US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Lugar Highlights U.S.-Kazakhstan Nunn-Lugar Cooperation

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mark Helmke • 202-224-5918

Senator Richard Lugar, Republican Leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following statement at the hearing to consider the nomination of Kenneth Fairfax to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan:

I would like to welcome all our nominees on the second panel.  I would like, in particular, to recognize Kenneth Fairfax, who has been nominated by President Obama to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan. 

I was encouraged to read a recent piece in Foreign Policy by David Hoffman, entitled “The Loose Nuke Cable That Shook the World.”  Based on declassified cables, the article details Mr. Fairfax’s long history in observing and reporting on very disturbing nuclear security threats in parts of the former Soviet Union during his service in Moscow in the mid 1990s.  These same concerns prompted my own involvement in these matters, having worked with Senator Nunn to craft the Nunn-Lugar legislation in 1991, which continues to safeguard WMD materials and components throughout the former Soviet Union and now worldwide.

I expect that Mr. Fairfax’s background will serve him well in Astana given Kazakhstan’s central role in non-proliferation endeavors over the past decades.  The United States and Kazakhstan have been cooperating closely on non-proliferation matters for over 18 years through the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program.  At the time of the collapse of the USSR in December 1991, Kazakhstan possessed 1,410 nuclear warheads.  On December 13, 1993, the Government of Kazakhstan signed the Safe and Secure Dismantlement Act and 5 Nunn-Lugar implementing agreements with the United States.  Upon the removal of the last nuclear warhead from Kazakhstan in 1995, Kazakhstan acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995 as a non-nuclear weapon state.  Other successes in Kazakhstan include the closure of the former Soviet Union’s nuclear test site, the elimination of a biological weapons production facility, and the securing of dangerous nuclear, biological, and radiological materials. 

Just last year, the United States and Kazakhstan completed a major nonproliferation program to provide secure storage for the spent fuel from Kazakhstan’s BN-350 plutonium production reactor.   In a large-scale effort over the last year, the spent fuel (enough material to fabricate 775 nuclear weapons) was transported in a series of 12 secure shipments over 1,800 miles, from Aktau near the Caspian Sea to a secure location in eastern Kazakhstan.  The completion of this decade-long effort to secure the BN-350 spent fuel provides yet another example of the progress on nuclear security and non-proliferation through concerted U.S. diplomacy and global security engagement.

I look forward to working with Mr. Fairfax, and all the nominees on the panel, should they be confirmed.