During the past 25 years, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies), in collaboration with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), have carried out a wide variety of activities to improve understanding of the challenges in containing and reducing ethnic conflicts, violent extremism, and terrorism. More than 3,000 specialists from the two countries have been involved in these on-the-ground analytical and program activities. Initially, the focus was activities in Russia. More recently, mutual concerns have extended to disruptions and violence in other geographical regions as well. This report highlights challenges addressed by the academies over many years that remain of current interest as the U.S., Russian, and other governments continue to cope with old and new forms of aggression that threaten the livelihood of populations at home and abroad.
SCOPE OF THE REPORT
This report provides an overview of a cross-ocean program of U.S. Russian nongovernmental cooperation that has focused on assessing the roots and trajectories of ethnic conflict, violent extremism, and terrorism during the past 25 years. The program has been based primarily on a series of bilateral agreements on scientific cooperation between the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) (which has been the lead U.S. organization) and the RAS, which in recent years has absorbed activities of the Russian Academies of Medical Sciences and Agriculture. Several activities have been
sponsored primarily by other interested organizations in Russia. The overall program has involved American and Russian scientists, engineers, and medical professionals from a large number of government agencies, leading research institutions, think tanks, educational institutions, analytical centers, and consulting and commercial firms in the two countries.
In describing the cooperative activities that were carried out, the overview of the program set forth in this report underscores the importance of the many linkages between the nongovernmental activities of the NAS and the RAS and the directly related interests of the two governments. The program has included a broad range of analytical and exploratory activities that were designed to contribute to the following objectives:
- To improve understanding of the evolution and proliferation of violent extremism and terrorism, primarily in Russia, with increasing attention in recent years to terrorist threats in the United States and in other countries as well—in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.
- To highlight innovative steps by the U.S. and Russian governments for increasing the effectiveness of large programs in reducing threats of terrorism at home and abroad.
- To underscore approaches for curtailing the increasingly dangerous orientation and geographical spread of disruptive activities due to growing capabilities of some dissident groups.
- To suggest improved security approaches at the national, local, and institutional levels that could help prevent terrorists from disrupting stable conditions in many sensitive locations.
A particularly important development during the period of most active cooperation has been the continuing efforts of many disenfranchised groups to obtain and use increasingly potent technologies. Among the approaches of concern have been their capabilities to acquire dangerous radiological sources and materials, deadly biological agents, inexpensive but effective drones, and cyber technologies that can escalate the impacts of widely available weapons systems. In particular, several areas of the Middle East and Africa have increasingly become testing grounds for use of easy-to-deploy chemical weapons.
In contributing to international appreciation of many of the scientific dimensions of violence and terrorism, this report has been organized as follows:
- Limiting the development and spread of ethnic turmoil that has confronted a changing Russia (Chapter 1).
- Improving essential constraints on biological research and development activities (Chapter 2).
- Reducing vulnerabilities in protection of radiological sources during use, storage, and disposal (Chapter 3).
- Ensuring security of transportation, industrial, construction, and other activities involving dangerous materials, particularly in urban settings (Chapter 4).
- Addressing security challenges linked to recent ethnic turmoil in the Middle East and other areas of interest to the United States and Russia (Chapter 5).
- Increasing awareness of future political, economic, radiological, and other technological developments that could influence the direction of terrorism, and inter-academy plans to continue to move forward in improving understanding of the threats at various stages of violence (Chapter 6).
In addition, appendixes provide details of four important activities highlighted in the chapter narratives. Six other appendixes prepared by participants in recent engagement activities emphasize the relevance of discussions in different chapters to current and future developments in addressing ethnic relations, violent extremism, terrorism, and radiological challenges.
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE AND DOCUMENTATION
The period being considered was punctuated with changes in the U.S.-Russian political environment, which enabled an expansion of scientific interactions that began in the early 1990s. This new era of increased engagement permitted important sharing of security-related concerns between scientists, analysts, and current and future leaders in science, technology, and international relations.
Many of the activities of interest discussed have been documented in considerable detail in more than 30 analytical reports and proceedings of workshops published by the National Academies Press (NAP.edu). Also, the RAS and associated organizations have published or released a number of significant documents in Russian or English about inter-academy science cooperation during the period of interest. The most relevant and available documents have been identified in endnotes. In addition, many participants
in the inter-academy activities have published other articles in various journals about their personal experiences and impressions during participation in the activities of the NAS and the RAS.
SCOPE OF THE JOINT ACTIVITIES OF THE NAS AND THE RAS
The activities that are highlighted represent greater than 70 percent of the program activities undertaken within the broader NAS-RAS program of exchanges in science-related activities during the past 25 years. The overall program of collaboration dates back to 1959. For more than 60 years, the program has addressed dozens of scientific and security issues confronting the two countries, including, but well beyond, terrorism-related challenges.
Devoting 70 percent of recent collaborative efforts to the science and security dimensions surrounding terrorism concerns has been a major commitment of financial resources and relevant expertise by the academies in both countries. The other 30 percent of inter-academy activities has been devoted to (a) joint endeavors of the Committees on International Security and Arms Control of the NAS and the RAS and (b) cooperative activities that have been oriented to other common interests involving the advancement and application of science. These other interests have included climate change, the energy-environment nexus, challenges for higher education at the graduate and postgraduate levels, commercialization of technology, genetically modified organisms, and developments in the Arctic region.
The cooperation during recent years that is considered has included (a) consultations between small groups of specialists from the two countries; (b) bilateral workshops, usually highlighted with prepared presentations by 20–30 specialists, followed by group discussions involving additional specialists; (c) on-site analyses of rapidly developing technologies by small groups of specialists from the two countries; (d) detailed studies of particularly challenging issues, which have been published; and (e) site visits by groups of 10 to 20 specialists.
Most events and related activities were carried out in Russia with visits to more than 30 facilities in Russia and about a dozen in the United States. These visits are identified in this report. A number of the most significant facilities were visited multiple times. Russian specialists had greater financial constraints on international travel than did their American counterparts. Therefore, fewer meetings and field visits were organized in the United States.
The organizers of the activities and the participants in the many wide-ranging meetings and related activities deserve credit for having pro-
vided the content of previous reports, which helped establish the framework for the overview set forth in this report.
Prior to 2012, many other organizations in the two countries, particularly governmental organizations, carried out much larger U.S.-Russian bilateral activities on terrorism than those implemented by the NAS and the RAS. Most of the intergovernmental efforts addressed events of immediate concern, and there was some overlap in the interests of the governments and the focus of the inter-academy program. In addition, a number of nongovernmental organizations beyond the academies in the two countries organized occasional U.S.-Russian meetings concerning developments related to terrorism. However, in more recent years, U.S.-Russian meetings focused on the science and technology dimensions of terrorism and related issues, other than those sponsored by the NAS and the RAS, have been limited in frequency and scope.
Finally, there have been several other characteristics of activities sponsored by the NAS and the RAS worth noting. (1) All American participants, other than the NAS staff, have been volunteers contributing their time for participation in the inter-academy program—with their only financial compensation being payment for travel and lodging. (2) The NAS-RAS programs were built on a base of 30 years of U.S.-Russian cooperation since the demise of the Soviet Union, with the RAS and other Russian participating organizations recognizing the NAS as an important partner during this period. At the same time, the RAS was also reliable in following through on commitments, while providing good conditions for inter-academy events in Russia. (3) As mentioned above, the NAS expended considerable effort in publishing peer-reviewed documents for almost all of the events that it sponsored, thereby maintaining its reputation as a reliable interlocutor for specialists with different points of view on topics of governmental interest, even during times of political uncertainties.
IMPORTANCE OF PEER REVIEW AND OTHER SUPPORT OF THIS REPORT
The peer reviewers of this report significantly improved the quality of the initial draft of the report. While the reviewers provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the report’s conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report. Thus, the responsibility for the final version of this report rests entirely with the author. The peer reviewers were as follows:
Cathy Ann Campbell, CRDF Global (retired);
Elena Filippova, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology in Moscow;
Stepan Kalmykov, Lomonosov Moscow State University;
George Moore, Middlebury College;
Alexander Nechaev, Saint Petersburg Institute of Technology;
James Timbie, Stanford University.
Many American and Russian participants in the cooperative program obtained, organized, and presented the information that was consolidated in the many initial reports that provided the basis for this consolidated report. Also, NAS and RAS staff members served as the administrative backbone of the program, at home and abroad, and deserve special credit for sustaining an ambitious and productive array of activities during more than 25 years. Current staff members Amy Shifflette, Flannery Wasson, and Erik Saari made particularly important contributions to the preparation of this report.
FINANCIAL SPONSORS OF THE REPORT
The Carnegie Corporation of New York suggested the carrying out of this overview of past activities related to U.S.-Russian cooperation in addressing ethnic relations, extremism, and terrorism. Also, the corporation provided funding to support preparation of this report.
Many other U.S. organizations also provided support for the activities that are discussed in this report. In addition to the Carnegie Corporation, they included the Department of Defense, Defense Threat Reduction Agency; the Department of Energy (through the Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory); the Department of State; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Russell Family Foundation; the Richard Lounsbery Foundation; the Rutter Foundation; the Nuclear Threat Initiative; the Aleksanteri Institute of the University of Helsinki; and the National Research Council.
The details of Russian financial support for the program have not been available. Clearly, the Russian hosts provided important support and hospitality during events held in Russia, and Russian organizations covered a significant portion of the travel costs of their specialists abroad.
LEARNING FROM THE PAST TO INFORM THE FUTURE
Recognizing and understanding many of the dimensions of the threat of ethnic violence and terrorism activities at home and abroad will continue to be challenges for the scientific communities in both the United States and Russia. The opportunities for continued bilateral scientific cooperation are uncertain, but the lessons learned during 25 years of collaboration can provide a good basis for addressing problems of common interest that are likely to occur during the indefinite future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Glenn E. Schweitzer has been the director of the Office for Central Europe and Eurasia of the National Research Council since 1985. From 1992 to 1994, he was on leave of absence to serve in Moscow as the chair of the Preparatory Committee for the Establishment of the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) established by the governments of the United States, the European Union, Japan, and Russia. He then became the first executive director of the ISTC. Since 1989 he has written seven books and led the preparation of many reports on U.S.-Russian scientific cooperation, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and high-impact terrorism.
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