WMDs and the G8

The G8 must continue its program to secure WMDs.

Eight years ago, the leaders of these eight influential countries announced that they would fund a worldwide campaign to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as well as to prevent terrorists and their state sponsors from acquiring them. At their summit this weekend, the G8 should renew and extend this Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, though with certain corrective measures to address deficiencies that have become apparent during its first decade.

In 2002, the G8 governments pledged to provide a total of $20 billion over the coming decade to support the Global Partnership and invited non-member governments to join as partners. The United States offered $10 billion to the Partnership over a 10-year period. The other G8 members, including Russia through in-kind contributions, promised a comparable sum ("10+10 over 10"). Fifteen additional partners have since joined this valuable multinational institution. Most of this money funded projects in Russia, though in recent years the Partnership has also bankrolled nonproliferation projects in Ukraine. This funding stream will soon end.

The Global Partnership should be extended beyond 2012. Even if all existing initiatives involving Russia and Ukraine were fully funded, and new projects begun soon for other countries, WMD threats—both old ones inherited from the Cold War and new ones resulting from the proliferation of WMD-related dual-use technologies—will invariably persist beyond 2012. Recent years have seen several nuclear-smuggling incidents and revelations regarding the extensive scope of past illicit WMD proliferation activities, underscoring the persistent risk of WMD-related proliferation and terrorism. WMD-related security appears to have improved in Russia and Ukraine, but many other countries have less secure nuclear materials—or might soon acquire them. For example, Pakistan’s extensive nuclear complex may have materials vulnerable to terrorist seizure.

In addition, many developing countries have announced they are beginning new civil nuclear programs aimed to generate electricity, promote scientific and medical research, or pursue other peaceful purposes. These countries need expert support and guidance on how to ensure their safety and security. Security demands might be even greater in the biological field, where the existing threat-reduction programs, the network of multinational institutions and agreements, and a security culture among biological workers is generally weaker than in the nuclear field.

Furthermore, many recipients could use additional funding to meet their obligations under UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540. While this resolution obliges all countries to develop and enforce effective legal and regulatory measures against the proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery, it does not provide a tied funding stream to enable them to do so. Although some individual governments and nongovernmental organizations have moved in to fill this gap, many developing countries still find it difficult to meet this unfunded mandate.

The Global Partnership is well-positioned to supply this worldwide demand for continuing and new nonproliferation programs. Its participating governments have developed useful project-management expertise—including how to administer liability, visas, taxation, and other issues that are common when international security programs funded by one government are implemented in another. They can now apply this knowledge to other WMD-related projects, both in Russia and elsewhere.

Both the Canadian and American governments have endorsed the proposal to extend the Global Partnership another decade while expanding its geographic reach and the types of WMD threats it addresses. The other G8 members should too. Nonetheless, an expanded Global Partnership would need to take into account the negative lessons learned during the years since the original initiative.

For example, the partners have made uneven progress regarding the four priorities established in 2002. They have helped destroy a large share of Russia’s chemical weapons and decommissioned nuclear submarines, Moscow’s two priorities, but have made little progress toward eliminating Russia’s fissile materials or redirecting former Soviet WMD scientists to new employment opportunities. One reason for this discrepancy has been the Russian limitations on access to sensitive nuclear facilities and suspected biological-weapons scientists and sites. The Global Partnership should demand that future fund recipients make more explicit commitments to cooperate than was asked of Moscow. It took years of painstaking negotiations to reach appropriate intergovernmental legal frameworks and detailed implementation agreements with Russian partners, impeding progress towards addressing mutual threats.

Sustaining the Global Partnership will require securing additional financial contributions. Although the focus should remain on inducing the twenty-three existing participants to meet and build on their earlier support, deciding to apply the Partnership globally should help induce new partners to join, perhaps as regional threat-reduction leaders. Moreover, the Global Partnership must develop mechanisms to facilitate financial, technical, and other assistance from private-sector bodies and nongovernmental organizations. In some cases, these actors can respond more rapidly to new threats or can provide unique expertise, such as in designing optimal export controls or adjusting national regulations on industries to account for new scientific developments. In other instances, they can help sustain projects lacking support from national governments, such as those designed to improve recipient communities’ general welfare.