Keynote Speaker: Dr. Hans Blix
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Federal News Service,
Washington , D.C.
(Edited by the Arms Control Association)
DARYL G. KIMBALL: Ladies and gentlemen, if I could please have your attention. Thank you very much. I hope everyone is enjoying their lunch today. We’re running a little behind schedule, and I wanted to get us back on schedule.
For those who were not at the morning session, I’m Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. I want to thank the Arms Control Association members and our Arms Control Today subscribers, in particular, for coming here today. We do this annually. We have not been doing it for 35 years, but I think the tradition began under our former executive director, Spurgeon Keeny. We are going to try to continue it. We will be celebrating our 35 th anniversary at another event later this year, which we will notify you all about.
My job here is to get out of the way so that we can move on to the main event. To introduce our luncheon speaker today is our very own board of director chairman, John Steinbruner. He has been a leader of the Arms Control Association now for many years and a very helpful friend to me and the staff in keeping the ship above water and going in the right direction.
John, please come to the podium.
JOHN STEINBRUNER: As I’m sure all of you are quite aware, Hans Blix has long been one of the most prominent members of the international community dealing with controlling weapons of mass destruction. We are very pleased that he is going to talk with us in this regard.
As [International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)] director-general and later as head of the [United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)], he participated in a process that did eradicate the Iraqi nuclear weapons program and provided us, we now realize, with an accurate account of the resulting situation.
I think when all the political dust settles, as presumably eventually it will, that should be recognized as a major accomplishment. And I, at any rate, and I think many other people are grateful for that.
He is currently chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission that the Swedish government has formed, and he is to soon issue a report informing us and inspiring us as to where to go next with this general problem, and I’m sure we all look forward to it.
We are pleased that Randy Rydell, on loan from the Under-Secretary General’s Office for Disarmament Affairs, is at the Arms Control Association helping him with this report and reflecting, I think, the interest of the Arms Control Association and the general obligations under the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)]. I personally hope that this report will encourage people to understand, better than they currently do, that the traditional regulation of nuclear weapons—the traditional arms control agenda if you will—the control of proliferation, and the current obsession with terrorism are not separate subjects. If you are going to deal with one, you are going to have to deal with all three, rather more systematically than we are currently doing. I hope maybe Hans Blix could instruct us along these lines.
Anyway, I will give you the main event here and, again, we appreciate your coming. (Applause.)
HANS BLIX: I know that it is obligatory to start before an American audience with a story so I will do that about a Swedish man who came to heaven and he was told that the custom was that everyone must tell a story of his life or an important event in his life. He then recalled that he had been participating in a rescue operation when a Swedish lake flooded and he had saved several cats and even a number of other items. So he said I will tell the story about that. He was told, “Yeah, well, that is fine, but remember that Noah is in the audience.” (Laughter.) I feel a little like that in this room. I will tell you a story, but there are many Noahs in this room.
I’m glad to have the opportunity to address this expert audience, and I would like to voice my congratulations on the 35 years. I have solid admiration for the association and on the plane over I think that I read every line in the latest issue of your journal, which I think was superb. I learned quite a lot from it.
I left UNMOVIC in New York at the end of June 2003. It was taken over then by my head of operations and deputy, Demetrius Perricos, whom I think has done an excellent job. Obviously, UNMOVIC has shown that it could still make a lot of useful contributions. The question is whether it will survive this summer. I think the Security Council could have good use of a small standing group of experts whom it could draw on and could set up teams of inspectors at very short notice rather than having to recruit them for a longer period of time. UNMOVIC still trains inspectors who are on rosters and I think they could be of good use. Whether that will be the case or not, I do not know.
Now, since 2004, I have been chairing a commission on weapons of mass destruction. It was not selected by the Swedish government. They have financed it kindly. But they gave me a totally free hand in selecting the members, and I have done so. We expect to come with a report here in May 2006. At that time, I hope you will hear more about it. It will be about 50 to 60 recommendations, concrete ones, and they are still in the making. I will not reveal what they are.
Why another report, you may ask? There have been others. Well, the world changes. We must update our thinking at all times. Since 1990, we have had the end of the Cold War. We have had 9/11. We had the experience in Iraq. So what is the situation now? Well, in my view, and I think your view, it is certainly not a rosy one. In the bipolar world of the Cold War, there were lots of important U.S. and Soviet bilateral agreements. There were also global regimes, which were growing; a sort of fabric of global regimes, which tied to each other and which also tied up with the United Nations, the system laid down for collective security.
At the end of the Cold War, there were high hopes. You remember how President Bush the elder said that there was a new international order after the successful intervention in Iraq in 1991. We had the Chemical Weapons Convention after 20 years of negotiations. We had the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty signed. We had a mandate for a [fissile material] cutoff agreement. We had agreements within the U.S. and Russia about doing away with redundant military stocks. And we had the so-called trilateral agreement between the U.S., Russia, and the IAEA about inspection of supplies of plutonium and highly enriched uranium that had become redundant.
We were cheered by the collapse of Soviet communism. Many regional conflicts, many of them by proxy, disappeared. It was a hopeful period. But then came the disappointments. Perhaps the high point of hope was the 1997 Helsinki Summit and the framework for a START III agreement between Yeltsin and Clinton. Instead, what we have seen since are casualties. We saw how the Helsinki framework collapsed, how the [Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM)] Treaty was ended, how the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was killed in the U.S. Senate, how we did not get a cutoff agreement, and how the Biological Weapons Convention [remains] without any agreement on verification. Then, we had 9/11, which has had a tremendous influence and still has, in my view. The result, it seems to me, is that the U.S. has become less keen on arms control and less keen on verification, at least for itself. The very term arms control seems to have disappeared in the latest reorganization of the State Department, which only talks about nonproliferation and security, whereas arms control existed at one time.
Indeed, perhaps it is even worse. We are going perhaps in reverse. The missile shield is a new problematic element in the international context. The growing discussion and preparations for the use of space, not only militarily, but perhaps also the stationing of weapons is an evolution that certainly will provoke some reactions, and already have provoked reactions from the Russian and the Chinese side. One has the feeling of an expounded militarization in the great states. In the U.K, there is discussion about what is to succeed the Trident [submarine-launched ballistic missile]. It seems fairly clear that the British government with a good deal of support from the Labour Party actually will want to have a continuation of Trident. Exactly how is not clear. They say it is going through the Parliament, but there will be a continuation.
[French President Jacques] Chirac, the other day, came out and talked also about the potential usefulness of [ France’s] nuclear potential. There certainly seems to be no walking away or walking back from the nuclear capability in the U.K. and French cases.
The nuclear doctrines also seem to widen the choice of nuclear for military purposes. They widen it in saying that nuclear weapons could be used as deterrent against and perhaps retaliation for use of biological and chemical weapons, other weapons of mass destruction. The Russians are now taking the role of the Western Europeans and saying that if they are met with and threatened by overwhelming conventional forces, which they see on the Western side, they might also be even the first to use nuclear weapons. We hear talk about news of nuclear arms, even about terrorists, the bunker busters, which fortunately were still rejected by the U.S. Congress, as reported in your journal.
Now all this cannot but give some encouragement to others also to go for nuclear weapons. Some, I say, because I think that all countries, however upset they may be about what they see as a double standard, nevertheless will be chiefly influenced by what they consider to be their security situation. That, I think, is not going to lead to a cascade of nuclear-weapon states, an expression that has been used in some contexts.
So we have a reverse, I think, in the field of arms control and disarmament. We also have a stalemate in the international forum. The Conference on Disarmament in Geneva is without even an agenda. They have to use the consensus for it, [but have not managed that for nearly] ten years.
The NPT Review Conference in May 2005 ended in bitterness and absolutely no agreement. The [UN General Assembly Millennium + 5] summit last autumn ended without a single line about nonproliferation or disarmament.
On nonproliferation, which is a central area, there are two perspectives. There is the perspective of some who put an emphasis on Iraq’s breach of the NPT, North Korea’s breach in leaving the NPT, Libya, Iran, and talk about the cascades of the future, which I think is an exaggeration and hype.
On the other hand, I should point out that South Africa walked back. We had a successful solution to the problem in the [former] Soviet Union where Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus did not inherit nuclear weapons.
We have the other perspective from many other states-parties to the NPT that point to the fact that they feel cheated by the 1995 commitments that were made in the context of the extension of the NPT from 25-year validity to an [indefinite] validity. There were a number of commitments made, which since have been brushed aside as from a different era. They feel cheated. Naturally, the enthusiasm [for], the embracement of the treaty has been weakened.
On the scene of the UN and world security, we have seen [former Representative Newt] Gingrich, who was the co-chairman of the congressional committee on UN [reform], had an article entitled A Limited UN is Best for America.
I read the U.S. national defense strategy published by the Department of Defense. I read these cheerful notes. The first one [stated] the end of the Cold War and our capacity to influence global events opened the prospects for a new and peaceful state system in the world. Well, I think that is benevolent and cheerful. But the same strategy also says our strength as a nation-state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak, using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism. So I conclude that the esteem for international organizations, including I would assume the United Nations and judicial processes, is not very high when they are lumped together with terrorism and in the main seen as obstacles.
Now, am I thinking pessimistic about the future? Well, there are different lines of development possible. If the U.S. would seek to increase its domination to become what the French call the hyper-power, I fear there may be increasing controversies with China about the Pacific because Taiwan certainly is a flashpoint that is serious; space militarization, competition in space—yes.
There could be another line in which the U.S. and the rest of the world will seek more accommodation and cooperative security and welcome globalization and the fact that a billion Chinese get a higher standard of living and that development is very fast in India. I, for one, think it is wonderful. They have had enough of hardship.
We could also take some consolation in looking backward, not only to the end of the Cold War, but further back. There were only 20 years before the First and the Second World Wars, and we have had 60 years now since the end of the Second World War. The United Nations is 60 today. The League of Nations only became 20 years old and [ACA] is 35.
We also have studies showing that there are fewer wars now; that there are 40-percent less armed conflicts since the end of the Cold War. Many of these conflicts that took place were conflicts by proxy. The wars we have are mostly civil wars. There are also fewer killed in wars than there used to be. So these are hopeful times.
I think that the absence of territorial conflicts in the world and the absence of any ideological clashes are hopeful signs—very different from the Cold War. I’m grateful that I survived the Cold War to see these possibilities for the future.
I am more worried for the longer term, I must confess, of the environmental threats to the world. Mankind developed great capacity for nations to destroy each other. Now they are joining hands to destroy the environment of the world. I saw in the U.S. today that last year was the warmest they had recorded in history.
I also worry about the hyping and the spinning that takes place in international affairs. I read somewhere the saying from Lincoln that you can fool some people all of the time and all of the people sometime but not all of the people all the time. That is not happening nowadays. They consider this as far too pessimistic a view. (Laughter.)
The public relations gurus who sit in their cabinets—near the cabinets at any rate—in the big cities, in the big capitals, they too know that. It leads to a very smart management of media. Of course the world is big and they do not manage everybody, but there is a fair amount of this going on.
You have the wild debate here about the intelligence [about Iraq] and who failed and who succeeded and who was closer to the truth. But there is very little I see in the U.S. press about the fact that [IAEA Director-General] Mohamed ElBaradei before the war in Iraq said the yellow cake-story, the contract between Niger and Iraq, was a forgery. I sat on the Security Council when he said it was a forgery. Well, he used diplomatic language, “it was not authentic.” (Laughter.)
And there is relatively little talk about the fact that we carried out 700 inspections at 500 different sites before the war and we said to the Security Council and to the Americans and the British that we found no weapons of mass destruction. Now, out of these places that we visited—and this is highly significant—there were about three dozen sites, which were given to us by intelligence in different countries, and in none of them did we find any weapons of mass destruction. We found some conventional ammunition in one, a stash of documents in other place, et cetera, but no weapons of mass destruction.
One of the points of the “Butler Committee” that examined the shortcomings of the [pre-war] British intelligence was that they felt that after the revelations and after the reports of UNMOVIC and of the IAEA, the British ought to have reevaluated that intelligence.
My belief is that if we had been allowed to continue with inspections for a couple of months more, we would then have been able to go to all of the sites which were given by intelligence. And since there were not any weapons of mass destruction, we would have reported there were not any. This ought to have given them some thought about the reliability of their sources. Whether it would have prevented the invasion I’m less affirmative about. But it would have been certainly more difficult. There was a momentum in this. A the end of the February and the beginning of March when you have a couple hundred thousand people sitting in the desert that is a momentum itself. You have to take a decision. Either you find a big event and you call it off or you have to move forward. I think that at the very end we were irrelevant. The momentum had caught on and it was too late.
Now, I worry a bit about this spin and momentum on Iran. My starting point is that it is important to induce Iran to forgo enrichment. But I’m not sure that further probing of the intentions of Iran, which might be divided in different groups— Iran is not Iraq—will be very useful if indeed safeguards came up with some documents that show that, yes, they had the plans to do so. Well, that would be a breach of the NPT and that would be a sensation.
But if we find no evidence, can we then exclude completely that there was [never] such intention? And if there was not, they could change their intention in two years. So I think the important thing is that starting and going for [enrichment] cascades in a couple of years they would have the option to do so. The starting of enrichment would bring [ Iran] two years closer perhaps to the option of going for nuclear weapons.
The lead time would be short term and that would be a serious matter in terms of tensions in the Middle East. So I’m decidedly in favor of seeking to induce Iran to stay away from [enrichment]. I would say to them, “Yes, we admit that you have the right to enrich.” I would not try any legal acrobatics, but I would say, “Yes, there is a right to do so for peaceful purposes, but one does not need to exercise every right one has in this world.” One can stay away from exercising a right if it brings other advantages or if it were to bring disadvantages.
Hence, I think that the most important point is to construct a package that will bring not only disadvantages, not only the threat or the stick, but carrots. We have heard a lot about the sticks. There have been some carrots. I thought it was very good when the U.S. came last year and said that they could support the entrance of Iran into the World Trade Organization and could even import spare parts for Boeing planes, which was nice.
But what has been missing, I think, in this package has been the security aspects of it. I cannot help but compare the approach that has been taken with regard to North Korea and that that has been taken vis-à-vis Iran. Now, in North Korea, as I read the media, they have been promised commitments for no attack against North Korea either with conventional or with nuclear means, and that there also would be an opening for diplomatic relations with Japan and with the United States. We have seen nothing similar in the case of Iran.
I noticed that [U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs] Nicholas Burns said that there was not an ambition for regime change. I think that is good; that is fine. Regime changes, we know, from the outside are not that much of a panacea. So I think they should contemplate similar offers to Iran as they have to North Korea.
Now, what about the fora? There is now a drift to the Security Council. Well, it might have the benefits that you get the U.S., the Russians, and the Chinese at the same table. In the case of North Korea after all, we have them together with Japan and the Koreans at the table. That may be an advantage. But I do not think it’s so much the forum for the discussions that are important as the contents of the package that is presented to them.
And, I think, [it] is also a bit inevitable [that it will be sent] to the council once they have held out this as a promise. They do not want to appear like paper tigers by doing something else. The further inquiries by the IAEA have served to slow the procedure somewhat, but I think prestige is an important part of it. In the case of the North Koreans, they are a country that has nuclear weapons. They are discussing outside the Security Council and outside immediate threats. So there is a big difference.
Now, as you know, there have been a good deal of ideas put forward about the [nuclear] fuel cycle. I think they have been prompted very much by the cases of North Korea and Iran; enrichment in Iran and reprocessing in North Korea. I was in North Korea in 1992 and I asked them, “Why do they reprocess? What do they want plutonium for?” They said, “Well, you know, we may want to have a breeder reactor one day.” A very likely story. (Laughter.)
But remember that there was not much fuss about this. If the North Koreans had declared honestly how much they had reprocessed and how much plutonium they actually had, I do not think there would have been much fuss in 1992, despite the fact that one would know that they would get more and more plutonium. So there has become a greater awareness of this risk and I think that is good. It does contain risks.
Now, the thought I have is that the proposals we have seen about the fuel cycle may be well intentioned, and maybe they will lead to some results. But I think it is going to be a very difficult way; the idea of having a fuel bank. Countries that refrain from or renounce enrichment can turn to the bank and they will be allocated [nuclear fuel]. Well, who will sit on the bank board? Will there be a veto? Will they decide who gets enriched uranium and who does not? And, if you made some error in the safeguards report, is that something that will disqualify a country from further allocations of enriched uranium for the fuel for their reactors? I do not say that it is impossible, but I think there are a good deal of difficulties in that way. I think they should be explored.
But I have another idea. Maybe one could think of limitations on the fuel cycle in specific areas. I mean there can be regional arrangements both for enrichment and for reprocessing. But there could also be another kind. Remember that in the denuclearization agreement between North Korea and South Korea in 1992 that there was an element which said there would be neither enrichment nor reprocessing; either in North Korea or South Korea. Fine. I think that will be another element in a new agreement if one is reached.
Now, how about the Middle East? Could one not try something similar in the Middle East? We have for long been talking about a nuclear-weapon-free zone for the Middle East with UN resolutions voted year after year in this respect. We also know that we need a peaceful settlement in the Middle East before you can get anywhere. But what about some commitment to stay away from the fuel cycle, from enrichment or reprocessing?
That, of course, would commit the Iranians from staying away from enrichment, but also all of the others: Syria, Iraq, Egypt, et cetera. But also on reprocessing; it is only Israel that reprocesses at the present time. I assume that they have enough bombs and that they would not be touched by such an arrangement, but maybe they could take a step by committing to no further reprocessing. That would at least be a [cap] on the amount of plutonium that [could be used for weapons].
This may sound to many as a wild idea but I was encouraged to see a report about a study commissioned by the Pentagon called Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran that [recommends]—I have not seen the report itself—that Israel should take small, reversible steps toward nuclear disarmament. Well, I think, this would be one. The psychological impact of such a thing, I think, would be interesting because it can be seen by the Iranians as a step toward a more distant goal.
Now, for the world, as I said, I think it is more problematic with restrictions on the fuel cycle. It should be started, but I think it will be very difficult to do it. There are many countries that have lots of nuclear power. Iran, I think, does not have plausible economic reasons to go for enrichment. It has two nuclear power plants. My own country, Sweden, has 10 nuclear reactors in operation and we import enriched uranium. Economically, I do not see [ Iran’s justification] as meaningful. From the point of view of self-sufficiency, self-reliance, in a world in which Iran felt ostracized I can see a little more reason for it.
But you have other countries, like Ukraine, which has a lot of nuclear power, despite Chernobyl. They are building more nuclear power. They are not ruling out the possibility of building enrichment for their own. I mean, their relations with the Russians are not such that they are absolutely sure that they will either get gas or enriched uranium. So, I think, a lot of countries will hesitate.
Now, let me turn to a few other points that are also on the agenda: PSI, the Proliferation Security Initiative. Well, we know that international law allows intervention on the high seas against piracy and slavery and illegal broadcasting, and here now comes also weapons of mass destruction. Now, I can see as a sort of idealistic vision that maybe we need a better policing of the oceans. Maybe we should not only have weapons of mass destruction; maybe drug trafficking should be there, fishing violations—fishing rules are violated very, very much.
But my query about PSI is really how often has it been useful. I saw that [U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Stephen] Rademaker said that in 11 cases they have made use of it, but I have only seen one case that really worked importantly and that was a ship going to Libya. I think that was before they formalized PSI. [Editor’s note: PSI was launched on May 31, 2003 and the interdiction of the BBC China occurred in October 2003. However, foreign government officials and a former top State Department official told Arms Control Today that the interdiction was not a PSI operation. (See ACT, July/August 2005.)]
I, like many others, also would rather see a global element of this with some supervision of international authority rather than a common effort. It would be [improved as] a joint thing whereas now I have the feeling that it is more the big sheriff assisted by some other sheriffs around the world. I would like to see transparency and some supervision.
For the moment, my hesitations relate more to how useful PSI has been. We have heard a lot about it, but what are the facts? I think transparency could start by reporting on what they actually manage to fish up.
Safeguards and verification is another area. The additional protocol has made progress, and I was happy when it was adopted by the IAEA general conference the last year (1997) that I was the IAEA director-general. We had worked on it for a very long time. The additional protocol has certainly improved the situation a lot, but not so much that there could not be further improvements.
For instance, I was appalled at the time that under the additional protocol, states could still demand that inspectors should have visas. That [requirement] was not in the Chemical Weapons Convention. For heaven’s sake, how can you accept in the chemical weapons treaty that you do away with visas, but not here? There are other things in the additional protocol that also could be sanctioned.
In your [December 2005] issue of Arms Control Today, there is a very good article about the committee that has been set up under the IAEA Board of Governors. It does not have much of an agenda and it is not really ironed out what it will do. But I agree with the authors of that article that an open-ended committee of the board could certainly be useful [in maintaining] attention by members of the board on safeguards and operations of safeguards.
[The committee] could be a support for the director-general because when you are in international organizations and demand Pakistan or anybody to do something, you meet resistance. States are not terribly impressed by international secretariats I can tell you. You can run into resistance. What weapon does [an international organization] have? The weapon you have is that if you do not go along with this I will report to the board. That is what you have. I heard there was a [movie, Team America: World Police] here in the U.S. about Iraq and I feature as a character who tells [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Il that if you do not behave I will report. (Laughter.) And thereafter Kim says, “F**k you, Hans Blix, and chops off my head and it falls down into some poo-poo or other.” I mean this is the way that I get known around the world (laughter), but my reaction is rather to the substance of it.
The report is not such an innocent thing. It may be quite an important thing, actually. But this is the power that the director-general of the IAEA has. He will report to the board because the power lies in the countries that are represented on the board. Now, here he would then have a forum that would be continuously available, whereas the board is meeting only from time to time. So that could be a positive thing. What he says [at the committee] is something that can be picked up by members in support of the agency’s demand for effective safeguards.
There are things that must stay safeguard confidential because if you did not have safeguards confidentiality then members would not accept safeguards. So there are limits to what can be said in that [committee] but, by and large, I think it could be a helpful thing to strengthen the role of the international secretariat.
But it could also be used to weaken the position of the director-general in the sense that he will be subject to a lot of cross currents. Some will say this, others will say that, and he may then have to decide where he stands. That may be not an easy thing at all.
From this point of view having the states sort of hovering all around you and coming with suggestions here and there is less difficult politically, diplomatically to manage. So I think much depends upon how this will be handled in the future. I hope it will be used to strengthen safeguards rather to weaken the position of the director-general.
Now, on verification generally, looking aside from the IAEA and safeguards, one has the feeling that there is almost sort of an allergy in [ Washington] against the use of verification; a disregard for it. They ignored UNMOVIC and the IAEA in the case of Iraq and we see the negative attitude on a [fissile] cutoff agreement where it stated that it is inherently impossible to have effective verification of a cutoff agreement.
I’m worried about that statement because it seems to me that you are thereby also saying that the safeguards we have in Japan on enrichment, South Africa on enrichment, and Brazil on enrichment are useless. I do not think that is a view that we would take. The IAEA is still working on the concept and on the means of making them effective. But it leads me to wonder whether the real negative attitude to the FMCT is a difficulty in having effective safeguards.
I would think after the experience I had in the IAEA and the UNMOVIC, the combination of the use of international verification and national verification is an important one. I think the attitude here has been to give priority to the national one. Even now there is hardly any discussion about what could have been gleaned from UNMOVIC and from the IAEA. It’s all about which intelligence unit in the U.S. knew something and which did not know.
I’m not against national intelligence. I think certainly in this time of terrorism it is indispensable that countries have it. I’m worried about the civil rights aspects of it, okay, but still it’s something that we need to have. But I think that they should realize that you need both. [International] inspectors are on the ground. They have a right to go into installations and we should increase those rights. [National] intelligence does not. They may have spies here and there. They have satellites. They have the eavesdropping on all this.
I think therefore that it is useful when [national] intelligence would tip the international organizations and say why don’t you take a look at this? We did this in the IAEA in Iran when I was still at the IAEA. I went up to some place that [national intelligence] had [identified as suspicious]. It did not contain any enrichment. At that time it was somewhere in the Alborz Mountains. Nevertheless, the technique is the right one: that [national intelligence] should contribute so that an international organization, [like] the [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] or the IAEA, can make use of that. It should not be on remote control, which I think it was in the 1990s. There was the remote control of [the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM)], certainly in New York, and the year UNSCOM was used as a basis of espionage. It was even infiltrated. I think that it lost its international [respect] throughout. So, I think cooperation but not remote control.
Terrorism is of course on the agenda, and will be so. After 9/11, it’s nothing you will trifle with. The Iraq War has not reduced—if it was meant to put an end—[to terrorism]. It has not succeeded in that.
I and the commission that I work with are positive that a great many things are being done in order to have reduced availability of nuclear, biological and chemical materials; to clean up the threat. I think Security Council Resolution 1540 is a very interesting innovation in this context. It is not the first time, but it is one of the first occasions when the council is used as a sort of indirect legislature. It does not say that here is the law that everybody has to apply; it simply says that you must make legislation. Now, here they have the right. It’s a legitimate body to do so and they can do so. They have to be cautious in how far they go, and the representation of the country could also be a problem. Nevertheless, it is a new avenue.
Lastly, what is the outlook for further global regimes and for disarmament? Well, I see that European countries, on average, now spend 1.9 percent of their GNP on military expenses whereas the United States is spending 3.5 percent of its GNP on military expenditures. In Europe, our military forces and our soldiers who go into the army and so forth are given training for peacekeeping, not for territorial defense any longer. So a big change has occurred in Europe, and I think that is for the good. We do not see Russia as a potential enemy so there is no use for it.
If I want to be hopeful and optimistic, it would be that if there are no further wars and if there is no big terrorist event then I think it will be the taxpayer who will react against the enormous military expenses that are here and are still rather big in Europe. I would also have hope for development of the U.N. Peacekeeping has been a very important practical force. The new commission that they have established for peace building I think is a valuable new asset. I would end by saying that after many armed conflicts there have been windows of opportunity. After the First World War, we had the League of Nations. After the Second World War, we have the U.N. After the Cold War, an opportunity was missed, and the U.S. came out in a unipolar world. After the Iraq War, maybe the feeling or the realization that there are limitations to what you can do and achieve by military means may be stronger and perhaps a greater readiness to look for regional agreements, agreements within alliances, and also a broader mode of cooperating with countries. It might also lead to some better acceptance of the United Nations than we have had in the past few years. So I would like to end on that hopeful note. Thank you. (Applause.)
KIMBALL: We have some time for some questions. I would like to first give questions to reporters, such as Jonathan Landay. There are microphones; if you could wait for those to come by.
QUESTION: Dr. Blix, thank you, Jonathan Landay with Knight-Ridder. As you talked about the erosion that has taken place in the nonproliferation regime, I would like to steer you back to the case of Iran. It’s my recollection that the IAEA Board of Governors found Iran in violation in September of its NPT obligations and did not at that time report it to the Security Council. You did not talk about, perhaps, the erosion that could take place further in the regime due to what is going on in terms of Russian and Chinese policy to seemingly prevent this from going to the Security Council after three years of investigation.
You talked about the fact that North Korea, the negotiations are going on outside the Security Council, but it is my recollection that North Korea was in fact referred to the Security Council in 2003. So I would like to hear you expand a bit on whether or not you think it might be useful to go to the Security Council, and then not go with sanctions right away, because I believe that is what the policy is going to be, and refer the situation again back to the IAEA, although with the weight and the imprimatur of the Security Council.
BLIX: Well, in the first place, I think the IAEA resolution did not conclude that Iran had violated the NPT obligations, but it had violated its safeguards obligations, which is some difference. They are not concluded that the intentions of Iran are for going for weapons, in which case that would have been a violation of the NPT.
I did say that I’m not sure that it really matters very much what [ Iran’s] intentions are. I’m in favor of the Iranians staying away from enrichment because if they went for it there would be a much shorter lead time to weapons. But the question is then to me, how do you induce the Iranians to stay away from it? I think that the packages or the offers that are being made on the Western side have been very meager, especially compared to the offers that have been made vis-à-vis the North Koreans.
Now, I also do not think that it matters very much where they discuss about this. The Security Council, as I have said, has the advantage that it would bring the Americans to the table in the first place. So far, we have seen more backseat driving but not actual participation. It would bring the Chinese and the Russians there also, out in the open. That would be an advantage. At the same time, you would get tremendous media pressure. You would get a tremendous expectation [because] economic sanctions and military sanctions would be talked about all the time. I think that is likely [to] harden the Iranian attitude and it may also strengthen the cards of the president there.
Iran is not an Iraq. The Iranian president, I saw the other day, had been criticized in the Iranian Majlis, the parliament, for what he said about Israel. Now, that would not have happened in Iraq. (Laughter.) So it’s not the same thing and I think to strengthen the hardliners on the Iranian side is an unwise thing. This could happen if you talk more—and that would be inevitable—about the economic and military sanctions if you go to the Security Council. So I think it does not help very much to go to the council. They have said that the council is competent to take it up. I agree with that—they would be—but I do not think it’s very helpful. I think it’s more the question of prestige. They are painting themselves into the corner. They have talked about the council for such a long time that [they are worried about] losing their credibility. I regret that somewhat.
You cannot read any article in the Western world without the comment that the Russians and the Chinese are reluctant because they have economic interest. Well, yes, they have economic interest. But they may also genuinely have a consideration of the situation that it is not wise to go for harder means. The proposal the Russians have made for having enrichment in Russia, I think, is a positive one. It would preclude any sudden increase in the enrichment level from four percent to 90 percent. But whether that is compatible with the Iranian’s sense of their prestige I do not know. As in the case of Korea, it is desirable that they be brought in and that they participate because Russia is closer to Iran than what you are. They certainly have no interest in having Iran as a nuclear-weapon state. Nor do the Chinese.
You are entirely right that North Korea was brought to the Security Council for a brief, glorious moment before members of the council were urged to do what they could. [Editor’s note: The Security Council has not acted and the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and the two Koreas have engaged in negotiations, referred to as the six-party talks, in an attempt to resolve the issue.] That’s where we are. I do not really see that fora is important. We know that the Iranians do not want to have it in the Security Council. That is being used then as a leverage, that we might go there, but it might actually be counterproductive, inevitable perhaps, but counterproductive.
KIMBALL: I would just note on Iran that Arms Control Today conducted an interview a couple of days ago with the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency that we are preparing for publication probably later this week. [Editor’s note: This transcript can be accessed at http://www.armscontrol.org/interviews/20060123_Soltanieh.asp.] I had a question over here. Yes, sir?
QUESTION: John Liang with Inside Missile Defense. On the Proliferation Security Initiative, you advocated making this more of a joint thing rather than having a big sheriff being assisted by a bunch of smaller sheriffs. Can you sort of expand on how it should be more of a joint effort?
BLIX: Well, [then-Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John] Bolton wrote an article in The Financial Times in which he talked about the nonproliferation policy of the U.S. and said about the PSI that this was so good because it was not a bureaucracy-ruled initiative. It is not based upon an agreement at all. It is not based upon a treaty. It is based upon an understanding.
I remember the time many, many years ago when I was young and the Russians were always advocating that we should not have agreements about arbitration but there should be diplomatic negotiations to solve disputes because in a diplomatic negotiation the big and strong have a better hand than they have in an organized procedure. The rest of the world was not so keen on it. They wanted to have some orderly procedures.
I think the PSI is also one with good intention. It is dominated by the U.S. with lots of bilateral agreements between the U.S. and other countries that they will allow their ships to be boarded by the U.S. I think that if one were to look forward to something like an effective policing in the world against contraband of weapons of mass destruction or drugs, well, then you would want to have something that belongs to the world and is not simply under the control of one state.
We have had a recent affair in Tunis, a big conference about the Internet, and the U.S. nonprofit organization that can control the last piece of our email addresses. It was said that [it was better to] have this under benevolent U.S. control than have it under an international authority with say China and Sudan and a few others on the board. I understand that argument. At the same time, as an internationalist, I think that the system I would like to look forward to is one in which we cooperate and which there is broad participation. But this is not my main concern about the PSI. My main query is how useful has it been? I read a lot about how important this initiative is. Fine. I know one case and I have heard that there are 11. Which are the others?
KIMBALL: Alright. I wanted to see if there is anybody over here. Yes, sir?
QUESTION: Andrew Pierre, Georgetown University. I have two brief questions relating to the nexus, if there is any, between terrorism and nuclear weapons. You mentioned Jacques Chirac’s speech of a few days ago in which he basically justified the French nuclear force at this point as being usable against the terrorist group non-state actors either as a form of deterrence or attack. My first question is do you see any justification for nuclear weapons based on anti-terrorism? What do you think of the risk of a trend growing in which countries justify their nuclear weapons on that basis, given the comprehensive importance, let’s say, of the way we talk about terrorism?
My second question has to do with the fear that surrounds some quarters about the sale or theft of nuclear materials or perhaps even nuclear weapons, and their falling into terrorist hands. Given all the concerns that you have addressed so well this afternoon, how high in your rating would you place this issue?
KIMBALL: Let’s get one more question. If I could have Barry Schweid ask a question.
KIMBALL: On Iran.
QUESTION: On Iran. You think the U.N. is not really the preferable place because the notion of sanctions hangs in the air. The Iranians do not like to hear about that. The British, the Germans, and the French have been talking to Iran for a long time. That is a format that apparently has not been productive. Could you go a little further in your thinking and tell us what kind of format you have in mind? You did refer to North Korea, I understand, in reference to security guarantees, but how would you go about this differently from the way the European Union, which was not with the U.S. in its views when this all began but now is? Where would you do this? How would you do it differently? Who would be there? And what would make it better than what has been going on all along?
BLIX: Alright. The nexus between terrorism and nuclear weapons; what I would say about the British and the French is that their prolongation and modernization of their nuclear forces, which were once set up against an enemy that no longer exists, can hardly be used against terrorists—the enemies that they see now. On terrorism, I think [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair said, and I agree with him, that hardly anything could be more important against terrorism than progress in the solution of the Palestine issue. This is a general comment that I have on the arms control community that I belong to, which is that we often focus upon the technical military measures and tend to forget the political forces which drive, and can help, because when countries go for weapons and go for weapons of mass destruction, security is a major element. It’s not the only element. There are others like prestige and so forth, but it’s a major element. So I think that Blair was right. I do not really see any helpfulness, any use in nuclear weapons in the context of terrorists. I can understand some of the deterrence reasoning, though I think the members of my commission are very doubtful about whether it has any meaningful deterrent effect today, and that we could live without nuclear weapons altogether. In the context of terrorism? No, I do not see it at all.
The second question you raised was theft of nuclear material and the trafficking. Well, I said I’m all in favor of the cleanup operation, the threat reduction initiative, et cetera, and it’s got much better: the conversion of nuclear reactors from high-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium, and better locks for the Russians. But they have been doing that since the beginning of the 1990s. I would have hoped that we would have done something in that period, and I think we have. I think it is much better. I think this is an area like the risk of a nuclear accident; the small risk of a big accident. I certainly would be the last to say that you could brush this aside. No, I certainly cannot do that. But I think it lends itself very much to hyping. I’m reading the reports that come out of the IAEA about [nuclear] trafficking and I see that it’s gone down. We also know that most of the things caught in the 1990s were scams. These were Russian crooks, who after the end of communism, were able to lay their hands on mostly pellets or the enriched uranium for reactors or in some cases also small quantities of highly enriched uranium, plutonium, very small things.
I think this is used a lot to excite people. I have seen books about nuclear terrorism that relates endless numbers of anecdotes about what has happened. Well, it’s very easy to excite people and I suppose the developed world needs sort of daily doses of angst. (Laughter.)
While I’m not brushing it aside and favoring all the steps that I have taken, I would not get hysterical about it. I do agree that, yes, there are differences here. The chances for a terrorist group to get hold of a sufficient amount of enriched uranium or plutonium is much smaller than getting hold of, say, cesium or cobalt and making a dirty bomb. Considering how much of this is available in hospitals all around the world and how it lands in scrap heaps, yes, that is much greater, but maybe these guys do not like to be radiated themselves. They commit suicide attacks but maybe it’s another thing to become sterile or to be irradiated themselves. I do not know what makes them tick, but we cannot neglect it. But it lends itself very much to hyping.
Now, the last question about the location of discussions. As the IAEA board has said the council is competent. There could be reasons for moving [the Iran issue] there and it would have the advantage in that it would bring the Russians, the Chinese, and the Americans to the negotiation table. It is a big issue. If Iran moves forward with enrichment, then tensions will increase. That is an important political issue so I can see the justifications for it but I also see the drawbacks of it. There will be a great deal of emphasis on will we now get sanctions; would they go along with economic sanctions? It will start very gently with an appeal to Iran to be completely cooperative with the IAEA in carrying out and answering all the questions they have, but my view is that I do not think it helps very much. It’s supposed to come at the end of that process when we see no evidence that they really are intending. Well, that does not help you one bit because if they say, fine, go ahead with enrichment, then in two years’ time Iran could change its mind.
I think under any circumstances one would like to see Iran to refrain from [enrichment]. And for that, I think you need a much better offer. You said correctly that the U.K., the French, and the Germans have been negotiating with the Iranians now for several years. Isn’t patience running out? Yeah, but what did they offer? They offered things like membership in the World Trade Organization, which was fine, and the U.S. went along with that, which I think was fine. I think that was a new step and I think it was fine. There were the Boeing spare parts. Fine. And there have been investments in the European Union. They even said they would support the Iranians in their nuclear program. So these things and investments I think are fine.
But I do not think it touches upon the security. Now, it could be that the Iranians under no circumstance would go along. Then I think that will be sort of a test. One could indirectly draw the conclusion that, well, after all, maybe nothing really would be good enough to bring them away from it. That would be in itself an important matter. When the Iranians say that they are interested in the Russian proposal, it could be that they are genuinely interested or it may be that they are just temporizing. I do not believe in anybody, but I think it should be tried. Since it was done in the case of North Korea, I do not see why it should not be possible to do it also in this case. North Korea is one case of the “axis of evil” and Iran is another party to the “axis of evil.”
KIMBALL: Thank you. I think this is about all the time we have for questions. Please join me in thanking Dr. Hans Blix. (Applause.) There’s one final thing for Dr. Blix from the Arms Control Association. Just to remind him of the warm welcome he got from the Arms Control Association and a reminder that Washington is not such a chilly place, we have a special Arms Control Association fleece jacket in Swedish blue for Dr. Blix. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
BLIX: I hope it will protect against radiation, too.
KIMBALL : I don’t know about that. Thank you, everyone.