As the collapse of the Soviet Union appeared imminent, the United States and their NATO allies grew concerned of the risk of nuclear weapons held in the Soviet republics falling into enemy hands. The Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program was an initiative housed within the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). The CTR program is better known as the Nunn–Lugar Act based on the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991 which was authored and cosponsored by Sens. Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN). This Act was created in 1986 in a congressional meeting. According to the CTR website, "the purpose of the CTR Program is to secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction and their associated infrastructure in former Soviet Union states." An alternative explanation of the program is "to secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction in states of the former Soviet Union and beyond".[1]

CTR provides funding and expertise for states in the former Soviet Union (including Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan) to decommission nuclear, biological, and chemical weapon stockpiles, as agreed by the Soviet Union under disarmament treaties such as SALT I. This funding totaled $400 million a year for a total of four years. After the nuclear warheads were removed from their delivery vehicles by the post-Soviet successor militaries, Nunn-Lugar assistance provided equipment and supplies to destroy the missiles on which the warheads had been mounted, as well as the silos which had contained the missiles. The warheads themselves were then shipped to and destroyed in Russia, with the highly-enriched uranium contained within made into commercial reactor fuel; which was purchased by the United States under a separate program.

In recent years, the CTR program has expanded its mission from securing WMDs at the root source to protecting against WMD "on the move", by enhancing land and maritime border security in the former Soviet Union.

Objectives and programs

According to the CTR website, CTR has four key objectives:[2]

  • Dismantle Former Soviet Union (FSU)'s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and associated infrastructure
  • Consolidate and secure FSU WMD and related technology and materials
  • Increase transparency and encourage higher standards of conduct
  • Support defense and military cooperation with the objective of preventing proliferation

These objectives are pursued and achieved through a variety of programs.[3] Briefly, these include:

  • The Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP; formerly the Biological Threat Reduction Program [BTRP])
  • Chemical Weapons Elimination Program
  • Nuclear Weapons Storage Security Program (NWSS)
  • Strategic Offensive Arms Elimination Program (SOAE)
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction-Proliferation Prevention Initiative (WMD-PPI)

The CTR program is authorized by Title 22 of the United States Code, chapter 68a.[4]

The FY 2007 CTR Annual Report to Congress provides a status update on the program as a whole and individual initiatives. It also details future planned endeavors in each area.[5]


The Cooperative Threat Reduction Act was a major contributor to De-Escalation of nuclear weapon arsenals. This program was used for "the transportation, storage, safeguarding and destruction of nuclear and other weapons in the Soviet Union… and to assist in the prevention of weapons proliferation".[6] One contribution by the Nunn-Lugar program has been the "delivery of equipment to accelerate the dismantlement of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles" to the Soviet Union.[6] This program made important contributions in the disarmament of nuclear warheads in many counties. The Nunn-Lugar program eliminated former strategic weapons outside of Russia. This was most evident in the removal of these weapons in Ukraine.[6] There were many countries that had Soviet Union nuclear weapons. Two others included Belarus and Kazakhstan. The Cooperative Threat Reduction Act helped Russia move the nuclear arsenals in these countries back to Russia or dismembering these weapons in these countries. The United States sent "nearly 700 emergency response items to help guarantee safe and secure transportation of nuclear weapons" to Belarus for the aid of the elimination of nuclear power in this country.[7] The Cooperative Threat Reduction Act played a major role in a huge decrease in the quantity of nuclear weapons that had been stockpiled during the nuclear escalation period.

Another important contribution was when the United States sent storage containers to Russia to store fissionable material under their control. The United States provided "10,000 fissile material storage containers by the end of 1995 and a total of nearly 33,000 containers by early 1997".[7] These containers aided in Russia's ability to store nuclear material from dismantled warheads. Another contribution from the United States to Russia was "75 million dollars to help Russia build a new fissile material storage facility at Chelyabinsk for plutonium "pits" from dismantled warheads".[7] The Nuclear Threat Reduction program was not just used to remove everything fissionable from Russia; it also included ideas for safe storage and transportation of fissionable material in Russia built up during the Cold War and nuclear escalation.