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Since the early 1990s, the United States has been concerned about the diversion of expertise and sensitive information from the nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons complexes of the former Soviet Union (FSU). This documented briefing offers an assessment of the threat of diversion from the FSU and examines each of its key components, including the nation-states and individuals who seek to illicitly acquire NBC weapons expertise and the institutions and individuals who already have it. The authors argue that the threat goes beyond just scientists to highly skilled technicians, retirees, and key administrative and support personnel who can provide sensitive information. The authors further argue that applying a simple supply-and-demand model to the problem of proliferation overlooks the critical role that various barriers and disincentives to proliferation have played in keeping the actual number of cases of diversion low.

The research described in this briefing was prepared for the United States Department of Energy. This research was conducted within the RAND National Security Research Division, which conducts research and analysis for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Commands, the defense agencies, the Department of the Navy, the U.S. intelligence community, allied foreign governments, and foundations.

This report is part of the RAND documented briefing series. RAND documented briefings are based on research presented to a client, sponsor, or targeted audience in briefing format. Additional information is provided in the documented briefing in the form of the written narration accompanying the briefing charts. All RAND documented briefings undergo rigorous peer review to ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity. However, they are not expected to be comprehensive and may present preliminary findings. Major research findings are published in the monograph series; supporting or preliminary research is published in the technical report series.

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