"I want to tell you that your fact sheet on the [Missile Technology Control Regime] is very well done and useful for me when I have to speak on MTCR issues."

– Amb. Thomas Hajnoczi
Chair, MTCR
May 19, 2021

Testing Time for Europe's Nonproliferation Strategy

By Oliver Meier and Gerrard Quille

Members of the European Union, shaken by their failure to unite on a pre-war strategy toward Iraq, decided in late 2003 that they needed a new approach for dealing with future challenges from countries with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. In the realm of stated policy, the European Council in December 2003 adopted the landmark “EU Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.”[1]

More immediately, three European nations—France, Germany, and the United Kingdom—plunged into negotiations with Iran to prevent escalation of a nuclear crisis with Iran from creating a fresh diplomatic debacle.

The next few months will provide a yardstick for measuring how successful the EU has been in these efforts to shape a coherent approach for dealing with nuclear, chemical, and biological threats. European negotiators are engaged in intensified talks with Iran that seek peaceful means to resolve concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program. At the same time, in a key test of its strategy, the EU has struggled to craft a unified approach to this month’s 2005 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York. Success will depend on the EU’s ability to overcome the basic tension that surfaced in the Iraq debate, which was the need for European diplomats to pursue two potentially contradictory goals simultaneously: the development of a unified transatlantic approach on proliferation issues and the strengthening, or at least the preservation, of multilateral weapons of mass destruction (WMD) control regimes.[2]

The Iran intervention and the EU strategy were the result of an intense desire by European leaders to rebuild intra-European relations after the Iraq crisis.[3] Pre-war diplomatic debates had revealed a deep split among Europeans on the value of multilateral arms control inspections as well as on the use of force to enforce compliance with disarmament obligations. More deeply, a unified and coherent strategy was also seen as necessary to counter the new, largely unilateralist U.S. security approach, which emphasized counterproliferation, that was unveiled after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Europeans generally felt uncomfortable with the U.S. inclusion of pre-emptive military action as a nonproliferation tool but had few new approaches to offer as alternatives.

The WMD strategy made nonproliferation a central goal of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), stating that “our objective is to prevent, deter, halt and, where possible, eliminate proliferation [programs] of concern worldwide.”[4]

The Iran Test
The first major test of the new approach has come in Iran. Revelations in August 2002 that Iran possessed clandestine uranium-enrichment and heavy-water production facilities led to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation and concerns, particularly on the part of the United States, that Iran might be developing nuclear weapons. The resulting IAEA investigation revealed serious breaches of Iran’s safeguards obligations.

Talks between the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the EU-3) and Tehran began in October 2003 as a crisis management exercise. They intended to find a means outside of the UN Security Council of addressing these concerns. No European country wanted a repeat of the Iraq experience where Security Council members had been unable to forge a common position before the U.S.-led invasion, splitting such EU members as the United Kingdom and France.

Still, such direct negotiations are a new type of activity for EU members. Although European nations and the EU have in the past been involved in brokering peace deals and assisting disarmament processes, for example, in the Balkans, Europe has never before taken the lead on such a high-profile nonproliferation issue.

Throughout the talks, U.S. officials have pressed IAEA member states to refer the case to the Security Council. The Europeans, however, have regarded such a referral of the IAEA nuclear file as counterproductive as long as Iran does not break its core NPT commitments by developing nuclear weapons, continues to negotiate, and permits wide-ranging inspections under the additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement.[5] In addition to avoiding another confrontation with the United States at the United Nations, European governments have not been convinced that sufficient political will has existed within the Security Council to agree on sanctions. Europeans have also generally feared that Security Council involvement would escalate the crisis to the point where a diplomatic solution would become impossible. Despite setbacks and the unwillingness of the United States to engage in negotiations with Tehran on its nuclear program, the talks have evolved into a potential example of the new EU strategy to deal with regional proliferation crises.

A key element of this strategy is the use of economic incentives to achieve the political objective of nonproliferation. In relation to Iran, the first application of this strategy took place with the October 2003 Tehran agreement. In that politically binding agreement, Iran promised to suspend enrichment and reprocessing activities in return for the promise of greater cooperation and assistance from the West.

Implementation of the agreement soon ran into difficulties. The deal broke down in June 2004 when Iran announced that it would resume producing centrifuges used in enriching uranium, broke a number of seals that had been placed by the IAEA on equipment relevant to the construction and testing of centrifuges, and announced the restarting of the production of uranium hexafluoride, the feed material for uranium enrichment.

The Paris agreement struck in November 2004 to replace the botched Tehran agreement drew important lessons from its predecessor’s failure. Its terms and scope, for example, were more detailed. In the new agreement, the EU demanded “objective guarantees” that Iran will not misuse its nuclear program for military purposes. By this, the EU means that Tehran should abandon enrichment and reprocessing activities. In return, the EU offered more specific political and economic inducements, including on the resumption of talks on a Trade and Cooperation Agreement. In addition, the duration of suspension was more clearly defined: “while negotiations proceed on a mutually acceptable agreement on long-term arrangements.”

Subsequent talks have been wide-ranging. The process is coordinated and reviewed by a joint steering committee that meets occasionally at the level of political directors. More regularly, three working groups come together to discuss nuclear, technological, and economic cooperation as well as security issues.

To date, the Paris agreement can already be seen as something of a success for European nonproliferation policies. Iran has so far stuck to its part of the deal and suspended enrichment and reprocessing and related activities. Consequently, the agreement has already bought valuable time to seek a sustainable solution. Whether the talks will result in such a long-term solution of the dispute remains to be seen.

In mid-March, the talks passed an important early test when the steering committee evaluated the first phase of the implementation of the agreement. Despite earlier threats to terminate the talks if sufficient progress was not achieved, Iran announced that it had agreed to continue its enrichment suspension for the duration of the talks. Still, no breakthrough has been achieved on the central question of whether Iran will give up its capacity for enrichment and reprocessing completely. At the steering committee meeting, Iran reportedly has offered to limit its enrichment program at Natanz and put the plant under strict international control.[6]

Nevertheless, Iran has offered only to limit its enrichment activities to 3,000 centrifuges.[7] Such a program would be beyond the scope of the pilot plant at Natanz and necessitate operations of the much larger enrichment facility at the site. This would not only complicate monitoring of Iran’s enrichment activities but also significantly shorten warning time should Tehran decide to develop nuclear weapons.

As the talks move forward, the Europeans find themselves facing two problems that might limit their broader ambitions to establish an independent and coherent nonproliferation policy. First, unlike the United States, the EU has few incentives to offer. Iran’s wish list is likely to include the lifting of U.S. sanctions, the delivery of nuclear fuel and nuclear technology, and security assurances, all of which the United States is better positioned to address than the EU. It can thus be seen as a success for Europeans that, following his visit to Europe at the end of February, President George W. Bush initiated a review of the White House’s position toward the European talks. As a result, the United States now appears to support the idea of offering incentives to Iran. Washington has agreed to license civilian aircraft parts for sale to Iran on a case-by-case basis and not to object to Iranian membership in the World Trade Organization. If Washington were to stick to its word, this instance would be one of the few successful efforts by the Europeans to draw Washington closer to its negotiating position. Ironically, perhaps the greatest “carrot” Europe may have to offer Iran is bringing the United States to the bargaining table.

Second, the EU’s insistence that Iran give up its plans to construct a closed nuclear fuel cycle goes beyond its traditional preference for solving nonproliferation problems within the framework of multilateral treaties. The NPT provides no legal basis for the European demand that Iran abandon enrichment and reprocessing activities. After all, Article IV of the treaty provides for the “inalienable right” of non-nuclear-weapon states to research, develop, and use nuclear energy for nonweapons purposes.

Iran has highlighted this inconsistency in the European position and insisted that its right to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes includes uranium enrichment. At the NPT Review Conference, Iran can be expected to repeat its allegation that the international community is making “discriminatory” demands on Tehran. Europeans will find it difficult to justify their position without making Iran a “special case.”

The EU at the NPT Review Conference
The EU has more than 10 years experience of engagement with the NPT. Once France acceded to the treaty in 1992, all EU member states were also members of the NPT. The EU played a crucial role in securing the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995. The diplomatic campaign it conducted in the run-up to the conference is still seen by many as a model for joint European action.[8] During the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the EU helped to achieve the Final Document, which contained new and specific commitments by the nuclear-weapon states toward disarmament.

In the WMD strategy, the only recommended policy action related to the NPT is to “pursue the universalisation of the NPT, the IAEA Safeguard agreements and protocols additional to them.”[9]

The European Council meeting on April 25-26 approved a new Common Position, which would provide a consensus basis and guideline for EU action before and during the review conference. It commits the EU and its member states “to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime by promoting the successful outcome” of the 2005 NPT Review Conference.[10] The Common Position contains 43 distinct measures to achieve this goal and mandates the EU presidency to undertake demarches in order to convince both NPT and non-NPT member states of the EU approach.

Still, it appears unlikely this year that the EU will be able to repeat its earlier successes.

The EU’s nonproliferation policy emphasizes improving the verifiability of multilateral treaties and “strengthening the enforcement of obligations” in multilateral treaty regimes.[11] Generally speaking, the EU has moved closer to the United States on many compliance issues, including the possible use of force to enforce compliance, but Europeans continue to favor approaches that take place within multilateral frameworks such as the Security Council.

Like the United States, the EU supports the idea of making the 1997 Model Additional Protocol the new safeguards standard under Article III of the NPT[12] and wants the IAEA Board of Governors to adopt such a new verification norm.[13] Additional protocols allow the IAEA to search for undeclared nuclear activities in states under safeguards and place additional declaration and inspection burdens on states-parties. The additional protocol between the IAEA and EURATOM was able to enter into force before EU enlargement took effect on May 1, 2004. Thus, the 15 “old” EU states are now implementing additional protocols. The EU also will be “working to ensure that the Nuclear Suppliers Group makes the export of controlled nuclear and nuclear-related items and technology conditional on ratifying and implementing the Additional Protocol.”[14] What this means in practice, however, is still being debated. EU members have not been able to agree on what nuclear items should be exportable to states that do not implement an additional protocol.[15] France is apparently interested in limiting such restrictions to sensitive goods only.

The EU has also agreed to some U.S. proposals for IAEA reform. The EU now agrees that “countries under investigation for non-technical violations of their nuclear nonproliferation and safeguards obligations should elect not to participate in decisions by the IAEA Board of Governors or the Special Committee regarding their own cases.”[16] This idea had originally been proposed by Bush in February 2004 and was endorsed at the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in June 2004.

EU officials have focused on the inclusion of all new EU member states in the export control regimes, and its bureaucracy will compile a prioritized list of third countries that could benefit from EU assistance vis-à-vis export controls. A “nonproliferation clause” to be included in agreements with third countries was drawn up and has been included in agreements with Syria, Tajikistan, and Albania as well as between the EU and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries—the revised Cotonou Agreement. There are also ongoing discussions to include the clause agreements with the Gulf Cooperation Council and Mercosur countries.[17] As in the negotiations with Iran, this marks one of the few instances where Europe is directly using its economic might to achieve security objectives.

On April 28, 2004, EU member states on the Security Council co-sponsored Resolution 1540 on WMD nonproliferation and contributed actively to its adoption by consensus. Unlike many other states, the commission submitted the Common EU report to the 1540 committee by the October 28, 2004, deadline. The EU WMD strategy also embraces the Bush administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a political arrangement that calls for the interception of WMD and related goods.[18]

On other issues, including discussions on reforming Article IV rules governing access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, the EU has simply decided to put off a clear policy decision until after the conference. Two models are on the table: Washington has proposed the creation of a cartel of states possessing nuclear fuel-cycle technologies by denying all states that do not yet possess operational enrichment or recycling facilities technology the capacity to build such facilities. European states, however, have thus far only agreed to a one-year moratorium on delivery of enrichment and reprocessing equipment to other states.[19] This compromise was reaffirmed at the U.S.-EU summits in June 2004 and February 2005.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, on the other hand, proposes multinational control of new enrichment and reprocessing facilities.[20] Europeans possess real experience in multinational management of enrichment plants because the only two examples of such facilities—Eurodif, a French-run enrichment facility in which Belgium, Italy, and Spain participate; and Urenco, a multilateral enrichment company jointly operated by Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom—are located in the EU. Nevertheless, the EU has not yet taken clear sides on this issue. The EU has highlighted that any decision on this question “should not create new dividing lines among NPT states-parties and should be balanced, maintaining the fundamental bargain underlying the NPT.”[21] The EU’s Common Position for the NPT Review Conference recognizes that states “may” have to resort to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, urges “the formulation of guarantees to nuclear fuel services, or to fuel itself, subject to appropriate decision,” and calls for a swift start of deliberations within the IAEA on a report by an international IAEA expert group that was delivered to ElBaradei on February 22, 2005.[22]

One major distinction between the EU strategy and that of the United States is the emphasis it places on the regional security concerns that motivate states to obtain nuclear weapons. Such motives could include enhancing regional standing or countering the capabilities of potential regional foes. The Europeans maintain that regional political solutions will offer the best prospect for states to renounce nuclear weapons and join the NPT. Such an approach is seen as useful in the context of the Iran negotiations to support “compliance,” but it is also recognized as a complementary strategy to support processes for universal membership in WMD regimes.

The EU strategy states that member states must “actively foster the establishment of regional security arrangements and regional arms control and disarmament processes. Our dialogue with the countries concerned should take account of the fact that in many cases they have real and legitimate security concerns, with the clear understanding that there can never be any justification for the illegal development of WMD.”[23]

Yet, deeds have yet fully to match words. Apart from European engagement to resolve the crisis around Iran’s nuclear program, EU engagement on regional proliferation issues has only included modest attention to North Korea. Until the political process associated with the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), the international cooperation to supply North Korea with proliferation-resistant light-water reactors, broke down in 2003, the EU supported attempts to resolve the crisis around the North Korean nuclear program. It provided 115 million euros for KEDO and undertook diplomatic missions to Pyongyang, including the visit of the EU-3 in May 2001. For the moment, it seems that the EU has realized that it cannot often be expected to perform the kind of mediating role it has attempted to play vis-à-vis Tehran.

Divisions over Disarmament
Still, the EU policy on nonproliferation has been far more coherent than on issues affecting disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT. The establishment of a progressive common policy approach has been blocked by the differences between the two EU states with nuclear weapons—France and the United Kingdom—and other members, including such pro-disarmament countries as Sweden and Ireland. Internal divisions within the EU on disarmament issues have increased. In fact, there is a real danger that the EU will devolve from being a constructive force in the NPT to being simply a microcosm of global divisions on nonproliferation and disarmament between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states.

The EU cannot collectively agree on the role of the 13 disarmament steps[24] agreed to at the 2000 Review Conference. Although some EU member states, such as the Netherlands, still call them the “benchmark for progress toward nuclear disarmament,”[25] France opposes references to them even in the agenda of the conference, arguing that “disarmament measures need to be taken in such a way as to reinforce international stability, on the basis of undiminished security for all.”[26]

In this way, France has aligned itself with the United States, while others have railed against the U.S. approach. France also objected to a recognition of the value of the 13 disarmament steps in the EU Common Position by opposing a clear reference to the Final Document of the 2000 Review Conference. Even though Paris was isolated within the EU on this issue, it has successfully watered down the commitment of the EU as a whole towards making the 13 steps the yardstick for progress on disarmament. The EU now is committed merely to “help build a consensus on the basis of the framework established by the NPT by supporting the Decision and the Resolution adopted at the 1995 Review Conference, and the final document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, and shall bear in mind the current situation ….”[27]

There are also divisions within the EU on some specific issues on the NPT disarmament agenda, mostly triggered by the U.S. rejection of some of the 13 steps. On July 29, 2004, the United States announced a change of policy toward the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), a binding agreement to end production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. U.S. officials argued that it no longer believes that such a treaty could be effectively verified and that it now favors negotiations on a treaty that does not contain provisions on verification.

This change in policy by the United States has shattered the EU consensus to commence FMCT negotiations on the basis of the 1995 Shannon mandate, which called for including effective verification measures. The United Kingdom has now reluctantly and halfheartedly acquiesced to the U.S. position in an attempt to break the eight-year deadlock at the UN’s Conference on Disarmament (CD) on an FMCT and other arms control treaties. Others such as Sweden insist that the CD negotiate a verifiable FMCT.[28] The EU Common Position has it both ways. It endorses the early start of negotiations in the CD on a “non-discriminatory, universally applicable” FMCT “without precondition” but also mentions the Shannon mandate.[29]

The withdrawal of tactical U.S. nuclear weapons deployed under NATO nuclear sharing arrangements remains a taboo for the EU.[30] Improved transparency and better control of Russian tactical nuclear weapons has been highlighted by several EU member states during NPT preparatory meetings and the Common Position calls “on all [s]tates with non-strategic nuclear weapons to include them in their general arms control and disarmament processes, with a view to their reduction and elimination.”[31] But so far the EU is unwilling talk about such weapons deployed on its own territory. NATO enlargement and the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Greece have increased the potential for political movement on this difficult issue, but no consensus on a non-nuclear NATO has emerged yet among European NATO members.

Agreement within the EU on some other disarmament issues may be easier to generate. All EU member states have ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and are supportive of early entry into force of the treaty. The EU has focused on encouraging signature and ratification by non-CTBT member states, in particular those of the 44 states whose ratification is necessary for the treaty’s entry into force but have yet to do so.[32] It remains to be seen whether the EU will resist U.S. pressure at the conference to delete all references to CTBT entry into force from the NPT agenda and any Final Document. Given the EU’s long-standing engagement in favor of the test ban treaty, its position on this issue will be one important test for Europe’s will to articulate an independent position on an important disarmament issue.

In touting its disarmament credentials, the EU is likely to point to its support for the G-8 Global Partnership and similar efforts to secure or destroy former Soviet stockpiles of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and related delivery systems. Under the Global Partnership, the United States has pledged $10 billion over 10 years, and EU G-8 member states (France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom) have pledged a total of 4 billion euros for cooperative threat reduction activities.

Yet, Brussels’ record in this regard is less than exemplary. The European Commission has committed a further 1 billion euros, but most analysts project that, if spending continues at current levels, the EU will only meet half of its pledge. Recently, the European Commission has proposed to stabilize European Community spending on nonproliferation during 2007-2013 with the inclusion of a WMD budget line.

Bridging the Transatlantic Gap
The development of the EU’s WMD strategy is a clear step forward because it provides a coherent framework in which the EU collectively and EU member states individually can pursue nonproliferation policies. On some issues, in particular nonproliferation issues, EU performance has improved since the adoption of the WMD strategy. On nuclear disarmament, deep divisions remain and in some cases have increased.

If the EU is to be successful in its negotiations with Iran and at the NPT Review Conference, it will have to develop a differentiated approach toward the Bush administration’s agenda. This is particularly so as Washington sees nonproliferation and disarmament as two topics that are separated whereas Europeans generally see the two issues as directly connected.

The talks with Iran may provide an opportunity for helping to close the transatlantic gap. Treating Iran as a special case under the NPT would be an indication of European flexibility in applying multilateral approaches to solve regional crises. Moving beyond that to develop an effective and coherent European approach and a unified position on the question of how to treat noncompliant states is likely to remain a challenge. Taking a tougher stance on noncompliance will be difficult for a grouping that includes pro-disarmament states such as Sweden and Ireland, which have a stronger preference for sticking to multilateral principles than do the two nuclear-weapon states, France and the United Kingdom.

Building transatlantic bridges at the NPT review conferences will be much more difficult, given the Bush administration’s skepticism about the value of such multilateral instruments. Europe’s willingness to meet the United States on issues such as compliance, possibly even some disarmament issues such as an FMCT, is not reciprocated by Washington.

All too often in fact, EU arms control policies end up being caught in the middle between the wish to build transatlantic bridges and efforts to develop its own profile, which emphasizes multilateral approaches. Too frequently, the EU’s position on arms control lacks coherence and vision.

Unable to overcome divisions on some significant multilateral issues, the EU is increasingly shifting emphasis toward improving national measures to prevent proliferation. EU support for Resolution 1540 and the almost enthusiastic endorsement of the Bush administration’s PSI, provide Europe with an opportunity to kill three birds with one stone: support for such measures is important in tackling certain aspects of the spread of WMD, it gives governments something to show for their efforts, and they serve to demonstrate European willingness to embrace at least part of the U.S. counterproliferation agenda.

Although these efforts may be worthwhile in themselves and serve to bridge transatlantic differences, they do not live up to the EU’s goal of creating a coherent, effective, and independent nonproliferation strategy that promotes multilateral solutions to arms control problems. In these and other areas, the EU still has yet to prove in the words of its WMD strategy that “a multilateralist approach to security, including disarmament and non-proliferation, provides the best way to maintain international order.”[33]


1. “EU Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” Council of European Union, (hereinafter EU WMD strategy).

2. Gerrard Quille, “EU Actions and Policy in Regard to Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Disarmament,” Directorate-General External Policies, European Parliament, January 31, 2005.

3. “A Secure Europe in a Better World: European Security Strategy,” Brussels, December 12, 2003, available at http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/78367.pdf.

4. EU WMD strategy, intro., para. 2.

5. The EU does acknowledge that Iran in principle can be referred to the UN Security Council for violation of its safeguards agreement. In a statement to the 2004 IAEA General Conference, the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the EU, stated that “challenges to compliance with the safeguards agreements must be addressed in a manner that upholds the integrity of the [t]reaty and the authority of the safeguards system, including through the referral by the IAEA to the UN Security Council as appropriate.” Justus de Visser, statement on behalf of the European Union, 48th IAEA General Conference, Vienna, September 20-24, 2004, para. 12 (hereinafter de Visser statement).

6. “EU Studying Iranian Plan for Small-Scale Uranium Enrichment,” Agence France Presse, March 25, 2005.

7. Paul Kerr, “U.S. Offer Fails to End EU-Iran Impasse,” Arms Control Today, April 2005, pp. 32-33.

8. See Clara Portela, “The Role of the EU in the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: The Way to Thessaloniki and Beyond,” Peace Research Institute of Frankfurt Report, no. 65, 2003.

9. EU WMD Strategy, chap. 2, para. 16.

10. “Council Common Position relating to the 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” Council of the European Union (hereinafter NPT Common Position).

11. See EU WMD strategy. See also “Council Common Position 2003/805/CFSP of November 17, 2003 on the Universalization and Reinforcement of Multilateral Agreements in the Field of Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Means of Delivery,” art. 2.

12. “EU-U.S. Declaration on the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” June 26, 2004 (hereinafter WMD declaration press release).

13. NPT Common Position, op. cit. para 17.

14. EU WMD Strategy, chap. 3, para. 30, A4.

15. See “Implementation of the WMD Strategy,” 15246/04, Brussels, December 3, 2004.

16. WMD declaration press release.

17. “’Non-Proliferation Clause’ to Be Included in Agreements With Third Countries: Countering Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” available at http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/st14997.en03.pdf.

18. See “Non-Proliferation Support of the Proliferation Security Initiative,” 10052/04 (Presse 189), June 1, 2004, available at http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/st10052.en04.pdf.

19. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by the President on Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation,” Washington, DC, February 11, 2004.

20. Mohamed ElBaradei, “Toward a Safer World,” The Economist, October 18, 2003, p. 43.

21. De Visser statement, para. 34.

22. NPT Common Position, op. cit. paras 27,-29; “Multilateral Approaches to the Fuel Cycle,” Expert Group Report submitted to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, INFCIRC/640, February 22, 2005.

23. EU WMD strategy, para. 21.

24. See Claire Applegarth, “The 2000 NPT Review Conference and the 13 Practical Steps: A Summary,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2005, p. 8.

25. Bernard Bot, “Reviewing the Non-Proliferation Treaty: The Case for Collective Security,” statement to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, March 15, 2005.

26. François Rivasseau, statement to the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, New York, April 27, 2004.

27. NPT Common Position, op.cit., Article 2 (b).

28. Laila Freivalds, statement to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, March 15, 2005.

29. NPT Common Position, op.cit., para 36.

30. See Hans M. Kristensen, “U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe. A Review of Post-Cold War Policy, Force Levels, and War Planning,” National Resources Defense Council, February 2005. See also H. Beach, “Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Europe’s Redundant WMD,” International Security Information Service, April 2004.

31. NPT Common Position, op.cit., para 31.

32. See “Council Decision 2003/567/CFSP of July 21, 2003 Implementing Common Position 1999/533/CFSP Relating to the European Union’s Contribution to the Promotion of the Early Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.”

33. EU WMD strategy, intro., para. 2.

Oliver Meier, is the the Arms Control Association’s international representative and correspondent based in Berlin and a researcher with the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg. Gerrard Quille is deputy director of International Security Information Service (ISIS) Europe and director of its program on nonproliferation, arms control and disarmament.


U.S. Sets Missile Defense for Europe, Space

Wade Boese

The Pentagon has plans to deploy missile interceptors in space and Europe over the next several years, even though it requested little or no funding for these activities in its latest budget proposal in February.

Speaking April 11 to a Washington audience, Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Lieutenant General Henry Obering said he did not know if space-based missile interceptors would work, but argued they are “worth the experimentation.” The general asserted there was “a lot of attractiveness” about space-based interceptors because of the broad coverage they could provide and their potential quick-response capability to an enemy’s missile launch.

Obering said MDA did not envision an extensive system of thousands of space-based weapons as that planned by the United States during the 1980s. Instead, he ventured that a possible system would number less than 60 space-based interceptors. He said fewer space-based interceptors would be required than previously conceived because they would constitute one layer of a multilayered U.S. defense, not the sole defense.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in a report last July that a sufficient space-based system would require at least 130-1,800 interceptors to protect against missile launches from Iran and North Korea. Similarly, a study by the American Physical Society, which is the largest U.S. society of professional physicists, calculated in July 2003 that roughly 1,600 space-based interceptors would be required to provide full coverage against a missile launch by North Korea, Iraq, or Iran. (See ACT, October 2003.)

MDA is looking to begin exploring space-based interceptors in 2008. The Government Accountability Office, which conducts investigations for lawmakers, reported in March that MDA wants to conduct space-based intercept tests as early as 2012.

Two years ago, the Pentagon had estimated that it would try to have space-based interceptors available for testing by 2008, but then last fall called the concept “too speculative” to warrant consideration as part of an environmental impact study.

Space-based interceptors are domestically and internationally controversial. A Democratic congressional staffer said at the April 11 event that his party could never support space-based interceptors. Indeed, congressional concerns about space weapons led MDA to remove a kill vehicle from a satellite the agency intended to launch in 2006 as part of its Near-Field Infrared Experiment program. That program seeks to analyze exhaust plumes of missiles after their launches. A kill vehicle is the part of a missile interceptor that seeks out and collides with an enemy warhead.

Canada recently rejected U.S. overtures to participate in joint missile defenses out of concern that such activities could lead to weapons in space. (See ACT, April 2005.) In addition, China and Russia have been spearheading efforts to negotiate an agreement on the prevention of an arms race in outer space at the 65-member UN Conference on Disarmament. The United States opposes the proposed negotiations and even formal talks on the subject.

Obering acknowledged that embarking on space-based interceptor research would be contentious, but he welcomed a full debate.

Another potentially divisive plan is the U.S. deployment of long-range missile interceptors to Europe. The administration requested $10 million in February to conduct studies on where to base these interceptors. (See ACT, March 2005.) Last year, Congress substantially cut funding requested to begin their procurement.

Obering said that no European country has yet agreed to host U.S. missile interceptors on its territory. Washington is known to have consulted with the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

Obering implied the delay in solidifying European support might work to MDA’s advantage. Rather than settling on a fixed site of ground-based interceptors, Obering said MDA could field mobile, fast-accelerating, land-based interceptors, which are currently under development as part of the Kinetic Energy Interceptor program and forecasted to begin flight testing in 2008.

Small Gains on Bush's Europe Trip

Wade Boese

During a five-day, fence-mending visit to Europe, including a brief summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President George W. Bush worked to shore up measures for denying weapons to Iran, China, and terrorists. Bush achieved some modest gains, but he appeared to make little headway in persuading the European Union not to lift its arms embargo on China.

Removing Iraq as an irritant in transatlantic relations and winning increased European contributions to post-war Iraq reconstruction and training of Iraqi security forces was a clear priority of the president’s Feb. 20-24 trip, and he succeeded to some degree. In his public appearances, Bush acknowledged past disagreements but urged that they be put “behind us.”

The president also strove to cultivate common ground on Iran, which Washington accuses of covertly seeking nuclear weapons. Although the United States has been skeptical about British, French, and German negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programs (see page 35), Bush thanked the three countries for “taking the lead.” He appeared to give the talks a further boost by discounting reports of possible U.S. military strikes against Iran as “simply ridiculous.”

Bush has identified the greatest danger to U.S. security as terrorist acquisition of a nuclear weapon. For years, the United States has been assisting Russia in securing and disposing of its surplus nuclear materials and weapons. Still, “the vulnerability of Russian [weapons of mass destruction] materials and technology to theft or diversion is a continuing concern,” CIA director Porter Goss testified Feb. 16 to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Meeting Feb. 24 in Bratislava, Slovakia, Bush and Putin agreed both countries would continue work to safeguard their nuclear materials and facilities better. The two leaders charged their nuclear security experts with sharing “best practices” for accomplishing this task and ordered their top energy officials to oversee activities in this area.

Yet, none of the agreed steps overcomes Moscow’s refusal to bestow liability protection for U.S. work inside Russia. This dispute has held up a project to convert 34 metric tons of Russian weapons-usable plutonium into a less dangerous form and could jeopardize additional programs. Senior Bush administration officials said in mid-February that they had forwarded a new proposal for resolving the dispute, but it evidently has yet to win Russian approval.

Terrorist acquisition of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, formally known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), is another shared U.S.-Russian concern. Building on earlier agreements to tighten national controls over these weapons, the two countries agreed on the sidelines of the Bush-Putin summit to destroy “excess and obsolete” MANPADS. Days earlier, the United States and NATO unveiled a $27 million initiative to help Ukraine eliminate its extra missiles of this type, as well as other excess small arms and munitions.

A broader U.S. government destruction program has already rendered 10,700 MANPADS inoperable in a dozen countries. Up to 750,000 of these anti-aircraft missiles exist worldwide, according to a May 2004 report by the Government Accountability Office, which conducts investigations for Congress.

The U.S.-Russian arrangement does not bar MANPADS exports, and it only calls for exchanges of information on deals after they occur, thereby limiting opportunities for objections to be raised.

In January, a rumored sale of Russian MANPADS to Syria touched off protests in Washington and public denials from Moscow. The status of this deal remains unclear, although a senior administration official told reporters in Bratislava that the Kremlin believes it “falls outside the context of the MANPADS agreement.” This supports reports that the controversial transfer involves vehicle-mounted surface-to-air missiles.

A major buyer of Russian arms is China, which European capitals and defense firms are eyeing as a market for their weapons and technology.

On his trip, Bush reaffirmed U.S. opposition to the 25-member EU lifting its arms embargo on China. The United States and the EU imposed embargos on China following its bloody crackdown on peaceful protestors at Tiananmen Square in 1989, but the EU is expected by this summer to drop its prohibitions. (See ACT, January/February 2005.)

If the EU acts, Bush fretted, U.S. arms and technology sold to or shared with Europe might end up in China. This could upset the military balance between China and Taiwan, the president argued. No European leaders gave any indication that Bush’s argument resonated with them.

Bush has declared that the United States would do “whatever it took” to help Taiwan protect itself. China views Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland and does not rule out the use of force to achieve this aim.

Although saying “deep concern” about the embargo’s fate existed throughout the United States, Bush distanced himself from any negative consequences that might befall European countries for changing their policy. “The Congress will be making the decisions…as to how to react,” the president said Feb. 22.

Lawmakers are united against the proposed EU action. By a 411-3 vote, the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution Feb. 2 urging the EU to retain its embargo and warning that a different decision could put at risk U.S.-European defense trade and joint military projects.

In the Senate, a bipartisan group of seven legislators, including Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a similar measure Feb. 17 that has yet to be voted on. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Foreign Relations Committee chairman, also spoke of his reservations about the EU lifting its embargo in an interview with the Financial Times published Feb. 21.

European countries contend arms sales to China will not dramatically rise in the absence of an embargo because of their code of conduct that sets out criteria for restricting weapons exports. In their resolution, the senators condemned the code as “insufficient to control European arms exports.”

Europeans: Iran Honoring Agreement

Paul Kerr

In a Feb. 28 presentation to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei indicated that no new evidence of illicit Iranian nuclear activities has surfaced. Meanwhile, Iran is adhering to its November agreement to suspend its uranium-enrichment program during ongoing negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The two sides are attempting to resolve concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program, but no agreement has yet been reached.

This diplomacy took place against a backdrop of public disagreement between Europe and the United States regarding the proper U.S. role in the ongoing talks. Press reports have fueled speculation that Washington is preparing for military action against Iran, but during meetings in Europe with his counterparts, President George W. Bush emphasized that his administration is seeking a diplomatic solution. Days after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Bush, Russia signed a long-delayed deal to provide Iran with nuclear fuel.

IAEA Meeting
ElBaradei’s presentation to the IAEA board differed from previous meetings. Since the agency launched an investigation of Iran’s clandestine nuclear programs in the fall of 2002, ElBaradei has regularly presented written reports that either revealed or confirmed significant components of Tehran’s efforts.

This time, ElBaradei was not asked to submit a written report and did not do so, offering only an oral briefing. His last written report in November contained no evidence of prohibited Iranian nuclear activities but listed several unresolved issues requiring further investigation. (See ACT, December 2004.)

ElBaradei told the board that the IAEA’s investigation has made “progress” but he provided no new details. Tehran has continued to provide agency inspectors access to its nuclear-related facilities, ElBaradei said, adding that agency inspectors also visited Iran’s Parchin military complex.

The agency’s mid-January visit was its first after months of requesting access. (See ACT, January/February 2005.) U.S. officials believe the complex might have facilities that could be used to test conventional high explosives for use in an implosion-type nuclear weapon.

Reiterating a previous complaint, ElBaradei stated that Iran has been less cooperative in providing the agency with relevant information, adding that Tehran should do so “in full detail and in a prompt manner.”

U.S. officials continue to insist that Iran is attempting to build nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program.

But ElBaradei complained in a Feb. 4 Arms Control Today interview that the IAEA has received little new information from national governments about Iran’s nuclear program, adding that such information is necessary for determining whether Iran has secret nuclear-related facilities. Tehran is “likely to have a bomb in two or three years” if it is operating such covert facilities, ElBaradei told Der Spiegel Feb. 21.

U.S. officials offered a longer time frame. According to Defense Intelligence Agency Director Admiral Lowell Jacoby’s Feb. 16 statement to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Iran will likely be able to produce nuclear weapons early next decade “unless constrained by a nuclear nonproliferation agreement.”

Suspension Holds
A European diplomat told Arms Control Today Feb. 24 that Iran has continued to honor a November pledge to suspend its nuclear fuel efforts even though Tehran tested the Europeans by “picking at the edges” of the agreement.

Iran and the three European countries agreed in November to negotiate a long-term agreement, which is to include “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.” Iran agreed to an IAEA-monitored suspension of its gas centrifuge-based, uranium-enrichment program for the talks’ duration.

The European governments, as well as the United States, are concerned that Iran intends to produce highly enriched uranium, which can serve as fissile material for nuclear weapons.

According to the European diplomat, Iran raised eyebrows when it began cleaning pipes at its Natanz centrifuge facility, but the Europeans believe this activity was part of the process of shutting down the facility and within the bounds of the suspension agreement. Iran had also conducted “quality control” work on centrifuges but has since stopped, the diplomat said.

Tehran was also late in notifying the IAEA about a project to construct tunnels at Iran’s uranium-conversion facility, the same diplomat added. Such facilities convert uranium oxide into other uranium compounds, some of which can serve as feedstock for centrifuges. The tunnels are designed to hold nuclear material.

Although the United States still wants the board to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible action, Iran’s European interlocutors have said that they will not support a referral as long as the suspension holds. (See ACT, December 2004.) The United States has supported such a referral since the agency reported that Iran had failed to disclose its clandestine nuclear programs to the IAEA.

Talks Continue; Fuel Agreement Signed
European diplomats familiar with the negotiations told Arms Control Today Feb. 24 that the talks have produced no diplomatic breakthroughs but they argued that Iran’s continuation of the suspension is “significant” and that the discussions are facilitating in-depth discussions.

Three working groups are tasked with developing proposals for mutual cooperation on nuclear and non-nuclear technical projects, as well as political and security issues. The groups have held a series of meetings since beginning work in December 2004. A steering committee set up to review the groups’ progress is to meet in March, but no date has yet been set, diplomatic sources said.

The parties’ negotiating positions appear unchanged. The European governments want a permanent end to Tehran’s nuclear fuel efforts, but Iran has repeatedly insisted that the suspension is “temporary.” Foreign Minster Kamal Kharrazi underscored this point Feb. 23, asserting that Tehran is “determined to continue enrichment,” Agence France Presse reported.

Hossein Moussavian, secretary of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Supreme National Security Council in Iran, was more cautious in a Feb. 2 interview with the Financial Times. Asked if Iran would ever dismantle its nuclear fuel facilities, he said only that Iran has the “right to thoroughly enjoy peaceful nuclear technology.”

Moussavian also provided some details about the “objective guarantees” Iran is willing to provide to prove its peaceful intentions. The measures he listed, however, such as Tehran’s cooperation with the IAEA’s investigation and adherence to an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement, simply reflect current Iranian policy. Moussavian did not say if Iran’s position is negotiable.

IAEA safeguards agreements require states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to allow the agency to monitor their declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military use. Additional protocols to these agreements augment the agency’s authority to detect clandestine nuclear activities. Tehran has signed an additional protocol and has agreed to abide by its provisions until Iran’s parliament ratifies the agreement.

Despite some earlier indications of Iranian dissatisfaction, the talks seem likely to continue. Hassan Rowhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, appeared optimistic that Iran will continue to participate after the steering committee meeting, Reuters reported Feb. 25.

Meanwhile, Russia and Iran signed a long-delayed nuclear fuel supply agreement Feb. 27. According to the official Itar-Tass news agency, Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy Director Alexander Rumyantsev said Moscow is to supply fresh fuel for the light-water nuclear reactor it is constructing near the Iranian city of Bushehr, as well as take back the spent nuclear fuel. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) Spent fuel is considered a proliferation risk because it contains plutonium, another form of fissile material. Bushehr is to begin operation in late 2006, Rumyantsev said.

U.S. Policy
European officials have called for greater U.S. involvement in the diplomatic process in order to make it more effective. Bush and other U.S. officials have lately emphasized support for the talks while refraining from public skepticism. However, the administration has so far refused to negotiate with Iran or make other conciliatory gestures.

French President Jacques Chirac told reporters Feb. 22 in Brussels that the United States should consider two incentives for Iran: dropping objections to Iran’s World Trade Organization accession negotiations, as well as Tehran’s wish to buy civil aircraft engines.

Iran’s position regarding greater U.S. involvement is unclear. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hamidreza Asefi stated Feb. 24 that Tehran does not want Washington’s involvement in the talks. But another government spokesperson suggested Feb. 28 that Iran might welcome an unspecified U.S. role outside the talks, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Perhaps signaling a change in administration policy, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley suggested during a Feb. 23 press briefing that Bush may consider supporting incentives to Iran.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials have indicated that Washington would not accept a deal with Tehran that ignored other concerns, such as Iran’s poor human rights record and support for terrorism.

Press reports about the possibility of U.S. military action against Tehran have generated repeated questions about the administration’s commitment to diplomacy. Bush told an audience in Brussels Feb. 22 that talk of U.S. military action against Iran is “simply ridiculous” but added that “all options are still on the table.” However, Bush asserted the next day that “diplomacy is just beginning,” adding that “Iran is not Iraq.”

Still, Washington’s policy regarding the current Iranian regime is unclear. Although Department of State spokesperson Adam Ereli told reporters Feb. 3 that “we do not have a policy of regime change towards Iran,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been more ambiguous, refusing to answer direct questions about the matter on several occasions.

Iran-EU Nuclear Negotiations Begin

Paul Kerr

Foreign ministers from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom met Dec.13 with Hassan Rowhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, to open negotiations toward a long-term resolution of concerns surrounding Tehran’s nuclear programs. The United States offered cautious public support for the talks.

In a Dec. 16 interview, a European diplomat described the initial high-level discussions, which also included Javier Solana, the European Union’s high representative on foreign policy and security issues, as “more symbolic than substantive,” adding that no negotiations took place. The ministers left substantive issues to be hashed out by three working groups.

The working groups are tasked with developing proposals for cooperation on nuclear and non-nuclear technical projects as well as political and security issues. The groups will report to a steering committee, which will review the groups’ progress after three months. (See ACT, December 2004.) The groups have devised a rough schedule for monthly meetings, according to U.S. and European officials. Two working group meetings already took place in December.

The meeting was the result of a negotiating framework agreed to by Iran and the three European Union countries in November. At that time, Iran also agreed to suspend work on its uranium-enrichment program for the duration of the talks and to accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring of this suspension.

In the long-term negotiations, the European governments are seeking a permanent end to Tehran’s nuclear fuel efforts, particularly its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Iran originally agreed to suspend its enrichment activities in October 2003 but continued work on some elements of its centrifuge program.

European governments, as well as the United States, are concerned that Iran intends to produce its own nuclear materials not for peaceful purposes but to build nuclear weapons. While nuclear power plants usually employ low-enriched uranium, highly enriched uranium can provide the fuel for nuclear weapons, as can plutonium separated from irradiated nuclear fuel.

Iran also has begun construction of a heavy water research reactor, which could provide a source of weapons-grade plutonium. Western concerns have been heightened by a more than two-year old IAEA investigation which revealed that Iran conducted a variety of covert nuclear activities. (See ACT, December 2004.)

Persuading Iran to renounce permanently its ambitions to develop an independent nuclear fuel cycle will almost certainly be difficult. The November agreement states only that the final agreement will include “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes.” Tehran, however, has not articulated its version of objective guarantees and has repeatedly said the suspension must be temporary, although some Iranian officials have hinted at the possibility of compromise. (See ACT, November 2004.)

Rowhani stated Dec.12 that Tehran “will continue the talks if we feel that they are progressing,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported, but Iranian officials have indicated that they want the talks to be concluded quickly. Official statements concerning an exact timeline have been ambiguous but indicate that Iran will give the talks at least several months.

Future Diplomacy
Although several U.S. officials have expressed skepticism that Iran will adhere to its suspension agreement, Washington is publicly supporting the negotiating process. Apparently countering speculation that Washington will take a harder line on Tehran, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Dec.1 that talk of military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities is “irresponsible.” Armitage later downplayed the prospects for a successful regime change strategy, saying Dec. 20 that the Iranian opposition would not necessarily “eschew nuclear weapons.” Secretary of State Colin Powell was more direct in a Dec.10 speech in the Netherlands, reiterating that “U.S. policy is not to advocate regime change in Iran.”

However, tensions between the United States and the Europeans could increase as a February IAEA Board of Governors meeting approaches. The board adopted a resolution in late November that emphasizes the suspension’s importance but does not specify any consequences if Iran violates the agreement. The resolution, however, does request IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to notify board members if Tehran either fails to implement the suspension or impedes IAEA monitoring.

A State Department official told Arms Control Today that the timing of the next Euro-Iran steering committee meeting, which will probably occur in March, could complicate any U.S. proposals for the IAEA to take action if Iran violates the suspension. The Europeans might argue that such efforts will undercut ongoing diplomacy, the official said.

Washington has repeatedly pushed for resolutions that take a harder line on Iran at past board meetings but has failed to persuade the other board members to agree.

The United States also continues to express concern that Iran is pursuing covert nuclear activities. U.S. Ambassador Jackie Sanders told the IAEA board Nov. 29 that Washington wants Iran “immediately” to provide access to Iran’s Parchin military complex, which U.S. officials believe might have facilities that could be used to test conventional high explosives for use in an implosion-type nuclear weapon. The IAEA has not yet received permission to visit, the State Department official said Dec. 16. (See ACT, October 2004.)

Washington failed to persuade the board to adopt language giving the IAEA expanded authority to inspect Iranian facilities. Instead, the November resolution requests that Iran “provide any access deemed necessary by the Agency” in accordance with Iran’s additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement.

Safeguards agreements require states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to allow the IAEA to monitor their declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military use. Additional protocols augment the agency’s authority to detect clandestine nuclear activities, but there are limits to the agency’s ability to inspect military facilities. Tehran has signed an additional protocol and has agreed to abide by its provisions until Iran’s parliament ratifies the agreement.

On the trade front, Washington’s lack of enthusiasm for engagement with Iran could also complicate the negotiations. The suspension agreement states that the Europeans “will actively support the opening of Iranian accession negotiations” at the World Trade Organization (WTO). A State Department official told Arms Control Today Dec. 20 that the Europeans wanted a WTO General Council meeting earlier in the month to call for negotiations to begin, but the U.S. delegation said that Washington is not ready to move forward on the matter. U.S. support is necessary because the WTO makes decisions by consensus.

EU Retains China Arms Embargo

Wade Boese

The European Union Dec. 8 rejected a Chinese bid to end a 15-year-old arms embargo, delighting the United States. Yet, Beijing’s disappointment and Washington’s satisfaction could be short-lived as the embargo’s eventual end appears likely.

In a joint statement issued at the end of the EU-China summit held at The Hague, the 25-member EU declared its “political will to continue to work towards lifting the embargo.” China “welcomed the positive signal” but also stated that the embargo “should be immediately removed.”

The EU’s main decision-making body Dec. 17 indicated it wanted to make a final decision on the embargo within the next several months. The result “should not be an increase of arms exports from EU Member States to China, neither in quantitative nor qualitative terms,” the European Council stated.

With a wholesale military modernization program underway, Beijing has pressed the EU to drop its prohibition on arms sales originally imposed in reaction to the Chinese government’s ruthless 1989 crackdown on peaceful demonstrators at Tiananmen Square. Beijing contends its human rights record has improved and labels the embargo an anachronism of the Cold War.

Some European capitals share Beijing’s view that the embargo is outdated and an impediment to improving ties between Europe and China. Paris and Madrid are lobbying hard for abolishment of the embargo, as is German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose position is not supported by his own Social Democratic Party.

Nevertheless, one European diplomat from a country favoring the embargo told Arms Control Today Dec. 15 that momentum is building for the eventual lifting of the embargo, but when that will happen “is uncertain.”

U.S. officials expressed similar resignation. In a Dec. 15 interview with Arms Control Today, a Department of State official said the United States, which also bans arms sales to China, was “pleased” with the summit’s conclusion, but conceded the issue “is not a problem that is going to go away.” A congressional staffer interviewed the same day predicted a European reversal could come in a matter of months.

The State Department official argued that the host of summit agreements between the European Union and China, including commitments to cooperate on nonproliferation and arms control issues, reveals that it is “possible to have a good relationship with China and still have an arms embargo.” The official further warned that a renewed arms trade relationship between China and European countries could prompt the United States to impose greater restrictions on arms and technology sold to Europe. “Congress will spank [the Europeans] on this,” the official added.

The congressional staffer affirmed this assertion. Concerns about U.S. technology leaking to China via Europe would likely sour congressional support for cross-Atlantic ventures on major weapons systems, such as the Joint Strike Fighter, the staffer said. An EU decision to lift the embargo, according to the staffer, would most likely produce an “overreaction by Congress.”

U.S. support for preserving the embargo reflects unease with the possibility that Beijing could turn the weapons against its own people or Taiwan, which China covets and the United States has pledged to help defend. Additional qualms stem from China’s past proliferation record of selling arms to purchasers hostile to the United States.

Some EU countries say U.S. fears are exaggerated and that waiving the embargo will not result in a splurge of European arms sales to China. European weapons deals, they argue, will be constrained by a 1998 EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports that sets out criteria—such as a potential arms buyer’s human rights record—that are supposed to be taken into consideration before any export occurs. U.S. critics counter that the code, which EU members are considering revising, is nonbinding and not much of an obstacle to determined sellers.




EU Deepens Ties With Libya, Syria

Paul Kerr

The European Union took steps in October to engage more broadly Syria and Libya, two countries whose proliferation behavior had been previously an obstacle to deeper ties.

The EU foreign ministers agreed Oct.11 to lift completely an almost 20-year arms embargo on Libya, a step that allows EU countries to export arms and other military equipment to that country. Such transfers, however, are still governed by the EU’s Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, as well as national export control laws. The Code of Conduct, which is not legally binding, lists several criteria to guide EU members’ arms sales. It also requires a state approving a weapons transaction that has been denied by another member to consult with the government who initially vetoed the sale. (See ACT, May 1998.)

The push for lifting the embargo on Libya came from Italy, which wants Tripoli to be able to purchase military equipment so that it can better patrol its maritime borders and prevent illegal immigration. “[C]ooperation with Libya on the topic of migration has become a pressing matter,” the foreign ministers said in an Oct. 11 statement.

The EU imposed the embargo in 1986 in response to Libya’s involvement in several terrorist incidents. Later that year, following the bombing of a Berlin nightclub, the EU also imposed several other restrictive measures, such as limiting the travel of Libyan diplomats. The EU, however, lifted these other measures in 1999, several months after the UN Security Council suspended similar sanctions. The Security Council permanently lifted its sanctions in September 2003, but the EU arms embargo remained in place. (See ACT, October 2003.)

The foreign ministers’ statement acknowledged the progress Libya has made in resolving concerns surrounding its past terrorist activities, including compensating families of the victims of the Berlin attack, as well as the bombing of two civilian airplanes. The ministers also noted Libya’s December 2003 decision to dismantle its chemical and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its missiles with ranges exceeding 300 kilometers. (See ACT, January/February 2004.)

The EU still has “concerns” about such issues as Libya’s human rights record, according to the statement, but will still adopt a policy of “engagement” with Libya in addition to lifting the embargo.

Since Libya’s December disarmament decision, the United States has moved rapidly to establish ties with Libya, most recently lifting its remaining economic sanctions on Tripoli in September. Washington, however, maintains arms restrictions on arms shipments to Libya. (See ACT, October 2004.)

Negotiations With Syria Move Forward

Meanwhile, the European Commission—which formulates policy proposals for the EU and manages the EU bureaucracy—announced Oct. 19 that it had formally concluded negotiations for an EU-Syria Association Agreement. The agreement, similar to those the EU has made with other Mediterranean countries, must now be approved by the Council of the European Union, which represents the EU’s member-states.

The agreement includes a framework to conduct “regular political dialogue” and “foresees the creation of a free-trade area between the EU and Syria,” according to a commission press release.

The agreement also includes a clause requiring Syrian “cooperation to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.” This is the first such agreement to be negotiated since the EU agreed in November 2003 to include a “non-proliferation clause” in future pacts with non-EU countries.

The specific language of the relevant clause in this agreement has not been released. However, a model EU text specifies that the parties agree to “contribute to countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery through full compliance with and national implementation of their existing obligations under international disarmament and non-proliferation treaties and agreements and other relevant international obligations.”

According to the model text, the countries should also agree to take “steps to sign, ratify, or accede to… and fully implement all other relevant international instruments.” In addition, they should establish an “effective system of national export controls” for WMD-related goods. However, the text also indicates that these two provisions might be considered on a “case-by-case basis.”

Syria’s pursuit of WMD has long been a concern. The United States has stated that Syria possesses chemical weapons and is pursuing an offensive biological weapons capability. U.S. officials also sometimes name Damascus as covertly seeking nuclear weapons, but the public official evidence for this is thin. (See ACT, May 2003.)

Syria is a state-party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and has signed but not ratified the Biological Weapons Convention. These agreements prohibit Damascus from possessing both nuclear and biological weapons, respectively. Syria is one of only 11 countries that have not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention), although it has acceded to the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibiting biological and chemical weapons use in war.

Syria possesses several hundred Scud B, Scud C, and SS-21 tactical ballistic missiles. The missiles’ estimated maximum range of approximately 500 kilometers enables Syria to target all of Israel and much of Turkey. There are no international agreements prohibiting the possession of such missiles.

The European Union took steps in October to engage more broadly Syria and Libya, two countries whose proliferation behavior had been previously an obstacle to deeper ties.

The EU foreign ministers agreed Oct.11 to lift completely an almost 20-year arms embargo on Libya, a step that allows EU countries to export arms and other military equipment to that country. Such transfers, however, are still governed by the EU’s Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, as well as national export control laws. The Code of Conduct, which is not legally binding, lists several criteria to guide EU members’ arms sales. It also requires a state approving a weapons transaction that has been denied by another member to consult with the government who initially vetoed the sale. (See ACT, May 1998.) (Continue)

Iran Considers EU Compromise Proposal

Paul Kerr

Representatives from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom met with Iranian officials twice in October in an effort to head off a possible diplomatic showdown over its nuclear program. But Tehran sent mixed signals as to whether it will agree to a European compromise proposal or risk recriminations at a Nov. 25 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors.

The European proposal would offer several benefits to Tehran in return for the latter’s suspension of nuclear fuel activities.
A European diplomat told Arms Control Today Oct. 18 that the idea is to present a clear choice to Iran: accept the proposal or risk that the IAEA board refer the matter to the UN Security Council at the November meeting. Taking what appears to be a “wait and see” approach, U.S. officials have publicly distanced themselves from the offer and expressed doubt that Tehran will comply.

At the November meeting, the board is scheduled to assess Iran’s compliance with a September resolution and formulate a response. That resolution called on Tehran to suspend all activities associated with its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Such centrifuges can produce low-enriched uranium for use in nuclear reactors and highly enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons. (See ACT, October 2004.)

Under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the board is required to notify the Security Council if a state-party is found in noncompliance with its safeguards agreements with the IAEA. Safeguards agreements empower the agency to monitor civilian nuclear facilities to ensure they are not diverted to military purposes. The council may then take action against the offending state.

The United States has been unsuccessfully pushing for such a referral since November 2003, when the IAEA adopted a resolution stating that Iran had conducted several nuclear activities in violation of its safeguards agreement.

This recent proposal is similar to a deal the three governments struck with Iran in October 2003. At the time, Iran agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment program, but the scope of the suspension has been contentious for some time. Tehran had agreed in February to cease building centrifuges and manufacturing related components but did not entirely stop component production. In June, Iran fully resumed both activities after the IAEA adopted a resolution criticizing Iran. Tehran has not, however, resumed testing centrifuges with uranium hexafluoride—the feedstock for gas centrifuges.

Iran’s conversion of uranium oxide—lightly processed uranium ore—to uranium hexafluoride has also been controversial. Iran announced in September that it had begun to convert a quantity of uranium oxide sufficient eventually to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for several crude nuclear weapons. Hossein Moussavian, head of Iran’s delegation to the IAEA, told Agence France Presse Oct. 6 that Iran had processed “a few tons” of uranium oxide under IAEA supervision.

Tehran’s compliance with the other two provisions of the October 2003 agreement has also been limited. First, the agreement called on Iran to sign and ratify an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. Iran’s parliament has not yet ratified the protocol, but Tehran has been acting as if the agreement, which augments the IAEA’s ability to detect clandestine nuclear activities, is in force. Second, Iran agreed to cooperate with the IAEA’s ongoing investigation of its nuclear programs, but its cooperation has often been grudging and incomplete. (See ACT, October 2004.)

Proposal Details

Officials familiar with the issue confirmed details of the Europeans’ proposal, first presented Oct. 21 in Vienna. Matching the provisions set out in the September IAEA resolution, Iran would suspend the manufacture and import of centrifuges and related components, as well as the assembly, installation, testing, and operation of such centrifuges.

Iran would also freeze operation of its uranium-conversion facility and suspend any other efforts to produce feedstock for centrifuges. Any converted uranium would be placed under IAEA safeguards.

The suspension would be indefinite until the two sides reach an acceptable long-term agreement. Although the proposal promises to reaffirm Iran’s right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology, European diplomats have said they ultimately want Iran to dismantle its nuclear fuel facilities. States-parties to the NPT may produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes under IAEA safeguards.

Once the suspension is verified, discussions will focus on specific plans for implementing several incentives for Tehran to stop enrichment altogether. Perhaps most importantly, the proposal holds out the promise that the Europeans will guarantee that Iran can obtain nuclear reactor fuel from other countries. The spent fuel would be removed from Iran.

Additionally, the Europeans will support Iran’s acquisition of a light-water research reactor to replace a heavy-water reactor Iran is planning to construct. The United States has labeled the latter a proliferation concern. The Europeans would also resume negotiations on a trade agreement between the European Union and Iran, as well as support ongoing Iranian nuclear cooperation with Russia.

The proposal includes additional promises to pursue cooperation on other issues, such as a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone and drug trafficking.

It is unclear when the other benefits would be provided.

If Tehran declines the offer, the three countries will support the referral of Iran to the Security Council. In that case, the council may consider making the suspension mandatory or increasing the inspection powers of the IAEA.

The council would also consider further measures if Iran still refuses to cooperate but the proposal does not elaborate.

Iran’s Reaction

Tehran has not ruled out reaching an agreement with the Europeans but has not yet accepted the offer. Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani suggested Oct. 25—two days before the second meeting—that Iran may agree to suspend its enrichment activities for the duration of the talks.

However, Moussavian expressed dissatisfaction with the Europeans’ proposal. He told the Financial Times Oct. 24 that the offer was not “balanced,” indicating that it should be more specific about the incentives and provide a “clear timetable.” He did not say whether Iran would comply with the IAEA resolution in the absence of an agreement with the Europeans.

Tehran has been ambiguous about dismantling its enrichment program. Iranian officials have repeatedly stressed that they want any settlement to recognize their “right” to enrich uranium, pointing out that any suspension agreement goes beyond Iran’s NPT commitments.

It is not clear, however, that Tehran will insist on exercising that right. Foreign ministry spokesperson Hamid Reza Asefi would not say whether Iran would produce nuclear fuel when asked during an Oct. 17 press conference. Moussavian stated that Iran is “prepared for a mechanism” to provide “assurances” that Iranian enrichment activities will be peaceful but did not elaborate. He acknowledged that Iran’s enrichment capabilities will perpetuate concerns that it has a nuclear weapons program.

Perhaps providing a partial explanation for Tehran’s reluctance to go beyond the NPT, Moussavian expressed concern that there will be no limits to European demands if they go beyond Tehran’s current legal commitments. Iranian officials have also said they do not want to have to rely on other countries for nuclear fuel.

Moussavian also claimed that Iran did not fear a referral to the Security Council, saying Iran had made “preparations.” Iran may leave the NPT if Security Council demands “go beyond” the treaty, he added. Rowhani has previously warned that Iran may withdraw if the council imposes economic sanctions.

911 Panel: WMD "Greatest Danger"

Matthew Cook

The “greatest danger of another catastrophic attack in the United States” comes from weapons of mass destruction (WMD), according to the July 22 report released by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States.

The report of the independent commission, informally known as the 9/11 Commission, said “maximum effort” is warranted to prevent further proliferation and recommended four basic strategies.

The 10-member bipartisan commission called upon the United States to work with other countries to develop laws and legal regimes that strengthen counterproliferation efforts. Pointing to the black market nuclear network set up by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan (see ACT, March 2004), the report urged the establishment of an “international legal regime with universal jurisdiction to enable the capture, interdiction, and prosecution of such smugglers.”

The commission report also called for the expansion of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), an international partnership created by the Bush administration to stop and seize shipments of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and related missile technology. The commission suggested PSI, which currently numbers 15 core participants, utilize NATO resources and encourage the participation of non-NATO countries, particularly China.

The report also recommended substantial support for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which attempts to secure dangerous weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.

Finally, as part of its proposed reorganization of the intelligence community, the report called for the creation of a national intelligence center on WMD proliferation.


Dispute Over Russian Withdrawals From Georgia, Moldova Stall CFE Treaty

Wade Boese

Russian lawmakers and President Vladimir Putin recently approved a five-year-old treaty limiting conventional weapons stationed in Europe. Yet, the treaty’s prospects for entering into force anytime soon are dim because of Western concern over Moscow’s failure to fulfill related commitments on removing its armed forces from Georgia and Moldova.

The Russian legislature’s lower and more powerful chamber, the Duma, passed the adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty with a 355-28 vote on June 25. The Federation Council, Russia’s upper house, followed suit July 7 with a nearly unanimous 137-1 vote.

Putin signed the federal law on the treaty’s ratification July 19, but the ratification process will not be completed until Putin deposits an instrument of ratification with the treaty depository, the Netherlands.

Once Putin acts, Russia will join Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine as the only countries to have completed ratification of the treaty, which caps the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, and heavy artillery that each state-party is permitted to deploy on its territory. Treaty limits also restrict how many combat aircraft and attack helicopters may be deployed in Europe.

The treaty is a 1999 overhaul of an accord negotiated nearly a decade earlier to balance the military hardware of Cold War adversaries NATO and the now-defunct Warsaw Pact. The older version with its outdated bloc limits is currently in force and will remain so until all of its 30 states-parties ratify the adapted version.

Russia is eager to replace the original treaty because new NATO members Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have no weapons limits under the old treaty and cannot join the revised version until it enters into force. Moscow fears that NATO might take advantage of this loophole to stockpile arms near Russia’s border.

But NATO members are refusing to ratify the revised accord until Russia fulfills commitments it made to Georgia and Moldova when the adapted CFE Treaty was concluded at a summit in Istanbul. Specifically, the Kremlin pledged to finish negotiations by the end of 2000 to close Russian military bases on Georgian soil and to remove all of its troops and weaponry from Moldova by the end of 2002. Neither objective has been met.

Russian officials argue that the matters should not be linked, but the United States and NATO disagree. Visiting Moldova June 26, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted that “the obligations that were undertaken at Istanbul some five years ago need to be fulfilled.”

At their summit meeting a few days later, NATO heads of state declared, “We recall that fulfillment of the remaining Istanbul commitments on the Republic of Georgia and the Republic of Moldova will create the conditions for allies and other states-parties to move forward on ratification of the adapted CFE Treaty.”

Russia and Georgia differ on how long it should take the Kremlin to vacate its bases in Georgia. Tbilisi says Russia should be able to pull out in three years; Moscow claims it will need 11. One option proposed by Georgia is the creation of a joint counter-terrorism center on Georgian territory to compensate Russia for withdrawing its forces.

Although Russian-Georgian relations appeared to be on the upswing with a June resumption of talks on the basing issue after more than a year-long halt, relations subsequently took a turn for the worse. In recent weeks, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili stepped up efforts to reassert Tbilisi’s control over two separatist Georgian regions that have close ties to Russia and where one of the disputed Russian bases is located. The Kremlin has matched Saakashvili’s tough talk and action. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov warned in an Aug. 14 press conference with Rumsfeld that Georgia “is developing into a very dangerous scenario.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s withdrawal from Moldova has stalled. In 2003 the process had been moving forward, with Russia removing 42 trainloads of arms and ammunition; only one such trainload has departed this year. International officials monitoring the withdrawal estimate that about 42 trainloads of ammunition—nearly 21,000 metric tons—and 10 trainloads of military equipment remain.

Moscow contends it is not to blame for the dramatic falloff. It claims that separatists in the Transdniestria region, where the weapons are located, are blocking the withdrawal.

Russia further maintains that its roughly 1,400 troops in the region should stay because they are helping keep the uneasy peace between the separatists and the government of Moldova. Moldova has voiced its preference, however, for replacing the Russian “peacekeepers” with an international force.

A U.S. government official familiar with the status of Russia’s withdrawal stated that Russia has a mixed bag of concerns and it is unclear which will come out on top. “All that’s left is the really hard stuff,” the official added.

Corrected online August 29, 2008. See explanation.


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