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The Implications of a New Era in Arms Control on Regional Nonproliferation and Nuclear Materials Management

November 13, 2003

Prepared Remarks*

I want to thank the members of the Institute for putting this session together and for inviting me to provide some perspectives and observations on the subject of arms control in a new era of international relations and security. This panel is focused on the future of U.S./Russian arms control, which I believe remains of vital importance. I would also like to note that the Arms Control Association's concept of and program focus on arms control goes beyond U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons to cover the full range of conventional, chemical, biological, and nuclear arms challenges, as well as the strategies to deal with them.

Adjusting and Redoubling Arms Control and Nonproliferation Efforts

Let me start by sketching out a diagnosis of and prescription for dealing with today's nuclear security challenges.

While there remain substantial, festering Cold War nuclear dangers, it is abundantly clear that today's Russia is certainly not yesterday's Soviet Union and the major threats to U.S. security are, as President George W. Bush has said repeatedly, international terrorism and the acquisition of nuclear weapons, nuclear material, and other WMD by additional states or non-state actors. We certainly are in a post-post Cold War era of international relations that requires a recalibration of our approaches to dealing with WMD threats and responses.

In my view-and of many in the broader arms control community-the situation demands renewed dedication to arms control and nonproliferation strategies that were pioneered and championed by the United States over the course of the last several decades. The historical record shows that these strategies have been highly successful, though they are clearly not foolproof. We and other states have not met every challenge with appropriate determination. Nor have we and other states been consistent in our pursuit of nonproliferation objectives. Nevertheless, they have been and continue to be an indispensable tool in our national security toolbox. While the new, immediate concern is the possession of dangerous weapons in the hands of dangerous states and terrorists, the problem we face is not simply the intersection of WMD and terrorism, but ultimately it is the very existence of these weapons and the capability to build them, whether by so-called "friendly" or "unfriendly" actors.

As a consequence, I would summarize the overall nuclear security agenda over the next few years along the following lines:

· One set of key tasks involves making much more rapid progress on finishing the task of eliminating Cold War nuclear dangers, including the verifiable elimination of excessive and costly U.S. and Russian strategic and tactical arsenals and delivery systems, as well as expediting and improving our cooperative efforts to safeguard and dispose of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons assets in the former Soviet Union, and, where and when we can in other places, such as the recent U.S.-Russian announcement regarding efforts to retrieve spent HEU fuel from Eastern European states;

· Another priority must be to reinforce key elements of the still evolving nuclear nonproliferation regime, such as improved IAEA safeguards, better physical protection of nuclear facilities and accounting for nuclear materials worldwide, achieving agreement on a global halt to fissile material production for weapons, establishing more stringent controls over the nuclear fuel cycle to limit the proliferation of the most weapons-relevant technologies, and improved monitoring and verification capabilities and institutions in a range of areas.

All of these efforts and more are needed to prevent the emergence of new nuclear-armed states and are essential to impeding terrorist acquisition of nuclear weapons and materials.

Our nonproliferation strategies must also take into account that proliferation and arms racing is invariably motivated and driven by the existence of underlying political and security problems and the perception that nuclear weapons are credible and legitimate tools of foreign and military policy. Consequently, the United States must reconsider and truly diminish the role of nuclear weapons in our own foreign and military policies and strategies and refrain from developing a new class of nuclear weapons and reinforce, not erode, the global nuclear test moratorium. A "do as I say, not as I do" nuclear doctrine and nonproliferation policy is not a prudent long-term strategy.

To me this represents a monumental arms control agenda that requires vigorous U.S. commitment to achieving arms control and nonproliferation results. I do not claim that arms control and nonproliferation measures can address every security threat, nor is it likely that all of these initiatives can be achieved in the near term. But to meet today's proliferation challenges, the nonproliferation regime must be strengthened, not abandoned.

Arms Control Is Dead Because the Cold War Is Over? Wrong.

Nevertheless, it is fashionable these days in some circles to declare arms control, and strategic nuclear arms control in particular, a dead strategy because strategic nuclear arms control was a response to the U.S.-Soviet Cold War nuclear rivalry and the Cold War is over.

With Russia now listed for now in the "friendly state" category, and with new threats from new enemies on the horizon, the argument goes, the United States needs a more flexible approach to nuclear arms control that allows us to re-size, reconfigure, and possibly add new nuclear weapons capabilities.

That approach was outlined rather cogently by Linton Brooks and has been codified, so to speak, with the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, and recent congressional authorization and appropriation decisions to allow research on new and modified nuclear warheads that could, at some future stage, lead to design engineering, development, testing, and production of new nuclear weapons.

Let me turn briefly to SORT, which is also known as the Moscow Treaty, and the pursuit of new U.S. nuclear capabilities, which have become the defining elements of the U.S./Russian strategic arms relationship.

The Moscow Treaty

In my view, it is simplistic and shortsighted to consider arms control a strategy of the past and to believe that the Moscow Treaty allows us to check off the strategic arms control box from the foreign policy to do list.

The Moscow Treaty is useful for what it is: a short statement that binds the United States and Russia to reduce operationally deployed nuclear weapons within a decade. It requires each side to reduce their deployed strategic warheads from about 5,000-6,000 today to no more than 2,200 by 2012.

The administration is to be commended for committing to force reductions that have been delayed for years. But beyond that, the Moscow Treaty is significant not so much for what it is, but what it isn't. In contrast to past agreements, such as START I, it does not restrict or mandate the destruction of strategic missiles and bombers.

The new treaty does not require the destruction of a single nuclear warhead. The new agreement does not even outline a timetable for withdrawing deployed strategic warheads from service. As a result, the treaty allows each side to store warheads withdrawn from service, making them more readily available for redeployment on strategic delivery systems.

At a July 9, 2002 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted that the United States could increase its deployed strategic forces from 2,200 warheads to 4,600 warheads within three years of the treaty's 2012 deadline, which expires the same day that it enters into force.

As Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) has noted, if Russia follows the U.S. storage policy, this will increase the long-term burden of safeguarding Russia's already vast and insecure nuclear weapons complex and require additional U.S. and European financial and technical assistance.

Quite simply, the United States should pursue its past goal of verifiably dismantling excess nuclear warheads and provide greater U.S. funding for assistance to Russia to do so.

In stark contrast to past agreements, the Moscow Treaty contains no additional verification provisions. The White House asserts that this "trust without verification" formulation suits the more amicable U.S.-Russian relationship. To ensure compliance, the Bush team suggests that our national technical means of intelligence gathering and existing START verification provisions will suffice. However, the START agreement is due to expire in 2009, three years before each side is due to comply with the terms of the new treaty. As a result, U.S. intelligence experts cannot assure that the United States can, with high confidence, verify Russia's warhead totals after 2009.

Though proposals to expand data sharing and improve confidence in compliance with the agreed force reductions were considered by U.S. and Russian negotiators, the two sides failed to close a deal on such measures.

President Bush has made the bold and erroneous claim that the treaty "will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War." But in reality, the proposed size of the deployed U.S. arsenal ten years from now would be roughly the same as the 2,000-2,500 levels of the proposed START III framework approved by the U.S. Strategic Command in 1997.

Though the United States and Russia are no longer enemies, the force size allowed by the new treaty and dictated by the Pentagon's recent nuclear posture review is still very much based on Cold War requirements to counter Russia's nuclear and conventional military forces.

Absent such requirements, I challenge anyone in the administration to describe the future threat scenarios that require the deployment of more than a few hundred survivable nuclear warheads, let alone 2,200 warheads with thousands more available for rapid redeployment.

In sum, the agreement's emphasis on flexibility detracts from its predictability, lessening its value in building a more stable and secure U.S.-Russian relationship.

There is much left to be done. There are few signs at the moment that there is much interest doing them.

The False Promise of New Nukes

The Bush administration's vision for the role of nuclear weapons also includes the expansion of U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities designed to counter emerging nuclear and non-nuclear threats.

The pursuit of new nuclear weapons capabilities, now in the research phase, also represents an unnecessary and ultimately counterproductive response to the post-9/11 security threats to our nation. Expanding or adapting the U.S. nuclear arsenal to try to dissuade and deter new adversaries from pursuing, acquiring, and using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons provides little or no additional military value while it risks undermining vital efforts to prevent proliferation and mobilize international support against proliferators.

As President John F. Kennedy noted in 1963, "A nation's security does not always increase as its arms increase…and unlimited competition in the testing and development of new types of destructive nuclear weapons will not make the world safer." The pursuit of new nuclear weapons erodes the nonproliferation norms established over the last four decades and will likely encourage other states to match or counter the U.S. bid.

Proponents argue that, by reducing the weapons' explosive yields, collateral damage can be minimized to the point that they become "usable." But a "small" nuclear blast, with just 1/13 the power of the Hiroshima bomb, detonated at a depth of 20-50 feet, would eject more than a million cubic feet of radioactive debris. If used to target chemical or biological weapons, nuclear strikes would probably spread, rather than destroy, the deadly material.

It is possible to improve the depth of penetration of weapons to destroy deeper targets, but these weapons are hardly "usable." The "robust" bunker-busting nuclear warheads types now under study-the B61 and B83-are not small, but rather high-yield, city-busting behemoths with yields capable of exceeding 100 kilotons.

A nuclear weapon, however big or small, is still a weapon of mass destruction. So long as nuclear weapons exist, their role should be limited to deterring their use by others. The key to holding a potential adversary's buried chemical or biological weapons at risk is better intelligence and more effective conventional munitions, not the threat of nuclear attack.

During his 2000 election run, President Bush aptly called nuclear weapons "obsolete weapons of dead conflicts." He's right. How is the W88 warhead going to help us hunt down Osama? How will the B61 Mod. 11 help us deal with Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran? How will a new round of nuclear testing help us restrain Indo-Pakistani nuclear and missile competition that could increase the risk of a nuclear war in that region?

While the Cold War conflict may be gone, the weapons that grew out of that age are still with us and our decades-long addition to them has not yet ended. The role of nuclear weapons can and should be limited to deterring nuclear attacks by others, and with the likelihood of nuclear attack by Russia as low as it is today, our nuclear arsenal, and that of Russia can and should be irreversibly and verifiably reduced.

In sum, writing off nuclear arms control as a key element in U.S. national security in the interest of keeping open our nuclear weapons options is a losing strategy that shortchanges our security.

Thank you for your attention.

* Delivered remarks may have differed slightly from this text.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies to address security threats posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional arms.