The National Academies and the Russian Academy of Sciences released a very interesting study “Strengthening U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation”, which they presented this morning. The idea of the study was to look at the impediments to U.S.-Russian cooperation and find ways to overcome them.

The list of recommendations looks very interesting. The central recommendation of the study is to bring back the “Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission” (under the title of a Joint High-Level Commission). Which is an interesting idea, but the chances for its resurrection are about as high as the chances of Mr. Gore and Mr. Chernomyrdin getting back to the politics, which are essentially zero.

Then the recommendations go to overcoming legal obstacles. This is very telling. The issues here are not legal as in “international treaty legal”. These are taxes, liabilities, and other quite boring lawyerly stuff. To some extent this is a good sign – when issues like these become prominent, it usually means that the relationships between countries are pretty good. At the same time, these issues are the most difficult to resolve.

The rest of the recommendations deal with organization and management and scientific and technical cooperation. These are very sensible, which you would certainly expect from people who have been managing a lot of cooperative projects in the past.

Overall, the work done by the academies shows that the answer to problems is not necessarily in creating new bureaucracies, but rather in continuing exactly the kind of work the academies have been doing so far – constantly coming up with new joint projects they find interesting and worthy. I’m not sure that the high-level commission they advocate would do a better job.

(Originally posted on the 2005 Carnegie Non-Proliferation Conference web site)