President George W. Bush has assembled a second-term foreign policy team whose views on arms control and nonproliferation issues are not expected to budge significantly from their predecessors. But the new team possesses considerably more diplomatic experience, potentially signaling new tactics in working with foreign counterparts.
The continuity of foreign policy views is apparent in Bush’s choices for the top national security posts. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had served as Bush’s national security adviser, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has retained his job, and new national security adviser Steven Hadley had served as Rice’s deputy. John Negroponte, tapped to fill the new post of director of national intelligence, had aided Bush as U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations. Even new Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman had served as deputy treasury secretary in Bush’s first term.
But the newer, more diplomatically seasoned team, perhaps intended to soothe allies ruffled over Iraq and other disputes, is evident in the second and third tier of aides Bush would like to see appointed for his second term. Nearly all have had significant diplomatic experience. For example, Robert Zoellick, nominated as deputy secretary of state, had previously served as United States Trade Representative while J. D. Crouch, tapped to be Hadley’s deputy, had been ambassador to Romania.
A new addition to Bush’s White House team is John Rood, formerly a senior Pentagon official and an aide to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the Senate’s strongest critic of arms control agreements. Bush chose Rood to serve as senior director for proliferation strategy, counterproliferation, and homeland defense at the National Security Council.
Rood succeeds Robert Joseph, who held diplomatic posts in the administration of Bush’s father. Press reports indicate that Joseph will be tapped to replace John Bolton, who has become a lightning rod for criticism of U.S. policies as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Still, the Department of State has yet to announce such a change.
In one indication of the level of continuity in the administration, Rice, Zoellick, and Bodman either stuck closely to the Bush administration’s first-term policies during their confirmation hearings or sought to avoid difficult issues.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jan. 19-20, Rice offered little hint that the administration would alter its strategy for dealing with Iran’s or North Korea’s nuclear programs. She did, however, voice strong support for efforts to strengthen programs aimed at securing or destroying Russia’s stockpile of Soviet-era nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
For his part, Bodman, at his confirmation hearing, dodged questions about the administration’s controversial efforts to research and potentially develop new nuclear weapons. Zoellick also largely skirted such issues, except for insisting that the Bush administration’s approach toward North Korea made sense despite Pyongyang’s stepped-up claims in February that it possessed nuclear weapons.
Rice Hammered on Iraq
Before Rice was confirmed by the Senate 86-13, the Senate held a nine-hour debate. Democrats repeatedly scolded her and the administration for the failure to find significant stockpiles of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in Iraq despite Rice’s sometimes dramatic assessment of this threat in the days leading up to the March 2003 U.S. invasion. (See ACT, March 2004.)
This was also the theme of Democratic attacks during her Senate confirmation hearings.
Rice bristled when Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that “your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell this war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth.”
In particular, Boxer accused Rice of employing “nuclear weapons scare tactics.” Boxer pointed to erroneous administration arguments in an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate and a public unclassified summary. She also displayed public statements Rice had made arguing there was substantial intelligence that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear capability and, if left unchecked, would likely soon have a nuclear weapon.
Rice acknowledged that “there were a lot of data points about his [Saddam Hussein’s] weapons of mass destruction programs. Some were right and some were not.” Nonetheless, she claimed that “[w]hat was right is there was an unbreakable link between Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction.”
At the hearing, Rice came under pressure from members of both parties to do more to resolve the crisis over Iran’s attempts to develop uranium-enrichment facilities and possibly a nuclear bomb. Most, including Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and leading committee Democrats Joseph R. Biden (Del.) and John Kerry (Mass.) pressed for the administration to involve itself more deeply with negotiations that France, Germany, and the United Kingdom are conducting with Iran to try and resolve the standoff.
“Are you examining, really, what our role ought to be in these ongoing negotiations so that, in fact, they are more successful, that they have greater staying power, and the Europeans as well as the UN have greater confidence that our heft is behind this situation?” Lugar asked.
Arguing that “I think that it’s probably not a good thing for us to be involved in negotiations about which we’re skeptical,” Rice said the United States wanted to maintain the option of pushing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to declare Iran in violation of its safeguards agreement with the agency. Under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), such action would trigger an automatic referral to the UN Security Council.
She also indicated that U.S. officials were reluctant to enter a dialogue with Iran limited to the nuclear issue and also wanted to address human rights concerns, Iran’s alleged support for terrorism, and its opposition to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
“The goal of this administration is to have a regime in Iran that is responsive to concerns that we have about Iran’s policies, which are about 180 degrees antithetical to our own interests at this point,” Rice said.
Rice also gave little indication that Bush in his second term would shift strategy on dealing with North Korea, dismissing the possibility of bilateral negotiations. Instead, she reiterated U.S. support for reviving stalled six-party talks that involve the two countries along with China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia. She called for Pyongyang to return to the talks and discuss a proposal the United States put forward in June aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear program in return for security guarantees and the possibility of other economic political and economic rewards.
At the same time, however, Rice angered Pyongyang by labeling the Kim Jong Il regime an “outpost of tyranny.” Those comments were cited by Pyongyang in early February when it said that it would not return to the talks for now and made its most explicit boast yet that it possessed nuclear weapons.
Rice’s responses regarding diplomacy with Tehran and Pyongyang drew criticism from Biden, who chided the administration for not being “ready to take ‘yes’ for an answer” in dealings with Iran and North Korea.
At his confirmation hearing, Zoellick downplayed North Korea’s most explicit claims to date that it had nuclear weapons and said that the U.S. strategy still made sense whether or not the claims panned out and regardless of Pyongyang’s motivation.
As well as an effort to force additional economic concessions, Zoellick said, “[I]t could have been pounding one’s chest before one makes a move, to show the domestic audience it’s being tough, it could have been something related to the fact that the Chinese were scheduled to come [for talks] and they partly have played a key role in terms of economics and assistance.”
“So my view is, under any of these scenarios, and in some sense, it doesn’t matter which one guesses, it’s important for the United States to stay constant with the core strategy here,” Zoellick added.
At her hearing, Rice voiced strong support for legislation by Lugar aimed at lifting legislative roadblocks that have hampered programs initiated more than a decade ago to corral Russia’s Cold War arms stockpile. (See ACT, December 2004.) Lugar helped draft the initial legislation guiding the programs with then-Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).
Saying she is “completely and totally dedicated to this program,” Rice, who was trained as a Soviet military expert, said “flexibility in administering this program is most welcome.”
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
Rice said that the administration’s priority at the 2005 NPT Review Conference in New York this May would be attempting to move forward on proposals Bush made a year ago to limit the spread of uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities. Those technologies and materials can provide fuel for nuclear power reactors but can also provide essential fissile material for nuclear weapons. Bush’s proposals have run into resistance from U.S. allies and others. (See ACT, December 2004.)
In addition, Rice expressed hope that Bush’s proposal for a special committee on safeguards and verification within the IAEA would move forward.