(Foreign Policy) The other day, a little present arrived in the mail. It was book, or rather a pair of doorstops. Titled Doomed to Cooperate, the massive two-volume set is about 1,000 pages of essays, interviews, and vignettes from more than 100 participants in the remarkable period of cooperation between the nuclear weapons complexes of the United States and Russia in the immediate post-Cold War period. Siegfried Hecker, who edited the volumes, titled them after the remark of a Soviet scientist, who said of the shared danger that nuclear weapons pose, “Therefore, you know, we were doomed to work together, to cooperate.” Not everyone got the message, certainly not Vladimir Putin. Set against relations between Washington and Moscow today, the incredible stories in Hecker’s two volumes seem to be from another era entirely. On Monday, Putin issued a decree suspending a plutonium disposition agreement with the United States due to its “unfriendly actions.” (An unofficial translation is available from the Center for Energy and Security Studies in Moscow, as is a draft law submitted by the Kremlin.) Putin’s decree ends one of the last remaining forms of cooperation from that remarkable era. […]
Pavel Podvig, who literally wrote the book on Russia’s nuclear program, tells the whole sordid story if you want to read about it.
At some level, though, the details don’t matter. The technical and political questions of how best to eliminate the plutonium pale in comparison to the political urgency of eliminating the threat it poses — they should. If either side wanted a solution, there were options. Knowledgeable observers like Podvig offered plenty of constructive solutions that might have kept the agreement alive. We collectively chose to do nothing. […]
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