The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2007

36 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U LY- A U G U S T 2 0 0 7 n Nov. 23, 1995, a group of Chechen separatists placed a crude “dirty bomb” con- taining a mixture of radioactive cesium 137 and dynamite in Moscow’s Ismailovsky Park. But instead of detonating the bomb, they informed a national TV station about its location. This incident, occurring in the midst of the first Chechen War, was intended as a warning to President Boris Yeltsin. The message was, “Keep up your campaign in Chechnya and you may face terrible consequences. We can strike at your center.” For the rest of the world, the incident carried a mes- sage, too: “Terrorism with nuclear materials is not just a bad dream. It can happen.” While the Chechens appar- ently thought they could achieve greater political impact with a widely publicized threat than an explosion, they reminded the world that even with little technological sophistication, one can plant fear in a great city. The incident also served as a warning sign of how seri- ous the dangers of nuclear theft, terrorism and prolifera- tion are in Russia and the former Soviet Union. That was especially true in the 1990s, when the collapse of the old Soviet dictatorship led to chaos and disorder in many sec- tors of society, including the military and the nuclear industry. But even today, when that disorder has largely sub- sided, the risks are extremely serious. Russia continues to host a vast array of nuclear materials: weapons, both deployed and dismantled; production complexes; nuclear power plants; waste storage sites; research reactors; and radiological power sources in remote locations. Not all of these can be used to create weapons, but radioactive material itself can contaminate large areas. Speaking about the Russians, Rose Gottemoeller, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, tells the Foreign Service Journal , “They’ve got way too much fis- sile material spread around. Some of these facilities are huge, and they have fissile materials spread everywhere.” (Gottemoeller was deputy under secretary of defense for nuclear nonproliferation at the Department of Energy under President Clinton.) Graham Allison, the director of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a highly regarded expert on terrorism, also sees a vast potential for problems in Russia. Allison wrote recently, “If a nuclear terrorist attack occurs, Russia will be the most likely source of the weapons or material — not because the Russian government would intentionally sell or lose weapons or materials, but simply because Russia’s 12-time-zone expanse contains more nuclear weapons and materials than any other country in the world, much of it vulnerable to theft or sabotage.” But Matthew Bunn, a senior research associate at the F O C U S O N N O N P R O L I F E R A T I O N N UKES IN R USSIA : S ITUATION T ERRIBLE , B UT M UCH I MPROVED T HE C OOPERATIVE T HREAT R EDUCTION PROGRAM HAS HELPED R USSIA AND OTHER STATES SECURE THEIR AT - RISK MATERIALS AND FACILITIES . B Y B OB G ULDIN O