The United States and Russia are the two countries with the vast majority of the world’s nuclear weapons and material. In an age of global terrorism, they share both a special responsibility in ensuring that they each employ effective nuclear security systems and an understanding of the unique challenge of securing hundreds of tons of nuclear material. For two decades, the United States and Russia lived up to this responsibility by working together to strengthen nuclear security in Russia and around the globe. That ended in 2014 when Russia halted the majority of its work on nuclear security with the United States. The negative consequences of that decision could seriously affect international security and cooperation in the nuclear realm. This Issue Brief by Nickolas Roth (Harvard University) describes how the United States and Russia arrived at this point. It highlights differences in how the United States and Russia approach nuclear security. It identifies what limited nuclear security related work will likely continue between the two countries in the future. Finally, Roth identifies potential opportunities for future cooperation related to nuclear security between the United States and Russia.
Nickolas Roth is a Research Associate at the Project on Managing the Atom at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. His research focuses on nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear security, and the nuclear policy-making process.