Containing Russia’s Nuclear Firebirds
Harmony and Change at the International Science and Technology Center

Glenn E. Schweitzer

Empowering weapon scientists to pursue nonviolent work


"Glenn Schweitzer's intimate knowledge of Russia's scientific enterprise provides new insights as to how the International Science and Technology Center became a key component of the global effort to reduce the risks of proliferation of dual-use technologies. His personal interactions with scientists throughout Russia provide a treasure trove of information for policy officials and scholars who will reflect on the center's accomplishments and the valuable lessons learned for the future."
—former Senator Sam Nunn, cochairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative

"The risky and unpredictable transformation period in the early 1990s from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation and many new independent states had numerous heroes in media headlines. But there were others working far away from the spotlights to resolve one of the greatest dangers our planet faced: the risks of WMD proliferation and the spread of weapons expertise. This is the fascinating story of the ISTC in Moscow, an organization that for two decades played a major role in mitigating those risks."
—Waclaw Gudowski, Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and Former Deputy Executive Director of the ISTC

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In Containing Russia's Nuclear Firebirds, Glenn E. Schweitzer explores the life and legacy of the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow. He makes the case that the center's unique programs can serve as models for promoting responsible science in many countries of the world.

Never before have scientists encountered technology with the potential for such huge impacts on the global community, both positive and negative. For nearly two decades following the Soviet Union's breakup into independent states, the ISTC has provided opportunities for underemployed Russian weapon scientists to redirect their talents toward civilian research. The center has championed the role of science in determining the future of civilization and has influenced nonproliferation policies of Russia and other states in the region. Most important, the center has demonstrated that modest investments can encourage scientists of many backgrounds to shun greed and violence and to take leading roles in steering the planet toward prosperity and peace.

Schweitzer contends that the United States and other western and Asian countries failed to recognize the importance, over time, of modifying their donor-recipient approach to dealing with Russia. In April 2010 the Russian government announced that it would withdraw from the ISTC agreement. After expenditures exceeding one billion dollars, the ISTC's Moscow Science Center will soon close its doors, leaving a legacy that has benefited Russian society as well as partners from thirty-eight countries. Schweitzer argues that a broader and more sustained movement is now needed to help prevent irresponsible behavior by dissatisfied or misguided scientists and their patrons.

Studies in Security and International Affairs

Page count: 288 pp.
16 b&w photos, 5 tables, 7 figures
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Glenn E. Schweitzer is director of the Office for Central Europe and Eurasia of the U.S. National Academies. He served in Moscow as the first executive director of the International Science and Technology Center from 1992 to 1994. His many books include U.S.-Iran Engagement in Science, Engineering, and Health and A Faceless Enemy: The Origins of Modern Terrorism.