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Diplomacy in Action

U.S.-Tajik Nonproliferation Cooperation

Simon Limage
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Programs, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Dushanbe, Tajikistan
June 25, 2013


(As Prepared)

Thank you for the kind introduction and warm and generous welcome. The Academy of Sciences has a rich tradition of bringing together some of the greatest minds to address the day’s most pressing security issues. In keeping with that tradition, it’s a real honor and privilege for me to talk with you today about one of the greatest challenges facing all of us: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

In his annual State of the Union Address this February, President Obama proclaimed, “America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons.” Underscoring this pledge the President charted out a course for all of us stating, “We simply cannot allow the 21st century to be darkened by the worst weapons of the 20th century.”

In Berlin, President Obama laid out a clear path to achieving this by signaling that he intends to negotiate cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures while reducing U.S. deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third. His vision is a world in which “peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

In line with the president’s call for action, and also to turn the page on the legacy of the Cold War, we have already taken concrete steps to develop a new bilateral framework with Russia to build on past accomplishments and reinforce our nonproliferation partnership on nuclear security. The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program has advanced the United States’ and Russia’s mutual interest in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Under the CTR program, the United States and Russia have successfully partnered to implement security upgrades at Russia’s nuclear weapons storage sites, deactivate more than 7,500 nuclear warheads, destroy chemical weapons, and improve security for fissile material. The newly agreed upon framework, known as the Framework Agreement on the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation (MNEPR), will permit cooperative nuclear activities on areas such as nuclear material physical protection, control, accounting, consolidation of highly enriched uranium (HEU), converting HEU-fuel reactors to operate with LEU fuel.

Part and parcel to this historic transition currently underway is the status and future of the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC). We appreciate the major role Tajikistan has played in supporting the vibrancy of the Center’s activities in Central Asia. And we appreciate Tajikistan’s demonstrated leadership in offering sound advice in how best to structurally transform it as an effective nonproliferation platform. The ISTC was established as an international, intergovernmental organization, under the CTR program, to provide former Soviet Union (FSU) weapons scientists and engineers opportunities to use their talents for peaceful, civilian activities. In the course of two decades, the ISTC has accomplished much of what it set out to do in Russia, and the world is a safer place because of it. While the pending Russian and Canadian withdrawal is indeed unfortunate, these actions do not obviate the need for a Center.

The proliferation of expertise in nuclear, chemical, biological, missile, and advanced weaponry fields has expanded geographically , and this proliferation has become more complex. Both state and non-state actors are looking worldwide to exploit the specialized knowledge of scientists, engineers, and technicians, to aid in the acquisition and development of weapons capabilities. The ISTC remains one of the most important means for applying multilateral scientific and technical cooperation to address security concerns, and provides a multilateral nexus for cooperation within the region and potentially beyond.

Moving forward, the non-Russian parties have confirmed their intent to see the ISTC continue after the Russian Federation’s withdrawal by standing up an office in Almaty, Kazakhstan. On January 3, 2013, Kazakhstan Deputy Prime Minister Orybayev provided an official invitation to begin the process of establishing a new headquarters in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Beyond this, a newly negotiated multilateral ISTC Agreement will expand scientist engagement beyond the traditional redirection of former weapon scientists to include engagement of all scientists and engineers with “weapon applicable” or “dual-use” knowledge and expertise. In particular this will help the new generation of younger scientists.

Aside from our close collaboration on the ISTC, Tajikistan has proven an invaluable partner in its efforts to secure its borders from the illicit flow of WMD materials by strengthening both its infrastructure to detect and its capacity to enforce. We remain concerned that nuclear materials may remain available on the black market and could potentially fall into terrorist hands. Therefore, we applaud Tajikistan’s work to improve its counter nuclear smuggling capabilities, including by implementing steps identified in the Joint Action Plan to Counter Nuclear Smuggling that our governments signed in November 2011.

To augment these efforts, I’m proud to say the joint efforts of the Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program and Tajik Customs are in the final phase of establishing a practical exercise training area at the Customs facility. Once completed, the facility will allow Tajik Customs to train on the full spectrum of customs-related inspection and detection scenarios, including with the use of radiation detection equipment. In addition, EXBS has completed two major enforcement-related projects over the past two years. First, it has completed the Calibration Lab, done in collaboration with the IAEA. Second, it donated forty all terrain vehicles (ATVs) to the Tajik Border Guards. All of this bodes well for our future cooperation on these issues and I’m confident that as Tajikistan reviews draft legislation on a new legal framework for trade controls, licensing practices, and procedures, Tajikistan will adopt the legislation. This will pave the way for Tajikistan to become a Central Asian leader in bringing its strategic trade controls closer to international standards.

Our president has been steadfast in his commitment to eliminate the global threat of nuclear weapons. He has articulated a concrete path forward to achieve this. Although there is still much work to be done, I’m confident this can be accomplished over time. Our U.S.-Tajik bilateral nonproliferation partnership will continue to play a critical role in transforming Central Asian into a region as that mitigates these particular security threats. The United States appreciates Tajikistan’s continued support on these key issues and we look forward to our two countries’ future collaboration. Thank you. I look forward to your questions.

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