On Tuesday, September 27, Dr. Siegfried Hecker, the former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory (1986-1997), spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC about his new book, Doomed to Cooperate: U.S.-Russian Lab Collaboration. The book captures 25 years of working collaboratively with the Russians on a lab-to-lab basis, and includes some 30 accounts written by American and Russian participants. The scientific exchanges were prompted by the end of the Soviet Union and concerns that “loose nukes,” weapons materials, and experts would fall in the hands of terrorists or rogue regimes.
In the words of author David Holloway, the collaborative effort “helped Russia and other former Soviet states cope with an inheritance from hell.” As Hecker described, the exchanges were transformative for Russian scientists, who wanted to end their Cold War isolation and enjoyed working with their American counterparts. The joint efforts secured the nuclear weapons and materials dispersed throughout the former Soviet Union and avoided a nuclear disaster. The process built a reservoir of good will. As Lev D. Ryabev, former Russian First Deputy Minister of Atomic Energy, said, “We are doomed to cooperate.”
The event was moderated by Rebecca Hersman, director of the Project on Nuclear Issues for CSIS and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction. The event was attended by former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici; Victor H. Reis, formerly Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs and current senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy; Glenn Schweitzer, Director of the Program on Central Europe and Eurasia at the National Academies; journalist David Hoffman, author of the Dead Hand; and many other nuclear weapons experts.
The two-volume book, published in 2016 by the Bathtub Row Press of the Los Alamos Historical Society, is available online here.