U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video

Laying New Diplomatic Foundations to Defeat Twenty-First Century Threats: The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

Thomas D. Lehrman, Director, Office of WMD Terrorism
Remarks to SMi Conference
London, United Kingdom
February 22, 2007

On January 18, 2006, less than a year after joining the Department of State, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a speech at Georgetown University where she sketched a vision for our work here in Foggy Bottom and around the world. She called it "transformational diplomacy," and her vision, "rooted in partnership, not in paternalism," guides us today as we pursue new steps to prevent the world's most dangerous actors from acquiring and using the world's most destructive weapons.

In that same speech, Secretary Rice also made clear that in the twenty-first century, the most serious threats we are likely to face come from within states rather than from the conflicts between them. To combat these threats and to secure freedom for all, she called on us to "lay new diplomatic foundations," foundations designed and built for the challenges and opportunities we face today, rather than for the wars and hard feelings of yesterday.

Not yet two weeks ago, Australia, China, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States - the thirteen partner nations of the new Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism - along with the IAEA, gathered together in Ankara, Turkey to rededicate themselves to take action against the most serious threat to international peace and security we face today: a terrorist with a nuclear weapon. Together, through this Global Initiative, we are laying the diplomatic foundations necessary to defeat the threats we face in the twenty-first century.

From St. Petersburg to Rabat: A New Foundation against Nuclear Terrorism

Spotting the need for a new foundation against nuclear terrorism requires vision. Together, Presidents Bush and Putin set forth that vision last July when they announced the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism on the eve of the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Their announcement of this new effort also marked the first time that the U.S. and Russia had come together to co-lead a new multilateral international security initiative.

Designing a new foundation against the threats of the twenty-first century also demands a sustained commitment to cooperation with international partners. Our U.S. national strategies to combat weapons of mass destruction and terrorism both emphasize the importance of such cooperation, as do the Nuclear Terrorism Convention, the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Facilities, and UN Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1540. In that spirit of cooperation and building on these legal frameworks, the initial partner nations of the Global Initiative gathered in Rabat, Morocco on October 30-31 to establish a Statement of Principles for the upcoming work of the Initiative. By agreeing to and endorsing the Statement of Principles, all partners committed themselves to:

  1. Develop and improve accounting, control and physical protection;
  2. Enhance the security of civilian nuclear facilities;
  3. Research and develop national detection capabilities that are interoperable;
  4. Enhance search, confiscation, and safe control capabilities;
  5. Deny safe haven and financial resources to those facilitating nuclear terrorism;
  6. Ensure adequate civil and criminal legal frameworks to deter nuclear terrorism;
  7. Improve response, investigation, and mitigation capabilities; and
  8. Promote information sharing among participants, while protecting confidentiality.

During the Rabat meeting, partner nations also agreed to develop a Plan of Work for the Global Initiative to support an effective and comprehensive implementation of its principles.

From Ankara to Astana: Strengthening Our Foundation for Action

Strengthening our new foundation against nuclear terrorism requires more than a commitment to a set of principles; it demands sustained action aimed at achieving concrete results. It was precisely for this reason - for action and for results - that partner nations in the Global Initiative met in Ankara on February 12-13. In reviewing an initial Plan of Work, the participants established a clear roadmap for the next two years that will bring the world's leading technical and operational experts together to share experiences, train together, and develop ongoing information sharing relationships to make sure that no terrorist succeeds in acquiring or using nuclear weapons.

Participants in the Initiative are now turning to the need to broaden our network of partners to build a truly global foundation against the threat of nuclear terrorism. In June, participants will meet again in Astana, Kazakhstan to welcome into the Initiative a large number of new nations committed to combating nuclear terrorism and that have endorsed its Statement of Principles. The new partners that join our common effort prior to the June meeting will have the benefit of participating in the expert-level activities of the Initiative and making proposals to shape and strengthen our common Plan of Work for the next two years.

Broadening our Cooperation: The Role of Local Governments and the Private Sector

The foundations we build to defeat today's non-state threats will look much different from the foundations previous generations built to confront the nation-state threats of a different era. In building this foundation, we must begin first by asking the simple, practical questions. How will terrorists acquire the material they need to make a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb? How will they assemble a weapon and move it to the desired target location? What targets will terrorists seek to attack, and what attack scenarios are most probable?

As we reflect on these questions, we face an inescapable conclusion: private sector organizations and local governments are likely to be on the front lines of this new kind of combat. For example, privately operated airports and port terminal operators will play a key role detecting nuclear and radiological threats. Private sector utilities that control much of the nuclear power infrastructure in the U.S. must be prepared to protect against sabotage attacks, and insurance companies must redouble their efforts to assess more accurately the vulnerabilities and risks of nuclear terrorism to urban areas and infrastructure across the globe.

With respect to local governments, mayors and their police and fire departments bear the special burden of responding to the needs of everyday people in times of crisis and in fielding at least some of the specialized capabilities necessary to neutralize and mitigate the effects of a dirty bomb attack within city limits. A new foundation must not only deepen our ties to traditional nation-state and international organization partners; it must also be broad enough to support the new partnerships with the private sector and with local governments needed to mitigate the risk of nuclear terrorism.

During the recent meeting in Ankara, Global Initiative partner nations took steps to ensure that we are laying a foundation broad enough to include the contributions of local governments and the private sector. Specifically, we welcomed statements of support for the Global Initiative from private sector organizations and local governments as well as their participation in appropriate expert-level activities. In order to build on our progress in Ankara, let me suggest three concrete actions that private sector organizations and local governments might take in the coming months to support our collective efforts:

  1. Participate in appropriate expert-level activities of the Global Initiative, in consultation with your Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  2. Make a statement of support for the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism; and
  3. Propose a public-private technical workshop to strengthen local government and/or private sector contributions to the Global Initiative.

Strengthening Law Enforcement Cooperation: The FBI Conference in June

Taking effective action to implement the Statement of Principles of the Global Initiative will entail the use of all elements of national power -- diplomatic, intelligence, military, economic, financial, informational, and law enforcement. But, it is the last --  law enforcement -- which can support many of our efforts across all of the principles and to which the U.S. will turn first in our capacity building activities during the year ahead. Law enforcement agencies, at both the national and local level, are in a strong position to:

  • Counter insider threats to at-risk materials and civilian nuclear facilities, including by broadening background checks to strengthen personnel reliability programs;
  • Play a critical role in responding to detection incidents, including by searching for and establishing safe control over nuclear or radiological weapons;
  • Take action to deny nuclear terrorists safe haven, including through strengthened suspicious activity reporting protocols;
  • Stem the flow of financial resources to persons and entities engaged in the illicit trafficking of nuclear or radiological materials to non-state actors of terrorist concern;
  • Identify gaps in our civil and criminal legal frameworks and propose legislation that can fill those gaps and deter nuclear terrorists and their facilitators;
  • Prevent and respond to imminent attack threats to urban areas;
  • Deploy technical nuclear forensics capabilities to identify the persons and material involved in a nuclear terrorist attack;
  • Support follow-on prosecutions by preserving evidence and its chain of custody; and
  • Serve as a test-bed for information sharing concepts across nearly all stages of a nuclear terrorism scenario.

As part of the Plan of Work for the Global Initiative, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation will be hosting a conference from June 11-15, 2007 that will bring together the world's leading law enforcement and related technical experts in the field of nuclear terrorism to share best practices and strengthen cooperative relationships around these issues. FBI Director Mueller will offer a keynote address to attendees, and there will be exhibits, technical sessions, and table-top exercises to accelerate the learning of all the participants. This conference will be open to all partner nations that have endorsed the Statement of Principles for the Initiative. We look forward to your participation.

A Path to Continuous Improvement: Planning Scenarios and Best Practices

September 11, the Madrid bombings, the London attacks -- all of these events have taught us that our terrorist adversaries are constantly adapting to our attempts to defeat them. Organized crime enterprises trafficking in nuclear and radiological materials have shown similar signs of adapting to our efforts against them. Those nations that rest on the laurels of existing capabilities against nuclear terrorism do so at their own peril. To support continuous improvement in our capabilities, the Global Initiative Plan of Work provides participants with a test-bed in which to explore new planning scenarios and recommend best practices for implementing the Statement of Principles.

Planning scenarios are not a new thing. They have proven useful to the U.S. in the context of our homeland security preparedness efforts and in our work within the Proliferation Security Initiative. All nations are engaged to some extent in developing planning scenarios for crisis situations. Within the context of the Global Initiative, planning scenarios offer a helpful focal point for partner nations to discuss the broad range of operational, technical, and legal issues that come into play in preventing, protecting against, or responding to a nuclear terrorist attack. Through these scenarios, we can strengthen our training, spot potential capability gaps, and take individual and collective action to fill those gaps.

As part of our capacity building efforts, Global Initiative participants are taking steps to ensure that our technical workshops and training exercises benefit a broad circle of partner nations, including those unable to attend specific activities. To that end, the Plan of Work invites host nations to distill lessons learned during specific activities into recommended best practices for the benefit of other participants in the Initiative. In sharing such information, partner nations will take special care to protect the confidentiality of any information shared in confidence.

Flexible Information Sharing Networks: The Cement of Our Foundations

In an Internet age, perhaps no aspect of international cooperation presents more opportunity - yet at the same time complexity - than that of information sharing. The last element of the Global Initiative Statement of Principles highlights this issue and calls on partner nations to:

"Promote information sharing pertaining to the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism and their facilitation, taking appropriate measures consistent with their national law and international obligations to protect the confidentiality of any information which they exchange in confidence."

Reconciling the tension between information sharing and confidentiality (or security) is one of the central practical challenges facing participants in the Global Initiative.

Flexibility will be critical to effective information sharing cooperation within the Global Initiative. A uniform, "one-size-fits-all" approach cannot sustain the diversity of scenarios we are likely to face and the varying sensitivities related to the types of information involved. While few participants may object to the sharing of general best practices among a broad range of participants, advanced research and development information related to detection technologies may well be shared within a smaller trusted network of participants. Participants are likely to share real-time detection information or intelligence information related to threat response on an even more limited basis. In some cases, domestic laws will even prevent information sharing altogether, or at least require that a participant enter into a formal bilateral agreement or memorandum of understanding prior to such cooperation. In information sharing, flexibility is more important than uniformity.

Effective information sharing within the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism should also support participants' desire to work together not only as a whole but also on a regional and bilateral basis as is called for in the Terms of Reference of the Initiative. Information sharing will work best when Global Initiative participants see the diversity and flexibility of information sharing relationships not as a drawback to the Initiative, but as one of the its most effective and efficient features. When Global Initiative participants share information, they should think of themselves as operating not within a uniform network of partners but rather within a flexible "network of networks," much like the design of the Internet itself. And as participants build trust sharing information at lower levels of sensitivity within a broader network, there will eventually be opportunities to share more sensitive information among more participants within that larger network.

A Call to Partnership

President Bush has made clear that a nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist is the most serious security threat we face. Since 9/11, Al Qaeda and its associates have shown their intent to attack not only the United States, but the innocent civilians of our friends, allies and partners around the world. They have also shown the intent to acquire the capabilities necessary to carry out an attack with weapons of mass destruction.

Together, with our partners in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, Russia and the United States have taken a decisive step together to deter and defeat this global threat. There is still much more we can and should do to secure the future from the risk of a covert nuclear attack. And securing that future will demand new partnerships -- transformational global partnerships, not only at the national level, but also with local governments and with private sector organizations willing and able to contribute. This conference, here in London, offers an excellent opportunity to strengthen existing efforts and build the new partnerships we will need to realize that vision. We look forward to working with you.

Released on March 6, 2007

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.