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Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
(not categorized)

A Critical Evaluation of the Trump Administration's Nuclear Weapons Policies

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Monday, July 29, 2019
9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Choate Room
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 

TRANSCRIPT BELOW

Since taking office in January 2017, the Trump administration’s strategy to reduce nuclear weapons risks has been marked by significant controversy. The administration has withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, began high-stakes nuclear diplomacy with North Korea, proposed to develop new low-yield nuclear capabilities and is pressing forward on a $1.7 trillion plan to maintain and upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal, announced its intent to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on August 2, and has yet to make a decision on whether to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). 

These actions have prompted numerous questions. Is the administration’s maximalist approach to nuclear negotiations with Iran, North Korea, and Russia practical or achievable? Are the administration’s costly plans to replace the U.S. nuclear arsenal necessary or sustainable? What is the administration’s strategy to prevent a new missile race in Europe in the absence of the INF Treaty? What would be the implications for U.S. security if the President decides to allow New START to expire in 2021 with nothing to replace it? 

Speakers assessed the Trump administration’s policies on nuclear weapons spending, U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control, and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and nuclear diplomacy with North Korea—and offered recommendations for a more responsible and effective approach.

Speakers included:

  • Lt. Gen. (ret.) Frank Klotz, former administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration and former commander of Air Force Global Strike Command;
  • Corey Hinderstein, vice president of international fuel cycle strategies at the Nuclear Threat Initiative; 
  • Kingston Reif, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association; 
  • Thomas Countryman, chairman of the board at the Arms Control Association; and
  • Lara Seligman, Pentagon correspondent at Foreign Policy; will moderate.

The event is open to the public and the press and will be on-the-record.

TRANSCRIPT
Due to a technical problem with the audio recording equipment, only a partial recording was captured. The transcript reflected prepared notes and the available audio.

LARA SELIGMAN: First, I’d just like to set the table for our discussion today. Nuclear weapons have been in the news a lot more in the last two years since President Trump came into office. In fact, the Trump administration has been accused of kicking off a new arms race with calls for new missiles and warheads, and withdrawing from key arms control treaties - and this event is very timely because it looks like the US is going to formally pull out of the INF Treaty on Friday.

I’ve been watching the nuclear issue for years from the perspective of the US military, which is in the process of modernizing its entire nuclear triad. President Obama, in fact, kicked off the recapitalization effort – I was covering the Air Force for Defense News in October of 2015 when the Pentagon announced that Northrop Grumman had won the bomber competition. For four years, it was radio silence on that program. But just last week, the Air Force announced the B-21, as it is now called, will have its first flight in 2021. It kind of feels like we’ve come full circle.

Meanwhile, the contests for some of the other legs of the triad are heating up. Boeing just dropped out of the running to replace the land-based leg, the ground-based strategic deterrent, leaving Northrop the only contender and possibly heading toward a monopoly on the triad. Boeing’s withdrawal also raises questions about how the Pentagon is handling the procurement, which will be worth tens of billions of dollars over the next several decades.

While I was working in the trade media, I had a very narrow focus on the programmatics of the modernization effort. From this perspective, it makes sense that the US military would want to recapitalize since some of the existing weapons were built in the 1960s. Objectively, these weapons are aging, and cannot last forever. And yes, Russia is ahead of us in terms of their own nuclear modernization.

But now at Foreign Policy, I have to think about the bigger policy questions. Of course, if we could snap our fingers and get rid of all nuclear weapons, I think most people would say we should. But unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. If you ask me, If those who could threaten us and our allies have nuclear weapons, we need to ensure ours are the best they can be, in order to deter a nuclear conflict. This has been the guiding principle of U.S. nuclear policy since the Cold War.

But there has been a definite shift in tone since Trump took office. While Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review emphasized reducing nuclear stockpiles worldwide, Trump’s 2018 version focused on the need to deter and match Russia and China. And while the new guiding document reiterates that nuclear weapons should only be used in extreme circumstances, it seems to broaden the definition of extreme circumstances to include wide-scale, non-nuclear attacks on civilians, or attacks on our nuclear forces.

The most interesting and controversial piece to me is the introduction of two new low-yield or tactical nukes to the US arsenal. Opponents say this addition is unnecessary and increases the risk of nuclear war—a nuke is a nuke, after all. But the administration argues that tactical nukes will make nuclear war less likely, not more. They often point to Russia’s large arsenal of tactical nukes – the worry is they could use them in a more limited strike, and the US would not be able to proportionately respond. Personally, I think the devil will be in the details.

So what am I watching most closely over the next year? Of course, the B-21. Also, what happens with GBSD – will the Pentagon now have to start over from scratch, adding years and millions of dollars to the modernization effort? Or will it continue, knowing it has much less negotiating power to get a good deal with just one competitor?

More immediately, I’m watching the negotiations over the defense policy bill, particularly the fight over low-yield nukes, which will largely determine whether the Trump administration can pursue its agenda.

On the international front, I’ll be keeping an eye on whether we do in fact pull out of the INF Treaty on August 1, and whether that leads Europe to change its posture with new missiles or defenses. China, meanwhile, seems to be taking a different route – it certainly has nukes, but more concerning is its buildup of conventional missiles in the Pacific. Is there any hope of an arms deal between the world’s three superpowers that covers both nuclear and conventional missiles? That, I think, is the most interesting policy question going forward.

I’ll stop there because our panelists can go more into depth on what we are seeing from Russia, Iran, and North Korea. So let me now turn it over to Kingston.

KINGSTON REIF: Thank you, Lara, and thank you, everyone, for coming today.

In December 2016, then President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” and later told MSNBC that he would “outmatch” and “outlast” other potential competitors in a nuclear arms race. The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), released in February 2018, comports with this objective by calling for a significant expansion of the role and capability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In addition to continuing full speed ahead with its predecessor’s plans to replace the nuclear triad and its associated warheads and supporting infrastructure on largely a like-for-like basis, the administration is proposing to develop two new sea-based, low-yield nuclear options, broaden the circumstances under which the United States would consider the first use of nuclear weapons, and lay the groundwork to grow the size of the arsenal.

At the same time, key U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements are in now in serious doubt. The United States will leave the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on Friday and the Trump administration has shown little interest in extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The administration’s cold shoulder to arms control increases the risks – and could greatly increase the cost – of its approach to sustaining the arsenal.

President Trump has suggested that he wants some sort of grand, new arms control deal with Russia and China. But it remains to be seen whether this gambit is serious, or a poison pill designed to justify walking away from New START after having already walked away from the INF Treaty.

In short, the Trump administration is preparing to compete in a new nuclear arms race while simultaneously increasing the likelihood of a such a contest.

The projected cost of this approach is staggering and it is growing. The United States currently plans to spend nearly $500 billion dollars, after including the effects of inflation, to maintain and replace its nuclear arsenal over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). This is an increase of nearly $100 billion, or about 23 percent, above the already enormous projected cost as of the end of the Obama administration.

Taken together, the changes being pursued by the administration are unnecessary, set the stage for an even greater and more unsustainable rate of spending on nuclear weapons, and threaten to accelerate global nuclear competition.

Key leaders in Congress, particularly in the Democratic-led House, are increasingly concerned about the administration’s approach and have begun to heavily scrutinize the nuclear recapitalization programs, their rationale, their cost, and policy alternatives.

In April, with the generous support of the Charles Koch Institute, the Arms Control Association released a report detailing our assessment of the costs of, risks of, and alternatives to the administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans. You can find copies of the report outside. As part of the project, we have also built a new website, USNuclearExcess.org, highlighting several themes in the report and to illustrate the costs and compare them to spending on other priorities. We are launching that site today and you can get a look at the home page above.

The NPR contains elements of continuity with long-standing U.S. nuclear policy, many of which would have likely featured in a review conducted by a Hilary Clinton administration and deserve support.

These include an emphasis on reducing the risk of nuclear weapons use, maintaining the moratorium on nuclear weapons testing, continuing to pursue the political and security conditions to enable further nuclear reductions, overcoming the technical challenges of verifying nuclear reductions, strengthening alliances, and upgrading U.S. nuclear command, control, communications, and early-warning capabilities.

But there are several significant proposed changes to U.S. policy in the review and its subsequent implementation.

According to Trump NPR, the world is a far more dangerous place than it was at the time the Obama administration conducted its NPR in 2010.

It is true that the international security environment is less favorable than it was a decade ago. Technology is advancing in new and unpredictable ways. And the existing U.S. nuclear arsenal – much of which was originally built during the Cold War-era and refurbished since – is aging.

But the NPR does not provide any conclusive or compelling evidence that these challenges will be addressed or overcome by the review’s strategy.

For example, there are several problems with the NPR’s rationale for developing a third and fourth low-yield nuclear option. These additional options are the near-term deployment of low-yield nuclear warheads on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and, in the longer term, development of a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM).

The NPR claims that a low-yield SLBM option would provide the United States with a proportional, prompt, and assured response option that it currently lacks. But the United States already possesses hundreds of low-yield warheads as part of the air-leg of the triad and plans to invest over $150 billion in then-year dollars in the coming decades to ensure these warheads can penetrate the most advanced air defenses. If these new systems can’t reliably reach their targets, it’s reasonable to ask why taxpayers are being asked to invest so heavily in them.

In addition, the belief that a nuclear conflict could be controlled is dangerous thinking. The fog of war is thick; the fog of nuclear war would be even thicker. A low-yield SLBM warhead could increase the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. Given that U.S. strategic submarines currently carry SLBMs armed with higher-yield warheads, how would Russia be able to tell whether an incoming missile was carrying low- or high-yield warheads? Even if it could, how would it know that such limited use would not be the leading edge of a massive attack? In fact, Russia would not know.

A low-yield SLBM also is not necessary to promptly strike time-perishable targets. If military action has already started in the European theater and Russia uses a low-yield nuclear weapon to seek to end a conflict it believes NATO would win conventionally, it is likely that the United States would have had sufficient time to forward deploy forces, including conventional and nuclear fighters and bombers, to provide a prompt response. Regardless, it’s far from clear why the United States would need or want to respond to Russian limited nuclear use in minutes, rather than hours or even days.

 

Meanwhile, the claim that a new SLCM is necessary to provide an assured theater strike option and serve as a hedge against Russian or Chinese advances in antisubmarine warfare capabilities is unconvincing. The United States is already planning to invest scores of billions of dollars in existing weapons to address the air defense challenge. ICBMs and bombers exist in part to guard against a major, unforeseen breakthrough in anti-submarine warfare capabilities. In addition, the Navy is unlikely to be pleased with the additional operational and financial burdens that would come with re-nuclearizing the surface or attack submarine fleet. Arming attack submarines with nuclear SLCMs would also reduce the number of conventional Tomahawk SLCMs each submarine could carry. In other words, a new SLCM would be a costly hedge on a hedge.

Arguably the most consequential part of the NPR that has received the least attention is the proposal to lay the groundwork to significantly expand the number of U.S. nuclear warheads. One measure of the scale of this plan is to produce at least 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030.

But a recent report by the Institute for Defense Analyses concluded that none of the options analyzed by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) can be expected to provide 80 pits per year by 2030.

Furthermore, the need to drastically expand plutonium pit production is highly questionable. The capability to build even 30 pits by 2030 would be an enormous achievement. Once NNSA demonstrates the capability to manufacture 30 pits per year, it can reevaluate the need for additional pits based on the anticipated aging of existing pits, the size of total warhead stockpile at that time, and the international security environment.

Now, the Trump NPR's proposals to develop new nuclear capabilities and infrastructure will pose significant affordability and execution challenges. The possible demise of New START could make the problem even worse. A reckoning is coming, the result of a massive disconnect at the Pentagon and NNSA between budgetary expectations and fiscal reality.

The Pentagon has reoriented its thinking toward long-term strategic competition with Russia and China, thereby elevating the relevance of conventional modernization. The nuclear recapitalization projects cannot be sustained without significant and sustained increases to defense spending, which are unlikely to be forthcoming, or cuts to other military priorities.

Of course, pressure on the defense budget can't be relieved solely by reducing nuclear weapons spending. A significant portion of the overall cost of nuclear weapons is fixed. That said, changes to the nuclear replacement program could make it easier to execute and ease some of the hard choices facing the overall defense enterprise while still leaving a force more than capable of deterring nuclear attacks against the United States or its alliance partners.

It is not too late to pursue a different path. As our report describes, the United States could save nearly 150 billion alone in fiscal year 2017 dollars over the next 30 years while still retaining a triad and deploying a New START limit of 1550 deployed strategic warheads. What could such savings buy? Well, one thing would be nearly the entire additional acquisition cost over the next 30 years to grow the Navy to 355 ships by the late 2030s.

Among the triad modernization projects that should be scaled back is the Air Force's plan to replace the Minuteman III ICBM with a new fleet of missiles. The Air Force has yet to demonstrate that sustaining the Minuteman III, in my view, beyond the missiles expected at retirement in the 2020-2030 timeframe is not a viable or more cost-effective near-term option.

The news last week, as Lara mentioned, that Boeing does not plan to submit a proposal for the GBSD program engineering and manufacturing development contract is a large red flag and reinforces the rationale, in my view, for deferring GBSD. Now, you may hear a different view on this question from Gen. Klotz. You will.

Let me end with the role of Congress. Over the past several years, Congress has largely backed both the Obama and Trump administration's proposals to replace the arsenal, though not without controversy. Now, the majority in the House following the 2018 mid-term elections, Democrats have conducted more aggressive oversight of the administration's nuclear policy and spending proposals.

The recently passed House versions of the Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA and the Defense and Energy and Water Appropriations bills would, among other changes, prohibit the deployment of the low yield SLBM warhead, express support for extending New START, reduce funding to build a new fleet of ICBMs and expand the production of plutonium pits, and mandate a study of options to scale back planned nuclear modernization programs.

Whether any of these changes will be adopted remains to be seen given the opposition to them in the Republican-controlled Senate. But it is clear that this - that there is significant unease in Congress about the administration's approach. As the costs continue to rise, the trade-offs become starker and the administration's disdain for negotiated arms control non-proliferation agreements claims other victims, that unease is likely to grow. Thank you.

FRANK KLOTZ: Well, thank you, Lara, for that very kind introduction and for volunteering to moderate this panel. Thanks also to the Arms Control Association for arranging this morning's event and for Carnegie Endowment for hosting it in their facilities.

As Tom mentioned, I think it's vitally important for our nation and for our future that we have an informed, robust, civil, and ongoing national discourse on nuclear weapons and nuclear arms control policy. As Tom pointed out, some of us remember the days when these topics were widely studied and debated. That all changed with the Cold War ending. Unfortunately, many in academia, many in the press, many in the policy community, and even many in the military stopped thinking about nuclear matters, especially as our nation's attention was increasingly drawn to countering the threats posed by terrorism. So, kudos to both organizations for the important work they do to inform the public on key nuclear policy issues.

I'm especially delighted to share this rostrum and to be in the same room with so many good friends and former colleagues. Let me say right up front, as will become apparent in the course of remarks, I strongly support a good deal of what Kingston just said, specifically his views on the wisdom and urgency of extending the New START agreement.

On the other hand, I strongly disagree with some of what he said, specifically his comments on the nuclear modernization program. A modernization program, by the way, that was begun and accelerated in the Obama administration and is being continued by the Trump administration. More particularly, contrary to what the report argues, I believe it's vitally important to replace the aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system now as well as to restore our nation's ability to manufacture plutonium pits.

Thus, when the House-Senate conferees meet in late August, if I were advising them as they take up the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, I would personally urge them to adopt the House language on New START, but adopt the Senate language on the ground-based strategic deterrent and plutonium pit production. Now, some may think that these two views, support for a comprehensive nuclear modernization program and support for nuclear arms control, are incompatible, or at least work at cross purposes.

Let me explain why I believe this is not the case. As President Reagan famously said, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. What's often left out is the next sentence to that statement where he added, "The only value in possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used."

Now, the policy of the United States for achieving this objective, followed by both Democrat and Republican presidential administrations, followed by both Democrat and Republican-controlled Congresses, has been to maintain a safe, secure, survivable, and effective nuclear force to deter nuclear attack against the United States and its allies and to reduce the likelihood of large-scale conventional warfare between nuclear-armed states.

At the same time, the United States has also negotiated arms control agreements with Russia to limit the number, types, and in some cases even the capabilities of nuclear weapon systems deployed by both sides. And it has pursued agreements with the broader international community to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to prevent special nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.

Now, as a career but now-retired Air Force officer and as a former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, it's probably no surprise–it's certainly not a surprise to Tom or to Kingston–that I fully subscribe to this longstanding dual-track approach and believe it is absolutely essential to ensuring our safety and security for the foreseeable future. So, since this is about the present and the near future, what specific steps should the current and future presidential administrations–as well as the Congress–take now to implement this approach?

First, as I indicated at the outset, it's essential to maintain and modernize all three legs of the so-called nuclear triad. The delivery systems, the warheads, the command and control systems associated with the current triad continue to constitute a powerful and effective deterrent force, but they are well past their designed service lives and will eventually age out.

For example, the youngest B-52 bomber in the Air Force inventory is now 56 years old. It will still be flying for at least another 30 years, so it needs new engines and updated electronics to remain an effective long-range strike platform for both conventional and nuclear operations. The air-launched cruise missile first entered service in 1982. We've had an air-launched cruise missile that long and it also needs to be replaced.

The LRSO (Long Range Strike) program–and W80-4 Life Extension Program are the programs of record to do just that. And the Minuteman III missile. It was first deployed in the late 1970s into silos that were constructed in the 1960s. I can attest from long, personal, and recent experience that every element of the Minuteman III system, from the missile to the guidance set, to the tools, handling gear, test equipment used by maintenance technicians, are showing serious signs of aging, signs that cannot be remedied by the Band-Aid fix of yet another life extension program. We've already been through one, yet another will not do it. And I'd welcome the opportunity to say more about that particular point in the Q&A session.

The second thing that ought to be done. Current and future administrations should continue to update our nation's nuclear weapons infrastructure including the National Nuclear Security Administration's national laboratories, production facilities, and test sites. Many of these facilities were constructed during the early days of the Cold War. Some were even constructed during the Manhattan Project of the Second World War.

During my nearly four years at NNSA, we routinely had to contend with collapsing roofs, corroded pipes, and other age-related problems that posed safety risks to our workers and, in some cases, shut down certain operations for weeks. In addition, our capability to manufacture and certify the basic materials, as well as the thousands of pieces and parts that make up a nuclear weapon, has atrophied and must be restored, including the ability to manufacture plutonium pits.

Finally, the ability to annually certify to the president and to the Congress that the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe, secure, and reliable without conducting nuclear explosive tests depends upon the continuous improvement of sophisticated scientific instruments and high-performance computing platforms to better understand the impact of weapons aging and the effectiveness of life extension programs.

The nuclear modernization program begun in the Obama administration and continued under the current administration addresses all of these issues. Moreover, it's worth recalling that, for over a decade, it has been supported by a broad consensus at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, on both sides of Capitol Hill, and on both sides of the aisle.

The third step the Trump administration should take to ensure the long-term effectiveness of nuclear deterrence capabilities is to resume arms control dialogue with Russia, the dialogue that was a central feature of our nuclear policy even during the darkest days of the Cold War. It's been said the landmark INF Treaty will be formally relegated to the history books in less than a week. Its demise leaves only one bilateral arms control agreement that mutually constrains the number of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or New START.

That treaty is due to expire in February 2021, 10 years after it entered into force and only 3 years after the U.S. and Russia reduced their forces to the central limits mandated by the treaty. New START can, however, be extended for up to five years by agreement of the American and the Russian presidents. Importantly, this action does not have to be ratified by the legislative bodies of either country. The current administration has been very non-committal, at least publicly, about its intentions with respect to New START. And quite frankly, recent statements attributed to some senior administration officials have been troubling.

On the other hand, past and current senior military leaders have been, and I think continue to be, very supportive of New START, because of the military benefits that it confers. What are some of these? Well, first, it caps Russia's baseline strategic nuclear force at known and predictable levels. I would suggest that one of the reasons for the enormous buildup of nuclear weaponry during the Cold War stemmed from a concern and uncertainty about what adversaries might be doing both now and in the future. So, to the extent that you reduce that uncertainty, you reduce part of the incentive for large-scale buildups of nuclear capabilities.

Secondly, through its verification provisions, including data exchanges, routine notifications, and onsite inspections, the treaty offers important insights, allows us to gain important insights into the size and capabilities and disposition of Russia's nuclear forces beyond that provided by more traditional intelligence collection and assessment methods.

Third, by reducing uncertainty and enhancing predictability, it affords us greater confidence in the plans for the size and structure of our own nuclear deterrent force including the current US. nuclear modernization program.

Now, as I said, New START is currently due to expire in February 2021. A year and a half or so may seem like a long time to deal with the matter, but no one - no one should underestimate how long it would take to broker an extension, much less any other type of agreement that attempted to break new ground such as adding new parties to the treaty like China or broadening the scope of the types of forces that are captured by the treaty like non-strategic nuclear forces or Russia's so-called novel or exotic systems as some have recently suggested.

Broadening the participants and scope of nuclear arms control is certainly a worthy goal, one which I have personally and will continue to support, but it will take careful thought and detailed planning, close consultation and coordination with our allies and painstaking negotiation to achieve any meaningful outcome. So I can only conclude that the wisest and most prudent course of action at this point would be to take proactive steps now to extend New START before it expires in 2021, and thereby gain the time needed to carefully consider the options for a successor agreement or a series of agreements.

That, in my opinion, will be essential to ensuring the sufficiency of our current modernization programs and sustaining the political consensus and support necessary to keep them on track. I see that my time is up. There's certainly a lot more I could say and would like to say about New START and nuclear arms control and would welcome the opportunity to do so but will leave it to you all to bring it up in the Q&A session.

COREY HINDERSTEIN: Okay. Well, it's my job to be the last speaker here on the panel and hopefully, I will raise the same kinds of interesting points worthy of follow-up as my previous speakers. Let me start by thanking Kingston and the Arms Control Association for putting the panel together and Lara and Gen. Klotz for sharing the broad podium with me today. My job is pretty simple. It's to talk about Iran and North Korea in approximately 12 minutes. And I'm going to start my timer now so I know where I am.

I'm actually going to make my job even harder than that with permission because I'm going to talk about Iran and North Korea and then I want to talk about a couple of other points that are kind of floating out there because I think too often we speak about Iran and North Korea in isolation. We also–to the extent we link them, we actually link them together, just the two issues and I think it's valuable to think about how our approaches right now to each of these problem sets are actually the same or different from or have some similarities kind of constitutionally with the–some of the other challenges that we're facing.

So let me start with Iran and I'm going to start with a–maybe what's a controversial statement for folks in the non-proliferation community right now by saying, I think reasonable people can disagree on whether the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the JCPOA, was the right deal to be made when it was made in 2015. I have heard arguments about, in particular, looking at whether doing a nuclear-only deal at that time was the right approach.

Now, I say reasonable people can disagree, but I'm clearly on the side that it was the right deal to be made. And in fact, it was the only deal to be made at the time. And I don't say that because it was such a hard negotiating environment, which it was, or that we got everything we could get as far as concessions from the Iranians, which I believe we did. But I say it because I think it demonstrated that when we're dealing with a complex non-proliferation or in this case, proliferation problem, sometimes the way to get at an appropriate set of actions is to focus on the biggest problem with the nearest term consequences.

And I don't want to minimize Iran's activities regionally, which I will get to in a moment, but not only–certainly were concerning then and in some ways are even more concerning now. Their activity with ballistic missiles, their activity in support for terrorism, those are all things that Iran did and continues to do, but–and this is–has become a cliché, but I think it's a cliché worth repeating. The reason that the nuclear deal was so important is because every single one of those problems becomes more complicated if you layer nuclear weapons on top of it.

And so, I really do believe that that was the right deal to be made at the time and it was never made in–with the idea that it would be the end of the conversation with Iran. And that's another point I'll get back to. So, I stipulate that Iran did pose serious nuclear risk before the JCPOA and they continue to pose some risk today. I would also argue that one of the greatest risks is actually back to a point that General Klotz made about the value of New START is that it introduced predictability and reduced uncertainty.

And I think that's an undervalued characteristic of the JCPOA. In the years leading up to that agreement, we were dealing with a rapidly changing situation with rapidly changing timelines to the kind of–the–our worst-case scenario. And even if you argue that the JCPOA didn't take all that risk off the table, which is true, what it did was introduce some predictability and reduced uncertainty.

And it did that by setting particular timelines and limits and by introducing on the ground verification of the sort that has never existed anywhere else in the world and continues to this day in a way that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world.

So right now, what I see troubling is that we seem to have backed out of the JCPOA without having a better path to follow. Iran is now, as a result, and in direct response to the position that the United States has taken by removing itself from the Iran Nuclear Deal, it's exceeding some of its limits. It's doing so in ways that are certainly reversible and certainly only slowly change that broader timeline dynamic, you know, the often-quoted breakout timeline or the time for that first bomb's worth of material to be produced if Iran were to decide to go full bore towards it.

We're hearing mixed information about other actions and plans, and we certainly need clarification. Just in the last 24 hours, we've heard some mixed information about what they intend to do with the–their research reactor which had been designed to produce a lot of really nice plutonium and is being in the process–is in the process of being redesigned so that it can't produce that quantity or that type of plutonium.

We also heard some interesting numbers about how much enriched uranium they've produced since they had–have stepped back from their JCPOA-mandated limits. Now, neither of these pieces of information are very well characterized, and they've come secondhand by somebody within the Iranian Parliament who is reporting what they heard from somebody with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. So, I don't want to jump to major conclusions, but the fact is, we're on the wrong trajectory when it comes to understanding what Iran is doing and what they're doing in response to our actions.

The good thing is that these steps are reversible and they're reversible relatively quickly. And I think there are some other things Iran could do that still fall in that line. Unfortunately, if this pattern keeps coming–keeps going further, we're going to get to actions that not only would cut into that breakout timeline more significantly, but that would be harder and take longer to reverse.

The Joint Commission meeting yesterday when the Joint Commission is the kind of management body of the Iran Nuclear Deal, where all of the parties to the deal meet approximately quarterly with that and they meet at ministerial level periodically. They met yesterday in Vienna. All the parties were there. And I think it showed something really important. It showed that there is still something to preserve when it comes to the JCPOA.

The official chair's statement coming out of the European Union who chairs the meeting indicated that it was a productive dialogue with no kind of concrete outcomes and the Iranians said the same thing in nearly the same words when they ended. So there–in the face of many obstacles and with options narrowing, I think we do still see that the members of the deal are committed to preserving its value and I feel like the United States should now be in a position to really think about whether our actions are narrowing their options, because the statement from the administration so far has been that even without us in the deal, we want Iran to comply.

Now it takes a lot of guts to say something like that, but in the end, I think it is true. We do still want Iran to comply because the limits that were invoked by the deal are limits that make the region safer. So, we also are hearing thoughts about whether there is an opening for a renewal of diplomatic dialogue. Obviously, if this is a door that's open, we should walk through it. I would say that there's been a lot of discussion about whether the right approach is a more-for-more approach or a less-for-less approach. And do we open the aperture of what we should be discussing, or do we narrow it back down?

And I am very concerned that some of the statements indicate that we might be on a more-for-less pathway. And I certainly don't want to get less than we got for the JCPOA and have the world making even more concessions, or even frankly the same concessions for less commitment.

I would finally say that this deal never got its sea legs, and I think that's really to me one of the saddest outcomes, which is, it may not have succeeded. Iran may have violated in the future. They may have pursued some sort of breakout timeline or at the very least tried to break down the coalition that was holding very firm in light of constant and sometimes daily pushback from Iran as to how they were going to choose to interpret the words of the deal and how they were going to implement.

We, on a constant basis, when I was at the Department of Energy and partially responsible for implementing the nuclear-related commitments, we were constantly saying, you know, at some point we are going to get into the everyday new normal of implementation of the deal. And we never quite got there, and that's for lots of reasons. And the sad part is we still haven't got there.

You know, I joked for a while, I can't wait for the day where I literally don't carry the deal around in my purse every day, but I am not there yet. And so, I do think, we don't know if it would have succeeded. I can't say, give any guarantee that it would have. But I think it had a really good chance to succeed and it only would have succeeded if it was allowed to create its new normal. And since that didn't happen, I think it's one of the, an interesting kind of points that we'll all be sitting around these tables and debating in the future.

I will say there are a couple of positives out of the current administration approach. Given the big negative, which is I don't think we should have left the deal, what are a couple of the positives?

One is that, so far, the administration has maintained the constraints on the most technically significant proliferation activities. Now you might say, what does that mean?

Well, I choose those words rather than to say that they are maintaining waivers because I think these non-proliferation waivers as they have been discussed, it's an easy thing to say, and I think it puts the weight on the wrong thing. We are not waiving anything. What we are doing is we are allowing China and Russia to continue with the technical conversion projects that are ongoing on the ground, that would make some of the most proliferation-significant activities irreversible. And so, I think as long as we continue to support those proliferating restraints going forward, that's a good step.

It also continues to keep the cost high on Iran if they would choose to step back from those activities. One of the actions that they may choose to do, for example, is to resume some uranium enrichment in their hardened site at Fordo. Part of what the waivers or these proliferation constraints are allowing is the conversion of activities there, and that makes it not only harder and, in some cases, irreversible, because once you introduce certain gas into those centrifuges, you can't put uranium gas in it later.

But it also increases the cost for Iran to have to back out of and in some cases kick out their Russian and Chinese partners on some of these activities. And I think that's a cost we want to continue to have invoked if they would make those sorts of decisions.

The other thing is that, so far, the IAEA, the International Verification Mission is being strongly supported and this is really important because the best thing we can do is know what's happening on the ground. And the way we do that is by having the international inspections there. And so far the provision of resources, including backstopping since so much of the International Atomic Energy Agency Inspection Group has had to go work on Iran, the United States has been able to backfill that by saying, OK, we'll help provide people and resources to do the everyday job of the agency. And by providing the technical expertise that backstops here at home.

And that comes to a point on the national labs which I will get back to, Frank.

So, let me turn to North Korea briefly and say this is an area where I think that there’s a slightly better report card, but I will say it's still an incomplete.

If we can say that the Iran approach was one that was working, was continuing to work, the North Korea approach was not working. And so, it did need a big change. And I think that, in this case, we had seen a steady increase of nuclear and missile capability in North Korea. And we weren't on a path towards diverting that path.

In North Korea, very different from Iran, the top-down approach is the absolute only way that you will get anything done, so I commend the administration for having decided, in the face of a lot of kind of political pushback including from a lot of the North Korea watchers, saying, you know, saying we shouldn't reward North Korea with a presidential contact.

Yes, in a perfect world I agree with that, but in this case, I do think something new was needed and it had to come top-down. So, I think that the only approach, in this case, was a Hail Mary.

Now as with any Hail Mary pass in American football, sometimes it drops to the ground. And you don't complete it and you don't win the game. But if you are running behind as far as we were, I think it might have been one of the only chances.

Now there is a really important risk you have to manage with that. This is not easier a risk strategy. And one is that if you are going to create a process, you need to have a counterpart on that process. And right now, it doesn't feel like we have a willing counterpart.

The United States has stocked up. It’s done its homework and it's been bringing these teams of experts for a negotiation and they just don't have counterparts to negotiate with. So, when we have our national lab experts, we don't see them on the other side. When we have our military experts, we don't see them on the other side. So, I do think we need to make sure that we are negotiating in the right environment.

I also think we have to capitalize on our current environment of decreased tension, which I believe is real, to actually make some progress, to prepare. And if anybody is a chef, or at least watches chef shows on television, you know, you talk about your mise en place, you know, get everything lined up and in small bowls so you are ready to put it together. We can't use this time for nothing and then get to the point where we might have the possibility for a strong negotiation and then have to start thinking about things then. And I do believe that that's happening on our side. I don't know if it's happening on theirs.

And finally, I think we need to be realistic. We can't delude ourselves to think that some sort of magical progress is happening in the background. I've seen some headlines—North Korea is continuing its missile program, it's continuing its nuclear program, it's producing more nuclear material, it's building a new submarine.

We have seen these. And unfortunately, none of that runs counter to anything that they've actually committed to us so far. So, we can't hold North Korea to a commitment that doesn't exist, and I think that, in this case, we need to be realistic about what constraints are on them. But I support that progress.

And similarly too, the point I made on the International Atomic Energy Agency I support the administration continuing to provide resources for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization and their nuclear test monitoring capability because this is one of the best ways that we know what has happened in North Korea over time.

So, I will end with those comments on North Korea and Iran, and just say a couple of things about some other things that are happening that I think are connected and important. One is in the non-proliferation space, the initiative to create the environment for nuclear disarmament that's being led out of the State Department in support of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Now some have viewed this initiative cynically. That this is a way for the United States and in particular the Trump administration to try to say it's doing something when really it's not doing anything that will practically help the situation.

And my response to that is I don't know. I believe that there are people who, for a very good reason, want the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review process to go in a positive direction. But I believe the best way to react to something that may or may not be cynical is to treat it un-cynically and dare it to work.

So, I wish this initiative every success, because if we can actually do something where we create a much more unified international community working on elements that can help the implementation of the NPT, we will all be better off. And some of the partisanship that we have seen explode in the United States has actually been happening in the international community along its partisan lines, you know, possessor states, nuclear possessor states, nuclear non-possessor states, north, south, east, west. So, let's bring people together and give it a shot.

One element that is related to the CEND is the International Partnership on Nuclear Disarmament Verification. And here I am completely biased because we at NTI are a partner with the State Department on this project and I want to be straightforward on that. But it's a project that started back in 2014 and has continued. And it's a group of more than 25 countries who get together three times a year, have an intersessional technical engagement and are making actual progress on developing and defining verification approaches for the next rounds of arms control and for disarmament.

And it's substantive and it's practical. And I think it's a really good example of how we can continue to work together.

So, what are some common themes here? I think the U.S. is most effective when we work with our allies and partners and work collectively. In Iran, we are destroying that community that worked together and created the success of the agreement. And it's going to be very hard to rebuild it.

On North Korea, we are trying hard to keep a regional coalition together. And on the NPT issues, we are trying to rebuild it. So, I do think that these are areas where we can do better.

And finally, I think we do have to invest in and support both the international institutions and the domestic infrastructure that allows this work to be successful. And here I would just back up entirely. I think our national laboratories and, in particular, the NNSA laboratories are the nation's best dual-use asset.

There's a reason they are so good at non-proliferation, nuclear security, reactor conversion, disarmament verification and it's because they had this history. And we can't lose that history because we'll lose a great resource in helping to solve our problems in the future.

I will end there. Thank you.

SELIGMAN: Well, thank you all so much. Wow, that was a lot of information to take in. We really covered the world. So, I do want to get to Q&A, but I had a couple of follow-up questions.

First of all, for Corey, there's been some question about whether the Iranian regime really wants a nuclear weapon, or whether it's really in their interest to acquire a nuclear weapon. So, I am wondering if you could maybe address that point. And, sort of related: if they do acquire a nuclear weapon, what happens then? Is there concern that it proliferates? is there concern that the situation in the Middle East kind of, explodes, I guess?

So, yes, if you could us an insight?

HINDERSTEIN:Sure. I think the short answer is we don't know what Iran really wants. We know that in the past they did have the intention to at least build a nuclear weapons capability. And there has been some discussion over the "archive material." This is the material that Israeli Special Forces seized from Iran and had the paper history of their nuclear program.

We can get into what more of that means, but I will say that it doesn't change what our understanding was in 2014 because all of the information that has come out publicly about that archive, all of that stops in the early to mid-2000s. So, we know that at one point in the past they had the interest in getting a nuclear weapons capability.

We also know that in various points later than that, they have identified getting that nuclear weapons capability as a strategic disadvantage for them, because the international pressure had become so great. And so, it was an economic and a strategic disadvantage. And so, they've clearly shown the ability to change their intention with regard to a nuclear weapon over time.

Where do they sit right now in July of 2019? I don't know. All I know is we don't have to worry about intent if they don't have capability. And so, the important thing about the JCPOA is it takes capability off the table.

You can want, I want to ride a rainbow-colored unicorn, but if one doesn't exist, I am never going to reach my dream. And so, I think that's really important.

And then the final thing is, why is it important that we keep that capability off the table? And I think it's exactly your final point because there are a lot of different ways that we could see it negatively impacting globally and regionally. Certainly, whether it would make them more bullet-proof in some of their regional provocations, it's possible.

One of the things, I've never been a nuclear domino player. I don't believe that states just automatically go nuclear because somebody else did. And I think that East Asia is a perfect example of that. But I think each state evaluates their own strategic objectives when deciding whether they would pursue a nuclear weapons program or capability. But in this case, I believe that Saudi Arabia would be a very dangerous domino. And I think that if you allow, not automatically, but I think if you follow their line of thinking and some of their rhetoric that supports it, that you would put Saudi Arabia in a very dangerous situation. And if you had that dynamic in the region, that's not one I think that we could easily manage.

SELIGMAN:Thanks. And there's many ways we could take that conversation, but I also wanted to ask General Klotz a follow-up question as well on negotiations with Russia.

Can you perhaps draw a contrast between the INF Treaty on the one hand and New START? So, I think there's a much stronger case to be made that the INF Treaty is a bad deal and we should withdraw from it, but New START perhaps not so much. So, what is Russia's thinking in complying with one and not complying with the other? And what is the Trump Administration thinking in response?

KLOTZ:No. I think that a very important question, Lara. On the INF Treaty, the United States had, at least since 2013, raised concerns with Russia about compliance with the central provisions of the treaty. And despite repeated demarches and conversations, it was clear that the Russians had no intention of addressing the issue, specific issue, which the United States was concerned about. So that left the U.S. government with deliberations that started in the last administration and carried over into this administration - what do you do with a party that has entered into an agreement and is violating its obligations under that? Do you continue to stay in the treaty or do you, while one side is not following or abiding by it, or do you withdraw from the treaty?

So, this was, ultimately it led to a DOS decision to suspend its obligations and ultimately withdraw from the treaty.

The significant difference between the INF Treaty and the New START Treaty is there are still very active measures that are taken by both Russia and the United States in the area of verification, exchanges of data, notification of movements of delivery systems from depots and from production facilities to operational bases and back. In fact, I think the latest number of something like 18,000 notifications have gone back and forth between the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center in the State Department and the Nuclear Reduction Center that is located in the Ministry of Defense in the Arbatskaya, which provides unprecedented insight into what the other side is doing.

And then, you know, each side gets to perform 18 on-site inspections every year in the other country, boots on the ground, looking around. I was a wing commander at Minot Air Force Base when the Russians came for a reentry vehicle onsite inspection under a previous treaty, but I will tell you they were very, very, very thorough investigations or inspections.

So, as a result of all of that, the U.S. government in compliance with the resolutions of ratification of New START has certified every year that Russia is in compliance with the New START Treaty. So that's a fundamentally different issue than we had with INF in which the onsite inspection and the other verification aspect of that had lapsed due to time.

SELIGMAN:Great. Well, let's open it up to some Q and A. A hand over there.

 

THIELMANN: Greg Thielmann, board member of the Arms Control Association. Both Russia and China have cited U.S. strategic ballistic missile defenses as a reason for their refusal to enter into deep discussions of further arms control cuts.

And we have seen—at least if I can believe Arms Control Today—that the U.S. Strategic Ballistic Missile Defense Program is having serious technological problems. So, my question is why is the U.S. Strategic Ballistic Missile Defense Program not a part of this discussion? Is it because we don't believe Russia and China, even though Putin has said very explicitly that all of these exotic new nuclear weapons that he has paraded out are a result of the U.S. leaving the ABM Treaty in 2002, or is it because $7 billion or $8 billion a year is pocket change on this subject, or is it because we are expecting Trump to transfer the funds from ballistic missile defense to the border wall on Mexico?

REIF:I can take a stab at that one to start, right, and be interested in General Klotz's take on this as well.

I mean as you noted the Russians have made it pretty clear, and, at least in my view, that going beyond New START extension in terms of further negotiated arms control between the United States and Russia is not going to make very much progress unless ballistic missile defense is on the table.

As you noted, the Russians have long expressed concerns about our missile defenses. And I would say the United States rightly has some concerns about the trajectory that Russia's missile defense program is headed as well. But obviously, the big concern has been Russia's concerns about U.S. missile defense programs.

And so, one of the big questions I think about this broader, more comprehensive arms control proposal that the White House has been pursuing is what is the United States willing to put on the table in return for limits on Russian tactical nuclear weapons, in return for China's participation in some kind of trilateral agreement? And the administration has been noticeably silent on that score.

I mean, if we are interested in the Russians limiting non-strategic weapons in some way, is the United States and NATO going to be willing to address U.S. forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons in Europe? I think the answer should be yes but is the administration willing to do that?

And then on the missile defense issue, is the administration going to be willing to entertain capturing missile defense in some way. I think some interesting ideas have been put forward for how you might do that, for example, adaptive limits. So, if you can imagine an agreement that further limits U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, how do you deal with missile defense?

Well, one way to deal would be that for every additional missile defense interceptor of a certain burn-out velocity or capability that each side wants to deploy, the other side would be allowed to deploy, say, two, three, four, five, or maybe even larger times as many offensive interceptors.

So, I think there's a conversation that can be had and should be had about missile defense if we are actually interested in further limiting Russian strategic and non-strategic nuclear forces, which I think we should be. Obviously, the political environment to do that is difficult in this country, but if we want to make further progress, I think it's got to be on the table.

And finally, I think there are unilateral steps that the United States ought to take or not to take when it comes to missile defense that would put further strain on strategic stability and make further arms measures even more difficult. So, one of those is we are not putting missile defense interceptors in space. That's just -- and we can seek to try and get Russia's agreement not to do the same. I think that would be worthwhile, but the United States as just an independent matter should not put interceptors in space, kinetic or non-kinetic.

And then, I think the other step we should not take is to test the most advanced SM-3 interceptor, the SM-3 IIA against an ICBM-class target which—at least until the House marked up the NDA and defense appropriations bills—was the Missile Defense Agency's plan to do actually some time in fiscal year 2020, given the number of interceptors (several hundred) that we're planning to field if those are demonstrated to be ICBM-capable, that's going to further raise concerns in both Moscow and Beijing about the open-ended and unlimited nature of the U.S. missile defense program.

So, that's another step I think that ought to be taken–well, in this case, not taken—to preserve the options for future arms reductions and arms control with Russia and, hopefully down the road, China.

KLOTZ:Well, I'll just add three thoughts. The first thought is I'm glad Kingston mentioned it. The Russians are investing very heavily—and they've said this publicly or they certainly said it in publications by non-governmental organizations and in track two dialogues—are investing very heavily in air defenses and missile defenses and this has been part of the Russian military culture since at least the end of the Second World War.

So,—and other countries are investing in missile defenses—so, clearly, there are military and strategic rationales for continuing to invest in missile defense. That's the first point.

The second point is missile defense is a political talisman. And at least since the Reagan administration, it is going to be extraordinarily difficult to place constraints and limits on the U.S. missile defense program politically. So then that leads to the third point, what is the…what sort of measures could be potentially negotiated with another nation—Russia, China, whoever the case may be—on the issues of missile defense from a technical verification, confidence-building approach to alleviate undue concerns over a potential destabilizing or alleged destabilizing nature of missile defense.

They're out there, but I would just circle back to the point I made earlier. They're very technically complex. They're going to take a long time to negotiate. They will be part of, I think, a Russian ask, a Chinese ask for any substantive change to the basic outlines of -- and central limits of -- a New START Treaty or a successor to a New START treaty which just argues again for the importance of , while we work through those possibilities, those potential approaches to a mutual agreement, that we extend this particular treaty. So, we have five years to do that.

GARD: Robert Gard. Critics of the Iran Nuclear Agreement tell me that, despite the verification regime, Iran has refused to allow inspections of facilities that we have asked them to look at. Is this correct?

HINDERSTEIN:So, the short answer I would say is no. The longer answer is, as always, more nuanced, right? So, the first point is that the IAEA has not just the right but the obligation to resolve any issues related to whether there are activities conducted that are counter to the deal.

That may or may not always result in an onsite inspection for a location that is not specifically called out as having onsite inspection obligations, which primarily in terms of the nuclear deal, is any facility that could produce any nuclear material. So, there certainly… any question could be raised by any member state to say, "Hey, there is something suspicious going on" and the IAEA has an obligation to first figure out if that information is credible and if there is something to follow up, they can follow up with the Iranians.

And if they are not satisfied with that follow up through exchange of letters, personal official conversations, et cetera, they can ask for an onsite inspection. So, I don't know if there has been any site that any member state -- because you use the word "we" and I don't know who the "we" is in that case—any member state has said, "Hey, we want you to go there." I can't say for sure that the IAEA has gone to any site because that's not their job.

But I can say that there have been sites that have been raised either through their own work in Iran where they've had a question that's been raised or through something that's been brought to them by a member state that is not part of the traditional regular onsite inspection process, that they have asked for special access and they've received it.

So, that is how the process is supposed to work and I would say that in this case, the IAEA has had access to every site that they have determined that they needed access to.

SELIGMAN:A couple of questions, so, let's take a couple at a time. Let's do here and back there first.

RADOVIC: Katarina Radovic from VOA, and I would like to thank the panel for about this very informative discussion. My question pertains to the… why the ramifications of departure from the Iranian deal. Lieutenant General Klotz mentioned earlier that it is very important to coordinate and consult with the allies. But, the U.S. had a proposal for maritime patrols in the Gulf that its European allies declined to join. On the other hand, there were recent Australian and British initiatives that exclude U.S., namely Australia establishing expeditionary training force and U.K. wants to create multinational force to ensure freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.

Does this mean that American friends are choosing to disassociate themselves from Washington and its strength because they are strenuously disagree with Washington on Iran deal? And what does this all mean and what does it all do to American power and moral leadership?

SELIGMAN:And if you can hand the mic back just so we can -- this gentleman can ask another question. Thanks.

WIER: Hi, Anthony Wier, with the Friends Committee on National Legislation. General Klotz, this question is for you. I assume your time in government, right, you had to make decisions about the U.S. and allied nuclear arsenals and strategic posture based on assessment of the Russian nuclear weapons arsenal, both those weapons that were covered by delivery systems covered under START or New START treaties like that, of course, also those nuclear weapons delivered on systems not cover by this (we often refer to those as tactical). I'm going to make an assumption that the United States government had lower confidence in its assessment of the Russian arsenal on the non-covered tactical side of the ledger, that it was harder to develop precision and confidence in that assessment of what actually Russia has.

I'm wondering from your perspective, especially from kind of the military vantage point, do you think Russia perceives a certain advantage in having their adversary have a lower level of confidence in their understanding and assessment of their arsenal, that is the lack of clarity on the tactical side. And then, it would seem to me, if that's so, if you were to lose the New START treaty, you would be effectively taking this large number of the Russian nuclear arsenal and moving it over to the less clear side of the ledger.

And so, from that perspective, would you see an advantage or some in Russia might perceive an advantage of gaining, in a sense, lack of clarity on the part of the American side over what assets they have to bring to bear to affect their strategic aims.

HINDERSTEIN:Sure. I'm going to answer the first question by not really answering —classic Washington approach—only because I'm just by far not an expert in all the Gulf and in particular, the navigational issues, freedom of navigation, protection of shipping lanes, et cetera, so, I don't want to speak to whether the U.S. approach that has not gained allied support or the allied approaches that have not gained U.S. support are indicative of a larger problem or consistent with how these countries have historically viewed managing issues of freedom of navigation. I just don't know.

What I will say though is we are seeing a much harder dynamic with the allies when it comes to Iran because the United States actions have put them in a very hard position. Our decision about our own compliance has made more difficult other countries to adhere to their own obligations and that's a really hard position to put an ally in.

It's one thing for the United States to say, "We don't think this is the right thing to do for us and we're stepping back," but the role of secondary sanctions has basically meant that some of our friends and allies as well as our not-so-friendly not-allies have had their options quite narrowed. And one of the things I really I think is too bad is that we did use to have through the joint commission of the JCPOA a really good channel to counterparts on all sorts of levels—sanctions, procurement, nuclear experts, all sorts of issues— that we might want to consult amongst ourselves before we addressed back to Iran. And the United States not being in that room anymore means that we have a harder time.

So, even if any of these proposals were credible from either side, and I just don't know the answer to that, we've lost at least one channel to not just kind of litigate that, but also to connect it to our overall strategic and tactical objectives with regard to Iran.

SELIGMAN:And if I could actually just add to that because I've written a lot about these coalition proposals that have been taking form. I do think that that European-led proposal was a bit of a rebuke to the Trump administration because the administration had put forward separately a U.S.-led coalition, and then the U.K. government went ahead and said, "Actually, let's do our own European thing." So, I don't think that can be read without a little bit of perhaps that's a rebuke to the Trump administration.

However, I do think there's a lot going on here because Britain is dealing with its own issues. They just turned over their new government. They're dealing with Brexit and I think they feel a little bit like they have to stick up for themselves and manage their own problems. So, I think this proposal was on the one hand, a rebuke of the Trump administration, on the other hand, as you mentioned, reflective of the allies and the U.K. not wanting to be part of the Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign, but then also it was the U.K. sort of stepping out and saying, "We're going to take the lead on this problem in a part of the world that is very close to us."

KLOTZ:Well, on Anthony's question about strategic nuclear weapons and nonstrategic nuclear weapons and the challenges of verifying either, obviously, it's much easier to verify strategic nuclear weapons, numbers, disposition, because they're large—submarines, holes in the ground if they're silos, operational bases—than it is to count weapons that may be stored in a bunker at some place in a very large area.

Having said that, while we have—both sides I assume—have very exquisite, so-called, national technical means to verify things like strategic arms agreements like New START, as I mentioned earlier, the number of data exchanges, notifications, and onsite inspections certainly add to that. I wonder as a country if we have become very dependent upon that in terms of assessing what the Russians are doing and what kind of adjustments we would have to make in monitoring Russian capabilities over the longer term if we didn't have that information coming in. So, again I think that's another argument for maintaining those types of agreements.

Nonstrategic nuclear weapons or weapons held in reserve presents a much greater challenge for the reason I just pointed out. It has bedeviled administrations ever since the so-called Presidential Nuclear Initiatives in which President H. W. Bush in 1991 unilaterally decided to significantly reduce and in some cases eliminate altogether nonstrategic weapons. There is debate about what the Russians at the time may have committed to do either publicly or privately, but, the fact is there's a large disparity in the number of nonstrategic nuclear weapons between the United States and Russia, and the Obama administration tried very hard—in part to the respond to the Senate's resolution of ratification, which clearly you know a lot about—to open negotiations on that. They didn't get anywhere, largely because, as Kingston's pointed out, there is a Russian ask that has to do with missile defense with at the time concerns about prompt global strike on the U.S. side and then of course subsequently the relationship continued to worsen with things like the invasion of Crimea and its occupation, et cetera, et cetera.

So, however, this is clearly something the United States—at least for those administration officials who have talked either privately or publicly about the next arms control series of negotiations—that the U.S. would like to circle back and deal with the Russians on. It's going to be a far more challenging issue associated with verification and transparency than is the case with strategic systems.

And within Russia itself, I suspect that depending on which organ of state you go to, to ask what their views are on that, you're going to get different views in terms of the merits of being more open, or the costs and risks of being more open about the disposition and numbers of nonstrategic nuclear weapons.

SELIGMAN:I think we're running out of time, but let's try to get at least one more from this side over here, with the laptop.

GOLD: Thank you. My name is Shabtai Gold. I just wanted to circle back to the INF for a second. What would you actually expect would be the security aspects of the deployments in the European theater or elsewhere as the result of the INF actually coming to an end this week as expected?

And secondly, China's rise, how did that really in your opinion affect the INF and how would that really affect the New START negotiations going at it. I know the Chinese have said that they're not really interested in trilateral, but the President's brought that into it. So, how is China playing into both the INF and the New START? Thanks.

SELIGMAN:OK, sure, one more question.

(UNKNOWN): Replacing the nuclear arsenal, can we adequately test a new arsenal?

REIF:So, let me start with INF and I wanted to quickly respond to a question that Lara raised earlier to General Klotz.

So, was Russia's violation of the INF treaty unacceptable and does it require a serious response? Yes.

Was withdrawal justifiable in some way? Yes. Was actually withdrawing from the treaty particularly in the way that the administration went about it smart? Absolutely not.

I mean, for starters, it was announced on the sidelines of a campaign rally last October. The administration is yet to articulate a viable strategy for preventing Russia from fielding additional types of illegal missiles that it's already deployed as well as new types of INF Treaty-range missiles. There really wasn't a real diplomatic effort made by the Trump administration nor Russia for that matter to try and save the treaty.

Yes, we should not allow Russia to gain a military advantage by its deployment of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile. But in my view, there are plenty of even military options available to us that are compliant with the treaty and less risky than pursuing research and development, testing, and ultimately trying to field ground-launched missiles with a range prohibited by the treaty at least for the next few days.

So, I think we lost a lot of leverage by withdrawing from the treaty. It was an incredibly powerful cudgel with which to criticize and put pressure on Russia for violating the agreement. And in a few short days, all of the Russian missiles that for, at least the last five years have been illegal, will be legal.

Back to your question about the security implications particularly in Europe of INF going away, I mean, our big concern is that the end of the treaty could reignite a new Euro missile race. Now, the Pentagon is engaging in research and development on, as I mentioned, INF-range missile systems—conventional only INF-range missile systems—requested in the 2020 budget request about $100 million for this effort. It was a subject of significant debate in the House over the last few months, and ultimately the House cut funding and prohibited funding, conditioned funding at several conditions for those missile systems.

So, I think Russia given NATO's expansion eastward, those missiles would likely to be deployed in eastern Europe. Obviously, Russia is going to be concerned about that. It's likely to respond to that in negative ways including by fielding additional 9M729s and perhaps additional types of new INF-range missiles.

And a big question and one that raises, I think… well, the big question is where you're going to put these systems as well. I mean, no European member of NATO is exactly rushing forward to host these missiles. They can't be deployed in the United States to have any meaningful military impact. At least in the European theater, they need to be deployed in Europe. And several NATO allies including Poland have said that any decision to field these systems has to be the result of a NATO-wide decision, a consensus among alliance members. I think at this point, it's hard to imagine that such a consensus would exist, given how controversial even placing conventional missiles would be in Europe.

And then, on your question with respect to China, yes, I think it's playing a big role in how the administration is thinking about arms control. It no doubt played a role in the decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty even if it wasn't the primary role, and lots of concerns have been raised about the fact that China has hundreds, if not, thousands of INF-range missiles. China is not a party to the INF treaty. Why would the United States not want to develop its own systems in Asia Pacific given especially the fact that the distances there are much larger? So, that certainly played a role in the administration's thinking.

And then, on New START strategic arms control, yes, as we've discussed, the administration appears to be saying that China needs to participate in a future arms control arrangement and that is in effect the condition for New START extension, wants to see how it plays out, but that appears to be what the position is at this stage.

KLOTZ:Very quickly because I know, the answer to your question is yes, we can carry out the modernization program as laid out by the Obama and now the Trump administration without explosive nuclear testing.

First of all, a great part of the modernization program is replacing the delivery systems. There's no limit on testing the launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, of bombers, or of sea-launched ballistic missiles, or of submarines.

On the warheads and weapons that are associated with those modernized legs of the triad, we're not building… we're not creating new nuclear weapons. What we're doing is extending the life and updating existing weapons.

Since the United States voluntarily entered into an explosive nuclear test moratorium—I believe in 1992 in the Clinton administration and it has been observing ever since—we have developed an entire suite of tools known as the scientific stockpile stewardship program where through doing tests of individual components, comparing data with the nuclear tests we did conduct when we were conducting explosive nuclear testing and running through those through very high-performance computers to understand the effects of aging and to understand the effects of any adjustments that are made to extend the life of a weapon, the National Laboratory Directors are able to certify every year that we're satisfied with the safety, security, reliability of the nuclear weapon stockpile including those changes that are being made in the life extension program.

So, again, no, I don't think it requires—I'm quite confident that it does not require—nuclear explosive testing to continue with the modernization program.

SELIGMAN:Well, thank you so much to all of our panelists. This is a great discussion and obviously, we could talk about this for many, many more hours. Thanks so much.

THOMAS COUNTRYMAN: OK. And let me also thank General Klotz and Ms. Hinderstein and Mr. Reif, and thank Ms. Seligman for the moderation today.

There's much more information available at the website, armscontrol.org. I urge you not only to inform yourself but to participate in the decisions that your Congress, your government will be making on these issues. So, thank you. Have a beautiful Monday.

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Corey Hinderstein (NTI), Lt. Gen. (ret) Frank Klotz, and ACA's Kingston Reif assessed on the Trump administration’s policies on nuclear weapons spending, U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control, and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and nuclear diplomacy with North Korea—and offered recommendations for a more responsible and effective approach.

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U.S. Withdrawal from the INF Treaty: What You Need to Know

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Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 104; Thomas Countryman, board chair, 301-312-3445

The landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty led to the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet Union nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. On February 2, 2019, the Trump administration announced its decision to suspend U.S. obligations under the treaty and its intention to withdraw from agreement in six months. The U.S. withdrawal from the treaty will take effect on Friday, August 2.

The Defense Department has requested nearly $100 million in fiscal year 2020 to develop three new missile systems that would exceed the range limits of the treaty, but the Democratic-led House of Representatives has expressed concern about the rationale for the missiles. The House versions of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and defense appropriations bill zeroed out the Pentagon’s funding request for the missiles.

On June 18, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov reiterated Russia’s position that it will not deploy INF Treaty-range missiles until the United States does. The United States alleges that Russia has already deployed the treaty-noncompliant 9M729 missile, also known as the SSC-8.

NATO defense ministers met in Brussels on June 26 to discuss defense and deterrence measures “to ensure the security of the alliance” if Russia fails to resolve U.S. allegations of treaty noncompliance. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance is considering several military options, including additional exercises, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, air and missile defenses, and conventional capabilities.

QUICK QUOTES:

  • “Earlier this year, the administration recklessly announced its intent to withdraw the United States from the INF Treaty without a viable diplomatic, economic, or military strategy to prevent Russia from deploying additional and new types of prohibited missiles in the absence of the treaty. Rushing to build our own INF-range missiles in the absence of such a strategy and without a place to put them doesn't make sense.” —Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy
  • “Without the INF treaty, there needs to be a more serious U.S. and NATO arms control plan to avoid a new Euromissile race. NATO could declare as a bloc that no alliance members will field any INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or any equivalent new nuclear capabilities in Europe so long as Russia does not deploy treaty-prohibited systems where they could hit NATO territory.” —Daryl Kimball, executive director
  • “Without the INF Treaty, as well as the soon expiring New START, there would be no legally binding, verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time in nearly half a century.” —Thomas Countryman, former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, and chair of the ACA board of directors

ANALYSIS:

FACT SHEETS:

EXPERTS AVAILABLE IN WASHINGTON:

  • Kingston Reif, ​Director for ​D​​​​isarmamen​​t and ​T​h​​reat ​R​e​​d​​uction​ ​Policy​,​[email protected], 202 463 8270 ext. 104, @KingstonAReif
  • Thomas Countryman, former​ ​Acting​ ​U​nder ​S​ecret​​ary of ​​S​tate for​ ​Arms​ ​Control and ​International ​S​ecur​​ity, and ​​Chair of the Board for the Arm​​s Control Association, [email protected], 301 312 3445, @TMCountryman
  • Daryl G. Kimball, E​x​​​​ec​​utive ​​​​D​i​​​rector, [email protected], 202 463 8270 ext. 107, @DarylGKimball

or contact Tony Fleming, director for communications, 202 463 8270 ext. 110 / 202 213 6856 (mobile) to schedule an interview.

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Experts and resources available on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

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Arms Control Association Urges Passage of the House Version of the FY 2020 NDAA

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For Immediate Release: July 12, 2019

Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

(Washington, DC)—The Arms Control Association strongly supports the House version of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill, which the House will vote on Friday, would place a much-needed check on the Trump administration’s unnecessary, unsustainable, and unsafe plans to augment the role of and increase spending on nuclear weapons and undermine critical arms control and nonproliferation agreements.

We applaud in particular the leadership of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) for his efforts to reorient U.S. nuclear policy and shepherd the strongest and most sensible NDAA in recent memory on the issue to the brink of final passage.

The House NDAA would prohibit deployment of a new and more usable low-yield warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles as proposed in the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, express support for extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and require reports on the implications of allowing the treaty to expire in 2021 with nothing to replace it, prohibit funding to develop land-based, intermediate-range missiles banned by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and reduce funding to build a new fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles and expand the production of plutonium pits.

In addition, the bill would prohibit funding for any use of military force in or against Iran unless Congress has declared war or in the event of a national emergency created by an Iranian attack upon the United States.

By passing the legislation, the House would greatly increase its leverage to retain these and many other important provisions in upcoming conference negotiations with the Republican-controlled Senate. Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill rubber stamps the Trump administration’s redundant and reckless effort to expand U.S. nuclear capabilities.

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The Arms Control Association strongly supports the House version of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would place a much-needed check on the Trump administration's nuclear weapons policies.

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Compliance with Nuclear Arms Control and Nonproliferation Norms Is Eroding, New Study Finds

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All nuclear weapons possessor states failed to make progress to reduce their nuclear arsenals; Key states’ records in nine of 10 nonproliferation & disarmament categories have deteriorated.

For Immediate Release: July 10, 2019

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, DC)—A new, 80-page study published by the Arms Control Association evaluates the recent records of all the world’s nuclear-armed states, as well as several states of proliferation concern and finds that respect for key nuclear nonproliferation norms and internationally-recognized obligations and commitments is eroding.

The report, "Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, 2016-2019," is the fourth in a series that assesses the extent to which 11 key states are fulfilling, promoting, or undermining 10 standards identified as critical elements of the nonproliferation and disarmament regime.

Collectively, states fared worse on the majority of criteria when compared with the prior edition of the Arms Control Association’s Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament Report Card covering the 2013–2016 period.

The study comprehensively evaluates the records of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea—each of which possesses nuclear weapons—as well as Iran and Syria, which are states of proliferation concern, from 2016 through March 2019.

“Each of the states that possess nuclear weapons is taking steps to invest in new delivery systems and several are expanding the role of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines," noted Alicia Sanders-Zakre, a co-author of the report. "These trends increase the risk of nuclear weapons use,” she warned.

“Our review of actions—and inactions—by these 11 states suggest a worrisome trend away from long-standing, effective arms control and nonproliferation efforts," warned Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association and co-author of the report. "By documenting the policies of these states over the last decade, we hope this report will demonstrate that support for critical nonproliferation and disarmament norms is eroding.”  

Several of the key findings include:

  • The United States and Russia: The overall grades for both the United States (C+) and Russia (C+) dropped, due partly to Russia’s violation of a key bilateral arms control treaty and the U.S. decision to withdraw from that treaty in response. Both states also expanded the circumstances under which they would use nuclear weapons and are investing in new, destabilizing delivery systems.
     
  • France and the United Kingdom: These two states received the highest overall grades (B) of the 11 states assessed, but neither country has taken steps during the period covered in this report to make additional nuclear force reductions.
     
  • China, India, and Pakistan: All three of these states are increasing the size of their nuclear arsenals and are investing in new nuclear-capable delivery systems. New missiles being developed and fielded by all three suggest that these countries are now storing warheads mated with certain missiles or moving toward that step, which increases the risk of use. China’s overall grade was a C+; India and Pakistan both scored C.
     
  • North Korea: North Korea scored the worst of the states assessed in this report with an overall grade of F. Pyongyang continues to expand the country’s nuclear arsenal and is the only state to have tested a nuclear weapon during the timeframe covered. However, North Korea continues to abide by a voluntary nuclear and missile testing moratorium declared in April 2018 and appears willing to negotiate with the United States over its nuclear weapons program.
     
  • Iran: Through the period covered by this report and until June 2019, Tehran continued to adhere to the restrictions on its nuclear activities put in place by the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal over the course of this report, despite the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement last year and its decision to reimpose sanctions in violation of U.S. commitments. Iran, however, has transferred ballistic missile components in violation of international norms and Security Council restrictions, causing its overall grade to drop to C-.
     
  • Israel: Israeli actions over the past several years in support of ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty earned it a higher grade on the nuclear testing criteria, but its inaction on the Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and backsliding on negative security assurances caused its overall grade to drop to a C-.

The report reviews implementation and compliance with existing internationally-recognized obligations and commitments.

“The standards and benchmarks in our report do not necessarily represent our ideal strategy for addressing the nuclear weapons threat,” noted Davenport. “New and more ambitious multilateral nonproliferation and disarmament strategies will be needed to meet to future nuclear challenges,” she remarked.

Last week, the U.S. State Department convened a meeting involving more than three-dozen countries, including the five original nuclear weapon states, to discuss steps to improve the environment for nuclear disarmament.

“We hope this report card can serve as a tool to help hold states accountable to their existing commitments and encourage effective action needed to strengthen efforts to prevent the spread and use of the world’s most dangerous weapons,” noted Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. 

“We encourage all states who are serious about strengthening the global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament enterprise to commit themselves to meet and exceed the existing goals and objectives to reduce and eliminate the nuclear danger,” he urged.

The full report can be accessed at www.armscontrol.org/reports

Description: 

A new report details the extent to which 11 key states are fulfilling, promoting, or undermining 10 standards identified as critical elements of the nonproliferation and disarmament regime. 

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No Rush to Enrich: Alternatives for Providing Uranium for U.S. National Security Needs


July/August 2019
By Frank N. von Hippel and Sharon K. Weiner

In October 2018, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced its decision to reestablish a domestic uranium-enrichment capability in the United States.1 As described in its fiscal year 2019 Stockpile Stewardship Management Plan, the NNSA said there is a pending shortage of U.S.-origin low-enriched uranium (LEU) needed to fuel the nuclear reactors that produce the tritium gas used in U.S. nuclear weapons. The NNSA initially estimated a need for new supplies of LEU by 2027, but after an internal review identified additional materials, this date was deferred until at least 2038.2

Unit 1 of the Watts Bar Power Plant, operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, is the only reactor producing tritium for U.S. nuclear weapons. A second reactor at the site is expected to begin supplementing tritium production in 2020. (Photo: Tennessee Valley Authority)The U.S. Department of Energy, in which the NNSA operates, also sees a need to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU)3 for the new, small, modular power reactors it argues are central to reviving the U.S. nuclear energy sector. In the longer term, the NNSA argues that an enrichment facility will be needed by 2060 to produce the highly enriched uranium (HEU) used to fuel the reactors that power the Navy’s submarines and aircraft carriers.4

There are a number of reasons to question the NNSA’s urgency to build an enrichment facility. The United States still has a large surplus of Cold War-era HEU that could be blended down to LEU and could significantly delay the need to enrich LEU for tritium production. Additionally, it might be possible to purchase LEU from the European enrichment services company, Urenco, which operates the only uranium-enrichment plant in the United States. An agreement could be made, as France and Urenco have done, to allow the United States to use Urenco-enriched uranium for military but non-explosive purposes. Urenco also has announced that it plans to produce HALEU, which it could do at a much lower price than the Energy Department’s proposed small, expensive facility that could cost $10 billion or more.

The NNSA’s plans also ignore arguments for fueling future naval propulsion reactors with LEU, which would negate the need for HEU production. Making more HEU for naval reactors sets an undesirable precedent for non-nuclear-armed states such as Brazil, Iran, and South Korea, which are developing nuclear submarines or considering doing so. Unlike LEU, HEU can be used to make nuclear weapons directly, even by terrorist groups.

Credible alternatives exist. The United States should seriously consider those alternatives before investing in a new uranium-enrichment capability.

The NNSA Case for Enrichment

The NNSA argument for building a national enrichment capability begins with tritium, a gas used in two-stage nuclear weapons to boost the power of fission-based triggers, ensuring the ignition of the fission-fusion second stage. With a radioactive half-life of 12.3 years, tritium needs to be regularly replenished in U.S. weapons to maintain the intended yield.

Some of the supplies to meet current and future needs come from the reduction of the U.S. nuclear arsenal after the end of the Cold War. The NNSA has downblended the HEU from dismantled weapons into LEU that is used for tritium production.

New tritium is produced in a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) reactor at the Watts Bar Power Plant in Tennessee; a second reactor there is expected to start producing in 2020. Tritium-producing burnable absorber rods containing lithium-6 are inserted into the reactor fuel assemblies, where they stay for about 18 months. When the reactors are refueled, the rods are removed, and the tritium is extracted at a facility at the Energy Department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

At issue is the availability of “unobligated” LEU to fuel the tritium-production reactors. The NNSA and the Department of State insist that peaceful-use trade agreements prevent the United States from using LEU that has been produced from foreign uranium, or enriched in a foreign-owned plant or in a U.S. plant using foreign enrichment technology. The NNSA argues that any tritium generated from these “obligated” sources is off-limits and therefore more unobligated LEU is needed.

The United States plans to spend nearly $500 billion to maintain and replace its nuclear arsenal over the next decade—a level of spending that is unnecessary, unsustainable, and unsafe. Learn more.

The United States stopped making HEU for nuclear weapons in 1964 and ended the production of unobligated LEU in 2013 when it closed the last of its Cold War gaseous-diffusion uranium-enrichment plants. The LEU used for current tritium production comes from uranium previously enriched in these facilities, including some of the 374 metric tons of HEU the United States declared excess to its weapons requirements in 1994 and 2005. Of this excess Cold War HEU, 152 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium were set aside to fuel Navy nuclear reactors, and 28 metric tons have been made available to be diluted down to LEU fuel for tritium production.5

This Cold War enriched uranium is a finite resource. The NNSA projects that the United States will run out of unobligated LEU for tritium production between 2038 and 2041 and that the HEU that has been set aside for naval reactors will run out around 2060.6 Because the United States does not have experience building modern gas-centrifuge enrichment facilities, the NNSA argues that it would be wise to start building soon.

Centrus Energy installed 120 AC100 centrifuges, each about 12 meters tall, in a demonstration project completed in 2016. The NNSA has estimated that using this centrifuge design to enrich uranium to use for tritium production would cost up to $11.3 billion.  (Photo: Centrus Energy)The NNSA established the mission need for a domestic uranium-enrichment facility in fiscal year 2017 and has funded development of two technologies.7 One would use AC100 centrifuges developed jointly by the NNSA and the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) and USEC’s successor, Centrus Energy. The AC100 is the world’s largest gas centrifuge and has a capacity to produce about 340 separative work units (SWUs) per year.8

USEC, a private corporation, operated two U.S. gaseous-diffusion plants and acted as a broker for down-blended Russian HEU from 1993 until 2013, when USEC went bankrupt. Renamed Centrus Energy and with former Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman as its president and chief executive officer, the company continues as a uranium broker for Russian LEU while lobbying for Energy Department funding to build a gas-centrifuge enrichment plant. In 2009 the Energy Department turned down a USEC request for a $2 billion loan guarantee to build a commercial enrichment facility, but has issued a notice of intent to contract with Centrus Energy to develop the capability to produce HALEU using AC100 centrifuges.

The NNSA is also funding the development of smaller, more conventional centrifuges designed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

According to NNSA estimates, building a domestic enrichment capability for tritium production would cost between $3.1 billion and $11.3 billion using the AC100 centrifuge and between $3.2 billion and $6.8 billion using the smaller centrifuge. Adding capacity to produce HEU for naval reactor fuel would increase the cost significantly.

A 2018 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) raises some concerns about NNSA plans and cost estimates. The GAO states that the NNSA’s preliminary analysis of options for meeting enrichment needs was biased toward establishing a new enrichment capability and did not sufficiently consider alternatives.9 In addition, the GAO found that the NNSA cost-estimating process did not meet best practices. The NNSA has consistently been on the GAO list of agencies with projects at “high risk” for cost increases and schedule delays because of contract management problems. If past NNSA cost overruns are any indicator, a domestic enrichment capability could cost significantly more than current NNSA estimates.10

This makes it even more important to consider three credible alternatives. First, the need for a new, national uranium-enrichment program could be delayed by declaring additional HEU to be excess to U.S. weapons needs. Second, it might be made altogether unnecessary if the NNSA were willing to purchase uranium-enrichment services from Urenco. Finally, the United States could eliminate any future need for producing additional weapons-grade uranium by designing future nuclear submarines to be fueled by LEU.

Declaring Additional HEU Excess

The NNSA’s review of potential alternative sources of unobligated LEU was not authorized to consider the possibility that the United States might be in a position to declare as excess additional HEU-containing weapon components.

The NNSA has not issued recent public information, but an estimate of the amount of HEU currently in the U.S. weapons stockpile can be made from past declarations by using a detailed report on U.S. stocks of HEU available for weapons as of September 30, 1996, and subtracting material declared to be excess for weapons in 2005 and an estimate of the amount of scrap HEU declared to be excess in 2015. This data suggests the United States has in nuclear weapons, weapons components, and reserves available for nuclear weapons between 216 and 240 tons of weapons-grade HEU containing about 200 to 225 tons of uranium-235.11

Based on the official September 2017 declaration that the U.S. nuclear stockpile contained 3,822 operational warheads, less than half of this HEU is used in operational U.S. nuclear warheads. If each of these operational warheads contained an average of 25 kilograms of HEU, a conservatively high estimate, then today’s entire arsenal would contain about 93.5 tons of U-235. That would leave more than 100 tons of weapons-grade uranium not in operational warheads.

If the United States declared 40 tons of weapons-grade uranium from this reserve to be excess and blended it down with natural uranium to 1,000 tons of 4.5 percent-enriched LEU, that would be sufficient to fuel the two Watts Bar tritium-production reactors for another 20 years, until about 2060 when the Navy’s reserve of HEU would be depleted as well.

Enrichment Services From Urenco

The Energy Department argues that the United States cannot fuel its tritium-producing reactors with LEU enriched in foreign-owned plants because all foreign material is obligated not to be used for weapons purposes under international supply agreements. Interestingly, Urenco does not agree.

The peaceful-use article in the treaty among the United States and the three nations (Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) that own Urenco’s commercial enrichment plant in New Mexico states that “[a]ny centrifuge technology, equipment and components transferred into the United States subject to this agreement,… any nuclear material…, any special nuclear material produced through the use of such technology, any special nuclear material produced through the use of such special nuclear material…shall only be used for peaceful, non-explosive purposes.”12 “Special nuclear material” is defined in the agreement as “plutonium, uranium-233, and uranium enriched in the isotopes U-233 or U-235.” Tritium is not included.

A 2014 GAO report on the topic stated that it was Urenco’s position that the use of Urenco-produced LEU to fuel the TVA tritium-production reactors would be allowed by the treaty: “Urenco has consistently informed TVA that it places no restrictions on TVA using [Urenco’s] LEU in its tritium-producing reactors.”13

Therefore, although the seller is willing, the buyer is not.

The GAO noted that the strict U.S. interpretation of its peaceful-use commitments was established in 1998 when USEC was still producing LEU. It also noted that the key agencies involved in this discussion, the Energy and State departments, argued that having a national enrichment plant would further U.S. nonproliferation and national security goals. According to the GAO, the Energy Department argued, for example, that “if the United States were to permanently lose its domestic enrichment capability, it could cause concern among other countries that the United States may not be able to ensure a guaranteed LEU supply, and other countries may then seek to acquire their own indigenous enrichment capability. This could, in turn, create new proliferation concerns, as the use of sensitive nuclear fuel enrichment technologies that are used to develop LEU for nuclear fuel could also be used for a clandestine nuclear weapons program.”

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the mostly recently commissioned U.S. aircraft carrier, is powered by two nuclear reactors fueled with weapon-grade uranium. Some other nations use low-enriched uranium to fuel their nuclear-powered naval vessels, and the U.S. Navy has assessed that it could also use low-enriched uranium for its aircraft carriers. (Photo: Christopher Delano/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)On the other hand, it could be argued that the United States could strengthen the nonproliferation regime by setting the example of forgoing a national enrichment program in favor of a multinational program. The current international supply of enrichment services is quite diverse (China, France, Russia, Urenco), and supply significantly exceeds demand. Currently, only three non-nuclear-armed states have active enrichment programs: Brazil, for its nuclear submarine program; Iran, with a program that has been a major focus of proliferation concern; and Japan. Each of these programs is uneconomic and currently too small to support even one large power reactor.

The Energy Department has suggested that a government-funded facility created for national security purposes could have surplus capacity to produce LEU for the commercial market.14 Given the Energy Department’s estimated costs for building and operating the plant, however, even without the huge cost overruns typical for new nuclear facilities, the production cost per SWU for the NNSA plant would be 15 to 40 times greater than the current market price.15

The NNSA argues that, in the long run, the United States will need a national enrichment facility to make HEU for naval reactor fuel. Even here, however, foreign centrifuges might be used. France, for example, already enriches uranium for its naval reactors with centrifuges produced by Enrichment Technology Company (ETC), a company owned jointly by Urenco and France’s fuel-cycle corporation, Orano. The peaceful-use paragraph in the Treaty of Cardiff under which France bought a share of ETC appears to have been designed to allow this: “The Government of the French Republic shall ensure that any organization which builds plants for the enrichment of uranium on the territory of the French Republic using or otherwise exploiting Centrifuge Technology owned by, held by, or deriving or arising from the operations of, ETC, or operates such plants, shall not produce weapons-grade uranium for the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”16

This limitation would appear to allow uranium enrichment for naval reactor fuel even up to the level of weapons grade. Because it did not want to go to the extra expense of higher enrichment just for its naval reactors, however, France fuels its nuclear submarines and nuclear aircraft carrier with LEU produced at Orano’s Georges Besse II plant, which produces primarily LEU for power reactor fuel. Enrichment of the LEU produced at Georges Besse II is limited to 6 percent.

In principle, if the United States could get the same terms with Urenco and Orano as France did, this could open up the possibility of buying enriched uranium for U.S. naval reactors from Urenco as well. Some would argue that Urenco and ETC, which produces its centrifuges, are foreign-controlled companies, but the controlling governments are all U.S. allies. Urenco’s U.S. subsidiary is incorporated in Delaware, its plant is in the United States, and virtually all its employees are Americans. The risk that somehow the United States would be cut off from its naval fuel supply seems remote.

In any case, the U.S. supply of enriched uranium for national security missions could be buffered by large stockpiles that would provide ample time for the United States to build an alternative enrichment plant if something should go awry. If this is not sufficient assurance, a U.S. company might be encouraged by the government to buy a share of Urenco. The Netherlands, the UK, and the two utilities that own Germany’s share of Urenco have been expressing an interest in selling for years.17 The market value of $10 billion estimated for the company in 2013, is within the $3.1–11.3 billion range estimated by the Energy Department for construction of a facility equipped with AC100 centrifuges with an enrichment capacity of 0.4 million SWUs per year. Urenco’s enrichment capacity is nearly 50 times larger.18

Future Submarines and LEU

All U.S. submarines and aircraft carriers are fueled by weapons-grade uranium containing 93.5 percent U-235. There are technical advantages to HEU fuel, including more compact, longer-lived reactor cores. Yet, global trends are moving away from the use of HEU because the material can also be used directly to make nuclear weapons, even by terrorist groups. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States led a largely successful global campaign to end the use of HEU to fuel research reactors.

The technical trade-offs for the benefits of moving naval reactors to LEU fuel would be acceptable.19 France has quietly switched its submarines and aircraft carrier to use LEU fuel, mostly for cost reasons, and China has reportedly always used LEU.20 That leaves the United States; the UK, which bases its naval reactors on U.S. designs; Russia; and India, which bases its naval reactors on Russian designs.

The U.S. nuclear navy believes that it could switch its aircraft carriers to LEU but argues that it would have to design its future submarine reactors to hold larger cores or go back to midlife refueling.21 So, there is a trade-off between strengthening nonproliferation and nuclear security efforts by banning the production of HEU for any purpose and continuing to design future U.S. submarine reactors to run on HEU fuel.

If the United States designed its future naval reactors to operate on LEU, that could provide an extra incentive for the Urenco countries and France to renegotiate the treaty terms between the United States and Urenco. Rather than the 6 percent-enriched level that France has adopted for its naval reactor fuel, the United States could use the same fuel to which research reactors were converted to use: 19.75 percent-enriched, just below the 20 percent HEU threshold.

Uranium Enrichment Can Wait

In 1964, as part of an effort to reduce tensions with the Soviet Union after the Cuban missile crisis, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev announced parallel reductions in the production of fissile materials. In addition to promoting a more peaceful “post-Cold War era,” Johnson warned that the United States must not operate a nuclear project “just to maintain employment.”22 That same year, Johnson ordered an end to the production of enriched uranium for weapons purposes. For Johnson, the focus had shifted from weapons production to concerns about more countries getting the bomb.

Since 1974, when India tested a nuclear explosive made with plutonium separated for its civilian nuclear research and development program, the United States has discouraged non-nuclear-armed states from launching plutonium-separation or uranium-enrichment programs and argued for a shift from HEU to LEU in research reactors so as to minimize their proliferation potential and reduce terrorist access to nuclear materials. Given the options of down-blending more excess HEU and Urenco’s offer to supply LEU for U.S. tritium-production reactors and the feasibility of designing future U.S. naval reactors to use LEU fuel, the United States can afford to wait and consider the alternatives before building a national enrichment plant.
 


The authors would like to acknowledge Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center for his work on this subject. See https://www.weeklystandard.com/henry-sokolski/national-security-and-crony-nuclear-capitalism.


ENDNOTES

1. U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), “Fiscal Year 2019 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan - Biennial Plan Summary: Report to Congress,” DOE/NA-0072, October 2018, pp. 2–16.

2. U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), “NNSA Should Clarify Long-Term Uranium Enrichment Mission Needs and Improve Technology Cost Estimates,” GAO-18-126, February 2018, p. 14.

3. Instead of the 4 to 5 percent-enriched fuel of conventional power reactors, this uranium would be closer to the 20 percent-enrichment level above which enriched uranium is officially considered weapons usable.

4. U.S. Department of Energy, “Tritium and Enriched Uranium Management Plan Through 2060: Report to Congress,” October 2015, p. 26, http://fissilematerials.org/library/doe15b.pdf.

5. Ibid., fig. 2. All of the 174 tons of the highly enriched uranium (HEU) declared to be excess in 1994 was restricted to peaceful uses and therefore is not available for tritium production. Twenty tons of HEU declared to be excess in 2005 has been committed to be down-blended to high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) for research reactors.

6. NNSA, “Fiscal Year 2019 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan,” pp. 3–38.

7. GAO, “NNSA Should Clarify...,” pp. 23–27.

8. Separative work units (SWUs) are used to measure enrichment capacity and embedded enrichment work. It takes about 200 SWUs to produce a kilogram of 90 percent-enriched HEU, 8 SWUs for a kilogram of 5 percent-enriched low-enriched uranium (LEU), and 40 SWUs for a kilogram of 19.75 percent-enriched HALEU.

9. GAO, “NNSA Should Clarify...”

10. Lydia Dennett, “Nuke Agency Needs Budget Accountability,” Project on Government Oversight, May 1, 2018, https://www.pogo.org/investigation/2018/05/nuke-agency-needs-budget-accountability/; David Kramer, “DOE Uranium Contract Raises Fairness Concerns,” Physics Today, Vol. 72, No. 3 (2019), pp. 28–30.

11. Frank von Hippel, “Declaring More U.S. Weapon-Grade Uranium Excess Could Delay by Two Decades the Need to Build a New National Enrichment Plant,” April 5, 2018, http://fissilematerials.org/library/fvh18.pdf.

12. “Agreement Between the Three Governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of the United States of America Regarding the Establishment, Construction and Operation of a Uranium Enrichment Installation in the United States,” February 1, 1995, art. III.

13. “Urenco has consistently informed [the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)] that it places no restrictions on TVA using [Urenco’s] LEU in its tritium-producing reactors.” GAO, “Department of Energy: Interagency Review Needed to Update U.S. Position on Enriched Uranium That Can Be Used for Tritium Production,” GAO-15-123, October 2014, p. 30.

14. U.S. Department of Energy, “Tritium and Enriched Uranium Management Plan Through 2060,” p. 33.

15. The NNSA estimated that the capital cost of a facility built by Centrus Energy with a capacity of 400,000 SWUs per year would be $3.1 billion to $11.3 billion, with an annual operating cost of $112 million to $195 million. U.S. Department of Energy, “Tritium and Enriched Uranium Management Plan Through 2060,” pp. 32–38. Assuming a 30-year lifetime for the facility and a real inflation rate of 1.5 percent, the annual capital charge would be about 4 percent, and the cost of an SWU would be $590 to $1,600. For comparison, during 2018–2019, the average spot price for enrichment contracts was about $40 per SWU.

16. “Agreement Between the Governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic Regarding Collaboration in Centrifuge Technology,” July 12, 2005, art. IV.2.

17. Stanley Reed, “Powerhouse of the Uranium Enrichment Industry Seeks an Exit,” The New York Times, May 27, 2013.

18. Urenco’s annual enrichment capacity is 18.6 million SWUs. Urenco, “Global Operations,” n.d., https://urenco.com/global-operations (accessed June 14, 2019).

19. Sebastien Philippe and Frank von Hippel, “The Feasibility of Ending HEU Fuel Use in the U.S. Navy,” Arms Control Today, November 2016, pp. 15–22.

20. Hui Zhang, “China’s Fissile Material Production and Stockpile,” International Panel on Fissile Materials Research Report, No. 17 (December 2017), p. 16, http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr17.pdf.

21. NNSA, “Conceptual Research and Development Plan for Low-Enriched Uranium Naval Fuel: Report to Congress,” July 2016.

22. “Design for Peace,” The Washington Post, April 21, 1964, p. A14.

 


Frank N. von Hippel is a professor emeritus of public and international affairs in Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security. During 1993–1994, he served as assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Sharon K. Weiner is an associate professor in American University’s School of International Service. During 2014–2017, she worked in the National Security Division of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

The United States wants to enrich uranium domestically for defense purposes, but there are better options.

Translating Goals Into Agreements: An Interview with Pavel Palazhchenko


July/August 2019

Pavel Palazhchenko has witnessed historic arms control efforts from a unique position: the interpreter’s seat next to top Soviet leaders as they negotiated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In the arms control community, he is instantly recognizable because of his consistent presence in images of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meeting with U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s. Palazhchenko’s experience offers an unusual perspective on the process of arms control negotiations and the value of U.S.-Russian engagement today. He spoke with Arms Control Today on June 8 by phone from Moscow.

Arms Control Today: How did you get your start as an interpreter for the Soviet Foreign Ministry?

Pavel Palazhchenko: I graduated from what is now called Moscow Linguistic University, which at that time was called Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages, where I majored in English and French. I then studied for a year at the UN language training course in Moscow, which trained simultaneous interpreters for the UN Secretariat.

Soviet interpreter Pavel Palazhchenko (center), supports a conversation between President Ronald Reagan (left) and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the end of their 1986 summit meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland. (Photo: Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)Then I worked in New York at the United Nations from 1974 to 1979, and when I returned to Moscow, I was kind of lucky because at that time they were expanding the linguistic services of the Soviet Foreign Ministry. So, there were vacancies, and I was accepted to work there. Interestingly, one of my first assignments was to work at the [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty] negotiations that started in 1981.

Those first INF Treaty negotiations, which were not successful, lasted for a little more than two years, and I basically did the entire process from beginning to end. There were several rounds of negotiations. Ultimately they were not successful, but they were still useful because it was a discussion of the conceptual basis of intermediate-range nuclear forces, the balance of arsenals on both sides, the format of a future agreement, all of those things. Of course, it was quite a bit frustrating.

The Soviet side was led by Yuli Kvitsinsky, at that time a rising star in the Soviet Foreign Ministry. On the American side, it was Paul Nitze, who was a veteran. They were two very different individuals, but they were able to work together quite well. They respected each other, and they really wanted some kind of an agreement, but politically of course, it turned out that that was not possible.

ACT: Did Soviet interpreters, and now Russian ones, receive diplomatic training and education and status? In the United States, interpreters are selected for their linguistic skills. Is it the same in Russia?

PP: We are also chosen as linguists, but in the Soviet Foreign Ministry, once you start working as a linguist, you also are a diplomat. There is no separation between different categories. You are a diplomat, and you are supposed to have that diplomatic awareness. I suspect that even though in the United States it’s kind of two separate categories, it’s still the same: you really need certain diplomatic skills. Above all, you have to be very much aware of the subject matter of negotiations. You have to have access, sometimes limited, but very often quite wide-ranging access to the diplomatic material. So even though it’s a little different in the U.S. tradition and the Russian tradition, I suspect that it’s basically quite similar.

ACT: What are the professional norms of the interpreter? Are you expected to sit and translate, or are your opinions sought?

PP: The opinions would not normally be sought because the status of the interpreter is different from the status of official members and advisers in the delegation. But of course, later when I was working with [Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard] Shevardnadze and with [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev, informally, yes, they might seek your opinion. In the arms control delegations, perhaps not so much. But you know, a delegation is a kind of environment in which you socialize, you communicate, you interact with diplomats, so you learn a lot, even though your official status is not the same as the status of the members of the delegation.

The actual work of the interpreter, specifically in arms control negotiations, is that you interpret the official statements that are delivered during the meetings of the delegations. Also, the delegation heads then talk separately, and I was interpreting their discussions. Then at the lower level, the senior military representatives talk, advisers from the foreign ministry and from the defense department talk, and there are interpreters who take care of that.

Then a couple of days later, we would exchange official translations of the formal statements that had been made at the meeting of the delegations. That is done to make sure that the terminology is correct, that we interpret the terms and understand the terms in a similar way, and that was of course useful.

The rest of it is quite informal, and to some extent, it depends on the rapport and the informal interactions within the delegations. There are official receptions where everything is quite informal and the value of what is being said is less than what is being said during the formal meetings. A lot of the talk and discussion is exploratory. It is something that can later be denied, or you can back out of some of those things, and interpreters are also involved in that type of discussion as well.

ACT: There are reports that U.S. President Donald Trump had a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their Helsinki summit in 2018, where only interpreters were present, and Trump asked his interpreter not to share or discuss the meeting with anyone in the U.S. delegation. In your experience, what are the normal standards for an interpreter in record-keeping and in sharing information with their delegation?

PP: There can be no standards to apply here because it’s a matter of government service in this case. Of course, interpreters do have a standard of confidentiality. You are not supposed to talk out of school. Whenever the president, or whoever else is the main interlocutor in a negotiation, says that something is not to be revealed to others, I would assume that’s an order, that’s something that interpreters have to obey.

ACT: You are well known, you have a higher profile than most interpreters
have achieved.

PP: That began in 1985, and it began with the first meeting that Shevardnadze had with [U.S. Secretary of State] George Shultz. That was the first formal, official meeting of foreign ministers where simultaneous interpretation was used. That is to say not the consecutive interpretation where a person speaks and then you interpret what he has said, but simultaneous interpretation with the proper equipment, microphones, and headphones. The U.S. side actually proposed this, and after some initial hesitation, this was accepted. I was asked to interpret at that meeting because I had had a lot of previous experience in doing it at the UN and elsewhere.

Interpreter Pavel Palazhchenko (right) continues to work with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, here in Berlin in 2014 to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Photo: Target Presse Agentur Gmbh/Getty Images)That was a bit of luck. I was fortunate that I was asked to do it. Then I continued both with Shevardnadze and Gorbachev. I interpreted Shevardnadze’s first meeting with President Ronald Reagan at the White House in September 1985, so the profile was high because at that time it was quite unusual. It was after a period of deep freeze in U.S.-Soviet relations, so there was a lot of media interest, so I guess that’s the reason.

ACT: You wrote a book about your experience. Given this principle of confidentiality, was it difficult to get the book cleared by Russian officials?

PP: I was not asked to submit it for review because everyone assumes, at least in Russia I guess, that a person who had access to truly confidential information would not reveal something that remains confidential. When I was writing the book, a lot of the material from those conversations and negotiations had been declassified either on one side or both sides. Today, the memorandums of conversation from those negotiations have been made public on both sides; and even then, when I was writing the book and particularly when the book was published, a lot had already been declassified. Of course, there were certain things that were still confidential and perhaps some things that still are, but it is assumed that people that had access to those things are responsible individuals and that they will not reveal anything that will cause problems.

ACT: Looking back at the INF Treaty talks, can you describe how the negotiators from both sides worked together?

PP: The completion of the INF Treaty was the result of agreements that were achieved at the summit level. It was in Reykjavik that Gorbachev and Reagan agreed on a zero-option agreement in Europe with a limited number of INF Treaty missiles elsewhere. Ultimately, for reasons that were good and legitimate, they decided that it would be best to have a global zero. That agreement was reached, I think, in February 1987.

That was the difference. Once there is an agreement at the summit level, it’s a lot easier for diplomats to work out the details. Whereas during the first negotiations, the unsuccessful negotiations of 1981 to 1983, there was no common basis agreed at the highest level for negotiating the details and actually drafting the treaty.

ACT: You referred to a deep freeze in U.S.-Soviet relations in the 1980s, and we may be in a similar period now, with the two countries struggling to talk to each other, including about the INF Treaty. Are there parallels between what you saw firsthand to what could happen today?

PP: The main lesson is simple: If there is dialogue, then there is a chance that some kind of an agreement will be achieved. If there is no dialogue, then there is no chance that an agreement will be achieved. That’s why when the dialogue resumed between the leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States in November 1985 in Geneva—and when they established a process of discussions about all issues, the so-called four-part agenda to discuss arms control and security, regional issues, bilateral relations, and human rights—once that started, the chance for an agreement emerged.

Unfortunately, today’s leaders of Russia and the United States have not established such a process. It’s not guaranteed that a process of dialogue and negotiations will actually bring success, but at least there is a chance.

Right now, our leaders have had only one proper meeting in Helsinki. It didn’t go well. They have not had a real summit since then, and even worse, there is no diplomatic process, which to me is really a mystery why that is so. A normal process of diplomatic discussion probably would not cause political problems for either Trump or Putin, so why they have not established that kind of process, I really cannot understand. So, that may be something that they might finally want to achieve, to establish.

ACT: Perhaps when tensions are high, that is the time to talk?

PP: Well, if you look at the history of U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Russian relations, unfortunately that is not the case. It is often when tensions start that the process of negotiations stalls or is interrupted or is even abandoned. That was the case, unfortunately, after the U-2 episode between [Soviet Premier Nikita] Khrushchev and [U.S. President Dwight] Eisenhower. That was the case after the entry of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. That is often when negotiations stall, and that’s unfortunate.

To the great credit of Gorbachev and Reagan, they never interrupted the negotiating process even though there were bumps on the road, unfortunate incidents, spy scandals, and expulsions of diplomats. Nevertheless, they persevered, and they continued the talks.

ACT: Former President Gorbachev continues to promote dialogue and arms control. Is he heard in the Russian government?

PP: I have not heard the president or the foreign minister of Russia ever quoting Gorbachev, but sometimes it seems to me they do listen.

ACT: Right now, there’s a very popular television show about Chernobyl. Did the accident at Chernobyl affect Soviet thinking about nuclear weapons issues? Did that affect any negotiations?

PP: Gorbachev has said on many occasions that the disaster at Chernobyl reinforced his view that the arsenals of nuclear weapons should be cut to a minimum, that a nuclear war is unthinkable, that it must never be fought. It strengthened his intention and his desire to work hard on some kind of agreement that would start the process of nuclear disarmament. He has stated that on a number of occasions, both when he was president and afterward.

ACT: Can the INF Treaty experience still contribute to the future?

PP: First of all, it’s very unfortunate that the United States decided to withdraw from the INF Treaty. The treaty was a great achievement. We lived in a better and safer world for over 30 years as a result of the INF Treaty. I believe that the philosophy and the legacy of that treaty need to be preserved, even though both sides have now decided to withdraw from that treaty.

Nevertheless, I think there is a good chance that an arms race, an intermediate-range nuclear forces arms race, can be avoided because I do not see any great appetite in European countries to deploy those weapons. I don’t know much about Asia, but I’m not sure that there is appetite there either.

The philosophy of the INF Treaty is that ground-based missiles of that range are dangerous because they could trigger an all-out nuclear war. That philosophy was right. The legacy of the treaty remains in the minds of many experts, in the minds of many members of the military. I believe it’s very much alive in Europe, which remains, I think, the place where we should really focus on security issues.

We are currently at a difficult crossroads, but I still think that there is a chance to preserve both the philosophy and the legacy of the INF Treaty. That’s the connection that I see between that time and now.

 

Arms Control Today interviews Mikhail Gorbachev’s interpreter about his experience with arms control negotiations and the INF Treaty.

Hypersonic Weapons Affect South Asia Too


July/August 2019

Michael T. Klare’s article “An ‘Arms Race in Speed’: Hypersonic Weapons and the Changing Calculus of Battle” (ACT, June 2019) analyzes hypersonic weapons developments in China, Russia, and the United States. South Asia is an equally relevant and important region in this regard. Hypersonic technologies have already begun proliferating in the region. For instance, India tested its indigenous Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) on June 12. It is also developing the BrahMos-2 hypersonic missile with Russia’s help. It aims to produce a scramjet engine capable of flying faster than Mach 5. These developments will not only destabilize the already precarious state of strategic stability in South Asia, but will also increase the risks of inadvertent escalation.

India will have the capability and confidence to conduct a counterforce strike against Pakistan. The plan could be to launch a speedy attack against Pakistan, and by using its ballistic missile defenses, India will shoot down incoming missiles. What if Pakistan launches a preemptive strike to avoid India’s first strike? In any case, the outcome will be mutually assured destruction. Not only this, the proliferation of hypersonic technologies will spur an unwanted arms race in the region.

In addition, unlike China, Russia, and the United States, hypersonic technology development is in its infancy in South Asia. With BrahMos-2 tests delayed, only one test of the HSTDV has been conducted. Pakistan is not known to have an indigenous hypersonic development program. Moreover, if China, Russia, and the United States reach an agreement on the issue, then there are more chances of avoiding a possible regional hypersonic rivalry in South Asia by making India part of the agreement.


Samran Ali works on nonproliferation issues at the Center for International Strategic Studies in Islamabad.

 

Hypersonic Weapons Affect South Asia Too

Regime Protection Fuels Nuclear Proliferation


July/August 2019

Paul Kerr’s article “Lessons Learned From Denuclearizing States” (ACT, May 2019) has much to offer, but it leaves out a very important lesson from Libya’s denuclearization: engaging in regime change, as the United States effectively did in Libya, motivates nuclear proliferation by other nations that we might target. Here is the background and the result:

On Dec. 19, 2003, President George W. Bush stated,:

Today in Tripoli, the leader of Libya, Colonel Moammar al-Gaddafi, publicly confirmed his commitment to disclose and dismantle all weapons of mass destruction programs in his country. … [L]eaders who abandon the pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them will find an open path to better relations with the United States and other free nations. … As the Libyan government takes these essential steps and demonstrates its seriousness, its good faith will be returned. Libya can regain a secure and respected place among the nations, and over time, achieve far better relations with the United States. … I hope that other leaders will find an example in Libya’s announcement today.

When President Barack Obama attacked Libya in 2011, North Korea put out a press release indicating that it had learned a lesson from Libya’s example, but not the one that Bush had in mind. Although that press release includes puffery, it also conveys an important point:

The present Libyan crisis teaches the international community a serious lesson.

It was fully exposed before the world that Libya's nuclear dismantlement, much touted by the United States in the past, turned out to be a mode of aggression whereby the latter coaxed the former with such sweet words as “guarantee of security” and “improvement of relations” to disarm itself and then swallowed it up by force.

It proved once again the truth of history that peace can be preserved only when one builds up one’s own strength as long as high-handed and arbitrary practices go on in the world.

Even if Bush had not promised Libya that “its good faith will be returned,” whenever we threaten regime change and especially when we engage in that practice, we unwittingly encourage nuclear proliferation. Nations that we threaten and that have the capability to develop nuclear weapons are likely to do so since that is the only way they can deter us from doing to them what we did to Libya.

If we want North Korea to denuclearize and if we do not want Iran to develop nuclear weapons, we need to recognize that threatening regime change works counter to achieving those goals.


Martin Hellman is a professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Stanford University and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Regime Protection Fuels Nuclear Proliferation

The Wohlstetter-Warnke Debate in Foreign Policy


July/August 2019
By Paul S. Warnke

In 1974 and 1975, two influential Cold War nuclear strategists used the pages of the still-young journal Foreign Policy to debate how to achieve stability in the U.S.-Soviet nuclear rivalry. Their discourse contributed to the course policymakers followed for decades after and continues to have relevance today as U.S.-Russian arms control agreements appear to be on the rocks.

Foreign Policy, No. 18 (Spring 1975) courtesy Foreign Policy.In the summer of 1974, Albert Wohlstetter published a pair of articles in Foreign Policy that crystallized and fueled the national debate on nuclear policy. He challenged the conventional wisdom that the United States and Soviet Union were engaged in a nuclear arms race defined by overestimation and overreaction, as well as spiraling moves and countermoves. He asserted instead that the Soviet Union was rushing ahead while the United States ambled backward. A race, at least a fair one, requires matching paces. Yet, there can be no race, Wohlstetter wrote, “between parties moving in quite different directions.”1

Wohlstetter’s claims that the United States was ceding strategic ground to the Soviet Union sparked a lengthy debate in Foreign Policy. Prominent thinkers and policymakers defended and prosecuted his thesis. They disagreed on how to measure nuclear superiority, how much the United States could afford to spend on its nuclear arsenal, and the perils and possibilities of engaging in arms control with the Soviet Union.

Of all the rebuttals to Wohlstetter that the magazine published, one stands out for its approach and imagery. Paul C. Warnke, a former defense official in the administration of President Lyndon Johnson and a staunch arms controller, did not challenge Wohlstetter’s scholarship or conclusions. He argued that the entire premise of his article was wrong: vying for advantage in the nuclear arms competition was a senseless exercise. He likened the United States and Soviet Union to two “apes on a treadmill,” accumulating more and more nuclear weapons in the futile pursuit of nuclear superiority. In Warnke’s opinion, the arms competition resembled less a race in which the two rivals were running at different paces and in different directions. They were instead “jogging in tandem on a treadmill to nowhere.”2

The Backdrop

The debate in Foreign Policy came at a turning point in the U.S.-Soviet strategic relationship. U.S. President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev had just signed the 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) agreement, a landmark accord that severely constrained the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) capabilities of both countries and placed five-year limits on their offensive strategic forces. Still, the pact failed to prevent both sides from pressing ahead with their nuclear weapons ambitions. The Soviet Union continued to build a new generation of multiple-warhead, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that U.S. strategists feared could threaten the survivability of U.S. land-based missiles and give Moscow escalation dominance in a nuclear exchange. Meanwhile, the price for Senate approval of SALT I was an extensive U.S. modernization program.

‘Is There a Strategic Arms Race?’

In his article, Wohlstetter set out to debunk the myths of the nuclear arms race and in the process undermine SALT I and Nixon’s policy of détente with the Soviet Union.

Wohlstetter took issue with the lexicon of arms controllers, bristling at what he considered their hyperbolic claims that the superpowers’ arms competition was “accelerating” and “spiraling.”3 In his opinion, this reliance on metaphor had led to an imprecise portrayal of the U.S.-Soviet strategic relationship.

Paul C. Warnke (left), director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, meets with President Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office. (Photo: Courtesy Warnke family)Culling declassified data from U.S. intelligence reports between 1962 and 1972, Wohlstetter concluded that the United States had chronically underestimated the number of nuclear weapons the Soviet Union would deploy. Through a buildup of ICBMs and strategic bombers, the Soviet Union had been surging forward, moving quickly from a position of strategic inferiority to one of rough parity with the United States. Contrary to the rhetoric of arms controllers, Washington was not overreacting to these developments with countervailing moves. Wohlstetter contended that U.S. strategic programs were actually in decline, with spending on offensive forces insufficient to meet the growing Soviet threat. Taken together, these findings painted an ominous picture of the strategic reality: Moscow was setting a pace that Washington neglected to match.

Wohlstetter’s Foreign Policy articles carried profound implications for U.S. nuclear policy at a critical juncture. First, they questioned the wisdom of practicing restraint with an adversary that appeared bent on achieving strategic superiority. Second, the articles added greater urgency to modernization efforts. Improving Minuteman ICBM accuracy and procuring new submarine-launched ballistic missiles and bomber capabilities appeared imperative for providing adequate U.S. strategic strength.

Finally, Wohlstetter’s articles delivered a broadside against Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s policy of détente. The articles portrayed Kremlin leaders more intent on winning an arms competition than on imitating U.S. self-control.

‘Apes on a Treadmill’

Titling his Foreign Policy article “Apes on a Treadmill,” Warnke used a simple metaphor to dispute Wohlstetter. As Warnke saw it, the United States and Soviet Union were stuck in a “‘monkey see, monkey do’ phenomenon,” in which each side reciprocated the arms decisions of the other.4 The United States responded to Soviet moves toward ABM deployments in the mid-1960s by building its own ABM systems and deploying multiple warheads on its strategic missiles to overcome defensive systems. In turn, Moscow had begun to take similar steps.

This quest for some numerical or technological edge by either side was futile, Warnke said, arguing that losing a cosmetic lead was no cause for concern because nuclear weapons served merely as offsets, not as exploitable resources for military and political gain. He strove to discredit the central premise of Wohlstetter’s article and lay bare the impulses driving the arms race.

To suppress these basic impulses, Warnke offered a daring initiative. Instead of trying to match or surpass Soviet weapon advancements, the United States should initiate a “process of matching restraint,” whereby the two superpowers would undertake a series of informal, reciprocal actions to uphold strategic stability.5 He proposed that the United States suspend many of its modernization programs. If Moscow responded by freezing its own strategic arms buildup, Washington could continue with further moderating steps. Warnke’s article ended where it started, with a metaphor: “We can be first off the treadmill. That’s the only victory the arms race has to offer.”6

Conclusion

The Wohlstetter-Warnke debate holds particular resonance for today. The United States and Russia are undertaking extensive modernization programs, refurbishing each leg of their nuclear triads and building new, exotic capabilities. As the two emphasize the role of low-yield, nonstrategic forces, nuclear weapons become instruments of statecraft with perceived military and political value. The arms control architecture is crumbling under this weight.

The visceral fear of falling behind, which Wohlstetter translated into mathematical proofs, has gained traction in the debate. The United States and Russia are striving to find an edge in their strategic competition as each develops capabilities to match or surpass the other, within and outside the parameters of existing arms control agreements. In this climate of heightened competition and suspicion, Warnke’s calls for reciprocating restraint are at risk of falling on deaf ears.

Looking back at the Wohlstetter-Warnke exchange in Foreign Policy may not resolve the complex issues of nuclear policy, but it throws them into sharp relief. In doing so, it raises the important question of whether the United States and Russia can afford to take bold initiatives and pursue mutual restraint in the name of strategic stability. Or as Warnke wrote in Foreign Policy, are the two forever doomed to continue “the solemn jog on the treadmill”?7

 

ENDNOTES

1. Albert Wohlstetter, “Is There a Strategic Arms Race? (II): Rivals but No ‘Race’” Foreign Policy, No. 16 (Autumn 1974), pp. 79–80.

2. Paul C. Warnke, “Apes on a Treadmill,” Foreign Policy, No. 18 (Spring 1975), p. 13.

3. Wohlstetter, “Is There a Strategic Arms Race?” Foreign Policy, No. 15 (Summer 1974), p. 4.

4. Warnke, “Apes on a Treadmill,” p. 15.

5. Ibid., p. 28.

6. Ibid., p. 29.

7. Ibid., p. 17.


Paul S. Warnke is a congressional nuclear security fellow for Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and the grandson of Paul C. Warnke. This article is adapted from his honors thesis for his master’s degree from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

 

Albert Wohlstetter and Paul C. Warnke squared off in the pages of Foreign Policy nearly 45 years ago, framing an arms control debate that continues today.

REMARKS: Making Progress in Inter-Korean Peace


July/August 2019
By Jeong Kyeong-doo

During the 2018 Panmunjom Declaration and the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, President Moon and Chairman Kim agreed on complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of a permanent peace regime, alleviation of military tensions and practical mitigation of the risk of war, and a broad and groundbreaking development of inter-Korean relations.

(Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)In fact, the U.S.-North Korean summit that took place right here in Singapore a year ago was a historical meeting where President Trump and Chairman Kim agreed on a complete denuclearization of the peninsula and the improvement of bilateral relations, as well as mutual cooperation for the peace of the Korean Peninsula and the world.

The current denuclearization dialogue between the United States and North Korea is clearly different from the past denuclearization talks of the last 30 years that had missed their mark. While there may be more difficulties like the present into the future, these difficulties will surely be overcome as a part of an important step toward denuclearization.

In order to hold on to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for denuclearization, it is important to continue maintaining the momentum of dialogue generated through the summit talks. A variety of measures must also be considered to provide North Korea with the assurance of a bright future of peace and prosperity.

Permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, together with denuclearization, is only achievable when the 70-year-long fear and anxiety of war between South and North Korea is overcome and when military tension is alleviated and confidence is built.

Last September, the agreement of the implementation of the historic Panmunjom Declaration in the military domain, also known as the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) was signed by the minister of national defense of the Republic of Korea and the minister of the People’s Armed Forces of North Korea in Pyongyang, serving us the first steps toward the establishment of permanent peace. The foundation of this agreement is comprised of the basic spirit of the 1953 armistice agreement in preventing armed confrontations in the peninsula, as well as the contents of previous inter-Korean agreements in the military domain. It includes practical matters to comprehensively halt acts of aggression toward each other.

The two Koreas have ceased military aggression in all domains including land, air, and sea since last November. The demilitarized zone (DMZ) is also undergoing actual demilitarization, transforming into a zone of peace. An agreement was reached to withdraw all guarded posts installed at key points within the DMZ.

In addition, the two Koreas have completed demilitarization measures, such as removing all firearms installed in joint guard posts in the Panmunjom Joint Security Area, an area known for its symbolic representation of the division of the peninsula.

Furthermore, in areas within the DMZ that includes territory from both Koreas, recovery of war remains has commenced for the first time since the division. This area has seen the deaths of countless young men and women in fierce battles between the two Koreas and many other participating nations, while access was restricted for all ever since the armistice agreement was signed in 1953. An inter-Korean agreement to jointly pursue recovery has brought newfound attention.

Furthermore, the Republic of Korea government has not stopped at just implementing the CMA, but also constructed open DMZ peace trails in the vicinity of the DMZ, creating opportunities to experience peace at the heart of the division. The reason that the CMA is set apart from past agreements is that rather than limiting ourselves to a declarative purpose, it makes tangible contributions for the alleviation of military tensions and confidence building between the two Koreas. This has allowed for a more stable management of inter-Korean military relations than ever before. Efforts will continue for a complete denuclearization and establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula through the meticulous implementation of the CMA, making sure that the heightened military tensions, crises, and friction of the past will not be repeated.


Adapted from a June 1 speech by South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo at the 18th Asia Security Summit in Singapore organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

South Korea's defense minister highlights areas of improved relations between the Koreas.

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