Virtually everyone agrees that the strategic environment has changed after the end of the Cold War and the terrorist attacks of September 11 and that countries, particularly the United States, need to alter their weapons arsenals to account for these new realities. But how they should do so is another matter.
Our cover story by Steve Andreasen details the potential costs and benefits to U.S. and global security of one proposal: the Department of Defense’s plan to equip some submarine-launched Trident D-5 nuclear missiles with conventional warheads. The Pentagon wants to do so in order to be able to carry out non-nuclear strikes against terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, or other urgent targets worldwide within 60 minutes. But Andreasen says that more review is needed before it can be clear if the plan “makes strategic sense or represents strategic folly.”
An ACT interview with well-known international arms inspector Hans Blix focuses on another often neglected aspect of the security environment, the recent slowing of some disarmament efforts. Blix, head of the WMD Commission, asserts that further disarmament by nuclear-weapon states is essential for progress on other issues, such as preventing the proliferation of these weapons to new countries.
Gregory L. Schulte is on the front lines of nonproliferation efforts as the U.S. permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. In his ACT interview, he discusses U.S. views on efforts to limit Iran’s nuclear program and to create nuclear fuel-supply assurances for non-nuclear-weapon states, as well as the recent U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear deal, among other subjects.
Nuclear weapons are not the only weapon of particular concern in the current security environment. Worries over biological weapons have also risen, even as most experts agree that the three-decade-old Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is not strong enough to meet its goal of outlawing such arms.
Nicolas Isla and Iris Hunger offer several practical ways to boost the convention by strengthening associated confidence-building measures. Jean Pascal Zanders reviews a new history of post-World War II biological weapons developments. He notes that rising concerns about the BWC’s effectiveness may have less to do with developments in that weapons arena than with relatively successful efforts to rein in other types of arms.Our news section this month looks at a key security decision facing several European NATO members: whether to purchase new aircraft capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons. Other articles focus on the continuing diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program, new concerns about North Korea, and congressional action on the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal.