The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

36 MARCH 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL He said, “You can’t just show up to a meeting with these guys. These guys will kill you.” I said, “No, they won’t kill us. They’ll be surprised, but I have to talk to them, because their superiors have obviously lost control of them. They’re the last ones, and talking to us might make a difference.” So without any instructions, I did it. … We had six hours of meetings with these guys. ... All of the “imperialist” acts of the last 40 years I had to answer for. And then the discussion got on to what they cared about, and that is that they had been sold a bill of goods, that they felt that they would be left destitute, that they had fought hard for all of these reforms that were being enacted and that they should have something to show for it, other than basically dropping their guns and going home. We had put lots of benefits out there to assist the Salvadoran government. You could go back and complete high school, you could go to college … you could get a small parcel of land, you could get vocational training. We had all kinds of stuff in place for both sides, for both the demobilized military and demobilized guerrillas. But they expected a cash payment, and I had to tell them: “You’re not getting a cash payment, but there’s lots of things out there that would be really good.” … We had … about $300 million a year for a country of 5 million people, so we could do a great deal to assist with demobilization and reform. And we walked through all of this, and then this little commander—I remember so distinctly—in the back of the room raised his hand and said: “I always dreamed of having my own auto parts store. You think I could get a visa to go to the United States and buy auto parts for my store?” “Absolutely,” I said. And after that the conversation turned to “Maybe I’ll go back to college,” “Maybe I’ll start my own business,” “Maybe I’ll start that little grocery store that I always wanted.” The whole thing changed. They demobilized, Boutros Ghali came, Vice President [Dan] Quayle came down, [it] was a resounding success. 1994 Securing and Eliminating Kazakhstan’s Nuclear Arsenal When FSO Janet L. Bogue took over as chief of the political, economic, and science section at U.S. Embassy Almaty, the State Department was focused on securing the nuclear assets of the Soviet Union’s successor states. Bogue soon found herself in the middle of Operation Sapphire, a secret project to remove Kazakhstan’s highly enriched uranium. One day … the science minister was skiing with a colleague of mine, and said to him at the end of day, “Do you mind if I tell you a secret?” The fellow said, “Well, no. Go ahead.” [The minister] said: “Well, we have around 500 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, which could be made very easily into warheads. We would like to get rid of it. We would like you to have it. We would like you to box it up and take it away. And we would like this all done quietly so that nobody grabs it in the meantime or starts bidding for it.” The U.S. government at first wanted nothing to do with it. We could not get anyone interested—although that didn’t stop all of them taking credit once it happened. Finally, the U.S. government agreed that we could move this 500 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from Kazakhstan to safe storage in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It was a highly secret project called Operation Sapphire. The reason it was so secret is that once the stuff, the uranium, is bundled up in a safe way, this is the best time for the bad guys to take it because it is safe for them to grab. There had already been cases in the former Soviet Union of someone walking out of a facility with a briefcase full of unprotected things and dying three days later in a hotel room of radiation poisoning. … First the U.S. government said, “It can’t be highly enriched uranium.” So the embassy actually went and took samples of it and sent them back. Sure enough, it was. Finally, reluctantly, the U.S. government … negotiated a deal in which, essentially, we would purchase it. … I said, “... I have to talk to them, because their superiors have obviously lost control of them. They’re the last ones, and talking to us might make a difference.” —Peter Romero It really was one of those moments in your career when you felt like, “I actually did a concrete thing that made the world safer.” —Janet L. Bogue