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Arms Control Today

Russia Skips Summit Planning Meeting

Russia did not attend a planning session held in Washington in late October for the 2016 nuclear security summit, casting doubt on its participation in the summit.

December 2014

By Kingston Reif and Daniel Horner

Russia did not attend a planning session held in Washington in late October for the 2016 nuclear security summit, casting doubt on its participation in the summit.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends the opening plenary session of the nuclear security summit in The Hague on March 24. Russia said last month that it does not intend to participate in the preparations for the next summit, which is to be held in the United States in 2016. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)In a Nov. 5 statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow “does not see any possibility to take part in the preparations” for the upcoming summit, which would be the fourth installment of the biennial meetings.

The summits are the most visible feature of an accelerated international effort to prevent nuclear terrorism. U.S. President Barack Obama launched the effort as part of his speech in Prague in April 2009. Summits have been held in Washington in 2010, Seoul in 2012, and The Hague last March.

The 2016 summit in the United States is scheduled be the last. In its statement, Russia questioned the need for that meeting.

“[M]ost of the political commitments undertaken by the participants of the preceding summits have been implemented,” said the statement. “These summits have thus nearly exhausted their agenda.”

The statement expressed “grave concern” with the proposed framework for planning the summit. According to Russia, the planning process privileges the hosts of the previous summits in the drafting of the preparatory summit documents.

Russia criticized the creation of “working groups formed arbitrarily and with limited membership” to “devise guidelines for such international bodies and initiatives” as the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, and Interpol. The five working groups are intended to examine how to embed the work of the summits into existing international institutions that have a nuclear security mandate. (See ACT, December 2012.)

Officials from several countries confirmed that some states have raised some objections to the process. But a main purpose of the planning meetings is to air and resolve such objections, Laura Holgate, senior director for weapons of mass destruction terrorism and threat reduction at the U.S. National Security Council, said in a Nov. 17 interview.

In a Nov. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a European official said that “[n]ew proposals concerning the organization of the workshops have been made.” The official wrote that “[i]t is logical that each host is willing to influence the way the summit goes,” but emphasized that “nothing is set in stone at this stage,” as the proposals are under negotiation.

“What matters is to preserve the consensus rule,” the official said.

Summits’ Progress
At the summits, participating countries have announced steps they would take individually and collectively to increase the security of fissile materials. These steps have included the removal of nuclear materials, enhancement of capabilities to counter nuclear smuggling, creation of centers to improve nuclear security and training, and ratification of international agreements and conventions that govern nuclear security.

Russia, which possesses the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear material, has been an important participant in the summit process. In particular, Russia has assisted in the accelerated return of Russian-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Russia and the United States worked together in late September to assist with the removal of HEU from Poland and Kazakhstan. (See ACT, November 2014.)

Russia’s decision to boycott the preparations for the 2016 summit comes on the heels of a downturn in relations with the United States over Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

But Kenneth Luongo, a former senior adviser to the secretary of energy for nonproliferation policy who is now president of the Partnership for Global Security, said Russia’s absence from the October planning session goes beyond the current crisis in relations over Ukraine. It is another step in a decision that Russia has made to “wind down cooperation” with the United States on nuclear security, Luongo said in a Nov. 21 interview.

Luongo, who is a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, said the backsliding began with Russia’s insistence in 2013 on a pared-down replacement for the old Cooperative Threat Reduction program. (See ACT, July/August 2013.) That was followed by limited action from Russia at this year’s nuclear security summit, Luongo said. Russia notably failed to endorse a key initiative from the summit, formulated by the Netherlands, South Korea, and the United States and joined by 32 other countries.

On another nuclear security issue, Luongo noted that Russia had announced recently that it would not sign any new contracts for work with the United States on bolstering the security of nuclear materials and facilities inside Russia. Those contracts expire at the end of this year. (See ACT, November 2014.)

Luongo characterized Russia’s behavior as “irresponsible” and warned that U.S. options for convincing Russia to change course are limited. “You can’t throw a life preserver to someone floating away from you,” he said.
Russia said that it informed the United States of its decision not to participate in the 2016 summit preparations in mid-October. Of the 53 countries that attended the 2014 summit, Russia was the only one that did not participate in the planning session.

Closing the Door?
In spite of its negative tone and its expression of “doubts regarding the added value the 2016 forum,” the Russian Foreign Ministry statement did not explicitly rule out Moscow’s attendance at the 2016 summit. But one high-ranking Russian official went beyond the statement. “We are not planning to attend the summit,” said Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, during a Nov. 5 discussion with reporters at his home in Washington.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at a Nov. 4 press briefing that “the United States regrets Russia’s decision not to participate” in the October meeting. Earnest added, however, that “the door remains open to Russia joining future meetings like this.”

Posted: December 31, 1969

Iran, P5+1 Extend Nuclear Talks

Iran and six world powers extended talks on a comprehensive nuclear deal for a second time after failing to reach an agreement last month.

December 2014

Kelsey Davenport

Iran and six world powers extended negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear agreement for a second time after failing to reach a deal by Nov. 24.

Negotiators now see a “credible path” toward a comprehensive agreement and aim to conclude a deal by June 30, according to a Nov. 24 joint statement from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the European Union’s Catherine Ashton, lead negotiator for the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The statement came after seven days of talks in Vienna.

In November 2013, Iran and the P5+1 reached an interim agreement and said they intended to complete negotiations on a comprehensive deal, for which they later set a deadline of July 20. On that date, however, negotiators announced that they would need additional time and extended the talks until Nov. 24. (See ACT, September 2014.)

Since the July extension, Iran and the P5+1 have met multiple times in a variety of formats, including a Nov. 9-10 meeting in Muscat, Oman, involving Ashton, Zarif, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

In the statement announcing the most recent extension, Ashton and Zarif said the two sides aim to reach a political agreement within four months and then complete the technical annexes for a comprehensive agreement before the June 30 deadline.

During the extension, both sides will continue to implement the 2013 interim agreement, the statement said. That agreement halts Iranian nuclear activities, provides limited sanctions relief from the P5+1, and allows Iran access to certain frozen assets. (See ACT, December 2013.)

Kerry, who joined the talks on Nov. 20, also delivered a statement on Nov. 24, saying that more time is needed because the issues are technical and complex and that the United States wants to get the “right agreement.”
According to Kerry, that means a deal that must “close off all of the pathways for Iran to get fissile material for a nuclear weapon” and put in place “a new level of transparency and verification.” In return, Iran would receive relief from nuclear-related sanctions.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but the international community is concerned Iran may choose to develop nuclear weapons.

On Nov. 17, the day before the most recent round of talks started, a senior U.S. official said on a media call that an extension had not been discussed and the parties were “focused on whether we can get a comprehensive understanding concluded” by Nov. 24.

Another official at the talks said in a Nov. 25 interview that negotiators resisted discussion on extending the talks until “very close to the end” when it was clear the two sides could not reach an agreement.

Some officials were disappointed by the length of the extension, he said, and would have favored a shorter time frame for reaching an agreement or a longer stay in Vienna to see if an agreement could be reached.

In remarks to the press following the extension announcement, Zarif said that the political agreement could be reached “in a few days” if the countries are willing to be flexible and make “hard decisions.”

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Nov. 24 that negotiators gave themselves four months but aim to reach the political agreement in “three months or so.” Hammond said both sides would need to be flexible to get an agreement.
Enrichment an Obstacle
Left to right, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attend a November 24 session of the Vienna talks on Iran’s nuclear program. Their countries are members of the P5+1, which also includes Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty)At the time of the first extension in July, negotiators said that Iran and the P5+1 had found common ground on a number of issues, such as the future of the uncompleted Arak heavy-water reactor and the Fordow enrichment facility. But significant gaps on key issues remained. (See ACT, September 2014.)

During the week of talks last month, the two sides made “real and substantial progress,” including on some of the “most vexing challenges,” Kerry said in his statement. Negotiators now see ways to reach agreement on some intractable issues, he said.

Determining the size of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program and the sequence of sanctions relief have been difficult issues for the negotiators to resolve, but a third official at the talks said in a Nov. 24 interview that the sides made “serious progress” on the issue of uranium enrichment.

The official said it has been extremely difficult to find a solution that meets the P5+1 “breakout demands” and leaves enough uranium-enrichment capability intact for Iran to “sell the compromise in Tehran.”

Breakout, in this case, refers to the amount of time it would take for Iran to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade for one nuclear weapon, about 25 kilograms of uranium enriched to a level at which 90 percent of the material is uranium-235. Additional time is required to weaponize the material. 

Currently, it would take Iran two to three months to produce enough material for one weapon, according to Kerry’s congressional testimony earlier this year. Kerry has said that the United States wants to extend that time to about a year.

To achieve this goal, the P5+1 wants to reduce Iran’s enrichment capacity and place limits on other elements of its nuclear program, including the stockpiles of enriched material that Iran maintains and the types of new centrifuges that the country is developing.

Iran currently is enriching uranium to less than 5 percent U-235, an enrichment level that would make the material usable in power reactors.

Tehran says it needs to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity in the future to provide fuel for nuclear power reactors it plans to build. Under a contract that runs through 2021, Russia is supplying the fuel for Iran’s only currently operating power reactor, at Bushehr.

Although the third official acknowledged that Iran and the P5+1 likely could not have reached an agreement by Nov. 24 on uranium enrichment, he said that some of the officials at the talks favored a shorter extension of several weeks to close the remaining gaps and expressed concern that the long extension may result in a “loss of momentum.”

Hammond said negotiators need to “take the momentum that has been generated over the last month or so” and “keep moving with it.”

Sanctions Relief
A man looks at newspapers displayed outside a kiosk in Tehran on November 25, a day after Iran and the P5+1 announced that they were extending their talks for a second time. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)In the Nov. 25 interview, the second official said that finding a compromise on sanctions relief still poses a significant challenge. Iran is subject to U.S., EU, and UN sanctions because of its nuclear activities.

Earlier in the talks, Iran was pushing for an approach that would provide relief from banking and oil sanctions, which are imposed primarily through U.S. and EU measures, in the early phases of a deal, the official said. But when talks resumed in September after the announcement of the first extension, Iran pressed for the lifting of UN sanctions, the official said.

Since 2006, the UN Security Council has passed four resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran in a variety of areas for failing to comply with a July 2006 resolution requiring Tehran to halt its uranium-enrichment activities. The sanctions cover such areas as investment in some parts of Iran’s economy and the import or export of materials and technologies that could be used for Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

In March 2006, Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, requested Security Council action because he thought it could “serve as a forum to find ways and means to bring back all the parties to the negotiating table.”

Prior to his request for UN action, France, Germany, and the UK were negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program after the international community discovered that Iran was building the Natanz facility in secret.

There are concerns about lifting sanctions too early because the P5+1 wants to ensure that Iran continues to comply with a comprehensive deal for the long term, the second official said. If the sanctions relief comes too early, it may be difficult to reimpose measures if Iran does not adhere to the agreement, the official said.

Kerry said the P5+1 wants to “terminate the sanctions” but “the world still has serious questions about Iran’s nuclear program.” Iran will need to take “concrete, verifiable steps to answer those questions” before the sanctions are terminated, he said.

Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Council, said on Oct. 19 that the administration has been “clear that initially there would be suspension” of sanctions and that termination of the sanctions would come after Iran meets “serious and substantive benchmarks.”

The president has the authority to waive most sanctions on Iran for national security purposes for short periods of time.

Additional Sanctions Threatened
Under the interim agreement, the United States pledged not to impose any additional nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.

Although those conditions still apply to the extension, the second official expressed concern that U.S. members of Congress may “disregard the negotiators” and press ahead with sanctions that could “spoil the chances of a deal,” particularly once the Republican-controlled Congress convenes in January.

In the Nov. 4 elections, Republicans gained control of the Senate and increased their majority in the House of Representatives.

After the announcement on extending the talks, several members of Congress spoke out in favor of new measures to put additional pressure on Iran.

In a joint statement, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the “latest extension of talks should be coupled with increased sanctions.” Although the senators said they support diplomatic efforts, they also said they were concerned that allowing Iran any enrichment capability in a deal could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Kerry asked Congress to support the extension and said that negotiators have “earned the benefit of the doubt” by producing an agreement that has worked and has not been violated by either side. Although Iran receives limited sanctions relief under the interim agreement, the sanctions regime “remains intact,” Kerry said.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said it would be “unwise” for Congress to pass new sanctions during the extension and that such new sanctions would be a violation of the interim agreement. Murphy said it is important that the United States is not responsible for a “breakdown in negotiations.”

Sanctions would create an opening for Iran “to retaliate by resuming uranium enrichment to 20 percent, adding new and advanced centrifuges, or other dangerous and escalatory measures,” Murphy said.

Iran halted enrichment of uranium to 20 percent as part of the interim agreement and eliminated its stockpile of gas enriched to that level. The stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium in gas form was a particular concern to the P5+1 because uranium enriched to that level is more easily enriched further to weapons grade.

Posted: December 31, 1969

Looking Back: Ukraine’s Nuclear Predicament and the Nonproliferation Regime

In the early 1990s, Ukraine’s claim to rightful ownership of nuclear weapons that had been part of the Soviet arsenal became a bone of contention in the country’s relations with Russia and the United States.

By Mariana Budjeryn

November 16, 2014, marked 20 years since Ukraine joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state, relinquishing the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union. Today, the nuclear renunciation of Ukraine, along with those of Belarus and Kazakhstan, is hailed as a great contribution to the cause of nuclear nonproliferation. This accomplishment is all the more laudable considering the unprecedented challenges created by the demise of the nuclear superpower and the ambiguous status of the nuclear armaments left on the territory of its non-Russian successors.

Of the three successors, Ukraine followed the most difficult path to the NPT, fraught with contention and acrimony. Soon after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine’s initial commitment to denuclearization gave way to a more cautious treatment of its nuclear inheritance. Ukraine’s claim to rightful ownership of nuclear weapons, based on its status as a legal successor to the Soviet Union on par with Russia, became the most controversial aspect of its disarmament negotiations with Russia and the United States.

This article examines the origins and development of this claim. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the claim to nuclear ownership did not arise solely or even primarily from a desire by Ukraine to leverage its bargaining position and exert financial compensation and security guarantees from Russia and the West. Instead, it originated as a challenge to Russia’s privileged status as the sole nuclear heir of the Soviet Union and an attempt to reconstitute relations with Moscow on the basis of formal equality.

From Renunciation to Ownership
One Saturday in April 1986, after an unexpected power surge, a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine burst into flames, exposing millions of unsuspecting people across northeastern Europe to plumes of radioactive material. The Chernobyl accident also exposed the negligence of the Soviet leadership, which led to the explosion, and its duplicity, which was evident in its handling of the aftermath. In the years that followed, the accident spurred widespread anti-nuclear sentiment that became an integral part of Ukraine’s pro-independence movement: “anti-nuclear” became synonymous with “anti-Soviet.”[1]

At the same time, due to the secrecy and centralization of Soviet strategic military affairs, very few Ukrainians knew that the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal was located on their territory.[2] Those privy to the knowledge included political leaders who viewed the centralized control of the strategic systems as an impediment to Ukraine’s drive away from Moscow. In the words of prominent diplomat Volodymyr Vasylenko, “By being a nuclear power [Ukraine] could not have full independence.”[3]

These considerations led Ukraine to proclaim its intention to become a neutral state and “adhere to three non-nuclear principles: not to receive, develop or acquire nuclear weapons” in the Declaration of Sovereignty passed by the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada, on July 16, 1990.[4] The declaration also affirmed Ukraine’s right to form its own military and conduct an independent foreign policy. In an attempt to act out this right and “remind the outer world of its existence,” Ukraine asked to join the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state prior to the 1990 NPT Review Conference.[5] Moscow thwarted this attempt due to the perception that participation in a major international regime by a Soviet republic would exacerbate decentralizing tendencies within the Soviet Union.[6]

Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and Belarusian leader Stanislav Shushkevich pose after signing an agreement in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on December 21, 1991, on unified control over nuclear weapons within the Commonwealth of Independent States. (RIA Novosti)The events of August 1991 radically altered the context within which Ukraine was to decide its nuclear future. The failed coup of August 19, attempted by conservative Soviet military and security apparatchiks, highlighted the defenselessness of Ukraine, a self-proclaimed sovereign state with only the republican police to protect it from the Soviet military behemoth. On August 24, the Rada passed the Declaration of Independence, which marked the birth of Ukrainian statehood. More than anything else, the document conveyed a profound sense of insecurity with its opening words: “Proceeding from the mortal danger that gripped Ukraine during the coup d’etat in the USSR.”[7]

Not accidentally, the very next bill passed by the Rada was a resolution subordinating all military units located on Ukraine’s territory to the Rada and ordering the establishment of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and national armed forces.[8] Subsequently, Ukraine claimed ownership of all property and financial assets on its territory formerly belonging to the Soviet Union.[9] The problem was that some of these military units and properties were associated with the Soviet nuclear complex.

As the crumbling of the union became irreversible, Ukraine began negotiating its relationship with a fellow country striving for democracy, the Russian Federation led by Boris Yeltsin. This new Moscow held the promise of a partnership based on equality rather than domination. In September 1991, Yeltsin declared that Russia was no longer an empire, saying that it would be an “equal among equals.”[10] Kyiv’s pro-independence politicians, including moderate nationalists who saw Ukraine as a European country and feared that Moscow’s long tradition of dominating Ukraine would continue, thought this equality should apply in all respects, including the right to Soviet succession.

This new stance was first articulated by Vyacheslav Chornovil, the leader of the national-democratic Rukh party, who issued a statement in September 1991 stressing that Ukraine, like Russia and other republics, was the “rightful heir to all the material and technical resources, including weapons, of the former Soviet Union.”[11] The fate of Ukraine’s nuclear inheritance, he maintained, should be decided through treaties with “nuclear states.” Meanwhile, the existence of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, coupled with its aspiration to relinquish them, would serve as “a good incentive” for the creation of its independent armed forces, as well as for international recognition of Ukraine “as a fully fledged subject of international law.”[12]
Collective Insecurity

As Chornovil had understood, the establishment of Ukraine’s national army was a daunting task. It encountered formidable resistance from the command of the Soviet military, the only central Soviet institution still intact in late 1991. With about one million troops on its territory formally under oath to Moscow, the new Ukrainian state had to decisively secure their loyalty. Preserving unified control over strategic armaments was a technical and political necessity. Yet, the label “strategic” encompassed not only nuclear warheads, but also the vast research and development, communications, and intelligence infrastructure; air defense systems; and the troops of the 43rd Rocket Army and 46th Air Army associated with the strategic arsenal. What kind of independence would Ukraine achieve, after all, if part of its military remained subordinated to Moscow?

As it turned out, the expectation that nuclear weapons would prompt international recognition of Ukraine could not have been farther from reality. The United States stated explicitly that it opposed any possibility of independent control over nuclear armaments by non-Russian republics. U.S. Secretary of State James Baker insisted that Soviet nuclear weapons remain under “safe, responsible and reliable control with a single unified authority,” the precise nature of which was for “Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and any common entity to determine.”[13] Indeed, the United States granted Ukraine diplomatic recognition only after such unified control was formally preserved in the form of the Joint Strategic Command (JSC) of the newly created Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Nevertheless, the nuclear settlement reached at the CIS founding meetings in December 1991 was highly ambiguous. It envisioned a kind of nuclear umbrella to provide for the collective security of all members of the commonwealth. Ukraine committed to eventually transferring all tactical and strategic nuclear weapons to Russia. Until that time, it undertook some obligations traditionally associated with nuclear-weapon states, such as adherence to the no-first-use principle and commitment not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states.[14] Agreements spoke of joint command and control, but said nothing of who possesses the weapons.

The moderate nationalist members of the Rada, however, opposed any idea of a collective security arrangement with Russia. As Ivan Zayets, a Rukh member of the Rada security and defense committee, argued, a collective security system with Russia would hinder Ukraine’s prospects to “integrate…into the world economy and world civilization.”[15] Thus, although Ukraine joined the JSC, it steered clear of every other CIS security commitment.

Unsurprisingly, the JSC soon proved unworkable. Principled differences over the role of the CIS, mixed loyalties, and overlapping chains of military command erupted in a series of incidents late in early 1992. In one of the incidents, crews loyal to Moscow flew six SU-24 strategic bombers out of a Ukrainian air base to Russia. In response, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk on March 12 halted the transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to Russia and moved to establish “administrative control” over strategic forces, obligating all troops to take a Ukrainian military oath.[16] Although the transfer later resumed and was completed within the agreed time, the disputes over the status of strategic forces were to plague negotiations with Ukraine until the very end.[17]

Succession Without Possession
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (center) speaks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague (left) and acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia after a ministerial meeting in Paris on the Budapest Memorandum and the Ukraine crisis on March 5. (U.S. Department of State)Meanwhile, the historic Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed by the United States and the Soviet Union on July 31, 1991, was cast into dubious legal territory as one of its signatories no longer existed. Ukraine and Kazakhstan, although not Belarus, insisted that they should become parties to the treaty. Despite Russian objections, the United States decided to go along with these demands. In May 1992 in Lisbon, the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus signed a protocol making the latter three countries parties to START “as successor states” of the Soviet Union.[18] Lest this should be construed as the right of the non-Russian republics to claim those strategic armaments not subject to START reductions, Article 5 of the Lisbon Protocol obligated them to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states “in the shortest possible time.”[19] Until then, the weapons were to remain under the control of a single unified authority.

The protocol did not specify the nuclear status of the non-Russian republics before they joined the NPT, and diplomatic notes submitted at the signing in Lisbon revealed that Russia and Ukraine had very different opinions on the issue. The Ukrainian note claimed that Ukraine voluntarily renounced its legitimate right to possess nuclear weapons as an equal successor of the Soviet Union and, in exchange, the country would demand security guarantees from the nuclear-weapon states.[20] The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed that Russia considered Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine “non-nuclear weapons states at the moment of the signing of the Protocol.”[21]

In mid-1992, Ukraine commenced negotiations with the United States on security guarantees. By the end of that year, however, it became clear that the United States was not prepared to make any binding security commitments to Ukraine beyond political assurances extended to all NPT non-nuclear-weapon states or pledged in other multilateral instruments such as the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act.[22] Moreover, neither security assurances nor financial aid and compensation for denuclearization would be forthcoming until Ukraine joined the NPT.[23]

Meanwhile, the perceived threat of border revisionism by Russia grew. Moscow’s involvement in the conflicts in Transnistria and the Caucasus, as well as its support for Crimean separatism, ran counter to the democratic equality Yeltsin once promised. To Ukraine’s demands for security guarantees, Russia responded that it would respect Ukraine’s borders only “within the borders of the CIS,” a formulation Ukraine rejected because that demand effectively made its territorial integrity hostage to membership in the CIS.[24]

By February 1993, Ukraine had become the only signatory not to ratify the START-Lisbon package. Kravchuk submitted it to the Rada in November 1992, but the vote was repeatedly postponed. Decried as Ukraine’s backtracking on its commitments, the lack of progress in denuclearization landed Kyiv in complete international isolation. Bereft of allies and threatened by Russia, Ukraine redoubled its insistence on nuclear ownership.

From Ownership to Renunciation
The claim of nuclear ownership crystallized as the main focus of Ukraine’s position by early 1993. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reported that Ukrainian-Russian nuclear negotiations were at an impasse because of principled differences on nuclear ownership and the status of strategic forces on Ukrainian territory.[25] That July, the Rada passed a set of foreign policy principles, claiming pointedly that, “as a result of historical events, Ukraine became the owner of nuclear weapons.”[26] Russia unsurprisingly construed this as a unilateral declaration of nuclear status.[27]

Within Ukraine, the right to nuclear ownership, which stemmed from insistence on legal equality with Russia, was translated into two main narratives.[28] Kravchuk and the Foreign Ministry employed it to substantiate Ukraine’s entitlement to financial and political compensation for relinquished state property of strategic significance.[29] They maintained that Ukraine’s nuclear ownership did not contradict the NPT since the country did not aspire to operational control over its weapons.30 Some senior Rada members, however, considered it the basis for retaining the 46 SS-24 missiles that were not subject to START reductions. Under this approach, Ukraine’s complete nuclear disarmament would be achieved through further treaties and in conjunction with reductions by other nuclear possessors.[31]

When the Rada finally voted on START in November 1993, it was this second narrative that found expression in its extensive reservations. The ratification bill, citing the 1983 Vienna Convention on the Succession of States, claimed that “all property of the strategic and tactical nuclear forces on Ukrainian territory, including nuclear warheads, is the state property of Ukraine.”[32] The Rada upheld proportional reductions under START, amounting to 36 percent of delivery vehicles and 42 percent of warheads, and proclaimed itself not bound by Article 5 of the Lisbon Protocol obligating Ukraine to join the NPT in the shortest possible time.[33]

Despite its initial outrage, the Clinton administration decided to engage in active diplomacy to mediate the crisis. In January 1994, this effort yielded the Trilateral Statement signed by the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, and the United States, pledging unconditional security assurances, technical assistance, and compensation for the highly enriched uranium contained in strategic and tactical weapons. In doing so, Moscow and Washington effectively recognized Ukraine’s claim that relinquishing its nuclear weapons entitled it to compensation. In a subsequent letter urging the Rada to remove its reservations, Kravchuk underscored the political significance of the trilateral process, in which Ukraine engaged in negotiations with Russia and the United States as a “fully fledged and equal partner.”[34]

In February 1994, the Rada granted full ratification to the START-Lisbon package, restoring the link with the NPT. In November 1994, the Rada ratified the NPT, also with reservations.[35] Although it continued to insist on the ownership of the weapons it was relinquishing and pointed to the shortcomings of the NPT in capturing Ukraine’s unique situation, the main focus of the reservations was the inadequacy of the security commitments Ukraine was receiving in return.[36] These commitments were formalized on December 5, 1994, in a memorandum signed by Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States in Budapest at the summit of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.[37]

Security assurances pledged by the nuclear-weapon states in the Budapest Memorandum remained substantively unchanged from what the United States brought to the negotiating table in 1992. They included negative and positive nuclear security assurances and commitments to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and abstain from economic coercion, the threat of force, or use of force. The memorandum also provided for consultations of signatories “in the event of a situation arising that raises a question concerning [parties’] commitments.”[38] The Ukrainian leadership, however, knew full well that these security assurances would neither deter violators nor lead to their punishment. Following the signing of the memorandum, Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine’s new president, conceded, “If tomorrow Russia goes into the Crimea no one will even raise an eyebrow. Besides…promises, no one ever planned to give Ukraine any guarantees.”[39]

The consultation mechanism was invoked for the first time in 20 years in March 2014 following the reports of a mass influx of unmarked Russian troops into Crimea, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declined to participate. In a statement released following the meeting, Ukraine, the UK, and the United States called on Russia to take seriously the assurances given “in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons.”[40] Thus, over the years, the recognition that the nuclear arsenal was Ukraine’s to give up has become commonplace. In the early 1990s, however, the issue of the status of nuclear arms on Ukrainian territory was no matter of casual semantics.

Ukraine’s claim to nuclear ownership was not entirely untenable; its legal succession to the Soviet Union was recognized in relation to conventional armed forces.[41] If successful, however, the claim would have dragged out the country’s denuclearization indefinitely, with profound repercussions for the entire post-Cold War settlement. It ultimately collided with the interests of Ukraine’s powerful interlocutors and the precepts of the international nonproliferation regime. The very existence of the NPT meant that a different set of rules applied to the nuclear part of Ukraine’s military inheritance than to the conventional one. Furthermore, the NPT’s stark binary categories of “nuclear-weapon state” and “non-nuclear-weapon state” could not be reconciled with Ukraine’s new category of “nuclear ownership”—legal possession without operational control—which fell somewhere in the middle. Ukraine could sustain its claim only by remaining outside of the NPT. That option would have spelled isolation from the international community, which Ukraine ultimately wanted to join, not defy.

The normative power of the NPT and the pressure applied by Russia and the United States reinforced each other. As Ukraine yielded to these formidable political and normative pressures, it failed to obtain binding guarantees of its national security. The importance of the Budapest Memorandum, however, was in linking Ukraine’s accession to the NPT with security assurances against conventional as well as nuclear threats.Because of this connection, Russia’s military campaign against Ukraine violates the Budapest Memorandum and is detrimental to the NPT and the value of security assurances for future nonproliferation efforts.

Last August, as Russian troops poured into eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin reminded the world that Russia is one of the world’s most powerful nuclear nations. At one time, this privileged status carried with it a sense of special responsibility for fostering the nonproliferation regime. Today, Russia’s nuclear boast suggests that it has resolved to use its nuclear status as a license to act with impunity. This is a perilous situation for the NPT. Just as it had benefited from the support of nuclear-weapon states, so is it particularly vulnerable to a nuclear possessor’s breach of commitments undertaken in connection with the treaty.

Mariana Budjeryn is a Ph.D. candidate at the Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy, and International Relations at the Central European University in Budapest. Her research focuses on the politics of nuclear disarmament of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union.


1. Jane Dawson, Eco-Nationalism: Anti-Nuclear Activism and National Identity in Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), p. 78.

2. The precise numbers on Ukraine’s nuclear inheritance are unknown. It is generally believed that the inherited arsenal consisted of 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles, including 130 liquid-fueled SS-19 and 46 solid-fueled SS-24 missiles, 44 strategic heavy bombers armed with AS-15 Kent cruise missiles, close to 2,000 nuclear warheads to arm these strategic delivery systems, and more than 2,600 tactical nuclear weapons.

3. John Lloyd and Chrystia Freeland, “A Painful Birth,” The Financial Times, February 25, 1992. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoloy Zlenko recalled similar reasoning on the issue in his memoirs. See Anatoliy Zlenko, Dyplomatiia I Polityka. Ukraїna v Protsesi Dynamichnykh Heopolitychnykh Zmin [Diplomacy and politics. Ukraine in the process of dynamic geopolitical changes] (Kharkiv: Folio, 2003).

4. “Deklaratsiia pro derzhavnii suverenitet Ukraiiny [Declaration of state sovereignty of Ukraine],” Vidomosti Verkhovnoii Rady Ukraiiny [Official Bulletin of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine], No. 31, St. 429 (July 16, 1990), http://zakon1.rada.gov.ua/cgi-bin/laws/main.cgi?nreg=55-12. 

5. Victor Batiouk, Ukraine’s Non-Nuclear Option (New York: UN Institute for Disarmament Research, 1992), p. 3. Batiouk served as a representative of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to UN institutions in Geneva from 1978 to 1984 and then as Ukraine’s permanent representative to the United Nations from 1992 to 1994.

6. William Potter, The Politics of Nuclear Renunciation: The Cases of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, Occasional Paper (Washington, DC: Henry L. Stimson Center, April 1995), p. 13. The United Kingdom and the United States chose not to challenge Moscow’s opinion.

7. “Akt proholoshennia nezalezhnosti Ukraiiny [Act of declaration of independence of Ukraine],” Vidomosti Verkhovnoii Rady Ukraiiny [Official Bulletin of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine], No. 38, St. 502 (August 24, 1991), http://zakon.rada.gov.ua/cgi-bin/laws/main.cgi?nreg=1427-12.

8. “Postanova pro viis’kovi formuvannia na Ukraiini [Resolution on the military units in Ukraine],” Vidomosti Verkhovnoii Rady Ukraiiny [Official Bulletin of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine], No. 38, St. 562 (August 24, 1991), http://zakon2.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/1431-12.

9. “Zakon Ukraiiny pro Pidpryiemstva, Ustanovy Ta Orhanizatsii Soiuznoho Pidporiadruvannia, Roztashovani Na Terytorii Ukraiiny [Law of Ukraine on enterprises, institutions and organizations of union subordination on the territory of Ukraine],” Vidomosti Verkhovnoii Rady Ukraiiny [Official Bulletin of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine], No. 46, St. 615 (September 10, 1991), http://zakon3.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/1540-12.

10. Michael Dobbs, “Yeltsin Promises Russia Will Not Dominate Union,” The Washington Post, September 4, 1991.

11. “Vyacheslav Chornovil pro bez’iadernyi status Ukraiiny [Vyacheslav Chornovil on the non-nuclear status of Ukraine],” Molod Ukrajiny, September 12, 1991.

12. Ibid.

13. Sidney D. Drell and James E. Goodby, The Gravest Danger: Nuclear Weapons (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2003), p. 72.

14. “Soglasheniie o sovmestnykh merakh v otnoshenii iadernogo oruzhiia. [Agreement on joint measures on nuclear weapons],” December 21, 1991, http://cis.minsk.by/reestr/ru/index.html#reestr/view/text?doc=3.

15. “Protokol no. 7. Zasidannia komisii Verkhovnoii Rady Ukraiiny z pytan’ natsionalnoii bezpeky i oborony [Protocol no 7. meeting of the Defense and Security Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine],” October 21, 1991, Fond 1-P, Opis 1, Delo 2179, Central State Archive of Ukraine.

16. Serge Schmemann, “Ukraine Halting A-Arms Shift to Russia,” The New York Times, March 13, 1992; “Ukaz pro nevidkladni zakhody po budivnytstvu Zbroinykh Syl Ukraiiny [Decree on urgent measures regarding the establishment of the armed forces of Ukraine],” April 5, 1992, http://zakon2.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/209/92.

17. In fact, the transfer was completed by May 6, 1992, ahead of the June 1, 1992, deadline stipulated in the Commonwealth of Independent States agreement of December 21, 1991. The Russian announcement on the completion of the transfer was timed to coincide with the visit of Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk to Washington. It came as a surprise to Kravchuk, embarrassing him and underscoring how much control Russia still had over military affairs on Ukrainian territory.

18. “Protocol to the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms,”  May 23, 1992, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/27389.pdf.

19. Ibid.

20. For the content of the note, see Valeriy Kuchinsky, “Za Bezpeku Bez Konfrontacii [For security without confrontation],” Polityka i Chas, Nos. 9-10 (October 1992), p. 38. Kuchinsky was chief of the disarmament department at the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

21. “Written Statement by the Russian Side at the Signing of the Protocol to the START Treaty on 23 May 1992 in Lisbon,” Arms Control Today, June 1992, p. 36.

22. For a more detailed discussion of the negotiation process on security assurances, see Sherman Garnett, “The Role of Security Assurances in Ukrainian Denuclearization,” in Missed Opportunities?: The Role of Security Assurances in Nuclear Non-Proliferation, ed. Virginia Foran (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1997); Mariana Budjeryn, “The Breach: Ukraine’s Territorial Integrity and the Budapest Memorandum,” NPIHP Issue Brief, No. 3 (September 2014), http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/Issue%20Brief%20No%203--The%20Breach--Final4.pdf.

j23. In terms of financial aid, the United States had made funds available to post-Soviet states under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, created by legislation sponsored by Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and passed in November 1991. In addition, in September 1992, Russia and the United States signed a $5 billion deal for the purchase of highly enriched uranium contained in dismantled Soviet warheads. This awakened Ukrainian leadership to the fact it had neither demanded nor received any compensation for the tactical weapons transferred earlier and the strategic warheads to be dismantled. It was understood that Russia would work out a settlement with Ukraine and others, but the entitlement to compensation was ultimately connected to the contentious question of ownership. In addition, until mid-1993, Russia refused to consider the idea of retroactive compensation for the tactical nuclear weapons transferred in 1992.

24. “Zapys Besidy Zastupnyka Ministra Zakordonnykh Sprav Ukraiiny B. Tarasiuka Z Poslom Z Оsoblyvykh Doruchen’ Ministersva Zarordonnykh Sprav RF M. Strel’tsovym. [Report of a meeting of Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister B. Tarasiuk with Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation M. Streltsov],” January 12, 1993, Fond 1, Delo 7039, Archive of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

25. “Pro Kompleksne Vyrishennia Shyrokoho Kola Pytan’, Pov’iazanykh Z Roztashovanoiu Na Terytorii Ukraiiny Stratehichnoiu Iadernoiu Zbroieiu I Taktychnymy Iadernymy Boiezariadamy, Vyvedenymy Vesnoiu 1992 Roku P Ukraiiny Dlia Iikh Rozukompledtuvannia I Znyshchennia [On the comprehensive resolution of the wide range of issues related to the strategic nuclear weapons located on the territory of Ukraine and tactical nuclear warheads, removed from Ukraine in spring of 1992 for their dismantlement and elimination],” March 1993, Fond 1, Delo 7057, List 23-25, Archive of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

26. Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, “Postanova pro Osnovni Napriamy Zovnishnioii Polityky Ukraiiny [Resolution on the main principles of the foreign policy of Ukraine],” Vidomosti Verkhovnoii Rady Ukraiiny [Official Bulletin of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine], No. 37, St. 379 (July 2, 1993), http://zakon2.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/3360-12.

27. Yuri Dubinin, “Ukraine’s Nuclear Ambitions: Reminiscences of the Past,” Russia in Global Affairs, April 13, 2004, http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/number/n_2913. Dubinin headed the Russian delegation to the talks.

28. There was a third narrative: retaining all nuclear weapons as a strategic deterrent, advocated by Rada members Colonel-General Volodymyr Tolubko and ultranationalist Stepan Khmara. This narrative, however, was marginal in Ukraine’s nuclear discourse and found no support with the Rada or the executive branch.

29. “Memorandum Ministerstva Zakordonnykh Sprav Ukraiiny [Memorandum of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine],” December 11, 1992, Fond 1, Delo 6857, List 241-246, Archive of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

30. Ibid., p. 243.

31. Dmytro Pavlychko, Holosy Moho Zhyattia. Statti, Vystupy, Interv’iu. Dokumenty [The Voices of My Life. Articles, Speeches, Interviews. Documents] (Kyiv: Osnovy, 2013), pp. 419-421 (Pavlychko’s speech to the Rada on June 2, 1993). Pavlychko was the chair of the Rada foreign affairs committee and a member of the Presidium, a body comprised of senior Rada leadership that controlled the legislative agenda.

32. Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, “Postanova pro ratyficatsiiu Dohovoru mizh Soiuzom Radianskykh Sotsialistychnykh Respublik i Spoluchenymy Shtatamy Ameryky pro skorochennia i obmezhennia stratehichnykh nastupal’nykh ozbroien’, pidpysanoho u Moskvi 31 lypnia 1991 roku, i Protokolu do nioho, pidpysanoho u Lisaboni vid imeni Ukrainy 23 travnia 1992 roku [Resolution on ratification of the treaty between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America on strategic arms reductions and limitations signed in Moscow on July 31, 1991, and its protocol signed in Lisbon on behalf of Ukraine on May 23, 1992],” Vidomosti Verkhovnoii Rady Ukraiiny [Official Bulletin of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine], No. 49, St. 464 (November 18, 1993), http://zakon3.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/3624-12. The 1983 Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of State Property, Archives and Debts never entered into force as not enough parties had ratified or signed it. Ukraine ratified it on January 8, 1993. For more detail on the  convention, see https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=III-12&chapter=3&lang=en.

33. Ibid.

34. “Lyst Presydenta Ukraiiny L. Kravchuka Holovi Verkhovnoii Rady Ukraiiny I. Plyushchu [Letter of President L. Kravchuk to speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine I. Plyushch],” January 24, 1994, Fond 1, Opis 16, Delo 4964, Central State Archive of Ukraine.

35. The 10-month delay between the ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was primarily due to the change of government in Kyiv, with early parliamentary elections taking place in March and early presidential elections in June 1994.

36. Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, “Zakon Ukraiiny pro Pryiednannia Ukraiiny Do Dohovoru pro Nerozpovsiudzhennia Iadernoii Zbroii Vid 1 Lypnia 1968 Roku [Law of Ukraine on accession to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of July 1, 1968],” Vidomosti Verkhovnoii Rady Ukraiiny [Official Bulletin of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine], No. 47, St. 421 (November 16, 1994), http://zakon2.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/248/94-вр. Article 4 contained a caveat that Ukraine would treat the use or threat of use of force against its territorial integrity as “extraordinary circumstances that jeopardize its supreme interests,” a formulation taken verbatim from NPT Article X, which deals with withdrawal from the treaty.

37. China and France pledged similar security assurances separately in a bilateral format.

38. UN General Assembly and UN Security Council, “Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” A/49/765, S/1994/1399 (December 5, 1994).

39. Taras Kuzio, Ukraine Under Kuchma (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997), p. 220 (quoting a December 6, 1994, Reuters article).

40. Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State, “U.S./U.K./Ukraine Press Statement on the Budapest Memorandum Meeting,” March 5, 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/03/222949.htm.

41. As a Soviet successor state, Ukraine acceded to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe in July 1992 and undertook proportional reductions in accordance with the treaty.

Posted: December 31, 1969

Cooperative Threat Reduction for Conventional Weapons Expertise

Scientist redirection programs, which help find peaceful employment for former weapons scientists, have focused so far on nonconventional arms. That needs to change.

December 2014

By William T. Liimatainen

Scientist redirection—the process of shifting employees of foreign weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs to peaceful endeavors—has long been an important piece of U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs. Its goal has been to reduce the potential for scientists and engineers employed in WMD programs to disseminate their knowledge to other countries or to nonstate actors.

By assisting in the transition of WMD experts to peaceful employment, scientist redirection programs reduce the likelihood that these individuals will be targets of efforts to buy their expertise. In their simplest form, these programs provide a sense of hope for the future because the desperation associated with sudden unemployment can be a strong incentive for participation in nefarious activities.

That point applies to those employed in conventional and unconventional weapons programs. A little more than a decade ago, thousands of individuals with expertise in manufacturing dangerous conventional weapons suddenly lost their jobs in Iraq. The rise of violent nonstate groups that used improvised weapons suggested a link to the unemployed conventional arms manufacturers. CTR redirection programs have not included experts from conventional weapons programs, and the Iraqi experience illustrates why that needs to change.[1]

Lost Jobs, Lasting Implications
Rebels prepare a homemade rocket launcher during clashes with government forces near the airport on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 27. (ZEIN AL-RIFAI/AFP/Getty Images)Earlier this year, in a televised interview, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki described the role that former employees of Iraq’s Military Industrialization Commission (MIC) continue to play in producing improvised weapons for terrorist groups in Anbar province.[2] The interview is one of many sources on the subject, all too familiar in the Middle East but largely ignored by those in the West. There is a reason that the term “IED,” the acronym for “improvised explosive device,” is now nearly as recognizable as “WMD” and why improvised weapons, of which IEDs are a subset, have been used on such a large scale in large pockets of the Middle East since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

A decade ago, almost 50,000 individuals who had worked in Saddam Hussein’s conventional weapons manufacturing programs lost their jobs when the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the U.S.-led postwar entity responsible for Iraq’s governance, transferred them to the Iraqi Ministry of Finance with drastically reduced salaries and few prospects for the future.[3]

This development left many Iraq watchers wondering how the CPA could justify putting so many Iraqis with dangerous knowledge out of work. As a violent insurgency gained a foothold in the aftermath of the invasion, observers familiar with Iraqi weapons production programs became increasingly concerned that individuals with conventional arms production expertise would find new employment opportunities with violent nonstate actors who would pay for their services. Although it was not immediately clear at that time what had led to the mass unemployment of MIC personnel, later analysis suggested that a main reason was that the Department of Defense, rather than the Department of State, had been given responsibility for postconflict operations in Iraq. The Defense Department had conducted little postwar planning for Iraq, but the State Department had generated an entire study that anticipated many of the challenges that would emerge during the postwar period. The State Department plans included a discussion on postwar treatment of Iraq’s MIC employees.

The ‘Future of Iraq’ Study
Long before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the State Department launched its Future of Iraq Project. Led by a State Department employee and supported by influential Iraqi expatriates, the study examined the problems that were likely to confront postwar Iraq. Germane to this article are the analysis and recommendations by the Defense Policy and Institutions Working Group, which recognized quickly that the MIC employees would warrant special attention during the postwar period. The working group accurately foresaw the need to move the employees to peaceful endeavors. “Many institutes and factories of the Military Industry will be destroyed when the liberation of Iraq from the present regime is complete. But its members and scientists will still be there. It is important to see that the Iraqi Military Industry transform itself to civil use. Scientists that can produce Mustard Gas can very well produce medicine. And experts in Rocket technology can one day build aeroplanes and trains.”[4] As the working group noted, many MIC employees had the skills to make this transition feasible (fig. 1).

Given the State Department’s awareness at that time of the need to shift MIC personnel to civilian manufacturing jobs, it would have seemed unlikely that Iraq’s arms manufacturers would be overlooked. Yet, in the months immediately preceding the 2003 invasion, two factors combined to eliminate the potential for conversion of Iraq’s defense industry and the redirection of MIC personnel to peaceful endeavors, as advocated in the Future of Iraq study. First, U.S. National Security Presidential Directive 24 broke with tradition and put the onus of postconflict operations in Iraq on the Defense Department rather than the State Department. The directive, which was issued in January 2003, provided little time for the Pentagon to prepare adequately for an undertaking as massive as the postwar governance of Iraq, a task unfamiliar to the uniformed military and one better suited to other government agencies.[5]

The directive, however, did not by itself seal the MIC’s fate. Shortly after the Defense Department was given this postconflict responsibility, the director for the State Department’s Future of Iraq study, Tom Warrick, was brought in to assist General Jay Garner, who had been selected to head the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (the CPA’s predecessor). Garner reportedly had been impressed with the detailed analysis contained in the Iraq study and sought to tap into the available expertise. Unfortunately, when it became known that Warrick did not support the Pentagon plan to install Ahmed Chalabi, the controversial leader of the Iraqi National Congress, as the new leader of Iraq, he was fired, reportedly at the direction of senior Defense Department officials. With its director gone, the Iraq study stood little chance of being used to guide postwar planning. Suddenly, the future for former MIC employees looked uncertain.[6]

For nearly a year after the U.S. invasion, the MIC was simply ignored. During that period, looters rendered many MIC facilities inoperable. In addition, they carted away large amounts of material suitable for IED production from defense industry establishments. For example, looting at the Al Qaqa State Establishment received a great deal of press coverage, as truckloads of explosives were reportedly removed from that facility alone.[7] When the CPA finally got around to conducting site visits at MIC facilities, it found many of them to be no longer viable. The results of these site visits were used to inform the publication of CPA Order 75, dealing with the “realignment of military industrial companies.” As a result of this order, almost 50,000 individuals were reassigned to the Ministry of Finance with a drastically reduced salary and little hope for the future.[8]

As MIC personnel became essentially unemployed after the invasion at a time when an insurgency was mounting, the State Department implemented a scientist redirection program for a limited number of Iraqi WMD experts.[9] Clearly, there was a need for such a program. No active unconventional weapons program existed in Iraq prior to the invasion, but there was certainly residual expertise retained in the public sector. Although a small number of WMD experts were the object of efforts to prevent proliferation, nearly 50,000 individuals with knowledge of conventional arms manufacturing were almost completely overlooked. To judge from Maliki’s interview earlier this year, it seems that even today, more than a decade later, MIC employees continue to lend their weapons manufacturing expertise to violent groups.

Looking Forward
The fiscal year 2015 budget request associated with the Defense Department CTR program suggests that U.S. nonproliferation programs are anything but a growth industry. Under the Obama administration’s budget request, the CTR program would receive significantly less than what it had received for each of the previous two years.[10] If one considers only what the CTR program was originally created to do more than 20 years ago, along with the extent of the program’s achievements to date,[11] the reduced budget is probably justifiable. After all, as one account puts it, the CTR program was created “to deal with yesterday’s strategic weapons,” and yesterday’s threats have largely diminished. That diminution is due largely to long-standing efforts to reduce the former Soviet Union’s WMD arsenal, as well as to the passage of time.[12]

WMD stockpiles in the former Soviet Union are no longer what they once were. Moreover, the prospect of proliferation of WMD expertise out of those countries today is much lower than it was nearly a quarter of a century ago, as former WMD scientists are presumably now either well into retirement or deceased. Nevertheless, an argument could be made that CTR programs now are more important than ever, requiring a considerable increase in funding. The strategic threat posed by the potential for large-scale WMD proliferation out of former Soviet bloc countries has been replaced by a new threat. This threat, as described above, is one the CTR program might not have been originally intended to address, but is one to which the program is ideally suited to respond.

A study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2009 on the future direction of CTR programs appears to support this argument.[13] The NAS report, which Congress requested in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008,[14] recommended that CTR programs should be “expanded geographically” and “updated in form and function” in order to “enhance U.S. national security and global security.” The report also said that future CTR initiatives would need to be more responsive and flexible and that they would face “very different security challenges than those that inspired the original program nearly 20 years ago.”[15]

Notably, nowhere does the NAS report imply that future CTR initiatives need to be restricted to dealing with WMD threats. This seems to leave the door open for the CTR program to respond to the threat posed by unemployed conventional weapons manufacturers, whether in a postconflict or failed-state environment.

Considering the amount of money spent on IED countermeasure technologies, upgrades to armored vehicles, and the creation of new organizations such as the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, it might be prudent to invest in the expansion of CTR initiatives to encompass experts in the manufacturing of conventional weapons. Such an expansion clearly would not be a panacea that would shut off the access of violent nonstate actors to dangerous arms production knowledge. For those ideologically inclined to lend their expertise to violent nonstate groups, expanded CTR initiatives will do nothing. Yet, by offering an alternative to individuals who would provide such expertise solely to care for their families, an expanded CTR program may provide a viable option.

Preparing for the Next Iraq
Some may argue that Iraq was a unique situation and that it is unlikely a similar scenario will emerge in the future. Yet, it is not difficult to imagine that the Iraqi situation, in which mass unemployment of conventional arms manufacturers coincided with the rise of an insurgency, could arise in another country sometime in the future. Recent history suggests that a market already exists for those with such skills and that the market may extend beyond Iraq’s borders.

Iraq may not represent the only country where unemployed conventional arms manufacturers have provided their services to violent nonstate groups during the last decade. Several accounts have emerged on the large-scale, organized efforts made by nonstate groups in Libya and Syria to manufacture improvised weapons. Reporter C.J. Chivers has provided accounts from both countries, describing the establishment of networks of makeshift workshops to produce improvised weapons.[16] It is not clear, however, whether experts from the conventional arms industries of either country have played a prominent role in such production or if the expertise originated from Iraq’s MIC personnel. Media reports occasionally suggest that people with weapons-making backgrounds are lending support,[17] but the reports do not define the scope and scale of the problem.

Another potential objection to CTR expansion is that producing improvised weapons is not nearly as technologically challenging as producing nonconventional weapons. One does not need a doctorate in engineering to build a roadside bomb; instructions are available on the Web. Nevertheless, it would be unfair to characterize many of the improvised weapons encountered on Iraq’s battlefield as easily reproduced by anyone with Internet access. IEDs come in many forms; a review of a wide range of publicly available sources reveals the increased sophistication of improvised weapons used by nonstate groups over time. For example, triggering devices underwent modification in Iraq in response to use of electronic countermeasures by the United States and other members of the coalition.[18] In another example, the Islamic Army of Iraq bragged about its ability to manufacture an improvised surface-to-air rocket capable of bringing down coalition helicopters.[19] There is no shortage of reporting that suggests that many of the improvised weapons employed in Iraq were produced by skilled arms manufacturers.[20]

Some may question the feasibility of expanding the CTR program to include programs for manufacturing conventional weapons on the grounds that the scale of the effort would be too large to be viable, citing failed attempts at defense conversion in the former Soviet Union. In former Soviet countries, there were thousands of facilities and millions of employees that constituted the military industrial complex. In fact, a 1997 report by the General Accounting Office suggested that one of the major obstacles to defense conversion in the former Soviet Union was the sheer size of the effort (9 million to 14 million people in 2,000 to 4,000 enterprises).[21] As noted above, in Iraq, there were roughly 50,000 employees and a few dozen state-owned enterprises. Defense conversion and redirection in Iraq might not have been as difficult in Iraq if coalition forces had protected MIC facilities from looting and if the CPA had solicited input from senior scientists and engineers on shifting MIC facilities to civilian production.

Increased reliance by nonstate actors on improvised weapons over the past decade suggests that the international community is having some success in controlling illicit arms shipments. Nonstate actors would not be relying on improvised weapons if factory-produced arms were readily available. Given what now is known about nonstate actor dependency on improvised weapons, it is time to consider building on past successes by expanding the scope of CTR scientist redirection initiatives. Such initiatives might originally have been intended to combat the proliferation of nonconventional weapons and associated expertise out of the former Soviet Union, but similar undertakings probably would be effective in preventing conventional arms manufacturers from working with violent nonstate actors.

These recommendations come during a period of fiscal austerity and at a time when U.S. leaders are confronting a host of national security threats. As the 2009 NAS study stated, “[G]enerating action throughout an overburdened U.S. government at a time of budget cuts and change require[s] an agility seldom found except in time of great urgency.”[22] More than 20 years ago, Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) drafted legislation that had a major impact on preventing WMD proliferation. Today, strong leadership is needed to limit the ability of violent extremist organizations to acquire expertise in manufacturing conventional arms. Expanding the existing CTR program is a sensible way to achieve that important goal.

William T. Liimatainen is a Department of Defense employee with experience studying foreign production of conventional weapons and the global arms trade. He holds a master’s degree in military art and science from the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government or any of its agencies.


1. As with the term “improvised explosive device,” it has been difficult to formulate a definition of the broader term “improvised weapon.” For the purposes of this article, an improvised weapon is one whose explosive ingredient, initiation, triggering, or detonation mechanism, or delivery system has been produced outside of an arms production factory or modified from its original function. See Paul Gill, John Horgan, and Jeffrey Lovelace, “Improvised Explosive Device: The Problem of Definition,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 34, No. 9 (2011): 732-748.

2. William T. Liimatainen, trans., “Al-Maliki Accuses Former Military Industrialization Officers of Leading Al Anbar Battles,” February 12, 2014, http://www.kitabat.com/ar/print/23023.html (in Arabic).

3. “Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 75: Realignment of Military Industrial Companies,” April 20, 2004, http://www.iraqcoalition.org/regulations/20040420_CPAORD_75_Realignment_of_Military_Industrial_Companies__with_Annex_A.pdf. 

4. Defense Policy and Institutions Working Group, U.S. Department of State, “The Future of Iraq Project,” May 24, 2002, p. 47, http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB198/FOI%20Defense%20Policy%20and%20Institutions.pdf.

5. For an analysis of the presdiential directive, see Council on Foreign Relations Task Force, “In the Wake of War: Improving U.S. Post-Conflict Capabilities,” 2005, p. 9, http://www.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/Post-Conflict_Capabilities.pdf.

6. Charles Ferguson, No End in Sight: Iraq’s Descent Into Chaos (New York: PublicAffairs, 2008).

7. “Tons of Iraq Explosives Missing,” CNN, October 25, 2004, http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/10/25/iraq.explosives/.

8. Peter D. Smallwood and William T. Liimatainen, “Securing WMD Expertise: Lessons Learned From Iraq,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2011.

9. Office of the Spokesman, U.S. Department of State, “Redirection of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Experts Short-Term Program,” December 18, 2003, http://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2003/27409.htm.

10. See Office of the Comptroller, U.S. Department of Defense, “Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Estimates: Cooperative Threat Reduction Program,” March 2014, http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2015/budget_justification/pdfs/01_Operation_and_Maintenance/O_M_VOL_1_PART_2/CTR_PB15.pdf.

11. Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, “Fact Sheet: The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program,” June 2014 http://armscontrolcenter.org/publications/factsheets/fact_sheet_the_cooperative_threat_reduction_program/.

12.  Committee on Strengthening and Expanding the Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, “Global Security Engagement: A New Model for Cooperative Threat Reduction,” 2009, http://www.fmwg.org/sitefiles/nas%202009%20report%20-%20global%20security%20engagement%20-%20a%20new%20model%20for%20cooperative%20threat%20reduction.pdf (hereinafter NAS report).

13. Ibid.

14. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, Pub. L. 110-181, 122 Stat. 3 (2008), sec. 1301-1308.

15. NAS report.

16. C.J. Chivers, “Syria’s Dark Horses With Lathes: Makeshift Arms Production in Aleppo Governorate, Part I,” The New York Times “At War” blog, September 19, 2012, http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/syrias-dark-horses-with-lathes-makeshift-arms-production-in-aleppo-governorate-part-i/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0; C.J. Chivers, “Hidden Workshops Add to Libyan Rebels’ Arsenals,” The New York Times, May 3, 2011.

17. Luke Harding and Ian Black, “Syrian Rebels Add Explosives Expertise to Guerilla Tactics,” The Guardian, July 31, 2012.

18. John Ismay, “The Most Lethal Weapon Americans Faced in Iraq,” The New York Times “At War” blog, October 18, 2013, http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/the-most-lethal-weapon-americans-faced-in-iraq/.

19. “The Islamic Army in Iraq Present a New Missile,” Middle East Media Research Institute Special Dispatch, No. 1344 (November 2, 2006), http://www.memri.org/report/en/print1930.htm.

20. Ismay, “The Most Lethal Weapon Americans Faced in Iraq”; Stew Magnuson, “Bomb Making Skills Spread Globally,” National Defense, June 2007; Micheal Eisenstadt and Jeffrey White, “Assessing Iraq’s Sunni Arab Insurgency,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy Policy Focus, No. 50 (December 2005), http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/html/pdf/PolicyFocus50.pdf.

21. U.S. General Accounting Office, “Cooperative Threat Reduction: Status of Defense Conversion Efforts in the Former Soviet Union,” GAO/NSIAD-97-101, April 11, 1997.

22. NAS report, p. vii.

Posted: December 31, 1969

Make Disarmament a ‘Global Enterprise’

The global nuclear disarmament and risk reduction enterprise is at yet another important crossroads. Nearly five years after the successful 2010 NPT Review Conference, follow-through on the consensus action plan, has been very disappointing.

December 2014

By Daryl G. Kimball

The global nuclear disarmament and risk reduction enterprise is at yet another important crossroads. Nearly five years after the successful 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, follow-through on the consensus action plan, particularly the 22 interrelated disarmament steps, has been very disappointing.

In 2010, all NPT nuclear-weapon states committed to “diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons” and “[d]iscuss policies that could prevent the use of nuclear weapons.” Unfortunately, none of them has undertaken demonstrable, concrete steps to do so.

Since the entry into force of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in 2011, Russia and the United States have failed to start talks to further reduce their still enormous nuclear stockpiles, which far exceed any plausible deterrence requirements. NATO has been unable to agree on a proposal for transparency and accounting for Russian and U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. Russia refuses to engage in talks on tactical or strategic nuclear weapons and boasts about its nuclear modernization plans.

Progress toward entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is stalled. Negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty and other important disarmament proposals have not begun at the Conference on Disarmament.

Beginning with this month’s conference in Vienna on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use and into 2015—the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings—key states must consider, explore, and pursue new ideas and initiatives to reduce global nuclear dangers and meet their NPT commitments.

Examine dangerous doctrines. The conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use in Oslo last year; in Nayarit, Mexico, earlier this year; and this month in Vienna are a useful but insufficient mechanism to press for progress on disarmament and challenge nuclear weapons employment plans. At the 2015 NPT Review Conference, the nuclear-weapon states should be called to explain the effects of their nuclear war plans, if these plans were to be carried out, and how they believe the use of hundreds of such weapons would be consistent with humanitarian law and the laws of war.

Accelerate U.S.-Russian nuclear cuts and freeze other stockpiles. Further nuclear reductions need not wait for a new U.S.-Russian arms control treaty. The United States and Russia could accelerate the pace of reductions under New START to reach the agreed limits before the 2018 deadline. Moreover, as long as both sides continue to reduce force levels below the treaty limits, U.S. and Russian leaders could agree to parallel reductions well below New START ceilings.

Other countries must get off the disarmament sidelines. That is especially true for China, India, and Pakistan, which continue to improve their nuclear capabilities. The other nuclear-armed states should pledge not to increase the overall size of their stockpiles as long as U.S. and Russian reductions continue.

A unified push for further U.S.-Russian arms cuts combined with a global nuclear weapons freeze by the other nuclear-armed states could create the conditions for multilateral action on disarmament.

Convene nuclear disarmament summits. As Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry, and George Shultz argued last year, a new multilateral effort for nuclear disarmament dialogue is needed. In 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon suggested that the UN Security Council convene a summit on nuclear disarmament.

Now is the time for a group of concerned states, perhaps led by Japan and the 10-nation Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, to invite the leaders of 20 to 30 other key states to a one- or two-day summit on the pursuit of a joint enterprise to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

The high-level meeting, which could be held to coincide with the anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, could be a new starting point for substantive discussions on proposals for advancing nuclear disarmament. Participants should be encouraged to bring “house gifts”—specific actions by states that would concretely reduce the threat of nuclear weapons use, freeze or reduce the number of nuclear weapons, reduce the role of nuclear weapons, and/or make their nuclear programs more transparent.

Follow through on the CTBT. Despite statements of support for ratification from China and the United States, neither state has taken sufficient action to secure domestic support for ratification. Stronger leadership from Washington and Beijing is overdue and is necessary to finally close the door on nuclear testing and new nuclear weapons development.

Ratification by Egypt, Iran, and Israel—three other key CTBT holdouts—would also reduce nuclear weapons-related security concerns in the Middle East and help create the conditions necessary for the realization of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

To reinforce the beleaguered nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament system and make the 2015 NPT Review Conference a success, nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states must do more than simply repeat previous calls for action and cite progress achieved in past decades. Serious leaders must be prepared to act, and they must do so right away.

What's New Text: 

Posted: December 31, 1969

GETTING TO KNOW Capt. Richard Dromerhauser

Captain Richard Dromerhauser of the U.S. Navy led one of the most significant arms control accomplishments in recent years: the maritime destruction of a large portion of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal in July and August 2014.

November 2014

“Getting to Know” is an occasional series that introduces Arms Control Today readers to interesting people active in the world of arms control.

Captain Richard Dromerhauser of the U.S. Navy led one of the most significant arms control accomplishments in recent years: the maritime destruction of a large portion of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal in July and August 2014. As commander of the MV Cape Ray, Dromerhauser oversaw the crew of 135 people that neutralized 600 metric tons of dangerous chemicals without mishap.

Arms Control Today caught up with him by phone on September 25 at the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet in Naples, Italy.

The interview, conducted by Jefferson Morley, has been edited for length and clarity.

What brought you to the Navy?
My goal was to graduate high school—just kidding. I was looking at a career in an engineering field, and I had looked into the Naval Academy. I had the desire to serve my country, and I thought this was a great opportunity to get an education. I came from a working-class background. I was the oldest child and also the first in my immediate family to go to college.

How did the Cape Ray assignment come to you?
We needed to move the neutralization operations to sea. The technology to do the neutralization was something we had proven. What we did then was to combine the two in a shipboard environment. I was able to bring a lot of experience that I had in past commands and also in different jobs that I had before to bear on this.

Were you following the story about the use of chemical weapons in Syria that led to the mission? A thousand people were killed with chemical weapons.
We follow closely all the activities and the issues that go on around the [Mediterranean] theater. I was following that, just as I was following all the other activities that were occurring at that time. Of course, what a horrible tragedy. And I think also, what a great opportunity that we were given: to remove this [material], from not just the Syrian arsenal, but from the global arsenal.

What does 600 tons of chemical weapons look like?
Like a lot of containers that you see on 18-wheelers. The Cape Ray and all the Cape-class ships are very large and able to carry a lot. We processed 24 hours a day, six days a week.

Navy Captain Richard Dromerhauser speaks to members of nongovernmental organizations aboard the MV Cape Ray on April 10. The ship was docked in Rota, Spain, while waiting to begin neutralizing Syrian chemical weapons materials. (U.S. Navy)Was there a most dangerous moment in the transfer of the chemicals?
No, I’m going to say outright I never felt like, “Hey, this is a bad situation.” It’s really a testament to the intense amount of planning and training that we had. When the ship first left the [United] States, there was a period of time where we were waiting for all the material to be [removed from Syria]. Rather than hang our heads and go, “Boy, what are we waiting for?” we jumped up on that.

That was a fantastic opportunity to train, to go over processes, look at the systems, and really chalkboard out how we were going to do this. I had the ability to meet each day with not only the master of the vessel itself, but the lead chemist. We made a point every day to meet at a set time, regardless of what was going on.

One of the best decisions we made was, we said we need to find a way to empower every single person on this [ship]. Whether they’re moving material or whether they’re a lookout, or working to keep the hot water going, [we said,] “If you see something that’s not right, stop everything and let’s reassess.”

How did it feel to get a call afterward from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel?
That was a great testament to all the hard work and accomplishments of everyone aboard. I was on the other end of the line, but I really wished we were able to get a speaker phone out to not just the ship, but to every one of the folks in the supporting allies, the folks who were out there with us.

Posted: December 31, 1969

Kahl Tapped as Biden Aide

Vice President Joe Biden announced on Sept. 26 the appointment of Colin Kahl as his new national security adviser.

November 2014

By Kingston Reif

Vice President Joe Biden announced on Sept. 26 the appointment of Colin Kahl as his new national security adviser.

Prior to joining Biden’s office, Kahl was associate professor in the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. While at the center, Kahl authored numerous articles on Iran’s nuclear program, including “The Danger of New Iran Sanctions” in The National Interest in December 2013 and “Still Not Time to Attack Iran” in Foreign Affairs in January 2014.

Colin Kahl, who was recently named national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, participates in a panel discussion on Iran’s nuclear program on Capitol Hill on February 21, 2012. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)From 2009 to 2011, Kahl served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East.
“As both a scholar and experienced public servant, Colin has a unique perspective on a number of national security issues that our country faces today, particularly in the Middle East,” said Biden in a statement announcing the appointment.

Kahl succeeds Jake Sullivan, who left Biden’s staff in August to teach at Yale Law School. Sullivan remains a senior advisor on talks with Iran on its nuclear program.

The administration recently filled other senior positions dealing with nuclear weapons and nonproliferation policy.

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall was sworn in Oct. 5 as deputy energy secretary. Sherwood-Randall, who was confirmed by the Senate on Sept. 18, previously served as White House coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction, and arms control.

Adam Scheinman, also confirmed by the Senate on Sept. 18, was sworn in Sept. 22 as President Barack Obama’s special representative for nuclear nonproliferation. In that role, he will represent the United States at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Robert Wood was sworn in Oct. 2 as U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament. He had been confirmed by the Senate on July 15.

The administration is still seeking confirmation of Frank Rose to be assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance. He was nominated for the position on July 18, 2013. Rose is currently deputy assistant secretary of state for space and defense policy.

Posted: December 31, 1969

Former Foe Vietnam Cleared for U.S. Arms

The U.S. government will allow the sale of certain types of lethal weapons to Vietnam for the first time, the State Department announced Oct. 2.

November 2014

By Jefferson Morley

The U.S. government will allow the sale of certain types of lethal weapons to Vietnam for the first time, the State Department announced Oct. 2. “This policy supports Vietnam’s efforts to improve its maritime domain awareness and maritime security capabilities,” a State Department official said in an Oct. 17 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

A Chinese coast guard ship (right) challenges a Vietnamese coast guard ship near the site of a Chinese oil rig being installed in disputed waters in the South China Sea off the central coast of Vietnam on May 14. (Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images)The announcement followed a protracted confrontation between Vietnam and China last summer over the introduction of a Chinese oil rig into a part of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam. In May, the State Department criticized the move as “provocative,” saying that “this unilateral action appears to be part of a broader pattern of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed territory in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region.”

As the Chinese and Vietnamese navies jousted for position around the oil rig, ships from the two countries rammed each other, resulting in injuries, according to news reports. Although China withdrew the rig in July, relations between China and Vietnam remain tense.

“Never before have we seen a greater risk for miscalculation and incidents that may escalate to military conflicts than in the past few months,” Pham Binh Minh, Vietnam’s foreign minister, told a New York audience Sept. 24. A week later, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Pham and informed him that Washington’s long-time ban on lethal weapons sales to Vietnam was being partially lifted.

Vietnam’s maritime defense capabilities are “minimal,” according to Richard Aboulafia, an analyst for the Teal Group, which monitors the arms trade. With only four maritime surveillance aircraft, Vietnam is most likely to ask the United States for refurbished P-3 patrol planes, Aboulafia said in an Oct. 17 interview.

Whatever Vietnam requests in the way of lethal maritime security items will be on the U.S. Munitions List, the U.S. official said in the Oct. 17 e-mail. Transfers will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the State Department and other U.S. agencies for compliance with the Arms Export Control Act, the Obama administration’s conventional arms transfer policy, and related considerations, the official said.

Posted: December 31, 1969

France Delays Arms Delivery Decision

The controversial sale of a French amphibious assault ship to Russia remains in limbo after the French government dropped its original deadline for a decision.

November 2014

By Jefferson Morley

The controversial sale of a French amphibious assault ship to Russia remains in limbo after the French government dropped its original deadline for a decision.

A man demonstrates on September 7 in the western French port of Saint-Nazaire against the decision of the French government to delay the delivery of the Mistral amphibious assault ship to Russia. (Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images)On the eve of the NATO summit in early September, French President François Hollande announced he was delaying the scheduled delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers because of Russian intervention in Ukraine. At that time, Hollande said he had two conditions for approving delivery of the ship—a cease-fire in Ukraine and a political settlement that resolves the country’s crisis. He said he would make a decision in “late October.”

Germany and the United Kingdom had called on France to cancel the contract, which is worth 1.1 billion euro ($1.4 billion), so as not to bolster Russian military capabilities. According to news reports, France may have to pay a substantial penalty if it does not fulfill the contract, which was signed in June 2011.

In an Oct. 17 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a spokesman for the French embassy in Washington pointed to remarks Hollande had made the previous day in Milan. In those comments, Hollande reiterated his conditions for approving the delivery of the first carrier, saying that the cease-fire “needs to be fully respected in Ukraine and the crisis resolution plan…needs to be fully implemented.”

The spokesman said that no date has been set for Hollande’s decision.

Posted: December 31, 1969

NNSA Reviewing Nonproliferation Work

The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is reviewing its approach to its nonproliferation programs and expects to issue the results of that review early next year, the head of the semiautonomous agency said Oct. 29.

November 2014

By Daniel Horner

The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is reviewing its approach to its nonproliferation programs and expects to issue the results of that review early next year, the head of the semiautonomous agency said Oct. 29.

Speaking at a briefing for reporters, retired Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz said that, for more than a year, the NNSA has been “going through an assessment of how we view the world situation, how we view technology development, and where we can best have an impact in achieving the overall goals of nonproliferation and implementing safeguards across the globe.”

A major part of the impetus for that review, he indicated, was the end of the four-year period that President Barack Obama established for securing “vulnerable nuclear material around the world.” Obama announced the four-year effort in his speech in Prague in April 2009.

As Klotz noted, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has established a task force under the auspices of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board to take a broad look at the way the department addresses nuclear nonproliferation issues. Klotz said the department is planning to publish a document reflecting the review when the administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 is released.

The task force, which is expected to issue its report around the end of the year, produced an interim report in August. According to the report, “The U.S. government does not yet have a compelling vision for the future of its nonproliferation efforts or how [the Energy Department’s] programs fit in that larger picture, though [the department] has launched an effort to develop one.” An important task for the department, the report says, is to “[l]ay out a vision and set priorities.”

The report notes that the Energy Department’s nonproliferation budget has declined by hundreds of millions of dollars in the past several years. Although that is partly the result of “projects being completed or efforts being put on hold while [the department] reviews its approach to them,” in some cases “it appears that important nonproliferation work is being slowed or canceled because of lack of funds,” the report says.

Other observers of the nonproliferation work have reached similar conclusions. In August, 26 senators sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget seeking increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs for fiscal year 2016. (See ACT, September 2014.)

One particular focus of the interim report is U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation, which, for a number of reasons, “will not be easy, is likely to encounter delays, and will require creative approaches and sustained attention,” the report says. But the United States should pursue this cooperation in spite of the obstacles because it “remains critical to U.S. national security interests,” the report says.

Posted: December 31, 1969


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