Editor's NOTE

Article excerpt

It is perhaps the scenario most dreaded by the American public and U.S. national security experts: Organized crime gangs take advantage of poorly secured former Soviet nuclear materials and smuggle a bomb's worth of nuclear material across unguarded borders. They pass the material to terrorists, who eventually detonate such a weapon in the United States or against U.S. interests.

Fortunately, such a scenario has yet to play out in real life. Indeed, as Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley notes in this month's cover story, available data indicates that, despite post-September 11 fears, a nexus among terrorists, organized crime, and dangerous weapons trafficking has not formed in the former Soviet Union. Still, she cautions that more needs to be done to keep such nightmares from becoming reality.

Likewise, Sidney Niemayer and David K. Smith say that, by failing to keep better track of these incidents and relevant materials, governments in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere are failing to fully tap a vital resource. Follow-on investigations and information sharing, they say, could help determine the origin of nuclear or radiological materials and point to the perpetrators of such crimes.

Americans may fear a nuclear attack by terrorists, but some non-nuclear-weapon states fear such an attack from the United States and other nuclear weapons possessors. To assuage their concern, they have pushed the nuclear-weapon states to provide assurances that they will not use nuclear arms against states without them. …