ISSN 2330-717X

Cooperative Threat Reduction: Case Study Of Kazakhstan – Analysis


By Syed Adnan Athar Bukhari

Co-operative Threat Reduction (CTR) is one of the U.S. nonproliferation and threat reduction efforts, started from 1992 after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The safety and security of Soviet Nuclear Weapons became a major concern for the US in the aftermath of a failed coup in Moscow as highlighted in the CTR report published by the US Department of Defence that:

“The dangers posed by this situation were clear: diversion or unauthorized use of weapons, diversion of fissile materials, and possible participation of Soviet weapons scientists in proliferation efforts in other countries. Despite significant positive changes occurring in the New Independent States (NIS), these weapons continued to pose a threat to U.S. national security.”

The US Congress passed the Nunn-Lugar amendment, authorizing U.S. threat reduction assistance to the former Soviet Union in November 1991 which provided assistance in transporting, storing, and dismantling nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons under the START Treaty to the following countries:

Belarus, and

Background of CTR:


Senators Nunn and Lugar proposed an amendment to the implementing legislation for the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. The Senate passed the legislation. This amendment, titled the “Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991,” authorized the use of $400 million in Fiscal Year 1992 to The Department of Defence (DOD) to assist the Soviet Union, and its “successor entities” with efforts to:

1) Destroy nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, and other weapons;

2) Transport, store, disable, and safeguard weapons in connection with their destruction; and

3) Establish verifiable safeguards against the proliferation of such weapons.”

The US fulfills its legal aspects of CTR under the US Code, Title 22 of Foreign Relations and Intercourse, Chapter 68a of “Cooperative Threat Reduction with states of Former Soviet Union.”

Case Study of Kazakhstan:

Kazakhstan became the fourth largest nuclear arsenal country in the world after Russia, the United States and Ukraine after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It inherited 1,410 nuclear warheads and the Semipaltinsk nuclear weapon test site. Kazakhstan transferred all of these nuclear warheads to Russia by April 1995 and destroyed the nuclear testing infrastructure at Semipalatinsk by July 2000.

Kazakhstan became a non-nuclear weapon state with the assistance of the US led CTR project. CTR encouraged its demilitarization by agreeing to assist with dismantlement of over 100 SS-18 operational and test silos, and associated missile bases and infrastructures; and by helping to improve control and accounting for fissile materials.

About $100 million were provided to Kazakhstan under CTR which provides:

  • enhancements for control and accounting of fissile material,
  • emergency response equipment,
  • dismantlement of over 100 SS-18 operational and test silos, and
  • support for conversion of weapons of mass destruction industry to civilian production

Project Sapphire

On 21st November 1994, 581kg (1,278 pounds) of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU), enough for 20 nuclear weapons was transferred from the Ulba Metallurgy Plant which is situated 20 miles outside of the northern Kazakhstani city of Ust-Kamenogorsk to the Y-12 plant at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the United States (US) in a highly secret project code-named “Sapphire.” This project was carried out in order to prevent the possibility of diversion by terrorists, or by any of the so-called nuclear threshold states near Kazakhstan.

In 2001, Project Sapphire also involved the removal of 2,900kg of nuclear fuel (enriched up to 26% U-235) from the Mangyshlak Atomic Energy Combine in Aktau, Kazakhstan. The material at Mangyshlak was transferred to Ulba, the US where it was down-blended into non-weapons usable forms of uranium for use in commercial and scientific activities.

Safe and Secure Dismantlement Act (SSD):

Kazakhstan signed the Safe and Secure Dismantlement Act (SSD) and its five implementing agreements with the United States on 13th December, 1993, making the first $85 million in Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) funding available to Kazakhstan. This, and subsequent funds totaling $172.9 million as of 31st January 1999, were made available to Kazakhstan for the implementation of 10 CTR programs, mentioned below;

Defense & Military Contacts Active
Defense Enterprise Fund Active
Emergency Response Training/Equipment Completed
Export Control Completed
Government to Government Communications Link Completed
Industrial Partnerships (Defense Conversion)
International Science & Technology Center (ISTC) Transferred to Department of State
Material Protection, Control & Accounting Transferred to Department of Energy
Strategic Offensive Arms Elimination Completed
Weapons of Mass Destruction Infrastructure Elimination

Source: Nuclear Threat Initiative: Building a Safer World;

The US spending in CTR:

Initially, the US Department of Defence solely took part in CTR programme but in the later years, the Congress distributed the work of CTR to two other departments. So, from mid 1990s, three US Departments namely, the Department of Defence, Department of Energy and State Department are carrying out CTR project. The following table highlights the Congress approval of amounts for CTR programme.

CTR Funding: Requests and Authorization ($ millions)

Fiscal Year Request Authorization
Total FY1992-FY2010 $8211.70 $8282.65
2011 $522.5 $522.5

Source: CRS Report on “Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Assistance: U.S. Programs in the Former Soviet Union by Amy F. Woolf”

Kazakhstan: Prevalent nuclear status:

NPT non-nuclear weapon state formerly possessed nuclear weapons

Arsenal Size: Kazakhstan possesses no nuclear weapons. Kazakhstan formerly had 1,410 Soviet strategic nuclear warheads placed on its territory. One of the Soviet Union’s two major nuclear test sites was located at Semipalatinsk.
Progress in Disarmament: Kazakhstan transferred all its Soviet-era nuclear weapons to the Russian Federation by April 1995 and destroyed the nuclear testing infrastructure at Semipalatinsk by July 2000.

Nuclear Weapon Related Policy:

State party to the:


CTBT, and


Ratified the Lisbon Protocol to START I,

Signed an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency in February 2004,

Signatory to the Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ) from 8 September, 2006.


The United States articulates that with CTR assistance, substantial progress has been made in reducing the threat from these weapons and in preventing the emergence of new threats in the post-Cold War world. Continuing this program of defense by other means will continue to enhance U.S. national security for the future. Keeping in view the Kazakhstan’s case in the light of CTR programme, although the US is increasing its security yet decreases the deterrence capability of other states.

Syed Adnan Athar Bukhari is Research Fellow at South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) and he can be reached at [email protected]

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