Twenty-five years ago, amid the chaos that surrounded the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, two senators – a Republican and a Democrat – established an unlikely program whose goal was to safeguard the crumbling empire’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.
At the time, the Russian Federation had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and enough enriched uranium and plutonium for tens of thousands more. It also had 40,000 tons of chemical weapons and a deadly stockpile of biological agents ready for use. In the United States, watching as the USSR fell apart, government officials were worrying about all those nukes and chemical weapons, fearing what would happen to them in the vacuum of a Soviet collapse.
In the meantime, Georgia Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn and Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, having worked for decades with Soviet leaders on arms control, had some insight into what was happening, and they were hearing things from their Soviet colleagues that made them understand that the situation could become a clear and present danger for the United States.
So they briefed their congressional colleagues, with the help of a guy named Dr. Ash Carter – now the secretary of defense – who also had ideas about how the situation could be handled, and soon created the CTR program as the Nunn-Lugar amendment – formally the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991 – to the implementing legislation for the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.