US-Russia Nuclear Security Cooperation:

The Transparency That Never Happened


Excerpt from The Next Wave: Urgently Needed Steps to Control Warheads and Fissile Material, Mathew Bunn, April 2000.

High level US-Russian transparency commitments that have never been fulfilled, and initiatives that have never been implemented, include:


January 1994 Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agree on the objective of ensuring “transparency and irreversibility” of nuclear reductions and establish working group to work out specific measures. None of these measures have ever been implemented.
March 1994 U.S. Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary and Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Mikhailov agree to mutual reciprocal inspection (MRI) of fissile materials from dismantled weapons beginning by the end of 1994. The inspections have never been implemented.
September 1994 Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agree to exchange data on warhead and fissile material stockpiles by the end of the year. The exchanges have never occurred.
May 1995 Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin reaffirm their commitment to transparency and irreversibility, to mutual inspections of material from dismantled warheads, and to warhead and material data exchanges, and agree to have experts explore several other transparency possibilities. None of these measures have ever been implemented, and the Russian side cut off talks in late 1995, never to resume them during the remainder of Yeltsin’s tenure in office.
September 1996 Secretary O’Leary and Minister Mikhailov announce a “Trilateral Initiative” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to put excess fissile material under IAEA monitoring. (President Clinton had committed to place U.S. excess material under IAEA monitoring as early as 1993, and President Yeltsin had said in April, 1996 that he would place the Mayak storage facility being built for Russian excess nuclear material under IAEA monitoring.) While discussions continue, more than three years later no monitoring under the Trilateral Initiative has been implemented.
March 1997 At their Helsinki summit, President Clinton and President Yeltsin agree that a START III agreement should include “measures relating to the transparency of strategic warhead inventories and the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads,” and that transparency measures related to sea-launched cruise missiles, tactical nuclear weapons, and nuclear materials will also be explored. Three years later, as a result of the Russian Duma’s failure to ratify START II and the U.S. refusal to begin START III negotiations until START II is ratified, no negotiations have begun, and it is expected that these issues will probably be dropped from START III in the interests of getting at least an initial framework agreement before President Clinton leaves office.