Ambassador’s Remarks at the Opening of Nuclear Security Center of Excellence in Medininkai
June 4, 2012
Dear members of the Lithuanian government, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests:
It is an honor to be here at the Opening Ceremony of the Nuclear Security Center of Excellence. As you know, Laura Holgate, the Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism and Threat Reduction at the White House National Security Council planned to be here today to help celebrate this achievement with us, but unfortunately her flight from Washington has been delayed. Ms. Holgate sends her deepest regrets for this event, but she will join us for the upcoming implementation workshop on UNSC Resolution 1540 on June 5-6. I am pleased to have this opportunity to convey both her and the United States’ deep appreciation and support for all this Center represents, both for Lithuania, the region, and worldwide security. As Ambassador of the United States to Lithuania, it is my pleasure to attend this Opening Ceremony and mark this momentous occasion with all of you.
Over the past several years, Lithuania has taken a leadership position on important initiatives in order to prevent nuclear terrorism. In his 2009 speech in Prague, President Obama called on the world to break up the nuclear black market. Then in 2010 at the Washington Nuclear Security Summit, 50 world leaders agreed to a Work Plan that defines a path of important steps countries can take to curb illicit trafficking of nuclear material. By the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in 2012, Lithuania had made the historic decision to take on this leadership role and establish the Center of Excellence that we are celebrating today.
This will be the first Center of Excellence aimed at countering nuclear smuggling and it is our hope – as well as Lithuania’s – that this Center can become a cornerstone of President Obama’s appeal in Prague. The U.S. certainly sees this Center as having that role and has pledged support for the Center to help make it as successful as possible.
In the coming months and years, this Center will aspire to become a regional training center where many countries’ police and intelligence officers can train together and exchange best practices. Their training will strengthen security and counter nuclear smuggling efforts both within Europe and worldwide.
As a result, nuclear smuggling will be a prohibitively difficult endeavor. There will be a strong network of law enforcement and intelligence specialists searching for indications of nuclear activities and thwarting these attempts, and a community of nuclear forensics experts who know how to work with them.
Officers from Lithuania, this region, and across the world can come to the center to increase counter nuclear smuggling capacity, build relationships that will be critical in a crisis, and learn to seize and handle dangerous radioactive material.
This increased police and intelligence activity aimed at nuclear smuggling can have additional benefits – investigations into nuclear smuggling can identify other illicit businesses and put those activities at risk.
Classes at the Center will also build on Lithuania’s deep experience with nuclear technology to help integrate the technical and scientific community with the law enforcement and intelligence community.
In addition, regional training at the Center will work to promote further cooperation and understanding between foreign partners and international organizations, all working toward the common goal of preventing nuclear smuggling.
Lithuania is also co-hosting over the next two days an important workshop on implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1540. The Center's activities can help put into practice the goals of Resolution 1540. For example, courses can improve prosecutorial actions to increase conviction rates and strengthen sentences.
The 1540 Workshop will focus on prevention, detection, and responses, and will result in a discussion of best practices and the development of “lessons learned” regarding how countries can best implement various aspects of the 1540 Resolution.
To put this Center in the context of events over the last couple of years, we are seeing a fundamental shift in the world’s capacity to counter nuclear smuggling. Since the Washington Nuclear Security Summit:
- INTERPOL has launched their new Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Unit and started processes to facilitate rapid information sharing on nuclear smuggling cases using their notice system.
- Poland and INTERPOL hosted the first ever Counter Nuclear Smuggling conference that brought together senior police and intelligence officials.
- Jordan established a Counter Nuclear Smuggling team and many other countries have increased their Counter Nuclear Smuggling capacity.
- At the Seoul Summit, 19 countries—including Lithuania—pledged to increase Counter Nuclear Smuggling capacity.
These new activities and pledges will need a venue to come together. This Center will facilitate the exchange of best practices, and teach students to use all available means to thwart nuclear smuggling attempts – from counter-proliferation to counter-terrorism tools.
The Counter Nuclear Smuggling approach works. In the past several years, we have seen Georgia and Moldova seize highly enriched uranium from smugglers, and a number of other countries seize radioactive material.
It is important to underscore how critical these operations are to global security. Because of coordinated police and intelligence action, dangerous nuclear material is off the market and not in the hands of terrorists.
At some time in the future, at some place as yet unknown, some officer who received training at the Lithuanian Nuclear Security Center of Excellence will also intercept this kind of material and keep it away from terrorists. This, in essence, is the importance of the Center that Lithuania is opening today.
You have the full support of the United States and I wish you all great success in the future of this Center. Thank you!