadly a missed opportunity.

Presidents Putin and Bush are now actively transforming relations between the United States and Russia. Putin was the first international leader to call Bush after the Sept. 11 assault. Recognizing that US forces would go to alert status, Putin cancelled a Russian military exercise to avoid any possible confusion. As National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice noted: ''If you think back 25 years ago, this would have been a spiral of alerts between two heavily armed, ideologically opposed camps.'' This was, she said, ''the crystallizing moment for the end of the Cold War.''

As participants in building relations between Russia and the United States, we believe the current crisis presents a historic window of opportunity. In earlier discussions, both presidents searched for a ''new strategic concept'' for their post-Cold War relations. While we applaud the announcement of significant reductions in numbers of operational strategic offensive nuclear arms, that numbers game is a holdover from the Cold War, not the stuff of a ''new relationship for the 21st century.''

Post-Cold War relations should begin with shared vital national interests that require cooperation for their fulfillment. The urgency and importance of one such interest was made vivid by Sept. 11: to minimize dangers of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction terrorism. As the inventors and builders of 99 percent of the world's weapons of mass destruction, Russia and the United States have a special responsibility to exercise leadership in this arena.

The surest way to prevent terrorist assaults with weapons of mass destruction is to prevent terrorists from gaining control of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. The readiest source of such weapons and materials are the vast arsenals and stockpiles Russia and America accumulated in the Cold War. America and Russia should act now to assure each other that their own houses are in order: securing and/or neutralizing all nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material to agreed international security standards on the fastest timetable technically feasible. An ambitious program of action to achieve this objective should be jointly funded by the United States, Russia, and other members of the international coalition against terrorism.

The starting points for a high priority program of specific actions to this end have already been stated by the two presidents. In his major foreign policy campaign address at the Ronald Reagan Library, then-presidential candidate George W. Bush called for ''Congress to increase substantially our assistance to dismantle as many of Russia's weapons as possible, as quickly as possible.'' In his September 2000 address to the UN's Millennium Summit, Putin proposed, ''The world must find ways to block the spread of nuclear weapons by excluding use of enriched uranium and plutonium in global atomic energy production.'' At his joint press conference with Putin on Tuesday, Bush offered that, ''Our highest priority is to keep terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.''

What the two presidents failed to announce, however, are concrete actions to achieve this objective. A specific program for minimizing the danger of nuclear weapon terrorism has been developed by the bipartisan Baker-Cutler Task Force Report (www.hr.doe.gov/SEAB/rusrpt.pdf). Initiatives should concentrate weapons and materials in the fewest possible sites, secure them by the most technically advanced means, and neutralize highly enriched uranium by blending it down for subsequent use in civilian nuclear power plants. This program could essentially eliminate the risk that nuclear weapons could be stolen, sold to terrorists, and used to attack America or Russia or others.

Further elements of this new alliance must include a US-Russian led international coalition to cause all other nuclear-weapons states - including Pakistan - to secure their weapons and weapons-usable material within their borders. A complementary international effort to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional states should focus on North Korea, Iran, and Iraq through joint political efforts to reinvent a more robust nonproliferation regime of controls on sale and export of weapons of mass destruction and missile technologies.

No one can doubt bin Laden's aspirations to acquire nuclear weapons, which he has called a ''religious duty.'' As the international noose tightens around Al Qaeda's neck, it will become more desperate and audacious. The time to act to prevent nuclear terrorism is now.

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