Nunn-Lugar Award Honors Two Nuclear Security Pioneers

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(Photo: Rinat Bikineyev, National Security Archive)

Washington, DC, December 12, 2016 — Former Russian nuclear weapons commander Colonel General Evgeny Maslin and former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry were honored today with the third Nunn-Lugar Award for Promoting Nuclear Security.

The Greatest Threat: Nuclear Terrorism in an Age of Vulnerability

Throughout the world, stockpiles of uranium and plutonium, as well as other radioactive materials, are stored in inadequate facilities. Despite the potential danger, they do not receive the level of scrutiny warranted by the potentially devastating implications of a security failure. This interactive feature, produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York and published on the occasion of the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit, in Washington, D.C., examines these threats and what can be done to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. Continue exploring.

Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace established the international award in 2012 in honor of former U.S. senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar. The award recognizes individuals and institutions whose work has helped to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and reduce the risk of their use.

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Vartan Gregorian (at podium), president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, and George Perkovich (left), vice president for studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, introducing the Nunn-Lugar Award (Photo: Celeste Ford)

Senators Nunn and Lugar presented the award at the Russell Senate Office Building during a conference that took place exactly on the 25th anniversary—to the day—that the program was signed into law in 1991. Formally called the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, Nunn-Lugar provided two decades of U.S. funding and assistance to the former Soviet Union to secure and destroy weapons of mass destruction. During the program’s early stages, General Maslin and Secretary Perry were instrumental in fostering the trust and collaboration that were needed for the denuclearization process to get underway.

Grantees in this story

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(l–r) Former defense secretary William Perry with former senators Lugar and Nunn, and General Viktor Esin, accepting for General Evgeny Maslin (Photo: Celeste Ford)

"With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting 'loose nukes' issue, the world faced the very real prospect of a nuclear catastrophe,” said Secretary Perry. “The foresight of two great senators gave the Department of Defense the authority to resolve this grave problem, and I regard the dismantlement of those 4,000 warheads as the most significant action I was able to oversee as secretary.”

In a statement, General Maslin, who was unable to attend the event, said: “It would not be an exaggeration if I say that in terms of its importance to peace and security, the collective work within the framework of the Nunn-Lugar programs, especially in the early years of its implementation, is comparable to the military and economic cooperation between Moscow and Washington during World War II.” His colleague General Viktor Esin accepted the award on General Maslin’s behalf.

“General Evgeny Maslin was an extraordinarily important player in Nunn-Lugar’s disarmament efforts across the whole of the former Soviet Union in the 1990s,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. “His leadership, courage, and expertise are credited with the successful transfer of nuclear warheads from Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine back to Russia. As secretary of defense, Bill Perry was the general’s American partner. He assisted at each step in the denuclearization campaign by providing funds, know-how, and the political capital needed to ensure the project’s success.”

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a unique global network of policy research centers in Russia, China, Europe, the Middle East, India, and the United States whose mission os to advance the cause of peace through analysis and development of fresh policy ideas and direct engagement and collaboration with decision-makers in government, business, and civil society. Learn more.

William J. Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, added, “I cannot think of any two people more deserving of this award than Secretary Perry and General Maslin—two courageous leaders whose vision, skill, and grit made an immeasurable contribution to international peace and security.”

General Maslin served as head of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s 12th Main Directorate from 1992 to 1997. He was in charge of Russia’s nuclear warheads for the newly formed government during this critically important transition, until his retirement after 40 years of service. General Maslin is a leading expert on nuclear security, nuclear weapons reductions, and verification mechanisms, and is one of the founders of Russia’s programs for international cooperation in the dismantlement of surplus armaments.

Perry was the secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997 under President Bill Clinton, having served as deputy secretary of defense and under secretary of defense for research and engineering. He was a key driver in the efforts to pull nuclear weapons from the former Soviet republics back to Russia and assisted in their dismantlement. Since then Perry continues to engage in diplomatic initiatives focused on nuclear security hotspots, including North Korea and Iran, while raising public awareness through a dedicated website and a memoir of his work in reducing the nuclear threat.

Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, together with Svetlana Savranskaya, the Archive's director of Russia programs, is creating an oral history of the Nunn-Lugar program with support from the Corporation. (Photo: Celeste Ford)
Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, together with Svetlana Savranskaya, the Archive's director of Russia programs, is creating an oral history of the Nunn-Lugar program with support from the Corporation. (Photo: Celeste Ford)

National Security Archive

Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents ("the world's largest nongovernmental collection" according to the Los Angeles Times), leading nonprofit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets. Learn more.

The award ceremony was part of a conference organized by the National Security Archive (NSA) to discuss this landmark bipartisan initiative and the continuing significance of Nunn-Lugar to current nuclear security risks and U.S.-Russia relations. The program is also important to Carnegie Corporation of New York’s work in nuclear security, which began in 1983, an ongoing commitment that helped lay the groundwork for the agreement championed by senators Nunn and Lugar.

"You have to remember how extraordinary this was for the times," said Thomas Blanton, director of the NSA, which is compiling documentation of the program as well as producing an oral history of the Nunn-Lugar experience. "Here we had philanthropy using grantmaking to bridge the gap between research and hard policy decisions in a way we had not seen before, including the task force that allowed Americans and their Russian counterparts to overcome Cold War mindsets and truly cooperate, and the original influential report that gave birth to the Nunn-Lugar idea in 1991. It’s an underappreciated success story in mutual security."

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David Hamburg, former president of the Corporation, created the foundation’s nuclear security program in 1983 and helped lay the groundwork for the Nunn-Lugar program. (Photo: Celeste Ford)

Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar headlined the 25th anniversary of the program that bears their name. Nunn-Lugar @ 25: Looking to the Future served as a reunion for many of the Nunn-Lugar veterans whose efforts demonstrated that mutual security can work. Other distinguished guests at the event included David Hamburg, the former president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, lauded by all present as a driving force in the movement that would culminate with such success in the Nunn-Lugar program.

The Corporation’s work in peace and security is in keeping with the vision of its founder, Andrew Carnegie, who dedicated much of his philanthropy to the goal of achieving world peace. The award is a tribute to this vision and carries a $50,000 prize, to be shared by the two honorees.