National Geographic : 2002 Nov
Then there are the freelancers, what the analysts call "non-state actors" (though some are funded and housed by governments), whose willingness to die for their beliefs makes their tactics and their timing utterly unpredict able. If they were to strike, where would they get their weapons? Russia, because of its vast WMD stocks and economic turmoil, is the most obvious answer. A poor and weak Russia can cause harm in ways that a powerful Soviet Union never did even as it is voluntarily disarming. Given Russia's dysfunctional economy, Mos cow is in no position to spend millions of dollars on security for its stores of deactivated nuclear warheads, along with the former U.S.S.R.s decaying production facilities, sub marines, and reactors, which hold enough material for thousands of nuclear bombs. Russian authorities say that since 1991, there have been 23 attempts to steal fissile material from nuclear facilities and Soviet-era stock piles, which reside at over 40 locations across Russia as well as in former Soviet republics. In 1994 the U.S. government purchased 1,300 pounds of highly enriched uranium from Kazakhstan to get it out of circulation. Some of the thieves were caught. Others succeeded in smuggling small quantities of weapons-grade material out of the country, leading U.S. intelligence officials to speculate that enough material for a nuclear bomb has already left Russia. Also of grave concern are the unknown quantities that went missing or unaccounted for as the Soviet bureau cracy unraveled. The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the Department of Energy have launched programs to dispose of such material and to update security at former Soviet facili ties, and U.S. lawmakers recently increased funding for their efforts. But even with U.S. supplied razor wire and TV monitors, Russian WMD sites are subject to the whims of under paid scientists and soldiers who have been stripped of their former prestige and dignity.