During the height of the Cold War, the Russian physicist Andre Sakharov said, "Reducing the risk of annihilating humanity in a nuclear war carries an absolute priority over all other considerations." The end of the Cold War has reduced the threat of global nuclear war, but today a new threat is rising from the global spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Hostile groups and nations have tried -- or have been able -- to obtain these weapons, the technology, and homegrown ability to make them or ballistic missiles that can deliver the massive annihilation, poison, and death of these weapons hundreds of miles away. For rogue nations, these weapons are a ticket to power, stature, and confidence in regional war.

We received a wake-up call with Saddam Hussein's use of SCUD missiles during Operation Desert Storm and new information on his ambitious nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs. The proliferation of these horrific weapons presents a grave and urgent risk to the United States and our citizens, allies, and troops abroad. Reducing this risk is an absolute priority of the United States.

The way we reduce the risk from weapons of mass destruction has changed dramatically. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union lived under a doctrine known as Mutually Assured Destruction, commonly known as "MAD." MAD was essentially a balance of terror that assumed neither nuclear power would launch an attack and risk nuclear retaliation. This nuclear stand-off has ended. Instead, the United States and Russia are working together to reduce and dismantle our nuclear arsenals, and to prevent the export and sale of those weapons and related technology throughout the world.

Our progress is good news. The bad news is that in this era the simple threat of retaliation that worked during the Cold War may not be enough to deter terrorists or aggressive regimes from using nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Terrorists operate in a shadowy world in which they can detonate a device and disappear, as the poison gas attack in Tokyo illustrates. Rogue regimes may try to use these devastating weapons as blackmail, or as a relatively inexpensive way to sidestep the U.S. military's overwhelming conventional military superiority. Aggressors may also actually use these weapons in an attempt to gain a decisive edge in a regional war. The bottom line is, unlike during the Cold War, those who possess nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons may actually come to use them. The increase in the likelihood of regional war in today's world raises the risk.

This new danger requires some new thinking and new leadership on how to prevent, deter and, if necessary, respond to this threat. Through the Nunn-Lugar program, we have hastened dismantlement of Russia's nuclear weapon systems; denuclearized Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus; strengthened the safety and security of nuclear weapons and fissile material; and removed 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from Kazakstan in the dramatic Project Sapphire. America's diplomatic leadership helped bring the nations of the world to extend -- indefinitely -- the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will serve to stem regional or even new global arms races. In one region in particular -- the Korean peninsula -- American diplomatic leadership helped bring North Korea to sign the Agreed Framework, which in effect froze its nuclear program. These successes demonstrate that U.S. diplomatic leadership in the world is critical to nonproliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

At the same time, America's defense leadership bolsters the diplomatic nonproliferation effort by helping to protect the United States and our citizens, allies, and military forces abroad from aggressors who may possess or obtain nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. The Department of Defense (DoD) provides this leadership through a three-part strategy:

1. Reduce the threat, by leading the U.S. effort to help the former Soviet Union republics reduce, dismantle, safeguard, and even eliminate these weapons.

2. Deter against the threat, by maintaining strong conventional forces and a smaller but robust nuclear deterrent force.

3. Defend against the threat through the Defense Counterproliferation Initiative.

The DoD Counterproliferation Initiative involves a range of Department-wide activities that help to prevent, protect against, and even reverse the danger from spreading nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons; technology; and missiles that can deliver them. These efforts include developing systems that can intercept or destroy these weapons, providing vaccines and protective suits for our troops, keeping track of the movement of weapons and technology, and providing unique DoD support for various nonproliferation agreements.

This document details the proliferation pheomenon, the threat it poses to the United States, and the programs and policies DoD employs through the Defense Counterproliferation Initiative to counter this growing threat.

                                       William J. Perry

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