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Gore's 'loose nuke' legacy

Perhaps it won’t come back to haunt us but Al Gore, through his
increasingly infamous Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, has turned over the
precious “fissile material” from more than half of our nukes

to the
United Nations.
Perhaps the deal won’t revisit us because we had thousands of battlefield nukes — including hundreds of ‘satchel’ demolition charges — that would probably never have been used anyway. The principal reason they were never used was that no battlefield commander had ever identified an appropriate target for a nuke (and nothing but a nuke).

But what may well come back to haunt us is what can only be described as Gore’s dereliction of duty in failing to aggressively carry out the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici “loose nukes” programs

which he unilaterally took
. Because, if a terrorist group or a rogue state has managed to get their hands on a Russian loose nuke, they will have no trouble at all identifying an appropriate target for a nuke (and nothing but a nuke).

In 1993, the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici programs — which were duly authorized by Congress — were absorbed as a low priority agenda item of the Energy Policy Council of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission. The commission was never authorized by Congress and Congress certainly never authorized Gore to hijack our loose Russian nuke programs.

When it became apparent to Congress that the loose nukes programs were not being aggressively pursued by anyone in the Clinton-Gore administration — they weren’t even seeking appropriations for many of them — Congress directed in Title XIV of the FY 97 National Defense Authorization Act that (a) the president put a cabinet-level official in the White House in charge, that (b) this loose nuke White House ‘czar’ convene a high-level interagency advisory committee, that (c) the loose nuke Czar develop a program plan and (d) submit it to Congress by January of 1997.

President Clinton never did any of the things Congress mandated in Title XIV, apparently because it would have meant upsetting the cozy relationship Al Gore had already established with his buddy-roo Viktor Chernomyrdin. Al and Viktor had much more important agenda items than loose nukes — such as pumping billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars down various Russian ratholes and providing arms via secret deals to Iran and God only knows who else.

Meanwhile, back in 1997, Curt Weldon, Chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on R&D, heard testimony by former Russian Gen. Lebed — now governor of the Russian Republic of Krasnoyarsk — that one of his responsibilities as security adviser to President Yeltsin had been to locate 132 small nuclear demolition weapons — each having a yield of one to 10 kilotons — that the Soviet Union had built, some of them for use by the KGB. However, Lebed testified that, using all the influence of his office, he was only able to locate 48 of those devices. These Soviet “satchel” nukes — 84 of which Lebed could not locate — were apparently similar to our MK54 Atomic Demolition Munition (reportedly 16 inches in diameter and 24 inches long, weighing 150 pounds).

Having heard testimony supporting Lebed from two other knowledgeable Russians — and denials by Yeltsin — and after having gotten absolutely nowhere with the White House and State Department, Weldon went to Russia in 1997 to find out the truth for himself. A year ago, Weldon had this to say on the House Floor about what he had found out

about the
really loose Russian nukes
and Al Gore’s responsibility for them still being loose:

I asked Defense Minister Sergeyev point-blank across the table, Defense Minister, will you please tell me, what is the truth about these small atomic demolition devices that Lebed has said existed that he could not locate and that Yablakov has verified were produced. The defense minister for Russia said to me in that meeting, yes, Russia produced such devices during the Cold War. And he further went on to say, and so did you in the States. He said, we are aware that you destroyed your small atomic demolition munitions years ago because we had witnessed such destruction. He went on to say, “Congressman Weldon, I assure you that by the year 2000, we will have dismantled all of our small atomic demolition munitions.” That was 2 years ago come this December (1999), Mr. Speaker. Whether or not they have all been destroyed, we have no idea. Whether or not Lebed was accurate in saying that some of them could in fact be up for sale to rogue nations or terrorists, we do not know.

Weldon went on to say:

Mr. Speaker, I bring this information to the attention of our colleagues in the spirit of wanting to work in a positive relationship with Russia, one that I consistently say must be based on strength, consistency and candor. In my opinion, this administration (Clinton-Gore) has none of those three attributes — which is why we do not today have the information relative to this — because I am convinced this administration does not want to raise this information because they think it would further embarrass Boris Yeltsin, and that has been the basis of our relationship for 8 years.

President Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, Al Gore, Victor Chernomyrdrin, until he was removed from office, anything that surfaced that would embarrass either of those two Russian leaders — we pretend it did not happen — whether it was the theft of IMF, whether it was the abuse of one of our Navy officers like Lieutenant Jack Daly, whether it was arms control violations (which I have said at numerous times on the floor of this House, or whether it was instability in Russia, that we did not want to call the attention of the people of this country for fear that it would embarrass Yeltsin in his homeland because that is the mainstay of our relationship) and I am convinced that that perhaps is the reason why we have failed to ask the question of the Russians about these devices: because this administration perhaps fears that when we start to dig up all over America locations of equipment that we know have been there for 3 or perhaps 7 years, there are going to be a lot of people in this country who are going to start to ask some very difficult questions of their elected leaders.

Chairman Curt Weldon said all that on the House Floor a year ago. Now both Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin are history, and, after all the cozying-up by Gore to Chernomyrdin — after all the secret deals and the billions of dollars of “aid” — the threat to Americans of loose Soviet nukes is, if anything, greater than it was when Clinton and Gore took office.

There was a Hollywood flick about a Russian loose nuke a few years ago. Maybe you saw it. It starred Nicole Kidman as the White House expert on loose nukes. (Kidman was well cast as exactly the type the Clinton-Gore White House would have put in such a position. Very, very young. Inexperienced. Damned good looking. Unmarried. Ambitious. Your typical nuke expert.) It turned out that for some unfathomable reason — maybe you understood it — the loose nuke was intended to be detonated at a speech by the first lady.

Well, win or lose in New York, Hillary will be there, along with her husband and the next president and his cabinet, all justices of the Supreme Court and all congressmen, and a cast of thousands, out on the capitol steps next Jan. 20. And, win or lose, Al Gore will be there.

Lets all hope and pray that Lebed was wrong — and that Al Gore’s dereliction of duty doesn’t haunt us all for many years to come.