• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

As the end nears for the Clinton-Gore administration, one must ask,
“Why, when billions of dollars have been spent to address the consensus
No. 1 threat to U.S. national security — Russian ‘loose nukes’ — is
that threat arguably worse now than at the beginning of the Clinton-Gore

A principal reason has been Clinton-Gore non-compliance with
congressional mandates to assist the Russians with safely and securely
disposing of their excess nuke fissile materials.

The basis of the Clinton-Gore policy towards Russian loose nukes –
which is driven by their “nuclear energy” policy — is a strongly held
belief that the short-term risk from Russian loose nukes is much less
than the long-term risk that would result from significantly increased
worldwide use of nuclear energy. Clinton-Gore are especially fearful of
nuclear energy if it involves — as it does everywhere else in the world
– “reprocessing,” the efficient use of unused fissile materials
recovered from spent fuel elements. The basis for that Clinton-Gore fear
is a belief that it would be easy for a terrorist or rogue state to make
a nuke out of the fissile materials recovered from spent fuel elements.
Hardly anyone else in the world agrees with Clinton and Gore, and most
certainly not the Russians or anyone else who knows how difficult it is
to make a bomb out of reprocessed spent fuel.

The Clinton-Gore view on “nuclear energy” matters because the Russian
loose nuke problem was relegated at the beginning of the Clinton-Gore
administration to a low-priority agenda item of the Energy Policy
Committee (co-chaired by Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary) of the
U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation,
usually referred to as the G-C Commission. (As an example of what has
been high on that Clinton-Gore G-C energy agenda, there has been the
multi-year attempt to get the Russians to allow us to pay for the
conversion of several of their nuclear power plants to fossil fuels.)

Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin had created the G-C Commission at the
Vancouver Summit in April 1993. The avowed mission of the G-C
Commission was to expand bilateral cooperation in business development,
defense conversion, space, energy, health, scientific research,
agriculture and the environment. Virtually all the multi-billion dollar
programs authorized by Congress in the Freedom Support Act of 1992 –
including those of the Departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce, State,
Agency for International Development, Export-Import Bank, etc. — were
quickly swallowed up by the G-C Commission. Thus, even though the G-C
Commission was never formally recognized by Congress — there never was
an official G-C Commission “budget request” nor was there ever any
congressional “oversight” — all congressionally-authorized Russian
programs have been handled during the Clinton-Gore administrations by
the G-C Commission and its several committees.

The premise of the Freedom Support Act was that the best way to
ensure that the Soviet Union was never reconstituted was to substitute
as soon as possible western-style “market economies” for the centralized
planning of the former Marxist-Leninist state. But President Clinton,
in implementing the Freedom Support Act, decided to place all his bets
on individual Russians, on Boris Yeltsin, and to the dismay of many in
Congress, the implementation of the Freedom Support Act by the G-C
Commission quickly degenerated into personal relationships of mutual
admiration and trust between Vice President Gore, Energy Secretary Hazel
O’Leary, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, et al. and their Russian
counterpart officials (and their cronies) who have been increasingly
revealed by the U.S. intelligence community to have been thoroughly
corrupt. Clinton-Gore and G-C Commission activities were increasingly
driven by a need — at whatever cost — to keep Yeltsin in power, not by
a need to establish in Russia a western-style “market economy.”

Now that Yeltsin and his Gore-O’Leary-Brown counterpart officials are
out of power, it is beginning to appear that the principal
accomplishment of the G-C Commission was to funnel hundreds of billions
of dollars down numerous Russian ratholes. And Yeltsin’s successor,
President Putin, enabled in part by Clinton-Gore bombing of Yugoslavia
and by Clinton-Gore meddling in Russia’s internal affairs (i.e. the
insurrection in Chechnya), appears to be doing exactly what the Freedom
Support Act was supposed to prevent; he appears to be reconstituting the
old Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, to the Russians and to most other observers, the near term
loose nuke threat is more acute than ever before, and the best and
surest and probably cheapest way to solve the loose nuke problem is to
convert the Russian nuke infrastructure to a nuclear fuel cycle
infrastructure, which would provide international “nuclear services,”
including storage and reprocessing of spent fuel elements and
fabrication of new fuel elements. With or without U.S. assistance, that
is what the Russians are going to do, and in the 21st century, the
United States will not only not be a “nuclear industry” leader, but our
nuclear industry — to the extent that it continues to limp along all
alone — will not even be a participant.

So, why is the No. 1 threat to U.S. national security worse now than
at the beginning of the Clinton-Gore administration? The Clinton-Gore
administration has effectively refused to help the Russians solve the
loose nuke problem. That is not what Congress told Clinton-Gore-O’Leary
to do.

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.