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Prefaces - Russia-U.S. Nuclear Nonproliferation Dialogue: Lessons Learned and Road Ahead

Russia-U.S. Nuclear Nonproliferation Dialogue: Lessons Learned and Road Ahead
Edited by Vladimir Orlov, Sergey Semenov
2021 г.

One does not often think of the Cold War as a period of superpower cooperation, but it was, at least in the sphere of nuclear nonproliferation. Regrettably, those habits of cooperation between Moscow and Washington are now a distant memory, and it is proving increasingly difficult today for both counties to recognize any issues in which their interests coincide. Even such fundamental tenets of diplomacy as respect and trust – much less empathy – are noticeable mainly by their absence. It is all the more important, therefore, to understand why ideological and military rivals were able to join forces in the past to negotiate a rules-based regime to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to cooperate in its implementation.

This volume of original essays goes a long way in illuminating the history of prior nuclear cooperation (and competition) in a number of key issue areas, including regional security, the NPT review process, nuclear sharing, the peaceful use of nuclear energy, nuclear security, and nuclear arms control and disarmament. It is especially valuable in highlighting the role played by both individuals and institutional actors, the importance of personal relationships in the negotiating process, and the multiplicity of fora in which nonproliferation consultations and cooperation transpired.

It also demonstrates the coming of age of ‘the next generation of nonproliferation specialists’ – a pedagogical mission that has been central to the work of the PIR Center and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies since the founding of the two institutions over a quarter of a century ago. It was an objective that Ambassador Roland Timerbaev and I embraced even earlier, in the dimming lights of the Soviet Union, when we set out jointly to recruit and nurture a new cadre of nonproliferation experts and rebuild the institutional memory about nonproliferation cooperation in our respective countries. I know that Roland Mikhailovich would have been very proud of the collection of essays by young Russian scholars and practitioners that the PIR Center has assembled in this volume. They are a testament to the possibilities for cooperative action between the leading nuclear powers when their interests objectively coincide. It is a lesson that contemporary policy makers would be wise to observe.

William Potter,
Director, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences


I had the chance to work in the United States in the 1980s, when I was the first secretary at the USSR Embassy in the United States. It was a difficult period, no less difficult than now: a Soviet missile took down a South Korean airliner, Reagan called us “an evil empire”, spy hysteria was gaining momentum. Meeting with me, old acquaintances of mine, scholars, assistants to congressmen used to leave their doors open so that their secretaries could see and hear what we were talking about.

But even at that juncture, as the authors of the monograph show, Moscow and Washington could engage each other substantively and professionally on the issues where our interests were convergent. Our interest to preclude the proliferation of nuclear weapons fully overlapped. Those contacts might have not been conducive to immediate breakthroughs, but they laid the grounds for fragile mutual confidence and respect for each other`s professionalism.

Given that, the more discouraging it is to see what is currently happening in Russian-U.S. relations. It is disheartening that instead of discussing the pressing issues of international agenda, we have to spend time on sorting out dirty tricks: denegation of visas, limitation of contacts.

In this context, the more valuable are PIR Center`s efforts to reduce the differences, build the bridges – initially, in Track II discussions. In a situation where bilateral contacts are reduced to a minimum, every expert performs an important diplomatic role. As a result, PIR Center`s brainchild Track 2.5 dialogues – a format involving officials, experts, and junior specialists is extremely useful. Scholars look for solutions to bilateral issues, engaging officials into a dialogue – at first, for them to comment on disparate ideas, explain their practicality or the lack thereof. Then, to take note of something interesting, innovative, and develop the idea. This is how comment by comment an understanding of each other`s stances emerges, mutual respect is established (or, rather. is restored). And I take particular inspiration in the fact that young specialists – evidently, with no deductions for age – get accustomed to this pattern of conversation.

The monograph Russia-U.S. Dialogue on Nuclear Proliferation: Lessons Learned and Road Ahead culminated five years of such dialogue. I find particular pleasure in the fact that among the authors of the book there are not only white-haired experts, but also young specialists, many of whom are alumni of the dual-degree MA program, which is jointly implemented by MGIMO-University, PIR Center, and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. That said, the chapters penned by younger authors are far from beginner`s level, being deep, thoughtful, professional. And, I dare believe, not burdened with the disappointments of the last decade of Russia-U.S. relations

Not only does the book have all the chances – it should! – become a livre de poche for diplomats and military people involved in preparing and making decisions on arms control and nonproliferation. Not only because the authors went through the five- decades-long history of our interaction with the United States, but because the authors distill the lessons to be learned from this history. I share the editors` message that the previous patterns of cooperation were the children of their time and the attempts to mechanically restore them are doomed to failure. But the history of the bilateral dialogue is a manual on applying Russian-U.S. dialogue to solving the most serious nuclear issues. And an understanding the experience of its victories and defeats will help to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

Anatoly Torkunov,
Rector, MGIMO-University
Academician, Russian Academy of Sciences
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiar