- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

The chances of making it through the next 50 years without a weapon of mass destruction act of terrorism are no better than 1 in 200. So wrote Warren Buffett, the wizard of Wall Street whose uncanny sixth sense for stock picks made him a billionaire 36 times over and propelled his Berkshire Hathaway into a Fortune 500 powerhouse. In a letter dated Oct. 22 addressed to former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the 72-year-old virtuoso who bought his first three shares of stock at age 11 and made $5 bucks on the sale, described the statistical chance of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack on the United States:
"If the chance of a weapon of mass destruction being used in a given year is 10 percent and the same probability persists for 50 years, the probability of the event happening at least once during that 50 years is 99.5 percent. Thus the chance of getting through the 50-year period without a disaster is 0.51 percent just slightly better than one in 200.
"If the probability of similar weapons being utilized can be reduced to 3 percent per year, the world has a 21.8 percent chance of making it through 50 years without a [catastrophic] event. And if the annual chance can be reduced to 1 percent, there is a 60.5 percent chance of making it through 50 years.
"Of course, no one knows what the true probabilities are, but this sort of calculation points up the extraordinary benefit to humanity that can be achieved by reducing the probabilities of usage."
Ten years ago, Mr. Nunn co-sponsored the Nunn-Lugar legislation to fund a joint U.S.-Russian program designed to bring the former Soviet Union's gargantuan nuclear arsenal under proper safeguards, and thwart would-be pilferers from helping the world's proliferators. But Mr. Nunn's report to NTI was not encouraging. "Russia is home to mountains of nuclear bomb-making material," Mr. Nunn said, and "less than half of it is adequately safeguarded" after a decade-long campaign. It inherited from the defunct Soviet Union some 40,000 nuclear weapons and enough material to build 40,000 more. Just one of these could pulverize Manhattan or Washington.
It takes 6 to 9 pounds of plutonium or 60 pounds of weapons-grade uranium to manufacture one city-busting nuclear bomb. Russia has 400 tons of plutonium and 1,200 tons of uranium.
The 40 percent that has been secured under Nunn-Lugar included some 6,000 nuclear warheadsthat wereremoved from deployment, more than 400 missile silos destroyed, and almost 1,400 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, submarines and strategic bombers eliminated. Almost 40,000 weapons scientists in Russia and other former Soviet republics were given financial support to pursue peaceful research and commercial projects.
The NTI's Board is composed of two sitting U.S. senators, two members of the Russian Duma, one member of the British House of Lords, a former commander of U.S. strategic nuclear forces, a former U.S. Defense Secretary, and a Nobel Prize-winning economist, and leading citizens from China, India, Pakistan, Japan, Jordan and Sweden. Be-worried-not-happy was the gist of Mr. Nunn's grim report.
"Working with Russia at our current pace," Mr. Nunn said, "we will not secure all of its nuclear materials for years to come. This is the raw material of nuclear terrorism some of it secured by nothing more than an underpaid guard sitting inside a chain-link fence. In addition, the massive biological weapons program of the former Soviet Union developed many strains of anthrax, plague and smallpox. A chemical weapons facility in Russia still houses nearly 2 million rounds of chemical nerve agents, enough to kill everyone on Earth dozens of times. Russia knows it needs to destroy these weapons. They have asked for the world's help. It has been slow in coming. Outside Russia, the work to secure weapons and materials has barely begun. This is a crisis that demands an urgent global response."
The G-8 group of leading industrialized nations at their June 27 meeting in Canada pledged to raise up to $20 billion half from the United States over the next 10 years to complete the job of securing thousands of tons of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium and thousands of tactical nuclear weapons. After returning from a recent trip to Russia, Mr. Nunn said, "It would be a miracle if nuclear materials had not been smuggled out of Russia to rogue nations and terrorist groups willing to pay top dollar to satisfy their WMD ambitions."
"Keeping weapons of mass destruction out of terrorists' hands is either a priority or an afterthought," Mr. Nunn told the NTI meeting. "If it's a priority, we must prove it by our actions. If it's an afterthought, after what?"
The former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who is also chairman of CSIS' board of trustees, says: "We are in a new arms race between terrorist efforts to acquire nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and our efforts to stop them. We have moved into a new era of information and new technology, with great promise for humankind, but also with a dark side. The acceleration of scientific discovery, the ease of access to new technology, and the availability of nuclear, biological and chemical materials means it now takes fewer and fewer people to cause greater and greater devastation."
Post-September 11 lassitude or dire warning fatigue has allowed bureaucrats, who believe that inertia is the key to flexibility, both here and in Moscow, to bring work to a virtual standstill in some key projects. "Those in the U.S. Congress and the Russian bureaucracy who are holding up progress on these [joint] programs," Mr. Nunn told TNI board members, "must be held accountable by the media and the public in both countries."
Nuclear power Pakistan now has two of its four provinces under the control of pro-Taliban, pro-al Qaeda and anti-U.S. regional governments. They border the entire length of the common Pakistan-Afghan border. This was the result of President Pervez Musharraf's partly rigged Oct. 10 national elections that also gave Islamist fundamentalists 56 seats out of 272 in the new national parliament, and a probable place in the coalition government now being negotiated. Such is the law of unintended consequences. Iraq is a clear and future danger; Pakistan a clear and present danger.

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