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TRANSCRIPT: Arms Control Association Annual Meeting - Speaker Luncheon with Gary Samore
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DARYL KIMBALL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I could please have your attention for just a moment? Thank you all for being here this afternoon. Is the microphone working? Yes, all right. I want to thank everyone for being here today. I'm Daryl Kimball with the Arms Control Association and, on behalf of our board of directors, our staff, I want to welcome our many members and friends, associates, who are here. As we await the arrival of our keynote speaker who is on his way from Capitol Hill, where he had a meeting this morning, I wanted to just take a moment to remind everyone of some of the exciting things that are happening here at the Arms Control Association as we try to take advantage of the unprecedented opportunity that exists - that we were just discussing a little bit about this morning in our session.

With strong support from all of our individual members, our major foundation supporters, we're moving ahead as best as we can to increase our capacity, to increase our expertise, so that we can be more effective over the next several years. We have benefited over the last several months from you and larger grants from some of our key foundation supporters - such as the Ploughshares Fund, who is well-represented here today with Joe Cirincione this morning, Naila Bolus, executive director, and two of their key board members, Roger Hale, the chairman, and Michael Douglas, who's joined us here for lunch today.

We also have received some renewed support from the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Connect-U.S. Fund for work on the conference of the test ban treaty, the Hewlett Foundation and others. And so, this is allowing us to build our capacity, to move ahead. Just let me tick off a few of the things that we're doing that many of you might not realize as you get your "Arms Control Today" and you look at that little section at the beginning, "The Masthead," that describes our staff.

In March, we just benefited from the arrival of a State Department and INR veteran Greg Thielmann, who's now working with us as a senior fellow on a new project - a realistic threat assessments and policy responses project - which is there, due in large part, to additional support from the Ploughshares Fund. Greg is going to be helping us to deal with some of the important questions and issues that we were talking about this morning about as properly and realistically assessing the threats - missiles, nuclear - regarding North Korea, Iran and others - so that we can come up with the right policy solutions.

In December, we launched a new project for the CTBT, working with our fellow NGOs and expert community members to bring together the energy and the expertise that we're going to need to build the case for the conference of test ban treaty to support the president's initiative to immediately and aggressively get the CTB over the finish line. And next month, we're going to have more about that with our new Web site. We have the arrival of a new editorial team, Miles Pomper, our long-time editor, has moved on to greener pastures and a new career at the Monterrey Institute for Nonproliferation Studies.

We're glad, however, to have Dan Horner, veteran journalist, who's joined us as our new "Arms Control Today" editor. And to help me manage all of this, we have a new deputy director position that we created just this spring. I'm surprised to see Jeff Abramson, our former managing editor and new deputy director, here, because I thought you'd have better things to do today. He and his wife, Beth, are the proud new parents of a baby girl, Kalliope, who was just born yesterday. Congratulations! (Laughter, applause.) On Monday. And so these ACA lunches are so exciting that he just had to ...

But that's a reminder of why we're here. It is something of a cliché, but it is really true. As I look into the face of my young daughter, Nola, and, you know - you all have your own sons and daughters and loved ones - it is for them and the future generations that we're working so hard now to make sure that we can move towards and realize a world free of nuclear weapons and build a safer planet for all.

I want to thank everybody for their support over the past year, which has, of course, been a difficult one from an economic standpoint. We, at the same time however, are living through a very certain time in terms of the historic opportunity we have to move ahead. So I want to ask you all to please consider making yet another contribution to ACA. There are a number of the "Yes We Can Do" little fliers that were on your chairs this morning - and I think they should be on your table now - if they're not, we will make them available on your table - that outlines our priorities and very much the community's priorities on these issues over the next couple years.

So, we're glad to have Gary Samore here with us. Where did Gary go? There he is. And Gary is, of course, a special assistant to the president and senior director for counter-proliferation strategy - otherwise known on the streets of Washington as the "WMD czar." Let me just say a couple words before I bring him up here and he'll give his remarks. You'll have a chance to ask him some questions.

Gary's resume is so long; it is quite remarkable. I mean, he has experience in the NGO sector, at the Council on Foreign Relations, the MacArthur Foundation, The International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. From '96 to 2000, he was the special assistant to President Clinton and senior director for nonproliferation at the NSC. All these things make him the obvious choice for this key position at the White House at this historic juncture.

So we're glad you're here, Gary. More importantly, I think we're all extremely delighted that the president has assigned the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament issue as one of his top issues just in the first - I think within the first hundred days - that April 5th speech took place. And let me just also say, we talked a little bit in the morning, Joe Cirincione did about the dangers of cynicism here in Washington.

And it's clear that while some of the cynics and supporters of the nuclear status quo over the past few weeks have tried to dismiss the president's call for achieving a world free of nuclear weapons an exercise in wishful thinking, they're of course wrong and the real fantasy is to expect that nuclear restraint and greater commitment to nonproliferation from other states in the absence of bold U.S. action on disarmament and nonproliferation diplomacy.

So, we're eager to work together with you, Gary. John Wolfstall in the vice president's office is also here - of course, a former ACA staff alum that we are very, very proud of. I've asked Gary to describe, in further detail, to the extent that he can, the administration's approach and rational on reducing and eliminating the nuclear offense threat, and we will have the chance to ask a few questions before he has to leave later on. Gary, the podium is yours.


GARY SAMORE: Thank you very much, Daryl. I've always admired the work of the Arms Control Association and, in particular, I actually have a pretty good collection of "Arms Control Today," which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues, and I think it's very important to keep that alive. I think our community has gone through a difficult period, and now I think we may have an opportunity for a renaissance - and it's extremely important I think that we encourage younger people to try to make a career working on arms control and nonproliferation issues. \

As much as I share the president's vision that we need to work toward a nuclear-free world, I also suspect that there's going to be career opportunities in this business for some time. Let me say that I've been - as Daryl mentioned - I've been working on these issues for some time now. I think President Obama is the fifth president that I've worked for. And I am really impressed, genuinely impressed with his interest and knowledge on arms control on nonproliferation issues.

And having spent a fair amount of time with him now, with other people of course, talking about these issues, he really gets it. He really has internalized the essential message and strategy that he is trying to pursue, which was captured in the Prague speech. He really understands that you need to have both the vision of moving toward a nuclear-free world, and also practical steps. The vision without the practical steps is rhetoric, and the practical steps without the vision really doesn't have the same political punch.

And what the president gets is that the overall strategy toward arms control has to meet the national security needs of the United States, both in terms of maintaining an effective nuclear arsenal - as long as we have nuclear weapons - but also in terms of the arms control strategy helping us to deal with real national security threats like Iran and North Korea pursuing nuclear weapons and the danger that terrorists will seek to acquire nuclear weapons.

And to me, that's the way to make the political case for arms control and disarmament and nonproliferation. If, of course, has value in itself - it has merit in itself - but you've got to show how it deals with real national security threats that the U.S. and our allies are facing. So what I'd like to do is review, very briefly with you, the main elements of the Prague speech and sort of where we are.

Of course, it hasn't been very much time, but we've already seen some progress and it's my job as the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction and terrorism to try to pull together these different strands in a way that makes for a comprehensive game plan. You'll recall the three pillars in the Prague speech: first of all, arms control and disarmament - that is to say, dealing with countries that have nuclear weapons, limiting and trying to move toward elimination of those nuclear weapons - secondly, nonproliferation - preventing other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons - and third is the basket of nuclear cooperation and security - trying to encourage the growth of nuclear power while keeping the risk to proliferation as low as possible and making sure that nuclear materials are safe and secure and not vulnerable to theft.

On the arms control front, we've moved out on each of the main elements that the president talked about in his Prague speech. The president, as well as Russian President Medvedev announced in London at their meeting that they had reached agreement, in principle, on seeking a successor to the START treaty, which you all know expires in early December. And this would be a legally binding treaty; it would control - it would have limits on nuclear capabilities below the Moscow Treaty and the START treaty.

Rose Gottemoeller has formed her team. She's in Moscow even as we speak meeting with the Russians, and she has a very intense schedule planned for her negotiations with the Russians that will lead up to the president's trip to Moscow in early July, and we hope at that point, we would be able to announce at least some more details of what we've agreed to. There are a number of contentious issues.

These arms control treaties are always difficult, and you know, they deal with some very fundamental national security issues, both on the Russian and the American side, so we're very realistic about understanding how much we can achieve in this immediate arms control agreement for this year, in terms of preserving some of the central verification provisions of START, in terms of making some further reductions below the Moscow numbers.

But I think we have to consider this initial treaty to be a first step, and that there will be additional negotiations, which are likely to take longer periods of time, in which we'll look at deeper cuts and we'll be informed by the results of the nuclear posture review, which is taking place this year and will be finished at the end of the year and which will present the president with a much broader range of options to choose from in considering the U.S. nuclear strategy and targeting issues.

The second issue the president mentioned in the arms control basket was the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which, as you all know, there's been a paralysis at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva for 10 years, and I, frankly, have been astonished at how the president's speech seems to have really made some very substantial process in terms of unsticking that stalemate. Just today, the Algerian president of the Conference on Disarmament has tabled a compromise work plan, which would include the start of negotiations on a verifiable FMCT.

And I'm sensing that we could very easily reach a consensus on that document and we would be able, then, to see the FMCT negotiations begin quite soon, although it's clearly going to take some time for governments to get themselves organized. It's been 10 years since people have really focused on this, and I would expect that the serious negotiations probably wouldn't get underway until at the end of the this year or early next year, if the CD reaches agreement on a work plan.

And I think we also all have to be realistic that this treaty is not likely to be concluded in the near future; there are a, again, a number of very contentious issues, which you're all familiar with and which were certainly exposed in the course of the discussions back in the mid-'90s, and none of them have been resolved. So you know, this is important to get this started, but I think we should be realistic that it's not likely to be - that we're not likely to see agreement on a treaty right away.

And lastly, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty - the president pledged to move ahead with U.S. ratification, which we hope will create a positive momentum and bring other countries onboard so that the CTBT can enter into force. Of all the things the president talked about in the Prague speech, this is the one that's probably the most controversial from a domestic U.S. standpoint. There seems to be very strong consensus on a post-START agreement and on FMCT, as well as the nonproliferation and nuclear security elements of the president's speech, but CTBT is still a very controversial issue and it's been 10 years, of course, since the Senate dealt with it.

So we're moving very deliberately in terms of doing the necessary technical and intelligence work to look at the important questions of verification, questions of American stockpile stewardship - can we be sure that our forces will remain reliable and effective under a long-term nuclear testing ban? And again, the nuclear posture review, I think, will help us address that question. So my anticipation is that we'll spend this year building support for the treaty and looking at the important issues so that we can present our best case to the Senate for their advice and consent.

In the nonproliferation basket, our hope is that by moving ahead on these arms control issues, we'll be in a very strong position, at the NPT Review Conference to lead a coalition of countries to strengthen the NPT. The NPT, as you all know, has a number of structural flaws; some of them can be fixed - some of them can't be - but we want to be very ambitious as the president laid out in the Prague speech, in terms of looking at ways to strengthen IAEA inspections, to strengthen enforcement and compliance measures, as well as steps to make it more difficult for countries to withdraw from the treaty.

And all of these reforms that we would like to put forward obviously have a direct bearing on countries like Iran and North Korea. And so from our standpoint, strengthening the NPT is directly relevant to dealing with those issues as part of an overall strategy. The other thing we would hope to achieve at the NPT Review Conference - and this relates to the third basket of nuclear cooperation and security - we think it's important that we try to develop a new global architecture for nuclear cooperation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

There are lots of ideas out there, like fuel banks and international fuel centers, which would obviate the need for countries to develop their own fuel-cycle capabilities, and as we expect nuclear power will expand, including to countries that don't currently have nuclear power facilities, it's important that we develop a system that will make it possible for nuclear power to spread without fuel-cycle capability spreading as well. And that also can provide a positive model for countries like Iran. If they wish to resolve the nuclear issue, they can have access to assured fuel supplies without feeling the need to develop their own enrichment capacity.

And the last piece, just to mention briefly, the president pledged that we would seek to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials over the course of the next four years, and as an important step to achieve that, we're planning to have a global nuclear summit sometime next year, and that would hopefully be a meeting of key leaders on this issue, which could pledge support to work together. As you all know, the nuclear security issue is one that requires cooperation among a fairly large number of countries; it can't be dealt with just on a U.S.-Russia basis or a G-8 basis. It's going to require a much larger group.

And I think that cooperation on nuclear security among this larger group can help to support cooperation on other nonproliferation and arms control objectives as well. So from our standpoint, we see these three pillars as an integrated package, and it's important to move together on all three of them; we're not going to be able to make progress on one in the absence of making progress on the other two, so from our standpoint, this has to be done in a systematic way. And I want to thank all of you and look forward to asking your support as we move forward in all of this, and I'd be happy to answer some questions.


MR. KIMBALL: All right, thank you very much, Gary. Why don't we start the questions with some newspaper and other reporters we have here. Mary - maybe Mary Beth can start us.

Q: Thank you. Mary Beth Sheridan from the Washington Post. I'm wondering if you could tell us your impressions of the significance of the Iranian missile test today.

MR. SAMORE: Well, I think it's a significant technical development. Up to now, the Iranian missile force has been based on liquid-fueled systems, which they obtained from North Korea. And the Ashura system that they tested is a solid-propellant system, which apparently, they developed on their own. And from a military standpoint, it's a significant advantage over liquid-fueled systems - much easier to move around, as a mobile system and can be launched on much shorter warning.

Of course, this is just a test. I mean, obviously, there's still much more work to be done before it could be built and deployed, but I see it as a significant step forward in terms of Iran's, you know, capability to deliver weapons. And I think it actually helps us in terms of making the case to countries like Russia, which have been skeptical in the past about whether Iran really poses a threat. This is a very clear demonstration that Iran is moving in the direction of longer-range and more capable missile systems and I am hopeful that we'll be able to capitalize on the test in order to strengthen the coalition that we already have to try to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

MR. KIMBALL: All right, thank you. Over here? (Inaudible, off mike.)

Q: Michael Adler from the Wilson Center. Hi, Gary. Just wondering, it seems that there's some kind of - even the president said he hoped to know by the end of the year whether there would be progress in talking to Iran and some diplomats put the "deadline" - in quotes - as much earlier, perhaps as early as the third week in September, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. And it seems that you're hoping to get some kind of freeze of Iranian enrichment - even a suspension, or even the application of the additional protocol. Realistically, given the past of this whole diplomacy and the Iranian nuclear crisis, what do you think are the chances that you can make progress with Iran?

MR. SAMORE: It's a very good question, and we all know the history of the negotiations, which have been very frustrating, and I imagine, will continue to be quite frustrating. However, I do think the Obama administration brings some additional assets to the table. First of all, I do think the president is genuinely interested in engaging Iran and in improving U.S.-Iranian relations and finding a way for Iran to have a place in the world that is respected and responsible. And I think that, actually, provides very powerful leverage, because I think there will be a number of people inside Iran who will be attracted to that vision and who will want to see the nuclear issue resolved so that it can be realized.

Secondly, on a more practical level, I think the collapse in oil prices has made the Iranian regime more sensitive to the threat of economic sanctions, and therefore more likely to look for a compromise that will avoid the risk of greater sanctions. And third, I think President Obama - and we've tried very hard to strengthen the international coalition so that if our overture to Iran is not successful, we'll be in a stronger position to take other action, to increase pressure. And our strategy towards Russia in terms of resetting the button and working on the nuclear issues, our strategy toward our allies - all of this is intended to create a stronger bargaining position. So I think we have a better chance of success now than we have in the last couple of - than we've been able to achieve in the last couple of years of negotiations. And as the president said, we should know by the end of this year - we should have some indications by the end of this year whether we're making progress.

MR. KIMBALL: All right. Right over here. Elaine?

Q: Elaine Grossman from the National Journal Group. I wonder if you might elaborate a little bit on what your plans are for this global nuclear summit next year. What countries do you want to see included in that, and what would your objectives be, coming out of it? Thank you.

MR. SAMORE: To be honest, I'm going to have to duck your question, because we really haven't been able to figure that out. I mean, and I don't want to sort of do it in a press statement until we really have our plan all together. But I think it will be, you know, a very important event and something that I'm - actually, sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and think, how are we going to do this? I mean, it's an awful lot of work to be done, especially when you're out - but I'm sorry, I just can't answer the question now.

We're thinking very hard - in fact, we've got meetings today to talk about exactly this issue, and you know, once we have an agreement in the government, then I think it will become - I mean, we'll be very transparent; it will become very obvious what we're doing and who's invited an so forth, but we're not quite there, yet.

Q: Is there some disagreement, then?

MR. SAMORE: No, no, there's no disagreement. It's just everybody's very busy and, you know, the Prague speech laid out an incredibly ambitious agenda, and in fact, when I was listening to the speech, I thought, boy, this is an awful lot to do! (Laughter.) So you know, the speech was great to start things off, but the implementation, of course, can sometimes take an awful lot of work.

MR. KIMBALL: So the challenge is so big even the WMD czar lays awake at night thinking about how we're going to solve these things. We have a question right here - Nicholas.

Q: Nicholas Kralev of the Washington Times. I'm very glad, Gary, that you managed to get out of that hotel in Mumbai, in November. I want to take you to North Korea. We know where we were in October-November, with Yongbyon mostly disabled, with the cooling tower blown up, but there's been nothing happening - even, there's been some reversal since then. What are your concerns about how far this reversal could go, and is there danger, today, in the next few months, of the North Koreans actually producing plutonium?

MR. SAMORE: Well, I think there is. I think the North Koreans have made a very deliberate, conscious decision to walk away from the agreements they made with the Bush administration, including to reverse the steps that they took to disable the Yongbyon facilities. And of course, they've publicly threatened that they will not only produce plutonium; they will also proceed with an enrichment program and test nuclear devices. I think the North Koreans have decided that they would try to kill the Six Party Talks and to pursue the nuclear issue in a purely bilateral relationship with the United States.

Now, how much of this reflects internal developments in North Korea, I really don't think we know. But in terms of our policy, we've made it clear that we are not prepared to engage on a purely bilateral basis. We will insist upon the preservation of the Six Party Talks as the framework for dealing with the issue - for disarming North Korea - and we will insist on North Korean nuclear disarmament as our objective. I think the North Koreans would like to be recognized or accepted as a nuclear weapons state and we're not going to do that; we've made that very clear.

Now, the North Koreans will take their measures. I mean, they will take the escalatory steps that they have decided to take. We will respond, with our allies and our partners, in terms of taking, you know, actions in response, as we did after their satellite launch in terms of additional U.N. sanctions. My prediction is, at the end of the day, the North Koreans will find that they have no choice but to engage in the Six Party Talks again, because there's no other alternative. But it may take some time before we get there; it may take months before we get there.

MR. KIMBALL: All right. We have a question right here.

Q: First, congratulations on the effective, within the first week of the NPT PrepCom last week, an agenda was set for the Review Conference, in no small measure because of your hitting the right note. And I think that the press has not properly given credit to the administration for that. My question relates to - two - they go hand-in-hand. This leap forward could be set back by the kinds of things that have come out of General Chilton, where he recently said that we would reserve the use of nuclear weapons against a cyber attack.

And he added that he saw no impediments to that, and the rest of the world heard a rejection of negative security assurances, a rejection of the doctrine of proportionality. The other is the modernization - the discussion of modernization in exchange for a CTBT. And I would hope that if there's any discussion of modernization, it's modernization of the Pantex dismantlement facility, which recent press reports have said are 15 years behind schedule. That would be a modernization that would do wonder in moving the nonproliferation/disarmament regime ahead - (inaudible, off mike). Could you comment on General Chilton and modernization of disarmament?

MR. SAMORE: Well thank you Jonathan. I should have mentioned the NPT PrepCom, because it was quite remarkable that there was agreement on an agenda, whereas in 2005, you know, disagreement over the agenda certainly substantially contributed to the failure of the conference. And I do think that - and it's not just me; a number of countries have said to us that President Obama's Prague speech really did mobilize a sense of confidence and optimism at the conference and no country wanted to be the one responsible for imposing procedural obstacles and delays. So it really did make a difference; I think you're right - there's a directly translatable effect.

On negative security issues, this is - I think it's a very difficult issue for all the nuclear weapons states, except, perhaps, for China, which has a clear no-first-use position. There's a lot of history here, there's a lot of theology, there's a lot of legalism. The nuclear posture review will look at questions of doctrine - of declaratory doctrine. And I think it's premature for me to comment on that now, but this is obviously one of the issues that we will want to look at. President Obama said, in his Prague speech, that we want to reduce the importance of nuclear weapons for U.S. security strategy, and that has implications for negative security assurances and our statements about use doctrine, but we're still working on that and I'm not in a position to comment further.

In terms of modernization, I think we have to balance, on one hand, our desire to take steps toward, you know, limiting and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, but on the other hand, the need to make sure that our arsenal - as long as we have an arsenal - is effective and reliable. And I'm trying to get smart and I'm looking at the stockpile stewardship program, which I think has been quite successful over the last decade, and I think there's a lot of credit to be given to DOE for the work they've done to make this into a very strong, scientific-based program.

Whether we can continue that indefinitely - whether we have to look at other options, you know, to maintain reliability and effectiveness, whether we need more funding to keep that program going, those are all things that will be looked at as part of the nuclear posture review, and again, I think it's better to wait for that work to be completed rather than to have me speak about it now.

MR. KIMBALL: And a key question, of course, is what does the word modernization mean? It can mean many different things to many different people in many different contexts. Okay, we have a question here in the middle - the bearded gentleman known as David Culp with the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Thank you.

Q: Hi, Gary. David Culp with the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Big congratulations on the Prague speech. I think that really is going to be seen as a historic speech. But on your goal of securing all nuclear material in four years, which probably everybody in this room supports, you actually cut the budget for the program that's doing the work at the Energy Department. Now, this is a program that has had strong bipartisan support, where they have, for the last several years, been regularly increasing the budget, and your budget submission cut the budget.

Now, I know you're going to tell me you have plans to do all this stuff in the out-years, and that's true, you show very large increases in the out-years. But frankly, the budget profile makes no sense. You're cutting the budget and then you're dramatically increasing it, and I would encourage you to work with the Congress over the next few months to come up with a more coherent budget profile.

MR. SAMORE: Well, part of what we're doing is, we've asked both Energy and the other departments to develop a plan for this four-year plan to secure all vulnerable nuclear material - I emphasize vulnerable. And that will certainly include questions of resources and budget. That work hasn't been finished yet, but I do think we will be seeking the necessary funds from Congress in order to carry that out. But right now, we don't actually have a plan, and that's something that people are working very hard on.

MR. KIMBALL: All right. Right over here, behind the cameras. Thank you, Murray (sp).

Q: Thank you, Gary. My name is Jiang (sp) from Radio Free Asia. On North Korea, I would like to ask you what's your view and the information about the possibility of the second nuclear test, and what's the Obama administration's plan regarding this?

MR. SAMORE: Well, the North Koreans have threatened that they may conduct a second nuclear test, and they may do it. The best we can do is to try to persuade them that that would be a mistake, and we will work with our allies in the Six Party Talks to try to convince the North Koreans not to do that. And if they do it, then we'll take appropriate measures, just as we did in response to the satellite test.

MR. KIMBALL: Okay. In the back there, in the middle - Peter - thank you. Mr. Sanger, yes.

Q: Hi, Gary, David Sanger from the New York Times. You have a pretty full agenda with the Pakistanis right now, but when you left office in the end of the Clinton administration, the official position was still to try to walk back their nuclear program. We now see significant evidence that they're expanding at a pretty good pace. Could you talk a little bit about that, and whether or not the Obama administration has begun to discuss with Pakistan slowing down or reversing their current build-rate, in addition to the nuclear security issues you've spoken on before?

MR. KIMBALL: And, I mean, one other corollary is, what else can be done ahead of the conclusion of the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, with respect to other nations, beyond Pakistan?

MR. SAMORE: Well certainly, the elements of the arms control approach, both FMCT and CTBT, would obviously have a direct bearing on countries like Pakistan that are not constrained by the NPT. So I think one way we get at the issue is by pursuing these new international instruments. And certainly, in the past, while there have been negotiations, we have encouraged that there be a moratorium on activities that would be contrary to the treaty.

Of course, in the case of the CTBT, there's been a test moratorium that's been observed by all countries except North Korea, even though the treaty is not enforced. And from our standpoint, it would be very desirable to have a similar kind of arrangement with the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. So I think that is one approach that we would take to try to address that issue.

In the past - and I've dealt with the South Asian nuclear issue since the Reagan administration - it is one of the most difficult issues, because the steps that we would like Pakistan to take in terms of restraining and limiting their nuclear program, the Pakistani government has always said they will do that in conjunction with India. The Indians have always said we can't take steps unless similar steps are taken by China and the other nuclear weapons states, and very quickly, you end up with a situation where it's hard to make progress. And I think we have to think of dealing with the South Asian problem not on a purely regional basis, but in the context of a more global approach.

MR. KIMBALL: All right. Right here, please. And then, Bruce, we'll go to you.

Q: Gary, Cooper Levin (ph). Gary, after our complete capitulation to the Indians in the previous administration - (laughter, applause) - that is, maybe I should stop right there. (Laughter.) That is, where they can build as many nukes and tests and so forth with no real disadvantages. Why shouldn't other countries just assume that if they ignore the United States long enough, they, too, will be blessed? In other words, we've said we'll interdict North Korean vessels; no ship has been stopped, et cetera, et cetera. How are you going to get people to be less determined and successful in defeating us in this area than the Indians have been?

MR. SAMORE: You know, I think it's a risk and I think that the only way to convince countries is to demonstrate, through success, that we are going to be able to stop nuclear weapons activities. It's been a while since we've had a success. I mean, if you look back over the last 30 years, we've had quite a few successes in terms of countries deciding not to pursue nuclear weapons, whether it's Argentina or Brazil or Ukraine or the South Africans giving up their nuclear weapons - I guess Libya is the most recent success story.

And so we need to look at Iran - to me, Iran is a critical tipping point for the whole regime. If we lose on Iran, I think it raises questions about the viability of the NPT within the Middle East. I think there's a great danger that it would trigger an arms race in the region. On the other hand, if we're successful with Iran - if we're able to restrain their nuclear activities and limit their acquisition of nuclear weapons capability, I think that sends a virtuous message.

So I think the only way to influence other countries' perceptions is through actions. I mean, words are fine, but what really counts are actions. And so for me, Iran has got to be at the top of the agenda for the future of, you know, our effort. If we fail with Iran, the message of seeking a nuclear-free world is going to be very significantly undercut.

MR. KIMBALL: Okay. Bruce MacDonald right here and then we'll go to the rear.

Q: Hi, Bruce MacDonald with the Strategic Posture Review Commission at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Gary, you may sleep less well, given the agenda you've got, but a lot of us sleep better knowing that you're where you are. (Laughter.) I wanted to ask, in the Strategic Posture Review Commission Report - the Perry-Schlesinger Report that was just issued a couple of weeks ago - in relation to the CTBT, which it could not reach consensus on, but it did point out there was a consensus on several steps the administration should take as the Senate reviews the treaty as it comes up again.

One is to conduct a broad assessment of benefits, costs and risks; second, to seek agreement on a specific definition of what is meant by a nuclear test - there have been questions raised there; a credible diplomatic strategy for moving from U.S. ratification to actual entry into force; commit to some progress of periodic review of the national security consequences of continued CTBT adherence; and then finally, some demonstration by the administration and the Congress that there will be some follow-through on the safeguards program. I mean, a bit of a laundry list, but I wanted to ask you, in light of those recommendations, what you think the Obama administration's response to that might be.

MR. SAMORE: Well, that's very much along the lines of our own thinking. And you know, the commission report has helped to reinforce our approach toward CTBT in terms of the recognition that we need to very deliberately and carefully lay the groundwork by doing exactly the kinds of studies and reviews that you've considered before we think it's right to have this issue addressed by the Senate. So we're, I think, acting very much in accord with what the commission has recommended.

MR. KIMBALL: And I just need to interject and add - the administration's going to have to answer this question itself - but the question, the assertion that the treaty does not make it clear what is banned is an issue that personally think the commission did a terrible job in addressing. And we've been through this before, Bruce. But the record is very clear from the negotiations from '94-'96, that the treaty bans all nuclear test explosions. It is also clear from the testimony of Stephen Ledogar in 1999 that Russia agrees that hydro-nuclear test are prohibited, that hydrodynamic tests are allowed. So we'll go through that again, but that's one, I think, severe flaw in this report that we should just be conscious of. We have a question in the rear. Paul, thank you.

Q: Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action, formerly SANE/FREEZE. The nuclear posture review - how do you envision it reflecting President Obama's vision of a world free of nuclear weapons? More specifically, how is that process going to differ from the previous two administrations, and has the president given directions on what he would like to see, or will he give it back if it's not what he likes to see?

MR. SAMORE: Well, I think it will be much more effective if the nuclear posture review takes place in a collaborative way, and we have set up a system so that the nuclear posture review, which is headed by the Department of Defense, will be in collaboration with the State Department, with the Department of Energy, and finally, overseen by the National Security Council. So I'm very confident that the NPR will present the president with a very broad range of options.

The point of the NPR is not to come back with a single proposed strategy and nuclear requirements; the point is to come back with a range of different options and give the president the opportunity to consider those. And I think we have superb colleagues in the Department of Defense, State and Energy and I'm very confident that the review will give the president a broad range of options in terms of numbers and doctrine and so forth.

MR. KIMBALL: All right. I think we had a couple of questions in the middle. We'll go, first, with Tom Cochran over there by the window and then back to Rebecca.

Q: Tom Cochran with NRDC. Gary, does the U.S. government have any evidence that Iran has resumed weaponization portion of its nuclear program that would counter the NIE finding previously that they had ceased weaponization?

MR. SAMORE: It's a good question, but I'm afraid I'm not in a position to answer it. I'm sorry.


MR. KIMBALL: All-right. That will have to be it on that one. Rebecca?

Q: Hi, Gary. Just to confirm what Daryl said, just last week at the U.N., when my book on the CTB was being launched, Ambassador Ledogar, whom many of you know - very, very tough Republican negotiator - chief negotiator of the CTBT confirmed that everybody - all the P-5 - knew exactly what they were signing up to when they signed the CTBT, and I think that any suggestion that they didn't just needs to be swept away - it's swept away by the negotiating record.

But my question to you is - first of all, congratulations on President Obama's Prague speech, which has been welcomed throughout the world. So my question is, in what ways, and particularly in relation to the CTBT and the progressive steps on disarmament - in what way can the rest of the world support and reinforce the positive impact that we're seeing coming from the Obama administration, both on the NPT and the Conference on Disarmament, but more widely?

MR. SAMORE: Well, obviously, we would want to - we need to work together with a lot of other countries - with a range of countries in order to achieve the objectives that the president laid out. So we see this as a collaborative effort. This is not something the U.S. can do by itself; it's not something we can do with Russia; it's not something we can do with the G-8 or even the G-20. And I think, you know, we've got a year now before the NPT Review Conference, and we're going to be very active in terms of trying to build a coalition of support for a balanced outcome of the Review Conference.

In my experience in the past, very often, people don't pay very much attention to the NPT Review Conference document until the last 24 hours of the meeting, which is not a very good way to have a constructive outcome. So we'd like to start much earlier, in terms of getting these issues out. And I thought the PrepCom meeting last week in New York was a very good start. I think when we have our full team in place, we'll be in a much better position to carry out those kinds of consultations that we'll need in order to make the Review Conference a success.

And just to mention, I think it's important that we engage other governments, not only at the foreign ministry level, but also, you know, the energy departments or the energy commissions, the defense people, as well as the leadership level. Again, in the past sometimes, I think the NPT has been treated as something just for diplomats, and I frankly think it's too important just for diplomats. I think it's important that, you know, the generals and the presidents and kings, and scientists also, should be part of the process.

MR. KIMBALL: Great. Last, final, brief question, right here, please.

Q: Thanks Paul Lettow from the Council on Foreign Relations. Gary, thank you for your service and for being with us today; we appreciate it. In terms of restrictions on enrichment and reprocessing, have we reached a point where a year-on-year moratorium is kind of officially seen as dead, and will the U.S. continue to support a criteria-based system in the Nuclear Suppliers Group?

MR. SAMORE: Yes, I think that a criteria-based system is a very effective way to proceed, because I think it avoids the ideological problem of appearing to be denying countries their, quote, unquote, "rights," under the NPT, however you interpret Article IV. There's a strong view there that - and we would get strong resistance if we tried to formally ban or limit people's access to fuel-cycle technology for civil purposes. And it would be, frankly, counterproductive; we would not be able to get the support we need on other elements of the agenda if we tried to pursue that.

So I think a criteria-based approach is the best approach and, you know, the fact is, if you look at the economic and technological need for fuel cycle, there's only a few countries in the world that have an actual requirement for having their own fuel cycle, given the nature of their nuclear power industries. And there are many countries that have, as you know, very extensive nuclear power programs that rely on foreign fuel and enrichment services and it works just fine. So I think that that's the best approach we can take, and my understanding is that the NSG is very close to agreement on a criteria-based system.

MR. KIMBALL: Well, thank you very much for being with us today. (Applause.) You've been extremely generous with your time, masterful in answering these tough - and some easy - questions. And all of use are ready to work with you and the president on this great endeavor. Just like President Kennedy called upon society with the Limited Test Ban Treaty, we're all ready to work hard in a - as Secretary Schultz said - a non-partisan fashion. All right, thank you.

MR. SAMORE: Thank you all very much. Keep up the good work.


MR. KIMBALL: All right. I would encourage you to take your time, finish your desserts that may be in front of you. We are going to be picking up on the member's meeting in the Butler Room downstairs at roughly 1:00 p.m. Thank you all.

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

TRANSCRIPT: Arms Control Association Annual Luncheon with Gary Samore

Posted: May 20, 2009