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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Issue Briefs

A Good Deal That Must Be Honored

Daryl G. Kimball

The nuclear nonproliferation regime is, once again, at a critical juncture. Nuclear dangers in the Middle East, South Asia, and the Koreas, as well as the specter of nuclear terrorism, continue to threaten regional and international stability. Adding to these substantial challenges, the Bush administration has made clear its plans to keep its nuclear weapons options open and resist lasting nuclear arms limitations. Bush’s approach threatens to undermine the foundation for global cooperation to stop the spread of nuclear weapons: the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

To date, the NPT has succeeded because it has made the production and acquisition of nuclear weapons technically challenging and almost universally unacceptable. Since its inception in 1968, only three additional countries have acquired nuclear weapons, while the treaty has led several states to abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions.

But the NPT does not simply aim to maintain the nuclear status quo. Article VI of the NPT requires that the original five nuclear-weapon states—Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States—pursue effective nuclear disarmament measures. Until now, U.S. leaders have grudgingly recognized that, to preserve the objective of global nonproliferation, the nuclear-weapon states need to pursue their disarmament commitments.

At the 2000 NPT review conference, the nuclear-weapon states reaffirmed this approach. They agreed to a 13-point program of action for nuclear disarmament, including a ban on nuclear testing, irreversible nuclear arms reductions, a fissile material production cutoff, and maintenance of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This month, as delegates from the 187 NPT states-parties gather in New York for their first meeting since the 2000 conference, they will find that little progress has been achieved toward these and other nuclear security objectives.

The U.S. delegation will likely repeat its claim that “the United States understands its special responsibility under Article VI.” But recent U.S. actions suggest otherwise. Thus far, the Bush team has shown that it sees the NPT merely as a tool to constrain the nuclear capabilities of states such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea and improve the proliferation behavior of Russia and China.

At the same time, the administration seeks to maintain its current nuclear capabilities and keep open the option to develop new nuclear capabilities to deter, dissuade, and defeat existing and unforeseen threats, including those from the “axis of evil” states. Consequently, President George W. Bush and his national security team have systematically dismissed and disavowed virtually all the arms control and disarmament measures agreed upon at the 2000 NPT conference.

Not only has the Bush administration decided to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and pursue unproven missile defenses, but it has shelved—for the time being—the nuclear test ban treaty. The U.S. delegation to the NPT meeting will point to Bush’s current support for the nuclear test moratorium. Though important, the permanence of this commitment has been undermined by the administration’s plans to shorten the time needed to resume U.S. nuclear testing and develop new nuclear weapons capabilities to defeat hard and deeply buried targets. Efforts to enhance the credibility and range of options for the possible use of nuclear weapons blur the line between nuclear and conventional warfare. Such policies only undermine nonproliferation efforts by suggesting to other states that nuclear weapons are necessary for their defense.

President Bush has also abandoned START II and the follow-on START III framework, including the elimination of strategic launchers and dismantlement of warheads these agreements would have achieved. U.S. representatives will try to defend the Bush record by touting his effort to reach a “legally binding” agreement with Russia to reduce deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 2,200 each by the year 2012.

Unfortunately, the U.S. proposal is less than meets the eye. In keeping with the nuclear posture review, the proposal would allow Washington to rapidly redeploy 2,400 stored warheads. Thousands of U.S. and Russian nonstrategic warheads would remain unregulated. Further eroding its security value, the current U.S. proposal would allow either side to exceed the numerical limits on deployed warheads by simply notifying the other party.

The United States, and indeed the world, has benefited from the NPT. As a nuclear-weapon state-party to the treaty, the United States has assumed solemn disarmament obligations that are in its own security interests, but it has failed to fulfill them, as have the other nuclear-weapon states. The Bush administration’s emphasis on nuclear weapons and its failure to take concrete steps to reduce their saliency jeopardizes long-term U.S. nonproliferation goals and the NPT itself. To work, the NPT requires good-faith implementation by all parties. To survive, the NPT must serve the interests of all treaty partners, not just a few.

Name-Calling or Nonproliferation?

Daryl G. Kimball

In a potent political one-liner delivered in January, President George W. Bush prominently labeled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “axis of evil” that is supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. While the threat of terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction is real, the problems of terrorism and proliferation are not identical and cannot be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach.

The president is to be commended for focusing attention on the ongoing threat of nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile proliferation in dangerous regions. But his gratuitous name-calling in the absence of practical, country-specific nonproliferation strategies has complicated the task of addressing proliferation problems, particularly in North Korea.

Bush’s statement puts North Korea and Iran in the same category as Iraq and has raised concerns about military action against all three. Our friends and allies may eventually agree to collective military action to enforce Security Council mandates for UN weapons inspections in Iraq, but leaders in South Korea, Japan, and Europe correctly understand that the most effective approach to Pyongyang is resuming the North-South-U.S. dialogue.

While in Seoul for a February state visit, Bush had to clarify that the United States “has no intention of invading North Korea,” and he reiterated his administration’s willingness to talk “anytime, anywhere” with Pyongyang on a range of security issues. Yet, in the same speech, he repeated harsh recriminations that substantially undermine the possibility that the North will re-engage. The president’s tough talk may play well in Washington’s conservative political circles, but it has plunged the United States and North Korea into another cycle of mistrust and missed opportunity.

Rather than launching verbal jabs and waiting for the North to resume the security dialogue, the United States should take concrete steps on the most significant issues: averting a looming crisis on the implementation of the 1994 Agreed Framework to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and resuming negotiations on a verifiable freeze of the North’s ballistic missile enterprise. To start, Bush should appoint a new, high-level coordinator for North Korea policy. The coordinator’s first task would be to bring some practical ideas and proposals—not harsh recriminations—to the bargaining table.

The Agreed Framework is a good, but imperfect, deal that both parties must honor. Under the agreement, the United States is facilitating construction of two safeguarded light-water nuclear power reactors, and, in exchange, North Korea is to verifiably abandon its nuclear weapons program. So far, this deal has effectively frozen Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but difficulties lie ahead.

North Korea will soon be obligated to comply with all International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, which prohibit military nuclear activities. It must do so when a “significant portion” of the two light-water nuclear power reactors are completed but before delivery of their nuclear components. Due to construction delays, a significant portion of the reactors will not be built until approximately 2005. IAEA inspection of declared and undeclared nuclear facilities in North Korea could take two to three years. Further slippage could set off a new high-stakes confrontation.

Prompt initiation of inspections is important, even though the Agreed Framework does not yet require North Korea to admit the IAEA. If the Bush administration is interested in results, it should re-affirm its support for the Agreed Framework, not threaten to stop implementation as some in Congress have suggested. Working with South Korea and Japan, Bush should, if necessary, be prepared to offer incentives—including in-kind food and electricity aid—for North Korean cooperation on early inspections. Such an arrangement could simultaneously improve the likelihood of completing the inspections and address shortcomings in the Agreed Framework’s implementation.

Through dialogue, not diatribes, Bush also has an opportunity to halt North Korea’s ballistic missile program—a prime source of global missile proliferation. In the final days of the Clinton administration, negotiators reportedly came “tantalizingly close” to an agreement. Sadly, the Bush administration has failed to pursue this possibility, though it is clearly in U.S. security interests. Given the North’s pledge to halt missile testing through 2003, there is still a window of opportunity to secure a sufficiently verifiable agreement that bans further missile exports, production, and testing and that bars further missile deployments.

Though Kim Jong-Il’s regime is difficult, undemocratic, and uninterested in its people’s welfare, history shows that pragmatic, principled engagement with such states can produce results that enhance U.S. security. Unless he is willing to seriously pursue such a course, Bush may fumble one of the United States’ better opportunities to solve one of the world’s thorniest nuclear and missile proliferation challenges.


New Strategic Experiment

Daryl G. Kimball

After a year of preparation, President George W. Bush announced his intention to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and the Pentagon delivered to Congress its revised nuclear posture review. With these actions, the Bush administration has set into motion a radical new effort to deploy unproven strategic missile defenses and to “reduce” strategic nuclear arsenals without arms control agreements.

The administration’s ostensible goal is to provide a wider range of conventional and nuclear capabilities to respond to an increasingly unpredictable threat environment no longer dominated by Russia. But, in seeking greater flexibility, the administration’s approach creates new uncertainties and obstacles to efforts to reduce the dangers posed by residual U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.
Some of the proposals are clearly positive. The administration’s plan could lead to a common-sense reduction in the number of U.S. deployed strategic nuclear weapons, which now number 6,000. The posture review also calls for a greater emphasis on advanced conventional weapons rather than on nuclear weapons to deter threats.

However, in the absence of agreed constraints on nuclear arsenals, U.S. and Russian planned nuclear force reductions, even if fully implemented, could be easily reversed. By requiring a Cold War-sized force of 1,700-2,200 strategic deployed nuclear weapons, the posture review also falls short of the president’s worthy goal of moving beyond mutual assured destruction. If, as the Pentagon says, U.S. nuclear force planning is not driven by the “immediate” threat of attack from Russia, no more than a few hundred survivable nuclear weapons are needed to deal with plausible threat scenarios involving Russia or any other state. In addition, the Pentagon’s plan suggests that nuclear weapons can play a role in our response to non-nuclear threats—a notion that is unnecessary given U.S. conventional military superiority and dangerous because it may encourage other states to follow suit.

The administration also claims that introduction of strategic missile defenses will deter other countries from seeking long-range missiles and, if that fails, will defend against a limited future attack. The posture review makes the bold assertion that potential rogue-state missile attacks cannot be as easily deterred by the United States’ overwhelming offensive strike capabilities. These conclusions come despite the fact that the intelligence community considers U.S. territory to be far more vulnerable to attack involving weapons of mass destruction delivered by nonmissile means.

Advocates of missile defense claim that the absence of severe criticism from Russia, China, and Europe proves that the ABM Treaty withdrawal decision will not damage relations among the major powers. But, just as it is too soon to tell whether the United States will deploy strategic missile defenses, it is too soon to rule out a future Chinese or Russian military response. Russia’s relatively subdued reaction was based, in part, on the possibility that promised nuclear force reductions might be codified in a written agreement rather than through unilateral declarations.

Reaching such an agreement will be complicated by Bush’s plan to maintain a sizeable “responsive” force as a hedge against Russian rearmament or other new and unforeseen threats. The Pentagon-generated study calls for the storage—not the dismantlement—of many of the approximately 4,000 warheads that would be removed from operational status by 2012, which would allow for their redeployment within “weeks, months, or years.”

By creating a larger stockpile of unaccountable, nondeployed nuclear weapons, the Bush administration will achieve flexibility, but it will also compound Russia’s concerns about U.S. capabilities and intentions. As a result, Russia may act on worst-case assumptions and retain a sizeable multiple-warhead-armed missile force and store, rather than dismantle, its nondeployed warheads. This could increase the difficulties of securing and safeguarding Russian nuclear stockpiles, which already include thousands of unaccountable tactical nuclear warheads and more than 1,000 metric tons of fissile material.

Despite a number of missed opportunities over the last three decades, the ABM Treaty helped facilitate agreements to limit and eliminate strategic nuclear weapons. Now, it is incumbent upon President Bush to demonstrate that lasting nuclear arms reductions can be accomplished in the absence of the ABM Treaty.

Over the next few months, the president will have a historic opportunity to secure a lasting agreement to verifiably remove from deployment and dismantle excess warheads, exchange detailed information on weapons holdings, and augment cooperative threat reduction programs. Without such an agreement, the security benefits of Bush’s planned reductions will remain limited and reversible. As a result, the administration’s experiment with nuclear weapons policy could perpetuate—not reduce—Cold War nuclear dangers.

Fuzzy Nuclear Math

Daryl G. Kimball

At November’s Washington-Crawford summit, President George W. Bush announced his intention to reduce U.S. strategic nuclear forces from today’s 6,000 deployed warheads to 1,700-2,200 deployed warheads within 10 years. The proposal, along with the Texas-style hospitality extended to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was intended to signify Bush’s desire to move beyond the Cold War. By the administration’s strategic calculation, the United States and Russia are now “friends,” who should size and orient their respective strategic offensive and defensive arsenals to meet the threats of the future, not one another.

Unfortunately, the president’s numbers do not add up to his commendable rhetoric. The size of the deployed U.S. arsenal 10 years from now would be only 300 fewer than the 2,000-2,500 START III framework ceiling approved by the U.S. Strategic Command in 1997. The vast majority of these weapons would still be assigned to striking Russia’s nuclear arsenal and industrial infrastructure. In other words, under Bush’s plan, friends would target friends with nuclear weapons.

The administration’s proposal fails to factor in other key variables, including the presence of the already large and growing stockpile of nondeployed “hedge” warheads. This reserve of some 4,500-5,000 strategic and tactical warheads was once mostly intended to provide the United States with the capability to quickly reverse reductions of its deployed arsenal to guard against a Russian buildup. Now, the presence of the hedge creates a strong disincentive for Russia to implement cost-saving nuclear reductions.

In addition, Bush has apparently rejected ideas contained in the START III framework that would make reductions irreversible through the verifiable dismantlement and destruction of delivery systems and warheads. As a result, Bush’s formula would simply lead to the reassignment of warheads from the deployed to the nondeployed side of the ledger. Bush’s handshake-brand of unilateral, voluntary arms restraint would not only make nuclear stockpiles more opaque, it would also do little to decrease their overall size.

President Putin welcomed Bush’s proposal and reiterated Russia’s offer to cut both sides’ strategic deployed forces to 1,500 warheads through a verifiable treaty. But the Bush administration has—so far—turned down the opportunity to codify U.S. and Russian reductions, arguing that negotiations and treaties are tedious, time-consuming, and unnecessary. Citing his father’s 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives with Mikhail Gorbachev, Bush suggests that meaningful reductions can be achieved more quickly through unilateral reciprocal action.

The unilateral withdrawal and consolidation of tactical nuclear forces was a bold and clearly necessary tactic, especially in the midst of the Soviet Union’s collapse. If Bush sought to jump-START the arms control process through an immediate stand-down of a substantial number of U.S. strategic deployed nuclear forces, an informal rather than a formal approach might make sense. Instead, Bush proposes a drawn-out 10-year implementation period for U.S. reductions—time enough for negotiation and ratification of a firm agreement to make the cuts irreversible and verifiable.

Bush’s plan should nevertheless provide some renewed momentum for the arms reduction process. It will likely force congressional Republicans to allow the removal of a 1998 law prohibiting U.S. reductions prior to START II’s entry into force. However, Bush and Putin’s failure to reach an understanding on strategic missile defenses leaves open the possibility of unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Absent reasonable constraints on national missile defense, Russia will be tempted to maintain higher levels of strategic nuclear weapons to overcome a future U.S. missile shield. Although its nuclear forces are headed for lower levels, Russia is capable of maintaining a sizable deployed arsenal—as many as 3,800 warheads—including destabilizing multiple-warhead missiles, many on hair-trigger alert.

Some anti-treaty ideologues at the Pentagon have tried—and will try again—to convince President Bush that he must withdraw from the treaty to allow more robust missile defense testing. This argument simply does not stand up, given the fact that several more years of treaty-compliant developmental testing is necessary before beginning the operational tests required to demonstrate real-world effectiveness. In seeking an agreement with Putin on future U.S. missile defense testing and strategic offensive reductions, Bush would be wise to maintain the basic framework of the ABM Treaty.

Given the long history of adversarial relations and persistence of Cold War-era strategic thinking, it is unlikely that a gentleman’s agreement between two leaders can last beyond their terms in office. As a result, President Bush’s unwillingness to lock in reductions on all strategic weapons through a formal, verifiable agreement unnecessarily perpetuates vestigial Cold War-era nuclear dangers. Those who believe nuclear arms control has no place in the post-Cold War context should think again.

At November’s Washington-Crawford summit, President George W. Bush announced his intention to reduce U.S. strategic nuclear forces from today’s 6,000 deployed warheads to 1,700-2,200 deployed warheads within 10 years. The proposal, along with the Texas-style hospitality extended to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was intended to signify Bush’s desire to move beyond the Cold War. By the administration’s strategic calculation, the United States and Russia are now “friends,” who should size and orient their respective strategic offensive and defensive arsenals to meet the threats of the future, not one another. (Continue)

Will Prudence Prevail?

Daryl G. Kimball

This month, American and Russian leaders will try to resolve the decade-long impasse over further strategic nuclear reductions and the United States’ national missile defense ambitions. The opportunity for an agreement is close at hand, but success will require prudent adjustments in the White House strategy on missile defense and on the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, as well as fundamental changes in U.S. nuclear weapons requirements.

Ten years ago, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the START I agreement. By December 2001, this treaty will have reduced each country’s 1990 levels of deployed strategic forces by more than 40 percent, to 6,000 warheads. Although both sides agreed to two more rounds of strategic reductions and to new guidelines on anti-missile testing, festering disagreements over missile defenses have blocked implementation of deeper arms cuts. As a result, the START process is in limbo, and the two sides maintain excessive Cold War-era nuclear arsenals, large portions of which remain poised for a quick and massive attack.

There now appears to be a genuine desire on both sides to reach an agreement on strategic offenses and defenses. President George W. Bush has adopted the language of arms control and disarmament proponents, calling U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons “expensive relics of dead conflicts.” Because the premises of Cold War nuclear targeting should no longer dictate the size and posture of the U.S. arsenal, he favors unilateral reductions of U.S. forces and removal of as many weapons as possible from hair-trigger alert. For his part, President Vladimir Putin supports reductions of deployed strategic forces to 1,500 warheads, using existing START verification provisions.

But after nine months of consultations, neither side has detailed negotiable proposals on strategic nuclear offenses and missile defenses. Until his October 21 meeting with Putin in Shanghai, Bush and his advisers insisted that the ABM Treaty must be discarded “within months” because it stands in the way of a robust national missile defense program. Administration officials gave the Russians the choice of joint withdrawal or unilateral U.S. withdrawal. To create additional pressure, the Defense Department has formulated missile defense program activities, including construction of a “test bed” in Alaska, designed to “bump up against” the ABM Treaty.

In Shanghai, Putin reiterated the importance of the ABM Treaty to strategic stability, though the Kremlin appears ready to allow more robust missile defense testing. To guard against worst-case scenarios, Russian leaders would prefer agreed legal constraints on strategic defenses commensurate with further cuts in strategic offenses. However, U.S. officials have thus far refused to offer or even discuss adjustments to the ABM Treaty and have not detailed planned U.S. nuclear reductions.

In reality, demonstrating the operational effectiveness of a nationwide anti-missile system will require many more years of tests, which can be pursued for a considerable time before final deployment and without violating the ABM Treaty. Rather than unilaterally withdrawing from the treaty in the near future, Bush could propose modifications of the ABM Treaty to permit a wider range of national missile defense work. Last month, the Pentagon announced its decision not to employ ABM Treaty-prohibited radars in the next round of missile defense tests. But if he is to reach a historic breakthrough this month or soon after, Bush must rein in hard-liners within his administration who are impatient to withdraw from the treaty.

President Bush also faces resistance from within his own administration to the fundamental changes in U.S. nuclear force doctrine that he has promised. Without U.S. nuclear reductions below 2,500 warheads, Bush will lose an important inducement to Russian flexibility on missile defense. A modest trimming of the nuclear target list, as some Pentagon planners might propose, or reassigning nuclear warheads from the active to inactive reserve stockpile, will do little to assuage Russian concerns or change Cold War nuclear postures. As a fundamental step toward his own goal of moving beyond the concept of mutual assured destruction and eliminating the mutual suspicion generated by large nuclear arsenals, Bush should direct the Pentagon to drop mass-attack nuclear war options and disarming first-strike capabilities. With this shift in presidential guidance, Bush could quickly secure a firm agreement with Putin, leading to phased reductions of each country’s strategic nuclear warheads—deployed and reserve—to 1,500 or less.

A historic agreement on deep nuclear reductions and missile defense research and development within the framework of the ABM Treaty is long overdue and would come at a crucial juncture in the U.S.-Russian relationship. If he makes the right choices, Bush can solidify the foundation for future cooperation, rather than confrontation, with Moscow.

Arms Control and the New 'War'

Daryl G. Kimball

As President George W. Bush and congressional leaders have correctly suggested, the response to the devastating attacks on New York and the Pentagon requires unprecedented international cooperation to prevent future outbreaks of terrorism. This new “war” will consume attention and resources, but Washington cannot lose sight of the related and equally severe threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Although the carnage wrought by the airliners-turned-flying-bombs is staggering, the toll from biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons could be even greater. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged the importance of “seeing that...weapons of vastly greater power...are not used by the kinds of people that attacked the United States.” Nevertheless, the Bush administration has so far failed to present an effective and comprehensive approach.

National, state, and local emergency response and public health systems to help treat the victims of any future attacks must certainly be fortified. But we must recognize that there is no civil defense plan, however robust, that can adequately protect the public against chemical, biological, and especially nuclear attack. The first line of defense is and must be prevention. Success depends on ensuring that the acquisition and delivery of these weapons remains technically challenging and universally unacceptable. This requires a sustained and coordinated international effort to extend and strengthen the multilateral framework of arms control and non-proliferation.

Unfortunately, Bush and his cadre of advisers have spent their first eight months in office dismissing, dismantling, and disavowing proven and promising arms control measures. At times, the Bush team speaks positively about a few treaties, such as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, in keeping with its “à la carte” approach, the administration supports only those NPT provisions that constrain the capabilities of others, while it chooses to ignore U.S. non-proliferation and disarmament commitments. To work, this treaty, like so many others, must continue to serve the interests of all treaty partners, not just a few.

If the administration is truly committed to protecting the homeland, it must shed its disdain for multilateral arms control and non-proliferation and build upon the bipartisan mood that has enveloped Capitol Hill.

 Among other actions, the president should reconsider his rejection of the draft protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention and help achieve, not hinder, agreement on a strengthened text. He should utilize a part of the $20 billion approved for anti-terrorism activities to broaden and accelerate programs to secure and dispose of weapons-usable nuclear material and demilitarize chemical weapons in the former Soviet Union. The president should redouble U.S. efforts for strengthened International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and UN Security Council support for on-site inspections to help prevent Iraq from reconstituting its weapons of mass destruction programs. International support for these steps would be greatly enhanced if Bush moved to fulfill key U.S. NPT commitments. In particular, he should reconsider his refusal to seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; initiate genuine negotiations with Russia on verifiable, irreversible nuclear force reductions; and agree to operate within the framework of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

The latter objective will require an important adjustment in the pace and direction of national missile defense policy, which now calls for deployment of a rudimentary capability by 2004 and possible unilateral ABM Treaty withdrawal within months. Predictably, U.S. officials have resumed their push for deployment. But the airliner attacks highlight that, however capable they may someday become, strategic missile defenses are useless against cheaper and more available means of weapons delivery. Though U.S. officials have “consulted” with their Russian counterparts, they have flatly rejected inquiries about possible treaty modifications to allow for planned anti-missile testing and have not yet made proposals for nuclear reductions. Taking the time necessary to reach a lasting strategic weapons agreement with Russia would, among other benefits, help preserve the long-term cooperation of Moscow, Beijing, and other governments in the new anti-terrorism campaign.

As he tries to root out global terrorism, the president must not create additional proliferation dangers. He should decisively put to rest speculation that the United States might use nuclear weapons against targets in Afghanistan. Even the implied threat of using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states could spur some states to seek their own nuclear weapons capability.

Just as the United States cannot combat global terrorism by itself, it cannot alone curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and reduce the risks associated with existing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons stockpiles. If the president and the Congress continue to ignore this reality, they do so at our peril.  

The Rogue Elephant

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

To much of the world, the United States is emerging as an irrational rogue state that is increasingly out of step with the rest of the international community. The starkest example of a growing U.S. unilateralism and undisguised contempt for the views of others is the administration’s approach to national missile defense (NMD) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. In order to facilitate its pursuit of an NMD, the United States has by now made it clear that it intends to eliminate the ABM Treaty, whatever the consequences. Promised discussions with Russia, China, and U.S. allies have turned out to be simply briefings on U.S. testing plans, which the administration claims will conflict with the ABM Treaty “in months.”

The administration’s actions following the apparently successful personal interaction between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in June and July underscore that the administration’s pursuit of national missile defense has become an irrational obsession and not simply a misguided policy. A steady stream of senior U.S. officials has descended on Moscow and reciprocal visits have been encouraged. Great care has been taken, however, to emphasize that these are not negotiations or even discussions, but simply “exchanges of information” intended to persuade Russia that it has nothing to fear from U.S. NMD plans.

The administration is brashly proposing that Russia should join in repudiating the ABM Treaty, which Moscow strongly supports as the foundation of strategic stability. Putin and other senior Russian officials complain that they have received no information on the extent of the U.S. NMD program or future strategic offensive force levels, which U.S. officials say must await the current nuclear policy review. In addition, U.S. representatives have not made clear what, if any, formal agreement might replace the ABM Treaty. Russian officials, including Putin, have stated they are not interested in signing a “blank check” and see no possibility of resolving such a complex issue in time to celebrate agreement at the November summit at Bush’s Texas ranch. Whether the U.S. approach represents the irrational expectations of true believers or is simply a ploy to create an excuse for unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty remains to be seen. But unilateral U.S. withdrawal has garnered no international support, including from close U.S. NATO allies, who have been treated to similar condescending briefings.

While tied to its obsessive NMD craving, the administration’s desire to eliminate the ABM Treaty also reflects its fundamental opposition to all formal arms control treaties. The administration sees such agreements as constraining U.S. flexibility to use its superior technology and economic resources to achieve unchallenged military superiority. Confident of substantial U.S. advantage, it has no interest in constraining the forces of potential adversaries. In this spirit, the administration has dismissed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and is not concerned by Putin’s assertion that U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty would force Russia to withdraw from START II and even START I. This would eliminate the basis for verifying strategic reductions and allow Russia to retain its land-based MIRVs, including the 10-warhead SS-18 and SS-24 missiles, as well as future replacement MIRVed missiles. This rejection of formal treaties in general and particular disdain for the ABM Treaty because it is a “30-year-old Cold War relic” seems odd for an administration that wants to expand the Cold War NATO alliance to the borders of its new friend.

The administration now plans to unleash the same officials to persuade China that the U.S. NMD would not be a threat. If these briefings are anything like those given to Congress, U.S. allies, and Russia, setting forth a technological buffet from which the United States will construct a multi-layer defense, China will hardly be persuaded that such an undertaking, costing a few hundred billion dollars, is really directed at North Korea. To sweeten this bitter pill, the administration leaked that China would be informed that the United States was prepared to accept modernization of Chinese nuclear forces and would not object if China resumed nuclear testing, which the United States might also find necessary. When this proposal was widely greeted with shocked incredulity, it was denied by another senior official—in the cacophony of contradictory statements that have characterized exposition of U.S. foreign policy.

Having predictably failed to intimidate Russia to join in a crash program to dismantle the ABM Treaty and having found absolutely no international support, President Bush should re-evaluate the wisdom of this approach. Recalling the metamorphoses of Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan to support arms control during their presidencies, influential Republican leaders should come to the aid of the Grand Old Party and persuade President Bush to adopt a less confrontational posture and avoid branding his presidency and his party as a Rogue Elephant.

To much of the world, the United States is emerging as an irrational rogue state that is increasingly out of step with the rest of the international community. The starkest example of a growing U.S. unilateralism and undisguised contempt for the views of others is the administration’s approach to national missile defense (NMD) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. In order to facilitate its pursuit of an NMD, the United States has by now made it clear that it intends to eliminate the ABM Treaty, whatever the consequences. Promised discussions with Russia, China, and U.S. allies have turned out to be simply briefings on U.S. testing plans, which the administration claims will conflict with the ABM Treaty “in months.” (Continue)

Mission Impossible

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

President George W. Bush’s abbreviated “grand tour” of Europe predictably failed to gain new support for U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty to facilitate deployment of a national missile defense (NMD). Given the abject failure of Bush’s senior aides’ earlier frantic efforts to obtain blank-check endorsements in all major capitals for the U.S. NMD initiative, one wonders whether his advisers had become so imbued with the righteousness of their cause that they really believed the president could succeed in this mission impossible. His hosts certainly did not learn anything new about the substance of the U.S. position. Bush, however, must have learned something about the nature and intensity of foreign concerns over his administration’s plans in this area.

In a transparent effort to minimize negative reactions to the NMD issue, the trip conspicuously avoided Britain, France, and Germany in favor of Spain, Sweden, and Poland, and a visit to NATO headquarters in Belgium where NATO heads-of-state could be expected to be more constrained in any criticism than on their home turf. In the end, however, NATO did not give formal support for the U.S. NMD proposal.

Bush’s informal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin was certainly the high point of the trip. Billed as simply a “getting to know you” social event without an agenda, the meeting proved surprisingly substantive and appeared to produce an unexpected degree of respect and cordiality between the two leaders despite major differences on a range of issues. In fact, Bush’s assessment of Putin—“I looked the man in the eye [and] I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy”—was so effusive that conservative commentators and Republican senators cringed in disbelief. Putin, while somewhat more reserved, spoke approvingly of Bush and the constructive nature of their exchange. Whether spontaneous or carefully planned, these reactions gave a very positive spin to two hours of frank discussion of their differing views on a wide-range of current policy issues, which Putin described in some detail to a selected group of U.S. journalists two days later in Moscow.

On the central issue of the ABM Treaty and NMD, Putin challenged the basic rationale of the U.S. position that North Korea and Iran pose a direct threat to U.S. security. He presented in some detail his conviction about the relatively primitive state of the two countries’ technology and proposed a U.S.-Russian cooperative effort to insure that rogue states would not become threats in the future. He pressed unsuccessfully for details on the planned U.S. NMD deployment and the aspects of the ABM Treaty that inhibited U.S. research and development, clearly suggesting the possibility of minor amendments.

Putin acknowledged that the United States has the right to withdraw from the treaty if it wishes to have complete independence of action. He warned, however, that this would give Russia the right to withdraw from START I and II so that it could also be independent of treaty constraints, allowing it to maintain its deterrent more economically. He emphasized that withdrawal would end mutual verification of future arms reductions and would increase the potential for rapid rearmament in the future. He stated that the collapse of the U.S.-Russian arms control relationship would adversely impact the nuclear non-proliferation regime by making it much easier for threshold states to claim nuclear status—a development contrary to the security interests of both the United States and Russia.

If Bush was listening—and Putin gave him credit for being a very careful listener—the trip will indeed prove to have been of extraordinary importance. Bush may now better understand why the rest of the world is deeply concerned about U.S. NMD plans.

Before allowing his administration to be further burdened with trying to persuade the world to accept a treaty-busting NMD, Bush should first revisit the value of such a system compared with its real costs to U.S. security. Can one really justify withdrawing from the ABM Treaty on the grounds that it might facilitate development and testing of undefined systems against uncertain future North Korean and Iranian threats at a probable cost of losing the START accords? Since START I and II substantially reduce and stabilize Russian strategic forces, which are the only threat that could destroy the United States, Bush should instead take his new friend up on the offer of a joint cooperative effort to eliminate incipient threats before they emerge.
This policy reorientation, which would receive almost unanimous international acclaim, would be far more likely to succeed than the achievement of a highly effective NMD and would do so at a fraction of the cost. And it would free the Bush administration of the increasing burden of a mission impossible of gaining international acceptance of U.S. pursuit of the will-o’-the-wisp of national missile defense.

Coup de Grace

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

The Democrats’recapture of the Senate may well have administered the coup de grace to President George W. Bush’s plan to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty as the first step toward a robust national missile defense (NMD) in a world without arms control. Even before Senator James Jeffords’ courageous act of conscience, international opposition to Bush’s strategic vision was almost unanimous despite frantic administration efforts to win allied and world support, or at least acquiescence. Suddenly, instead of having a Senate controlled by extreme right-wing Republicans exhorting him to ignore foreign objections, Bush will have a Senate dominated by Democrats who share many of the same concerns.

In his May 1 speech at National Defense University, Bush reaffirmed his campaign rhetoric to reject the arms control regime built up over the past 30 years and to replace it with a system of military laissez-faire in which complete freedom of action would presumably result in the most security for the United States. In place of arms control agreements, the Bush doctrine would call for unspecified unilateral reductions in strategic offensive weapons. Unlike treaties, such unilateral actions could be arbitrarily changed at any time and, lacking verification measures, would not add to predictability or stability.

Alarmed at the continuing failure to line up foreign support, Bush followed up his speech with the dispatch of teams of senior officials to “consult” all interested parties but with the understanding that the United States would replace the ABM Treaty regardless of their views. Not surprisingly, all reports indicate that these mock “consultations” were generally counterproductive. NATO could not even be persuaded to give a nod in support of the U.S. position.

Top Russian officials expressed the common complaint that the emissaries and high-level officials in Washington were unable to provide any additional information on such critical issues as the threat justifying this precipitous action, the “replacement” for the ABM Treaty, or the unilateral actions that would replace the START process. In short, Bush essentially asked the rest of the world to give the United States a blank check to do whatever it wishes.

On the home front, in addition to growing skepticism from the media and Democratic members of Congress, Bush’s vision encountered opposition from two unanticipated sources: technical reality and the military. Bush’s inner circle was apparently surprised to discover that there is nothing remotely close to deployment and that the layered defense they proposed could not be operational for a decade or more. Even the closest candidate, the Clinton administration’s unproven midcourse intercept system, which the Republicans had roundly criticized, is years away from deployment. Moreover, the military, which does not appear to be deeply involved in the Bush administration’s planning, is not enthusiastic about being saddled with an open-ended, high-tech NMD that could well prove to be a “black hole” for defense funds that the Pentagon would prefer to spend on conventional force modernization.

In this environment, the switch in control of the Senate could be decisive in protecting the ABM Treaty and the arms control regime. With Senator Thomas Daschle as majority leader, Senator Joseph Biden as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Carl Levin as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, all of whom spoke out strongly in opposition to Bush’s May 1 speech, there will be a profound and continuing debate on the questions the administration’s emissaries could not answer, and public attention will be focused on the consequences of Bush’s vision. No longer will Senator Jesse Helms be able to stifle debate in the Foreign Relations Committee or Senator Trent Lott be able to manipulate the Senate agenda, as he did in orchestrating the rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

True, Bush can still constitutionally withdraw from the ABM Treaty on his own authority. But to take this unprecedented action in the face of majority Senate opposition and almost unanimous disapproval in world opinion would be a truly irrational action for the leader of the world’s last superpower.

With the switch in the Senate leadership having effectively administered the coup de grace to any plans to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, Bush now has the opportunity and the obligation to reassess his plans. Rather than risk the success of his presidency on withdrawal from the ABM Treaty for no purpose, because there is nothing to deploy, he should refocus the NMD effort on the research and development, most of which is permitted under the treaty, necessary for such a system. Concurrently, he should intensify diplomatic efforts to eliminate the perceived missile threat at the source. To regain U.S. leadership, rather than dismantle the arms control regime, he would be well advised to consider bringing START II into force, which should be possible in the new Senate, and to initiating the long-delayed START III negotiations.

The First 100 Days

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

From an arms control perspective, the first 100 days of George W. Bush's presidency have been a disaster. President Bush has demonstrated that he believes, and intends to implement, his campaign rhetoric condemning past arms control accomplishments and even the concept of arms control itself. Unless he changes direction, Bush will have effectively demolished the arms control regime that has been painstakingly built over the past 30 years.

Bush's intentions became clear when he surrounded himself with advisers drawn almost exclusively from a small circle of individuals who share the belief that arms control is fundamentally contrary to U.S. interests because it places limits on U.S. development and deployment of weapons. Supremely confident of U.S. economic, technological, operational, and moral superiority, these advisers would prefer to forego constraints on the military programs of potential adversaries than to reduce U.S. military flexibility.

The principal target of this undisguised animosity toward arms control has been the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This treaty, negotiated by President Richard Nixon and overwhelmingly ratified in 1972, stands in the way of Bush's announced intention to move as quickly as possible to deploy a robust national missile defense (NMD) system. Such an NMD system would be antithetical both to the treaty's blanket prohibition on systems to defend the entire territory of either the United States or Russia and to practically every specific provision of the treaty.

Recognizing that the ABM Treaty cannot be amended to accommodate a robust defense, Bush has set the stage for withdrawal from the treaty. While this is within a president's constitutional powers, it is not a trivial act. In fact, there is no precedent for U.S. withdrawal from a formal ratified and deposited arms control treaty. President Ronald Reagan, despite his enthusiasm for a "Star Wars" defense, never proposed withdrawing from the ABM Treaty.

Bush's distaste for treaties has not been limited only to the ABM Treaty, but has also extended to formal restrictions on strategic offensive weapons. He calls for unilateral reductions, claiming formal treaties take too long to negotiate. Were he willing to use his influence with Senator Jesse Helms, START II could be brought into force promptly and START III negotiations could be undertaken immediately. Vague promises of unilateral reductions reflect the desire to maintain maximum flexibility in structuring U.S. forces with no constraints on future deployments. Freedom of action is given higher priority than the START II provisions eliminating Russia's 150 remaining 10-warhead SS-18 ICBMs as well as MIRVed SS-24s and SS-19s, and banning deployment of future MIRVed Topol-M land-based ICBMs.

In rejecting formal treaties, Bush abandons agreed verification procedures that will become increasingly important at lower force levels, as will specific provisions to guard against rapid breakout changing the strategic balance. In charting the nuclear future, Bush has apparently forgotten the admonition of President Reagan: "Trust but verify."

True to campaign rhetoric, the Bush administration states it will not ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on the spurious grounds that testing is required for stockpile safety and reliability. The administration apparently wishes to be in a position to test new types of weapons for new missions, such as low-yield earth-penetrating weapons.

As further evidence of his disdain for arms control agreements, Bush chose not to continue the promising negotiations, inherited from the Clinton administration, aimed at eliminating North Korea's ballistic missile development program and its missile exports. His personal public rejection of even attempting a diplomatic solution to this important problem was widely seen as reflecting not only a lack of interest in arms control but also a desire to maintain North Korea as a threat to justify his costly missile defense plans, as opposed to eliminating the threat at little or no cost through diplomacy.

The proposed 2002 budget for the Department of Energy includes substantial cuts for programs to reduce the leakage of materials and personnel from the Russian nuclear program. Coming on the heels of an independent bipartisan commission's recommendation to increase substantially the funding for these programs, one wonders about the administration's commitment to meaningful unilateral actions.

To say the least, the first 100 days have not augured well for arms control. The promised light at the end of the tunnel is not a glimpse of a new post-Cold-War, laissez-faire military paradise where the United States can do whatever it pleases, but rather an oncoming locomotive portending a disastrous collision with reality. Surely, President Bush does not want to be remembered as the man who killed arms control and replaced it with an ineffective defense in a world of military anarchy.

From an arms control perspective, the first 100 days of George W. Bush's presidency have been a disaster. President Bush has demonstrated that he believes, and intends to implement, his campaign rhetoric condemning past arms control accomplishments and even the concept of arms control itself. Unless he changes direction, Bush will have effectively demolished the arms control regime that has been painstakingly built over the past 30 years. (Continue)

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