How the U.S. Government's Export Control Assistance Programs in the Former Soviet Union and Central Europe More Effectively Prevent Proliferation

May 20, 2002 // 12:00am

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. program to assist governments, especially in the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, to improve their export control capacities with the goal of preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the components, materials, and knowledge to make them, stated T. Scott Bunton.

This program, currently administered by the State Department with the assistance of the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Treasury, was initiated following the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the realization that the threat of the authoritarian Soviet regime has been replaced with a dramatically increased risk of proliferation. Bunton noted that, after a decade of operation, the program has not been thoroughly reviewed, nor an overarching prescription for increasing its effectiveness developed based on such an evaluation. He offered several recommended program enhancements based on his experience in managing and observing its operation.

Bunton's first set of recommendations centered on determining and specifying global goals for the program and goals for each country receiving technical assistance. These include persuading target states' officials of the importance to national and international security of nonproliferation activities and specifically export controls, creating an esprit de corps among export control practitioners, facilitating international cooperation and communication among export control officials; and building international consensus on which states are "bad actors" and what technologies and materials should be withheld from those states by means of export controls.

The full array of export control competencies should be addressed in a set of curriculum components to be delivered to target countries, according to their needs and pre-existing capabilities, with each component developed and presented by the best-equipped U.S. agency. Bunton noted that the curriculum should emphasize "train the trainer" programs to reach additional target state personnel the U.S. instruction cannot reach. The successes and failures of the technical assistance activities should be carefully and objectively assessed, and the capabilities of target states periodically and objectively assessed throughout their participation in the program. According to Bunton, the U.S. export control agencies should establish ongoing consultations with export control personnel in countries receiving technical assistance, and should facilitate establishment of a means to certify the capability of export control professionals and of an international professional organization for those practitioners.

Bunton urged that the U.S. not offer and withdraw technical assistance in export control as an inducement to influence a state's behavior in other realms. Helping nations achieve export control competence serves U.S. interests as much if not more than the interests of target states.

In conclusion, Bunton emphasized that the most urgent unmet security threat to the U.S. is that stolen WMDs or WMD materiel will be used against the U.S. at home or abroad. It is clear that efforts to reduce this threat are not being given priority commensurate with the threat. In the aftermath of September 11, it is vital that we help other states achieve greater nonproliferation capability by increasing the resources and high-level attention we devote to export control technical assistance programs.

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