William Burr and Jeffrey P. Kimball’s new book on President Richard Nixon’s use of coercive nuclear feints during the Vietnam War should put an end to academic debates...
Reviewed by Michael Krepon
Nixon’s Nuclear Specter: The Secret Alert of 1969, Madman Diplomacy, and the Vietnam War By William Burr and Jeffrey P. Kimball University Press of Kansas, 2015, 448 pp.
One debating point in academic circles about nuclear weapons is whether they confer leverage in crises and in war.1 For those confused by or skeptical of the methodologies employed in these arguments, the best way to reach a conclusion is by delving deeply into case studies.
There will be no better book-length case study on coercive nuclear diplomacy than the one just written by William Burr and Jeffrey P. Kimball, Nixon’s Nuclear Specter: The Secret Alert of 1969, Madman Diplomacy, and the Vietnam War. Burr is one of the keepers of the National Security Archive, an essential resource for researchers, writers, and diplomatic practitioners who wish to be informed by history. Kimball is a professor emeritus at Miami University in Ohio and the author of Nixon’s Vietnam War. (He also is the father of Arms Control Today’s publisher.) Burr and Kimball document in significant detail the story of how, in 1969, President Richard Nixon and national security adviser Henry Kissinger sought to avoid a “long game” in Vietnam. In October 1969, they authorized coercive nuclear feints designed to incline North Vietnam to be more receptive to U.S. offers and the Kremlin to be more helpful in arranging an early settlement.
The modus operandi of Nixon and Kissinger for Vietnam was similar to the one they used for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) with the Soviet Union. They set in motion bureaucratic inquiries into policy options that they did not intend to pursue, operated through irregular channels, and tried to keep some key individuals out of the loop.
Burr and Kimball were not granted access to the Kissinger papers at the Library of Congress, which will remain closed to all but a privileged few until five years after his death—a constraint that the authors declare to be “the last standing abuse of power of the Nixon era.” They also did not gain access to archives in China, Russia, or Vietnam to offer greater insight into how these countries assessed the motives and intentions behind Nixon’s nuclear messaging.
They still managed to gather enough material to provide great detail on the veiled nuclear alert and to conclude that it was directed primarily against Moscow. They also provide compelling arguments for why these feints failed in their intended purpose. This book should put an end to academic debates over the diplomatic utility of nuclear weapons to leverage outcomes, but it probably will not.
During the Vietnam War, the United States possessed the largest and most capable nuclear arsenal in the world. It was bogged down in a brutal, extended war with a state that did not possess nuclear weapons. North Vietnam was helpless to stop U.S. aerial bombardment and could not be sure that its patron, the Soviet Union, would respond militarily to U.S. nuclear strikes on North Vietnam. Even under these circumstances, the Nixon administration’s attempts at coercive nuclear diplomacy failed miserably.
The Soviet Union failed to react in hoped-for ways, nor did it overreact. Evidence of the failure of veiled nuclear threats in the fall of 1969 can be found in the war’s prolongation until the armistice agreement signed in January 1973 and ultimately in the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975, after what Nixon and Kissinger termed a “decent interval” of two years.
A case can be made that more conventional military means of suasion—for example, the stepped-up U.S. bombing and mining campaigns in 1972—had more influence on the North’s leadership than the veiled nuclear threats. Burr and Kimball argue otherwise. They conclude with reasonable evidence that these endgame measures were directed more at President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam, who was balking at the terms that Kissinger was negotiating, rather than the North Vietnamese leadership.
Most of this book is about Vietnam. The portrayals of Nixon and Kissinger are by now familiar, with new flourishes recently added by Bob Woodward’s book The Last of the President’s Men, based on a trove of documents and the recollections of Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy chief of staff. In the Burr-Kimball book, Nixon and Kissinger sometimes egg each other on. Kissinger flatters Nixon while occasionally evading Nixon’s exasperated instructions. The tide of the Vietnam War and anti-war sentiment are working against them; escalation measures succeed more in inflaming domestic opposition than in bringing the war to a satisfactory conclusion.
Those interested in whether nuclear weapons provide political utility can profit from reading the first chapter of Burr and Kimball’s book, which summarizes nuclear threats made prior to the Nixon administration, as well as the chapter providing particulars about the 1969 nuclear alert, which was characterized as a “readiness test” to avoid raising domestic and diplomatic hackles.
The record of senior U.S. officials believing that nuclear weapons could provide diplomatic leverage begins with President Harry Truman and Secretary of War Henry Stimson after World War II, when they initially considered the atomic bomb to be a “master card,” and Secretary of State James Byrnes, who believed that nuclear weapons would make the Soviet Union “more manageable.” Yet, Truman declined to use nuclear weapons during the Korean War, and Stimson soon had second thoughts and sought to eliminate these weapons.
President Dwight Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles spoke repeatedly about the utility of nuclear weapons, but they too backed away from use in Korea and Vietnam. Military figures argued for restraint because of the absence of suitable targets and the requirements for a large troop presence after using these weapons. Diplomats warned about the likelihood that such use would horrify U.S. allies in Europe and the prospective alienation and outrage in Asia. Other concerns related to the uncertainties of Soviet and Chinese responses. These arguments were persuasive.
The Eisenhower administration faced more crises with nuclear dimensions than any of its predecessors or successors. In September 1954, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) went on alert after the shelling of Quemoy and Matsu, two islands held by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government off the coast of mainland China. In January 1955, the Eisenhower administration ostentatiously moved nuclear-capable aircraft closer to the Taiwan Strait. SAC readiness levels were raised again in July 1958 during a crisis in Lebanon and yet again in response to heightened threat levels in the Middle East and along the Taiwan Strait in early 1959. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev also used nuclear threats during the October 1956 crises sparked by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal.
The absence of battlefield use during the Eisenhower administration was pivotal in establishing what international relations scholar Nina Tannenwald calls a taboo against using nuclear weapons.2 After two presidents, a Democrat and a Republican, managed to avoid using nuclear weapons during the Korean War and in multiple flash points in the Middle East and Asia, the bar was set extremely high for Nixon and Kissinger. The administration of Lyndon Johnson did not seriously consider using nuclear weapons in Vietnam.
Nixon brought to the White House the conviction that his predecessors acted wisely in making nuclear threats, and he was determined to use coercive nuclear diplomacy to shorten the Vietnam War. Kissinger was on Nixon’s wavelength, heartily endorsing the use of conventional force and nuclear threats to bring the excruciating and costly war to a close. The two men considered both tracks in 1969 and settled initially on nuclear feints. Left with the prospect of a long war when this failed, they then chose to raise the ante by conventional means.
Burr and Kimball present no evidence that Nixon and Kissinger were serious about nuclear weapons use but ample evidence that they were intent on nuclear coercion to help persuade Moscow to use its good offices in Hanoi to shorten the war. Both men were convinced that nuclear threats could be translated into leverage even though the track record of previous threats was ambiguous at best. It was as if the absence of horrific consequences when threats were conveyed equaled a successful application of influence even when, as in the cases cited above, outcomes were either indifferent to or immune from nuclear threat-making.
Nixon’s distinctive stamp on coercive nuclear diplomacy was to leave the impression that he might just be off his rocker, thereby lending credence to threats that seemed implausible to Hanoi and Moscow. Nixon apparently remained convinced of the utility of nuclear threat-making long after his resignation from the presidency. He told an interviewer at Time in 1985 that he considered Khrushchev to be a master of this art “because he scared the hell out of people.”
Nixon described this approach as the “Madman Theory,” a phrase he coined during his presidential campaign in 1968 when he spoke with his prospective chief of staff, H.R. (Bob) Haldeman, whose notes of the conversation appeared in Haldeman’s book The Ends of Power: “I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button.’”3
Burr and Kimball define the Madman Theory as “[t]hreatening an adversary with the use of extreme or excessive force—force that normal people would consider disproportionate to the issues in dispute and, beyond that, senselessly dangerous because it risked a larger conflict that would also imperil the vital interests and security of the threatener. Adversaries would or might assume that the threatener was genuinely crazy—even though he was not—and therefore capable of irrational, imprudent, unpredictable acts.”
The alert, carried out between October 13 and 30, 1969, was termed the “JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] Readiness Test,” or “Increased Readiness Posture.” The American public was not told about the alert, but some journalists and congressional staffers got wind of it. NATO allies were kept in the dark. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and his military assistant, Colonel Robert Pursley, were apprised of the plan. Secretary of State William Rogers was not directly informed of the reasons behind it, and even the JCS chairman, General Earle Wheeler, might not have been, although both men quickly learned the reasons for these feints. (Nixon and Kissinger executed similar maneuvers bypassing Rogers prior to and during negotiations on the SALT I treaty.)
Commanders in the field who received orders to increase readiness for the employment of nuclear weapons, such as raising the number of bombers and tankers on ground alert, were kept in the dark about the geostrategic game plan behind these moves. They raised objections to actions that would degrade pilot training and proficiency while worrying allies. Other particulars of the readiness test included radio silence, increased surveillance of Soviet shipping, higher alert rates for SAC aircraft, the dispersal of bombers, and increased U.S. reconnaissance flights.
These readiness measures were intended to get the Kremlin’s attention but not so much as to bring the superpowers to the precipice. The Pentagon’s orders to commanders in the field sought to draw a fine line between avoiding steps that might be deemed threatening and provocative while taking “unusual and significant” measures. The DEFCON—a formalized sequence of alert levels for crises with nuclear consequences—was not raised during the readiness test, as it was subsequently during the 1973 crisis in the Middle East.
The readiness test ended amid much puzzlement and ineffectuality less than three weeks after it began. It failed to mobilize the Kremlin to do the Nixon administration’s bidding with North Vietnam for several reasons. The means Nixon and Kissinger employed for coercive nuclear diplomacy were undercut by their concern over domestic and allied blowback. It proved impossible to scare the Kremlin sufficiently without scaring the U.S. public and European and Pacific allies. When Nixon met with Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, during the readiness test to underscore U.S. messaging, the wily envoy, having been through the crucible of the Cuban missile crisis, correctly interpreted the mixed messages he received as bluff.
Confusion and constraints were compounded because of Nixon and Kissinger’s habit of circumventing regular chains of command and cutting out those presumed to be skeptics of the White House’s methods. Burr and Kimball provide considerable evidence that these maneuvers were amateurish and would have been risky if the Kremlin had taken them more seriously. The Soviet Union noticed what the Nixon White House was trying to do and responded in a low-key way. The Kremlin liked its hand and was not persuaded to do Washington’s bidding. The coercive nuclear gambit ended with a whimper, after which Nixon and Kissinger ramped up bombing and mining campaigns. Despite being a nuclear superpower fighting a non-nuclear-weapon state, the United States was unable to restrain North Vietnam from seeking achievable and embarrassing gains.
U.S. leaders eventually figured out the limits of coercive nuclear diplomacy, but other states continue to ascribe enormous persuasive powers to weapons that have not been used in battle for seven decades. President Vladimir Putin reminds the world of Russia’s nuclear arsenal while engaging in military expeditions in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and Syria. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seems quite confident that he can keep adversaries at bay with nuclear threats. When breakdowns in deterrence do not lead to catastrophe in South Asia or when crises are successfully managed, national leaders in Pakistan give significant credit to their nuclear deterrent. Burr and Kimball have written a fine book that challenges these assumptions and tactics.
1. For an argument that they do confer leverage, see Matthew Kroenig, “Nuclear Superiority and the Balance of Resolve: Explaining Nuclear Crisis Outcomes,” International Organization, Vol. 67, No. 1 (January 2013): 141171. For the opposite argument, see Todd Secher and Matthew Fuhrmann, “Crisis Bargaining and Nuclear Blackmail,” International Organization, Vol. 67, No. 1 (January 2013): 173-195.
2. Nina Tannenwald, The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
3. H.R. Haldeman with Joseph DiMona, The Ends of Power (New York: Times Books, 1978), pp. 82-83.
Michael Krepon is the co-founder of the Stimson Center. He is the author or editor of 21 books, including Better Safe than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb. This year, he received the Thérèse Delpech Memorial Award from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for lifetime achievement in nongovernmental work to reduce nuclear dangers.
On March 3, 2014, a Russian warplane with its transponders switched off came within seconds of colliding with a Danish civilian airliner carrying 132 passengers from Copenhagen to Rome. SAS flight 737 averted a collision that day only because of evasive action taken by its pilot.1
An almost identical incident occurred nine months later, on December 12, again involving a Russian warplane and a civilian airliner that had just left Copenhagen.
Barely a year after the first incident, in March of this year, Russian Su-30 multirole fighter jets used two NATO warships in the Black Sea as targets in high-intensity training exercises.2 The purpose of the exercise appears to have been to provoke the NATO ships into taking defensive action so that the pilots of the Russian aircraft could observe that action and practice countermaneuvers.
Over the last 18 months, the European Leadership Network has logged more than 60 such dangerous incidents in the Euro-Atlantic area.3 The wider catalogue of events includes mock Russian cruise missile attack runs on targets in North America and Denmark, instances of Russian and Western fighter aircraft coming within meters of each other while on maneuvers, a series of submarine hunts off the coasts of Scotland and Sweden, and the abduction by Russian agents in September 2014 of an Estonian security service operative on Estonian, and therefore NATO, territory. In recent weeks, as Russian air operations have commenced in Syria and instances of Russian violations of Turkish airspace have come to light, the theater of these close and dangerous military encounters and incidents appears to have broadened from the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, and Atlantic Ocean to the Middle East.
There is a wider military and political context to these events that makes them all the more worrying. In addition to the close NATO-Russian military encounters now occurring, a general deterioration in the relationship between Russia and the West has become visible in an action-reaction cycle of military exercises being conducted in Europe. Russia is conducting more exercises than NATO, and the two sets of exercises are dissimilar in scale. A Russian “snap” exercise conducted in March, for example, brought together 80,000 military personnel in operations focused on the Arctic and the Baltic Sea regions whereas NATO’s largest exercise in many years, Trident Juncture, which started last month, drew about 36,000 military personnel. Moreover, while NATO exercises are aimed at reassuring allies in the eastern part of the alliance in the context of Russian support for separatists in Ukraine, Russia is using its exercises at least partly to intimidate and unsettle its neighbors.
Despite these important differences, however, there are similarities in the exercises of the two sides. These similarities say something important about what is occurring.
Both sides are using their exercises to practice a rapid mobilization and redeployment of forces over long distances to strengthen what they perceive to be their most strategically exposed areas. NATO is conducting exercises with a view to being able to protect the Baltic states and Poland. Russia is focusing on its border areas with Latvia and Estonia; Kaliningrad, the Russian territory between Lithuania and Poland; the Arctic; and occupied Crimea. The exercises of both involve ground, air, and naval forces in joint operations and include high-intensity combined arms training, the conducting and repelling of amphibious assaults, and engagements with low-level irregular forces.
Most importantly, despite protestations by both sides that the exercises are aimed at no particular adversary, it is clear that each side is exercising with the most likely war plans of the other in mind. The Russian military is preparing for a confrontation with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a confrontation with Russia. This does not mean either side has the political intent to start a war, but it does mean that both believe a war is no longer unthinkable. Many in NATO believe that the demonstration of resolve that the NATO exercises and additional force deployments in eastern Europe represent is essential to deterring Russian aggression and therefore to keeping the peace in Europe. In NATO’s view, the exercises are not a problem, but a virtue. Whether this view is justified—given Russia’s recent behavior, it may well be—the total effect of the developments described here is to generate a growing sense of insecurity on both sides. Russian exercises are seen as a provocation and a threat in the West, and NATO exercises and new deployments are seen as threatening in Moscow.
The developing situation also has a nuclear dimension. In a documentary made for a domestic Russian audience in March 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that he had considered putting Russian nuclear forces on alert during the operation to annex Crimea. Just a few weeks later, the Russian ambassador to Denmark appeared to tell that country that if it took part in NATO’s emerging missile defense shield, it could expect to go on the target list for Russian nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict. These instances of what are seen as nuclear intimidation and nuclear saber rattling are creating pressure for a NATO response.
Last month, in response to Russia’s recent behavior, Adam Thomson, the UK ambassador to NATO, said that since the end of the Cold War, NATO has conducted exercises with conventional weapons and nuclear weapons but not “the transition from one to the other.” Now, however, “[t]hat is a recommendation that is being looked at. It is safe to say the UK does see merit in making sure we know how, as an Alliance, to transition up the escalatory ladder in order to strengthen our deterrence.”4
Meanwhile, Crimea and Ukraine have become flash points of a much more fundamental political disagreement. Not only are there significant policy differences between Russia and the West, but on the Russian side, a growing number of military and national security officials appear to believe Western policy is aimed at overthrowing Putin and weakening the Russian state to the point where it can be effectively destroyed and dismembered. Claims that the removal of the Yanukovych government in Ukraine was a Western-backed unconstitutional coup and a trial run for a “color revolution” in Russia itself are dismissed as rhetoric in the West, but are more deep-rooted in Moscow than some Western policymakers appear willing to acknowledge.5 It therefore seems safe to assume that current Russian behavior is driven as much by a concern for regime survival as it is by a concern for geopolitical advantage or by disagreement with specific policies of the West.
Many in the West at the same time believe that Russia is seeking to change the post-Cold War settlement, or perhaps even the post-World War II settlement, in Europe in a number of ways, including by use of force if necessary. The charge sheet here concerns changes to the borders of the Georgian state since 2008 and events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine over the past two years. It also includes the provision of funding and support to nationalist political parties hostile to the European integration project in central and western Europe and the use of energy as an instrument to influence the domestic and foreign policy choices of a number of states in NATO and the European Union. For many, it is becoming apparent that Russia is a revisionist power in western as well as eastern Europe.
Whether or not the current situation amounts to a new Cold War, the upshot is a confrontation in which both sides now perceive their fundamental interests to be at stake.
At the Mercy of Events
Too few appear to recognize that the current cocktail of incidents, mistrust, changed military posture, and nuclear signaling is creating the conditions in which a single event or combination of events could result in a NATO-Russian war, even if neither side intends it. To understand why this is not an exaggerated concern, one might consider the sequence of events that easily could have transpired if the aforementioned SAS civilian airliner en route from Copenhagen to Rome had collided with the Russian warplane.
The outrage and uproar in Western capitals at what would certainly have been a very serious loss of life would have been understandably huge. Media and public pressure to act quickly against Russia would have been irresistible. A demand for an immediate cessation of Russian military flights with transponders switched off, especially in civilian air corridors, would have been issued. If that demand did not elicit an immediate positive response from Moscow, a move that might imply acceptance of guilt, previously routine civil aviation flights in European airspace would have been declared at risk. In that situation, those flights would have to have been suspended, which would have been politically unacceptable and economically very damaging, or NATO would have needed to begin military interdiction of Russian aircraft. Any European government not willing to support such interdiction would have been taking its future in its hands, exposing itself to claims that it was weak in the face of unacceptable Russian behavior or risking a further incident while doing little or nothing to prevent it.
Amid this kind of uproar in the West, Putin would be highly likely to exhibit sadness at the loss of life and to offer full Russian assistance in any inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened. At the same time, he almost certainly would point out that Western military aircraft themselves fly with transponders switched off and that the Russian military aircraft involved in this particular incident was operating in full compliance with international law and was in international airspace. Although not ruling out talks to manage the situation, his domestic political persona would constrain his options. He has invested a lot of time and effort in portraying himself to his own people as a strong leader, capable of standing up to the West while making Russia respected again on the international stage. Capitulating to Western pressure outright would be politically damaging.
Diplomacy might save the day, but that could not be assumed. The scene would be set for the planes, naval vessels, and land forces of a nuclear-armed state and a nuclear-armed alliance to continue coming up against each other. This time, however, the close encounters would not be part of planned exercises or a game of brinkmanship, which is dangerous enough, but would come amid a real standoff over who had the right to fly where and under what circumstances, with everyone’s fundamental interests and full political prestige at stake.
Little or nothing is being done to avert this kind of crisis, which could be triggered by any one of the other dangerous incidents and encounters that have taken place over the last 18 months. This absence of action is shocking. If such a crisis resulted in military hostilities, there would be no telling where those hostilities might lead and, given the nuclear arsenals on both sides, what the end result could be.
Agreements on Avoiding Incidents
The Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents on and Over the High Seas, usually known as the Incidents at Sea Agreement, was signed by U.S. President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev at their summit in Moscow in May 1972. It is a technical military-to-military agreement rather than a statement of political principle. It requires each side to avoid dangerous maneuvers, refrain from mock attacks that might simulate weapons use against aircraft or ships, and avoid dropping objects close to ships to hinder their navigation. It also requires the surveillance ships and aircraft of one side to communicate with the other.
The agreement was a response to a dangerous pattern of military activities, including instances of each side’s warships maneuvering very close to those of the other, and a pattern of dangerous maritime air surveillance involving close overflights of warships. The latter was often perceived as harassment by the ships’ commanders. The agreement proved its worth when, during the Arab-Israeli war in October 1973, it helped ensure there were no serious incidents while 150 U.S. and Soviet warships shared the crowded waters of the eastern Mediterranean.
The Agreement on the Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities was signed on June 12, 1989, and entered into force on January 1, 1990. Like the Incidents at Sea Agreement, it governs the activities and personnel of each side when operating in close proximity to the other in peacetime. It focuses on four categories of military activity: military operations by one side near the territory of the other; the use of lasers, particularly those directed at aircraft cockpits, which could be harmful to personnel; operations in areas of high tension, which either party could designate as a “special caution area”; and interference with command-and-control networks. In each of these areas, the agreement requires caution, communication to avoid dangerous incidents and misunderstandings, and action to terminate injurious activity if a problem is identified by the other side. Unlike the Incidents at Sea Agreement, it incorporates certain operations on land as well as those at sea and in the air. It also sets out agreed communications signals and frequencies to be used by the aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles of each side. A joint military commission was set up to issue an annual assessment of compliance and consider how the agreement could be enhanced.—IAN KEARNs
Negotiating a New Instrument
The risk of a serious crisis and the absence of action to prevent one led to a recent paper from the Task Force on Cooperation in Greater Europe, made up of senior figures from Russia and the rest of Europe. This group called for the NATO-Russia Council to be convened urgently to discuss a possible new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between NATO and Russia on rules of behavior in air and maritime encounters between the two sides. This proposal has been signed or endorsed by a total of 78 senior military, political, and diplomatic leaders drawn from across the European continent.
The task force proposal draws explicitly on an agreement signed by China and the United States in late 2014. This U.S.-Chinese MOU sets out the principles and procedures for communication during encounters between military vessels and aircraft and requires each side to give timely hazard warnings if military exercises and live weapons firing are to take place in an area where the military vessels and aircraft of the other may be operational.6 It also sets out a series of rules for establishing mutual trust. These include a commitment, when conducting operations, to communicate in a timely fashion about the planned maneuvers of military vessels and military aircraft. They also include a list of actions that should be avoided, such as simulation of attacks by aiming guns, missiles, fire control radar, torpedo tubes, or other weapons in the direction of military vessels and military aircraft encountered.
The agreement specifies the radio frequencies to be used for communication and the signals vocabulary to be used if pilots, commanding officers, or masters of vessels experience language difficulties as they communicate with one another. It also contains a provision for each party to conduct an annual meeting, led by senior military officers, to assess application of the agreement in the previous year and to deal with any problems or issues that have arisen during that time.
With regard to the U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship, the 1972 Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents on and Over the High Seas, usually known as the Incidents at Sea Agreement, and the 1989 Agreement on Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities (see box) operate in a similar way. These two agreements could serve as the basis for a more multilateralized arrangement involving all NATO members and Russia and even NATO partners such as Sweden and Finland. Russian and NATO officials should pursue this objective with urgency.
Some apparently still think such a deal is not necessary. In off-the-record conversations, some military commanders stress that close military encounters of the kind now under way in Europe were a fact of life during the Cold War and that well-trained, professional military personnel are more than up to the task of handling them without incident.7
Furthermore, some diplomats and politicians, particularly in eastern Europe, see the proposal as dangerously corrosive to Western unity with regard to Russia. This latter group sees any attempt to negotiate a mechanism for reducing the risks of close military encounters with Russia as a reward for aggressive Russian behavior and as an unwelcome opportunity for some Western countries, suspected of wishing to return their relations with Russia to “business as usual,” to advance their case. According to this view, a move to negotiate a new instrument would encourage further aggressive Russian behavior and dissipate the message of resolve, deterrence, and a commitment to collective defense that NATO has been trying to construct and maintain since the annexation of Crimea.8
On the Russian side, there also are some voices arguing against this proposal, seeing in it a Western tactic aimed at distracting attention from matters of greater significance, such as the eastward enlargement of NATO, the failure of the West to engage in dialogue on future arrangements for European security as a whole, and a lack of willingness to address wider Russian security concerns from missile defense to developments in conventional prompt global-strike systems.
The arguments on all sides are understandable in the context of what is now a total breakdown of trust between NATO and Russia and a lack of confidence among some allies within NATO. Ultimately, however, they are not persuasive.
The very existence of the recent U.S.-Chinese MOU validates a concern over the risks that are run when the military forces of states that are not allies come into close proximity with one another. That agreement makes clear the importance of having protocols and military procedures in place to manage events in real time rather than relying on agreements to refrain from certain kinds of activity in the first place. Although some military commanders seem less worried about such incidents, many more believe leaving the outcome of close military encounters to chance or the split-second decisions of individual pilots and other military personnel is unnecessarily dangerous.
The more recent dialogue between Russia and the United States on the subject of “deconflicting” the roles of the U.S.-led coalition and Russian military forces deployed in and around Syria is another timely recognition of the need for and logic of a new multilateral instrument to manage the risks.
Although there has been some concern about the ultimate diplomatic consequence of negotiating such an instrument in Europe, the necessity of having the conversation with regard to Syria was realized almost immediately once it became clear that the Russian military presence in Syria was being increased and was changing in character and capability. To put it bluntly, it became evident to everyone that U.S. warplanes operating over Syria could be accidentally shot down by Russian air defense systems being deployed there, embedded U.S. special forces on the ground could be the victim of Russian air attacks, and Russian and U.S. military aircraft could be operating in an uncoordinated way in the same airspace. This overall situation and several instances of Russian warplanes entering Turkish airspace from Syria prompted NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to tell a press conference on October 6 that “Russia must deconflict its military activities in Syria” and that “it’s unacceptable to violate the airspace of another country, and this is exactly what we were afraid of, that incidents, accidents may create dangerous situations.”9
It is difficult to see why dialogue and the negotiation of more-formal arrangements makes strategic sense between China and the United States in the East and South China seas and why deconflicting makes sense in Syria, but neither apparently makes sense between NATO and Russia in Europe.
Deterrence Is Not Enough
The argument that an attempt to negotiate a new instrument between NATO and Russia in Europe could weaken deterrence also is not persuasive. It is a reasonable concern, echoing debates on whether to engage in détente and associated steps toward superpower conflict prevention and crisis management during the Cold War. Yet, it is important to recall that the underlying rationale of détente was a lowering of tension with the Soviet Union to avoid the possibility of an accidental conflict and the potential for catastrophic nuclear war. Détente emphatically was not nor was it intended to be the end of superpower competition or of differences between the Soviet Union and the United States.
The impetus for dialogue in that period, as manifested in the 1972 Incidents at Sea Agreement and the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, to cite two examples, was an acceptance of the need for mutual restraint and the adoption of measures to avoid accidental war. This approach was seen as the only basis for mutual survival. The nuclear shadow was ever present, and the fear of nuclear war was the driving force. In essence, what followed the near catastrophe of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 was a developing belief that the task of avoiding war between nuclear-armed states could not be left to deterrence alone. Other mechanisms were needed to keep the peace and, no matter what disagreements and confrontations existed, these mechanisms needed to be negotiated and implemented.
Looking at the current absence of dialogue between NATO and Russia and at arguments against negotiating a new instrument to manage close military encounters, one is struck by what appears to be nuclear amnesia, nuclear complacency, or both. If a military confrontation between Russia and NATO were to develop today, for whatever reason, the risks and the potential consequences would be the same as they were during the Cold War.
For these reasons, the case for a new instrument to help manage the risks in the Euro-Atlantic area, and in particular to manage the risks between NATO members and Russia, is strong. The call for negotiation of such an instrument chimes with the times and with approaches being used in other theaters. Above all, it reflects the lessons of history. To pretend the status quo is safe or acceptable is to abdicate the responsibility of leadership and to leave the security of Europe and potentially of the world at the mercy of events.
Ian Kearns is co-founder and director of the European Leadership Network. He previously was acting director and deputy director of the Institute for Public Policy Research in the United Kingdom and deputy chair of the institute’s independent All-Party Commission on National Security in the 21st Century.
2. Government-owned Russian media even bragged about this incident. See Sputnik International, “Russian Jets Penetrate NATO Ships’ Air Defenses in Black Sea,” March 19, 2015, http://sputniknews.com/russia/20150304/1019036875.html.
4. “Britain Backs Return of Cold War Nuclear Drills as NATO Hardens Against Russia,” TheTelegraph, October 8, 2015.
5. The term “color revolution” is a reference to labels used by the world’s media to describe previous waves of revolutionary change in a number of countries. Examples include the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004.
7. Between March 2014 and October 2015, the author conducted face-to-face, telephone, and e-mail interviews on background with a number of senior military figures from NATO countries and Russia. The statement made in this paragraph reflects the view of a minority of those interviewed.
8. Since the publication of the position paper by the Task Force on Greater Europe calling for a new memorandum of understanding, this view has been expressed in August 2015 to the author directly by a former Baltic state defense minister and by several ambassador-level diplomats from the same region.
Charting the data exchanged under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between Russia and the United States from February 2011 to September 2015 shows that Russia reversed course two years ago and began increasing the number of warheads deployed on long-range ballistic missiles. Russia has now exceeded the treaty limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads in each of the last three data exchanges, which occur twice per year. The treaty requires that the ceilings be met by February 2018. The U.S. trajectory for New START-accountable deployed strategic warheads, meanwhile,...
Charting the data exchanged under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between Russia and the United States from February 2011 to September 2015 shows that Russia reversed course two years ago and began increasing the number of warheads deployed on long-range ballistic missiles. Russia has now exceeded the treaty limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads in each of the last three data exchanges, which occur twice per year. The treaty requires that the ceilings be met by February 2018. The U.S. trajectory for New START-accountable deployed strategic warheads, meanwhile,...
Rarely are foreign and security policy challenges characterized by such strong countervailing pressures or outcomes so replete with irony as in the conduct of U.S.-Russian affairs after Moscow’s 2014 military intervention in Ukraine. As Washington policy-makers and politicians try to settle on new guidelines for the bilateral relationship, they should seek a tough-minded but pragmatic diplomacy, realizing that, without U.S.-Russian negotiations, there will be no significant progress on either nuclear nonproliferation or nuclear disarmament. Number One Enemy? Americans now view Russia as the...
Ending a 10-month-long impasse, French President François Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Aug. 5 to sever a 2011 contract in which France had committed to selling Russia two Mistral-class amphibious landing ships.
The contract is worth 1.2 billion euros (about $1.3 billion), according to French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. It became controversial after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and began arming separatists fighting the Ukrainian government. On the eve of a meeting of NATO allies in September 2014, Hollande demanded that Russia agree to a ceasefire and a political settlement as a condition for scheduled delivery of the first ship in November 2014.
When no ceasefire materialized, France and Russia entered into negotiations early this year to dissolve the financial arrangement.
“The price in the [termination] agreement, which is the best possible, will be less as Russia will be repaid to the nearest euro the advance payments that have been made,” Le Drian told a radio reporter Aug. 6.
Reuters reported that France had offered a settlement of $866 million. Russia has asked for compensation of $1.28 billion, according to the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant.
A French official told Arms Control Today in an Aug. 18 e-mail that the exact amount of the settlement is not public information but will be shared this fall with the French Parliament, which has to ratify the settlement. The official said the French compensation “will be inferior to what Russia has spent” and therefore less than $1.3 billion.
Hollande’s statement on the cancellation agreement made no mention of Russian military intervention in Ukraine. The French president said he and Putin agreed that the negotiation took place in “a warm, open climate of partnership,” adding that he and Putin “agreed that the matter was now closed.”
Arms Control Today recently reported on emerging details of the Air Force’s plan for the long-range standoff weapon (LRSO). The LRSO is a replacement for the Air Force’s current, 1980s-vintage air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). The Air Force plans to build 1,000-1,100 of the new cruise missiles at a projected acquisition cost of about $9 billion. After adding the $7-9.5 billion cost of life-extension for the associated warheads (according to estimates of the National Nuclear Security Administration), the total cost of replacing the existing ALCM could be close to $20 billion. Producing a...
Russia remains in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, according to an annual State Department report released on June 5.
The report, which surveys compliance with arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament commitments by the United States and other countries, reiterated the finding, first announced in the 2014 version of the report, that Russia is violating its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” (See ACT, September 2014.)
The new analysis says the Obama administration had noted concern about Russia’s compliance “in earlier, classified versions” of the report but did not publish a formal noncompliance determination until 2014.
The INF Treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, marked the first time the two superpowers agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. The treaty eliminated almost 2,700 intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles, most of them Russian.
The U.S. government has raised its concerns about Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty on multiple occasions over the past two years. Moscow continues to deny that it has violated the agreement.
As in the 2014 report, this year’s report did not specify the type of Russian cruise missile in question, the number of tests conducted, or the location of the tests.
Some media reports have focused on Russia’s R-500 Iskander-K short-range cruise missile as the missile that precipitated the U.S. allegation. That system uses a road-mobile launcher, similar to the Iskander-M, which is a short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile.
But in a June 23 interview with the Russian news agency Interfax, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the R-500 is not the missile that the United States has “determined is in violation” of the treaty. She added that the U.S. government is “confident that the Russian government is aware of the missile to which we are referring.”
The 2015 report contains two paragraphs not in last year’s report that highlight treaty provisions stating that “if a launcher has been tested for launching a GLCM” or “contained or launched a particular type of GLCM,” then “all launchers of that type shall be considered to be launchers of that type of GLCM.”
In a June 7 posting on the blog Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, Pavel Podvig, an affiliate at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, said that these additions “seem to support” his theory “that the violation is a technicality” involving tests of a long-range sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) from a mobile GLCM launcher.
The testing of a SLCM from a mobile launcher would constitute a violation of the treaty, Podvig argues, because the treaty requires that any missile that is not a GLCM covered by the treaty should be test-launched from a fixed land-based launcher used solely for test purposes and distinguishable from GLCM launchers.
A Congressional Research Service report on Russia’s compliance with the INF Treaty, released on June 2, questioned the SLCM explanation, stating it “seems imperfect.”
“U.S. officials have repeatedly referred to the violation as a test of a ground-launched cruise missile, lending less credence to the view that the United States might have misidentified tests of a sea-launched missile,” the report says.
In a June 11 statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry described the allegation in the State Department report as “completely false.”
The statement reiterated Russian concerns about U.S. military activities that “are based on a very loose interpretation of the INF Treaty provisions,” such as “plans to deploy the vertical missile launch systems . . . at missile defense bases in Romania and Poland,” use of “target missiles with characteristics similar to those of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles” in missile defense tests, and the manufacture of armed drones that “fall under the INF Treaty definition of ground-based cruise missiles.” According to Moscow, those actions constitute violations of the treaty.
Gottemoeller disputed these counterallegations, stating that the “United States remains in compliance with the INF Treaty.”
In testimony at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on June 25, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work reiterated that the United States “will not allow the Russian Federation to gain a significant military advantage through [its] violation of an arms control treaty.”
He said the Defense Department is “developing and analyzing response options” for President Barack Obama and will consult with its allies on the options.
Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said in December 2014 that the range of military response options under consideration includes “active defenses to counter” INF-range GLCMs, “counterforce capabilities” to prevent attacks from these missiles, “and countervailing strike capabilities to enhance U.S. or allied forces.” (See ACT, January/February 2015.)
The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff delivered an unusually clear and coherent speech on U.S. missile defense polic y at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) May 19 in Washington. Although Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr. emphasized in his remarks that U.S. missile defenses should be of no concern to Russia or China, it is easy to see how parts of his comprehensive presentation could be viewed from Moscow or Beijing as hypocritical, or at least deeply ironic. Not About Russia and China During his presentation, Winnefeld reiterated the long-standing position of the...
The Arms Control Association 2015 Annual Meeting will examine three major challenges for nonproliferation and disarmament over the last two years of President Barack Obama's final term: the worsening relations between Russia and the West; the uncertain future of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; and the quest for a comprehensive deal to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. The Keynote speaker will be Ambassador Alexander Kmentt of Austria, who will also be presented with the 2014 Arms Control Person of the Year Award.
The Big Chill: Russia, the West, and the Future of Nuclear Arms Control
Catherine Kelleher, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, President Clinton Administration Matthew Rojansky, Director, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Lewis A. Dunn, U.S. Ambassador to the 1985 NPT Review Conference, and Principal with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) Randy Rydell, former Senior Political Affairs Officer, United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs Andrea Berger, Deputy Director, Proliferation and Nuclear Policy programme, Royal United Services Institute
The P5+1 and Iran and the Comprehensive Nuclear Deal
Richard Nephew, Program Director, Economic Statecraft, Sanctions, and Energy Markets, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University, and former Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy, Department of State and Director for Iran, National Security Staff Ariane Tabatabai, Associate, International Security Program and the Project on Managing the Atom, Harvard University's Belfer Center, and current Associate Professor, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University
Colin Kahl, Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President
MAY 14, 2015
Opening Speaker: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
KIMBALL: Good morning, everyone. If I could ask you to find your seats. We're going to get things started in just a moment.
So, good morning, everybody. I'm Daryl Kimball. I'm executive director of the Arms Control Association. And as most of you know, we were formed in 1971 to deal with the world's most dangerous weapons, to try to eliminate the threats that they pose to all of us.
And I want to welcome all of you to our meeting today, our 2015 annual meeting, including those of you online looking at us online through our webcast. So, for those of you here, be careful about the strange faces you might make when I say certain things because you're on camera, too.
This meeting and the work of the Arms Control Association is a result of a great team of people -- our staff, our board and our supporters, our loyal members of this organization. And before we start on the great program that we have here today that's outlined in the program guide, I want to just quickly thank a few of our key staff people and loyal funders for their contributions and work that make all of this possible, including the Ploughshares Fund, the MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Prospect Hill Foundation, and others.
And we're also very grateful to a few individuals who have made special contributions and table sponsorships to help defray the cost of this event, and they are David and Gina Hafemeister; Michael Klare, one of our board members; our Vice Chairman Paul Walker sitting here at the Walker table; and also -- yes -- and our friend and one of the parents of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Larry Weiler; and also one anonymous donor.
And I also just want to say a few words about somebody else we're immensely thankful and grateful to, who isn't here today who helped shape this organization and guide and lead this organization for more than a quarter century, and he's John Steinbruner. And John, as most of you know, our board chairman, our friend, our colleague and mentor, he passed away on April the 16th in his home in northwest Washington, following a nine-year struggle with multiple myeloma.
And for many of us here who knew John and had the privilege to work with him, learn from him, I'm sure you'll all agree that he was an unusually insightful and creative thinker, persistent advocate for sensible security policies on a range of things, avoiding great power conflicts, regional war to guard against dangerous pathogens, slow climate change, prevent cyber attacks, regulate space weaponry, and more than anything else, to prevent nuclear war.
He worked for many years down the street at the Brookings Institution, shaping their work. And beginning in 1991, he joined the board of the Arms Control Association, became the chairman of the board in 2000 just before I arrived, and he oversaw the rejuvenation of the organization, encouraged us to work on a wider range of issues, and helped us through some tough organizational and policy challenges over many years.
So, all of us in the Arms Control Association family and the wider peace and security community, are far wiser and stronger because of him and his dedication to a better world and, of course, on top of that, he was just a really wonderful, warm human being.
So, let me just note that next week at 4 p.m on May 19th at the University of Maryland's Memorial Chapel, there's going to be a formal public memorial service for John that's open for anyone here who would like to go. I hope many of you can join us on the staff, his faculty colleagues at the University of Maryland, his many students and colleagues there to help celebrate his life.
But for today with John in our minds, we want to continue the work that I think he would have wanted us to continue to pursue to deal with the problems that have to be dealt with, to deal with the issues that he was so concerned about for many, many years.
And we're going to be looking at three main issues today -- Russia, the West, and the future of arms control, which we're calling the Big Chill; the future of NPT as it enters something of a mid-life crisis; and the ongoing challenge of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran through the P5+1 and Iran nuclear deal.
So, as you can see from the program, we've got a really fantastic set of speakers to help us analyze all these issues and offer some concrete solutions about how to deal with them. And after we have a buffet lunch, we're honored to have as our keynote speaker, Ambassador Alex Kmentt of Austria who just arrived from a long journey from New York, which it was not easy this week given the train tragedy outside of Philadelphia.
He's going to describe in his lunch address the thinking behind the humanitarian impacts of the nuclear weapons initiative that's changed the global conversation on nuclear weapons, and also talk about the NPT.
And then following, our panel on the P5+1 and Iran nuclear negotiations, after lunch, we're really lucky to have with us as a closing keynote speaker, Colin Kahl, the national security adviser for Vice President Biden, who's with us here today and not at Camp David with all of the Gulf Cooperation Council leaders, to talk about the P5+1, and Iran agreements, and the next steps in this long-running effort to deal with Iran's nuclear program.
But first, this morning is our opening panel on the U.S.-Russian relationship, and I want to invite our moderator, Greg Thielmann, Catherine and Matt, our panelists to come on up right now, so we can get started.
And as they come forward and get seated, let me invite those of you with your smartphones that can penetrate the thick walls of this building, or if you're online through the guest access wireless to tweet about what you're hearing, to tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #armscontrol2015, and if you could please turn your ringers off on your phones so that we're not disturbed.
And then finally, before Greg takes over, I want to thank our friends at Hoover Institution for the complimentary copies of the new and important book edited by Ambassador Jim Goodby who's here, our long-time friend and collaborator, and former Secretary of State George Shultz, "The War That Must Never Be Fought."
It's a meaty book with a lot of important ideas written by some of the best minds in the fields -- in the field, and there are some practical ideas and solutions to encourage us to transform our thinking about deterrence and nuclear weapons, and deal with what George Shultz writes and I agree, is the problem of nuclear weapons -- which were and are the greatest threats to humanity's survival.
So, let me turn over the chair to Greg and the panel, and thank you all for being here today.
Speakers: Matthew Rojansky, Director, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Catherine Kelleher, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia
Moderator: Greg Thielmann, Senior Fellow, Arms Control Association
THIELMANN: Thank you, Daryl. It's not very controversial these days to describe our current times as manifesting the low point in Russia's relations with the West since the Cold War. And yet, this big chill in relations is not quite a return to the Cold War, as I think many of you who are Cold War veterans in the room can attest to.
After all, Russia does continue to abide by the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which I think it's -- is extremely important for moderating the worst case estimates of the two sides in maintaining a downward vector in the nuclear arsenals of the -- of the two largest nuclear powers, by far.
It's also true that Russia continues to be a constructive partner in the Iran talks that Daryl just mentioned. And this is arguably, at least for the moment, one of the highest priorities for non-proliferation among the U.N. Security Council members.
As everyone noticed, the U.S. secretary of state just spent a lot of time talking to Russian leaders in Sochi, first nearly four hours with the Foreign Minister Lavrov, and then four hours with President Putin.
And as the New York Times commented, "You know, things are bad when a meeting that doesn't achieve anything is considered good news." I think whether or not it's achieved anything, of course, is a little premature to say.
But this kind of dialogue at this time, I think is definitely good news. I can't resist the mention also of other U.S. and Russians in regular contact, even as we speak, they're flying overhead on the International Space Station, two American astronauts, three Russian cosmonauts, from the distance that you have to this picture of the -- are very hard to distinguish. They just kind of all look like earthlings.
The only one which you may be able to distinguish is there is an Italian woman there, that at least, is a different gender than the others, but it's an encouraging sight and useful sometimes to remember that at least in this case, the regular U.S. Russian contact seems to be quite harmonious, professional, and successful.
We have two experts on our panel today to help us sort out the reasons for Russia's chilly relations to the West, and also the implications for arms control. You have many fun facts of a biographic nature in your program, but just to at least identify the current highlights, Matthew Rojansky is the director of the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and he's a former deputy director of the Carnegie Endowment's Russia and Eurasia Program.
Catherine Kelleher is a professor at the University of Maryland's Public Policy School, Senior Fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, and an esteemed member of the ACA Board of Directors.
And I would also mention that Catherine and I were both commissioners and are commissioners on the trilateral Deep Cuts Commission, and you will have noticed the second annual report on the table outside.
This is another occasion for sustained contact between, in this case, Russians, Americans, and Germans, to discuss ways to deal with the challenges of making progress on arms control. So we're going to first turn to Matt to give us some political context on this issue.
And I want to start with the often quoted remarks of President George W. Bush at their first meeting -- President Vladimir Putin in 2001. He said, "I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country."
So I want to ask Matt, in the course of his -- setting the political context to also discuss whether we need to update that assessment of Putin, and also get maybe at some of the personal dynamics that color our success or failure in pursuing arms control.
ROJANSKY: OK. Thank you very much, Greg, and thank you, Daryl. It's an honor to be here. It's always an honor to be on a panel with Catherine. We were both associated with another effort, called the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative, which was largely promulgated by the Carnegie Endowment with some international partners.
And it was a very different time. It was a time at which some very distinguished and impressive Russians, Europeans, Americans were able to sit down and come up with an inclusive and comprehensive vision for security from Vancouver to Vladivostok, that actually seemed pretty real and pretty achievable at that moment.
From today's vantage point, it won't surprise you that I tend to think much of that effort has been completely overlooked, if not for naught. Let me take a bit of a stroll down memory lane for many of you in this room. But -- and just try to elucidate how we got to where are, but with one particular theme, and that's the theme of cycles. And it's very striking to me that this very week, coming on the heels of months and months in which the message from the White House, and the State Department, from the Chancellery in Germany, from Brussels, has been no more business as usual.
We are done with cycles. We don't trust the Russians. We are done. It's back to containment. We're going to reestablish NATO as a credible deterrent, and we're going to treat Russia as the adversary that it now clearly is, and then once again, we have Secretary Kerry showing up and seeking to square the circle, perhaps in the Russian term the -- his counterpart, Minister Lavrov described it as seeking normalization, recognizing that one needs a normal relationship, so perhaps once again, we're starting on the upswing of yet another of these seemingly endless cycles.
How did this -- how did this pattern begin, and why? If you go back to the 1990s, you have what I refer to as the Bill and Boris show. This was a very personality dependent relationship between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin.
They created a number of institutions, most of them, though, were heavily dependent on the will of the two presidents, and to some extent their deputies, Al Gore and Viktor Chernomyrdin, chaired the famous Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission with its many working groups.
But at the same time when all of this was happening, there were deep underlying political trends, which were from the Russian perspective fundamentally incompatible with the relationship that both sides expressed a hope was emerging in the post-Cold War period.
The one we hear the most about is NATO expansion, but it's by no means the only one. There was a series, this a sort of theme of the 1990s, if you will, was a series of developments in the global political, legal, diplomatic, and economic order, all of which were seen from Moscow as being subservient to an American agenda. With not surprising result that when you reach the end of the 1990s and came in to the 2000s, the election of George W. Bush and the selection of Vladimir Putin in Russia, the result was a Russia and an America which were fundamentally positioned to see the world in very different ways.
George W. Bush had the idea that, rather than the kind of intense love and personality dependent relations of the Clinton years, which of course, famously came crashing down with the bombing campaign against Kosovo causing Primakov to literally turn his airplane around, cancel a visit to the United States, you know, and then the return of the -- of the Siloviki, the power ministries and the spies under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.
That George W. Bush would seek to have a normal relationship with Russia. That is, a relationship as one would have with any other country. So, when you agree on things, you work together. When you disagree on things, you sort of put those aside and you manage your differences.
Unfortunately, despite Bush's deep gaze into Putin's eyes, despite a relatively pragmatic, optimistic -- I would even say, realist Vladimir Putin 15 years ago, a man who frequently said to his American interlocutors, whom he insisted still on calling partners up until the last year, believe it or not. He always referred the United States as partners. Despite all of that, what we found ourselves falling into was a situation in which you could not treat Russia merely as just another country.
What ended up happening was that Russia received almost no high level attention, when Condoleezza Rice herself versus national security adviser, Madam Secretary herself, a Russia expert was nominally tapped by George W. Bush to sort of head the institutional side of the U.S.-Russia relationship, that focus very quickly devolved first to her deputy, Steve Hadley, and then on down the line such that senior folks who worked in the White House at that time will tell you that there was essentially no one at the wheel of the Russia account for quite a long time.
And the unfortunate truth with Russia is, whether the relationship is scary and dysfunctional or it's over promising and over optimistic, it can never be normal. It always has to be a special relationship. And I think we've seen that very clearly illustrated over the last quarter century. The results were clear. By 2008, the United States and Russia were nearly at blows over NATO expansion, color revolutions throughout the post-Soviet space, of course, the Russia-Georgia conflict and many other issues.
So then along comes Barack Obama in 2009, through actually Vice President Biden, who first used the term in a speech. He announces the idea of a reset. And the idea of the reset at this time really is taken, I think by both sides in an effort to clear the air, right, that there had been too much, sort of cyclical love-hate, too much intense expectation, disappointment, and then frustration.
The idea in particular with the arrival of President Medvedev a year before Obama comes to office, you know, these are modern guys. They are lawyers. They are constitutional law scholars. They both use iPads and the Internet, right, unlike their predecessors. And, you know, they could have a working businesslike relationship. They could agree to disagree, but then agree to cooperate in a way that their predecessors hadn't. So, on a certain level, right? This worked out rather well.
We achieved a whole host of, what a lot of folks have now called the low-hanging fruit in the relationship, including obviously the New START agreement. But I would say it was characterized by two problematic phenomena, the underlying trends in this period.
One, the relationship was still heavily personality dependent, to the extent that Obama and Medvedev were personally committed to it, to the extent that they had frequent and long personal interactions and largely positive, the relationship worked. To the extent that it fell to others who didn't have that same personal dynamic, the relationship didn't work.
And second, that many of -- and I would even say most of the achievements and I won't go through the list, are not only low-hanging fruit, but they were things that were long overdue, or things that we had achieved before and thrown out the window. For example, we created a bilateral presidential commission.
We had the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, except that we threw it out the previous time we had a crisis. We got the New START agreement. I seem to recall, may others in this room recall, we had had functional arms control agreements. We just had failed to achieve within a timely manner, renewals, or extensions, or updates to those agreements. Similarly with Afghanistan. It's a 150-year-old problem. We got a northern distribution network to kind of manage and keep that problem under control, but nothing resembling a fundamental transformation of the relationship.
So when people use the term reset, what they're really talking about was just clearing enough of the baggage and the garbage out of the way, that some reasonable progress could be made on obvious agenda items.
So how then did we get from relatively pragmatic cooperation from 2009 to 2011, '12, to where we are today? I submit to you that the breakdown had very little to do with Ukraine, and happened long before the Euromaidan broke out.
If you look at late 2011, 2012, Vladimir Putin was obsessed with the notion that the public protests then going on the streets of Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and other large Russian cities, were orchestrated out of Washington, if not directly funded, if not American agents actually taking part in them on the ground. And at that precise moment, Ambassador Mike McFaul, ironically the man who had been seen as the author of the reset inside the Obama administration, arrives in Moscow as the ambassador of United States.
And, of course, McFaul is famous for having written Russia's "Unfinished Revolution," and the perception very clearly was he was here to finish the job. I suggest that was very bad timing, but certainly not seen -- almost nothing is ever seen as accidental for Moscow, let me put it that way.
But adding insult to injury, though in 2012, the United States and Russia finally succeeded in pushing through Russia's accession to the WTO, it came at the cost of a new sanctions bill against Russia. Jackson-Vanik is removed and the Magnitsky Act is imposed.
Magnitsky, of course, answering a very serious and grave human rights abuse that occurred in Russia, but the perception on the Russian side is, you know, you have never graduated from the notion that we are the enemy, that you have to sit in judgment of us, and that you have to tell us what kind of system we need to have.
So the relationship is deteriorating at this point already on all levels, Russia warns the United States it will respond asymmetrically. It does so by banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children, then banning U.S. funding for Russian NGOs, and closing the doors on a number of NGOs, including many that I've been working with.
And the message from Russia at this time -- you're now talking about mid to late 2012. It's very clearly what I call kind of burning Moscow to defend it. The idea that we will bring the house down around our own ears, even though losing partnerships and funding, losing the ability to send Russian orphans to loving well-off families in the West.
You know, none of these things are good for Russia, but to punish you and to demonstrate that what you are doing is unacceptable, we will burn the city down around us. And that, I think, has been a consistent theme in Russia's response to United States and the West since that moment.
Of course, adding fuel to the fire further, we have the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. Remember how that's covered in United States, by the way. Russian terrorists, right? The Tsarnaev brothers, ironically from the Russian perspective, right, these are the terrorists they wish that we had helped them fight all along, going all the way back to the 1990s.
And here the Magnitsky Act comes into play again. All stuff that, by the way, I mean, raise your hand if you saw any of this covered in the American press. Two of the names on the Magnitsky Act were senior Russian security officials responsible for the exact region in the North Caucasus, Dagestan, where the Tsarnaev brothers had been holed up for about six months, ostensibly getting training and inspiration for what then became the Boston Marathon Bombing.
And we in United States were infuriated that these officials, whom we had put on a sanctions list a year and a half before, were not sharing intelligence with us about the Tsarnaev brothers, right?
Tragic situation, but based fundamentally on misperception, misunderstanding and offense and grievance. The Ryan Fogle spying scandal, Edward Snowden, Russia's adoption of anti-gay laws, the conviction of Aleksei Navalny, this darling of the West Russian opposition leader.
Obama cancels his summit with Putin in August of 2013, and then finally in November, the protests break out in Ukraine, but initially, very much not a U.S.-Russia problem, very much a Ukrainian domestic problem. The bigger factor in late 2013, early 2014, is the story of the Sochi Olympics, right? This is an event in which Vladimir Putin has invested a huge amount of personal prestige, at least $50 billion we now know. Again, what's the coverage of the story in the West?
Russia is a terrible country. The Sochi Olympics are a joke. The toilets don't work. The sinks don't work. It's a Potemkin village. And more importantly, Western leaders aren't going to go. They're not going to go, because Russia has human rights problems.
And so what does Vladimir Putin do? He releases Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the most notorious political prisoner, right, the Oligarch who had dared to oppose him 10 years earlier and was in Siberian exile.
He releases Pussy Riot, right, the famous masked punk rockers. He releases Greenpeace activists. He even releases a number of the protesters who had threatened him in 2011, and 2012, and below that.
Am I saying that Vladimir Putin, you know, is trustworthy soul, a good man, a Democrat? No, I'm not saying any of this. I'm saying he really, really wanted to be respected by the West in late 2013, early 2014, and what did he get? He got none of it.
Senior Western officials by and large stayed away from Sochi. And so this, I suggest is really the straw that broke the camel's back. Vladimir Putin comes back from Sochi. And the very next thing that happens we now know is he convenes his National Security Council and he says, "We need to take Crimea."
From that moment forward, I think the story is very well-known to you, right, sanctions, isolation, tit for tat, and the relationship that we have today. So, let me just say a quick word if I have two minutes, about what I think Russia is looking for in Ukraine.
I think there are three basic causes, and the first of them in the sequence here is very, very important, are domestic. So number one is the precedent of removing Yanukovych by force, whether you think it was morally justified or not. He was a duly elected leader who was removed through a street protest that became violent.
If life in Ukraine becomes better after that, if people are better off and if big businesses are better off in Ukraine, next year, five years from now, 10 years from now, whenever it happens, that message will be unacceptably dangerous for Putin in Russia, for the simple reason that Russians overwhelmingly believe that they and Ukrainians are the same, right, despite the rhetoric about Ukrainian fascists and Ukraine going to NATO and so on.
Fundamentally, deep family personal, historical, cultural, religious and all kinds of other ties, and the view is, if this happens in Ukraine and the result is better for Ukrainians, why not us? Why not Russians? And this is an unacceptable precedent for Putin and his system. It's about survival.
And second along that same line, again, domestic political is that, Vladimir Putin's role today is very different. I described him 15 years ago as being kind of a pragmatist, a realist, certainly, that was the moment at which he and George W. Bush had the famous meeting in Slovenia.
He was a very different man then. Now, he is a Tsar, which means he has extremes, supreme, absolute power, but he is also isolated. I think it's impossible to describe Vladimir Putin today as a realist.
Many people talk about him as a strategist, as a realist. In order to be a realist, you have to acknowledge your own fallibility, that you might sometimes be wrong. And if you are at that pinnacle of absolute power, where you are isolated and surrounded by yes men and everyone is afraid of you, you can no longer be a realist.
And what that means is, Putin cannot afford to acknowledge the possibility, publicly or privately, that his narrative about what has happened in Ukraine, again, CIA-backed coup, unleashing radical fascist Ukrainian nationalists to commit ethnic cleansing upon Russians, and then to bring -- reorient Ukraine into the E.U. and NATO. That that might be wrong in any way. That is an impossible premise to accept, because it is the beginning of the end of his absolute power, which is akin to that of a Tsar.
Only the third and final place in this logical scheme is occupied by geopolitics, which is what we tend to hear about first in the West, right? Does Ukraine go East or West? And the idea here is even more complicated. There's a positive version of the narrative, and that's simply that Russia or Ukraine, but Ukraine in particular by itself, is relatively small and relatively weak, right? This is a country whose GDP is, you know, something around the net worth of Bill Gates plus Warren Buffet, maybe less than that, right?
And it's a pretty dysfunctional country. And it's a country that has an awful lot of trouble borrowing on commercial markets. So Ukraine doesn't have a lot of bargaining power. And the message of Russia's Eurasian economic union is, if you join with us, you will have more bargaining power, right?
Russia alone is 140 million people. Russia plus Ukraine plus Kazakhstan plus Belarus plus Armenia, et cetera, et cetera, is over 200 million people. And the ability for that common market to then get better terms from say, China, or better terms from the E.U., and ultimately strive towards something resembling. And Putin has talked about this, a Lisbon to Vladivostok common European market, or European and Eurasian. That's actually a relatively appealing message. What's the negative message, we know very well. I call it "Gandalf Balrog" moment, right? Where Putin throws down the staff and says, "You shall not pass,” to NATO, right?
NATO cannot come to Ukraine. It is a bridge too far, and so every time we see footage of American troops drilling with Ukrainians on the company level in Western Ukraine, it is a symbol of everything that is anathema and hateful to the Russians in Ukraine.
So, that's a sort of sense of how we've gotten to where we are. What the Russians are looking for in Ukraine. Let me just lastly say, in terms of broad principles, how we can deal with the Russians under these circumstances, and I hope that these are useful as we continue the conversation to talk about arms control and potentially -- very potentially, disarmament issues.
I keep these principles in mind. Number one, Russia is not going away, right? This tends to be obvious to the nuclear community, it's far from obvious to almost everyone else. I will tell you right now, coming from the highest levels of our government, the message about Russia policy is, our job is to manage the consequences for U.S. interest of Russia's inevitable decline into irrelevance, right? If you perceive Russia that way, you do not take Russia seriously. So principle number one is Russia is not going away. We've got to take it seriously. And it can't be bludgeoned.
Number two, our ability to secure cooperation from Russia depends on the institutional foundation of the relationship, so if we have no trade, if we have no travel, visa exchange, if we have no official track to the relationship below the level of John Kerry doing shuttle diplomacy, or Barack Obama, or Angela Merkel as the middle man, we have no institutional foundations.
How do you talk to Russia about the hard issues, the things that very quickly can derail issues like arms control when we want to work on those? Find a common language to talk about problems like human rights.
Don't go lecturing to the Russians about what kind of democracy they should have. Talk about the interests of U.S. businesses operating in Russia, that they need rule of law in order to operate, that they need rule of law in order to -- in order to invest and conduct business.
Talk about reciprocal commitments, the Helsinki commitments, the U.N. declaration on human rights, the Vienna Convention, the European convention on human rights, WTO, G8 -- of course, we kicked them out of the G8, so it makes it kind of hard to talk about reciprocal commitments and so on.
And then -- and then a little bit more honesty about the political constraints of our process here in Washington. I'd love to hear the Jerry Maguire line from President Obama, "Maybe it's too late, help me help you," right?
When you do things domestically, when you do things in Ukraine that make it difficult for me to sell U.S.-Russia partnership to my own party, let-alone to the Republican side, you derail your own best interests here in the United States.
There's been very little of that honesty and there's a lot of kind of mirror-imaging, where Russians assume our system is like their system, right? So if John McCain says something nasty about Putin, it must be because the president authorized him to do so, right?
We need a lot more honesty about how our systems work. And then lastly just know something about Russia, right? There's been a precipitous decline, not only in broad public investment, private foundations, et cetera, in study of Russia, but by the government in particular, we're down to less than 20 percent of where we were in 1991 in terms of investment in University Russian Studies Programs, post graduate Russian studies, Russia exchanges like, for example, the Open World Program run by the Library of Congress.
All of these things have been massively slashed, in most cases, either eliminated or more than 50 percent. So if you've got no capacity to understand the other party, be wary of imposing constraints, sanctions, et cetera, and assuming you know how those are going to end. Thanks.
THIELMANN: Thank you. Very insightful. Combining Tolkien and Napoleonic burning of Moscow is quite an achievement.
Now, Catherine, Secretary Kerry said in his Tuesday meeting in Sochi, quote, "It is clearly possible to make real progress and make important things happen," unquote. So my question to you is, is that true? And what kind of arms control should we try to make happen through engagement with Russia?
KELLEHER: Well, luckily, we have here through audiovisual aid, the Deep Cuts Commission and at least some specific recommendations about what we can do to -- at least bring up for conversation or dispute, should you choose to.
But I'd like to say, perhaps a more general thing, and this very much in tribute to John Steinbruner, because I think -- he was my friend for almost 50 years. We shared a love of Berlin as students, and doctoral advisers some time and place at Brookings and at Maryland.
And I think, also this approach, which he perhaps more than many other people in Washington, constantly reminded us of. And it seemed to me it had three major dimensions that are very useful, particularly in contrast to the kind of minute by minute zigzag that Matt has so well described of our policy towards Russia, and particularly in the arms control field.
His argument would have been, "I think, first keep your eye on the long haul. Don't worry about what's happening today in specific, but concentrate on what your aims are, and what the kinds of objectives you have for the medium and longer-term." That it is only through doing that, that you have a realistic measuring stick against both what you do today and what you're hoping will add up cumulatively to a more positive result in terms of U.S. interests, and indeed, in terms of a more cooperative strategy.
I think secondly, and John very much stressed this not only in his own writing, but also I think in his teaching, which was the importance of transparency and openness in every single endeavor, that it is really the question about looking at yourself honestly as Matt just said.
And also, trying very hard to keep an open mind, to look for opportunities, where this kind of strategy will in fact lead to coincidence, if not necessarily joint outcomes. That it is the light of day that will make the difference in the end on whether or not things are politically acceptable.
That much that is done behind closed doors not only should stay there, but perhaps never happen at all. I think a third thing, and here probably his hallmark in all of his writing and things that he did, not only with ACA, but with the National Academy of Sciences activities and the American Academy of Sciences, their Arts and Sciences that he was involved in, was really the stress on innovation.
Let's think of a different way if we need to. Let's put the pressure on ourselves to think about how we adapt and how we adjust to new circumstances, and surely that would be his message, I think, as we look forward to what is achievable at a time of considerable stress, a lot of tension, and a lot of turbulence in who knows what about what.
I think there is no question as most of the people in this room have reluctantly concluded over the last two years, that there is not going to be a rapid U-turn, short of some extraordinary black swan variety activity, or perhaps violence of a kind that none of us would like to see.
I think, moreover, that the need to reconsider what we have done in the past as Matt has outlined, it is a very serious task and easy -- certainly, tried to do that in its time. But more importantly, I think for the Deep Cuts Commission, and for our own activities individually and as a group, this community that is focused on arms control. It's time to stop kidding ourselves about the things that we have carefully but rather casually assumed were going to be eternal verities that would extend into the future. We've had a lot of reliance on institutions that we failed to support.
We've not been terribly innovative. We've just assumed that everything was linear development, rather than the zigzag that John would have been among the first mention is often the fate of human affairs.
It can get worse and it will get worse unless we do take this task seriously. There are lots of cases, I'm happy to recount a long list of possible things that have gone wrong, taken a turn, and then never recovered. I'm sure you have some both from your personal life. The financial sector may be one of them that comes closest to mind at the moment, but that really have to do with the need, the unexamined life that someone once said is not worth living.
And I would say the unexamined policy life is even particularly not worthy of commanding attention or effort. So enough of the philosophy, but I think an important way to start to remind ourselves that we -- there is plenty of guilt to go around about how we have gotten ourselves into this situation.
Mr. Putin may have taken 25 years of my professional life and thrown it into the circular file. But that's OK, as long as out of that, I'm able to some rescue some hope and some positive direction for what I think is the future.
And here, I think, the Deep Cuts Commission at least provides us a handy discussion guide from which to go forward. The Deep Cuts was a commission funded primarily by the German Foreign Office and several foundations, which is made up of 21 members with associated friends and relatives as we say, who has bravely have been looking at these problems for the last three years and with considerable results.
The first and second reports, there may yet be a third, I think are worth reading and thinking about. Again, I think there is a great deal of emphasis on the kinds of values that I see John's work as comprising, particularly the emphasis on the willingness to take the context of where you are and to go forward.
We are not going to have major breakthroughs, but we may yet do useful work that's preparatory for opportunities that we can't foresee exactly when they're going to happen, but where we suspect that if we keep working at the coalface there will be a chance in which to achieve the kinds of reductions, not only in nuclear arms, but in the control of the weaponry innovation process, and indeed, the many supporting functions and infrastructure that are so critical to the conduct of warfare.
It is an optimistic view, one that says, we can do it if we keep our eye on the ball, and not just either surrender to despair or to demagoguery as is too often the case in this town anyway.
I think probably the major push within the Deep Cuts Commission -- there were five really specific areas for recommendations in this current second report. But the major one is clearly the continuation in discussions about strategic nuclear arms control.
The push to continue to think about how it is possible to achieve, or to outline, or to find a basis for coincident interest, not just -- but primarily perhaps between the United States and Russia, but also including the three members of the -- of the members of the P5, and perhaps even stretching beyond to a P5+2, including India and Pakistan, in terms of targets for reduction.
The idea that there are offers still on the table that involve considerably lower levels of nuclear weapons, that suggests that a partnership -- how many nations was it that came to the partnership in verification meeting recently? That there is a partnership of like minded states that can take up verification questions, involve themselves in the kind of experimentation about verification, about satisfying the "how will ever know," complaint that has dogged arms control from its very beginning in the '60s.
I think moreover, there is a push to think about what we are doing as we always have to think, in our present weapons acquisitions and weapons development that will, in fact, contain rocks or perhaps even explosions of our best intentions in the future.
Here the hypersonic glide, the question of precision guidance, the question of new and improved conventional, or perhaps even nuclear cruise missiles, all are items that are mentioned in the Deep Cuts Commission, the need to worry now and to think about what we actually want to achieve in each of those areas if we have the chance to continue to push on our agenda.
It gives pride of place in a way, at least in the present agenda, to restoring a kind of the strategic stability in Europe. And here, particularly to take more seriously than anyone in the United States perhaps has ever done, the possibilities that exists in the one remaining forum in which are continuing to meet regularly with the Russians, the OSCE, and to try to think what we want that organization to be. And how strong we need to make it in order to fulfill even its original mandate.
If not that, what is it that we want in terms of an organizational framework in which we will be able to take account of the inevitable geopolitical fact as Matt described it, that Russia is not going away?
And that it needs to be a partner. It needs to be a conversation partner. It needs to be a partner in common, perhaps only convergent interest-driven organizations. And that without the kind of channel of engagement and information, it really is a question of how we communicate, fits and starts, things that can be turned off by either side with no particular price to be paid.
This includes the INF Treaty and the need now to think about how we want to use that mechanism, how we can strengthen it, how we can in fact either unilateral or perhaps even convergent methods, strengthen it for to include others, or to replace with something that represents a verifiable ban on a set of weaponry that has proved difficult, if not disastrous in the past.
Last but not least, it is, of course, the whole area that we are currently discussing in New York, namely the nonproliferation treaty and the associated the activities. We've had a number of specific actions. We have the action plan of the past that still is not what might be called implemented.
We have other models that have been suggested and that need to be looked at. Most importantly of all, we need to look at the "sorta kinda" proliferation that we're seeing on a number of levels, both in terms of our discussions with India and currently in the Iran context.
I think all of these things as discussed in the Deep Cuts Commission report suggests there is a great deal of work to be done, and that is not enough to say, "Mr. Putin promised that it would be 10 years before there would be any serious arms control again. And it's a promise at least as long as he's in charge, he has every intention of making sure comes true."
I think for lots of reasons, it will take even longer than that if his plan is to go forward. What we have to think about in the meantime, and I think John would have joined me in this plea, is to say, "We have time and we had best make use of it to think about what it is that we really need to do, want to do, and what kinds of things we and other states that share our goals can do, not necessarily in opposition to Mr. Putin."
That's his choice as well as ours, but rather, to think about how we can engage in cooperative strategies that will lead to the goals and to the eventual opportunity for agreements, unilateral actions, bilateral, multilateral agreements of all sorts -- formal and informal, that will push us forward into the kind of cooperative space that I think is so necessary to achieve our own goals.
THIELMANN: Thank you, Catherine. I'm not going to exercise the moderator's prerogative, I'm going to open right away from the floor, and I think we will try to bundle the questions just to -- in pairs so that we don't forget what the questions were, and we maximize the chance for you to ask them.
So please raise your hand and we'll try to get a mike to you. I see Michael over here, and then here, these two questions here.
QUESTION: Thanks. So thank you, both, for wonderful presentations. I hope we get to applaud them at some point. I have a question for Matt, but either of you can weigh in on this. How does the Russia-China relationship bear on U.S.-Russian relations?
And I say this reading this morning that Ash Carter is talking about stationing B-1 Bombers in Australia. That's going to drive the Chinese crazy is my -- I just imagine, and make them much more, you know, militarized in their response. And is that going to turn them to Russia? How does that affect Putin? How does that affect U.S.-Russian relations?
THIELMANN (?): (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thank you, both, for excellent speeches. I enjoyed it very much. I shouldn't call it a speech -- remarks. I have a question for both of you. You both talked about the idea of some kind of an organizational arrangement in the Euro-Atlantic region.
Matt, you talked about what I thought was a very important report, the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative, and one other it, as Sam Nunn was involved in. And Catherine talked about the OSCE, which I think is also a forum that needs a hard look.
But what can we do? I'd really like to hear you talk more specifically about what kind of a forum you would like to see in Europe -- in the Euro-Atlantic region. Is it something that grows out of the OSCE? Is it something new as the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative suggested? And is there any way of reviving some of those ideas? Thanks.
THIELMANN: OK. Let's go first, Matt, to the Russia-China question?
ROJANSKY: OK. So, you know, I think it was Henry Kissinger who had the maxim about the United States should adopt a policy in which we have better relations with Beijing and Moscow than they have with each other, that that should be the maxim.
That does not pertain today. The opposite is true, full stop, without question. We should have no illusions. Whatever our mutual economic dependence with China, there is no doubt that Beijing and Moscow see each other as closer partners.
I won't say more important simply because of the size and the weight of the U.S.-China economic relationship, but closer partners than they are, with either of them is with us. That is premised -- that is often dismissed in Washington. If you read English language analysis of the Russia-China relationship, including a piece out yesterday in Reuters by several of my colleagues, whom I respect enormously, there is often a tone of, sort of, disbelief or non-seriousness based on history.
The idea that the Russians and the Chinese have fought lots of wars with each other, lots of border skirmishes, and there are these sort of deep trends that will always keep the two of them distrustful and prickly towards one another.
That's all true. Let me tell you what else is true. Putin and Xi have an excellent personal dynamic, and they will both be in power for the next decade or more. The Russian and the Chinese cultural and historical narrative is finding increasingly common resonance in response to Western policy.
So when we isolate, when we denigrate, when we talk about Russian and Chinese behavior as being 19th century, or uncivilized, or inappropriate to our sort of modern rules and norms, it echoes with a sense that both great powers as they see themselves have always experienced at the hands of the European West, and that is that you denigrate us. You isolate us and we emerge stronger for it.
That is a common, I can go into details and the terminology for this, but it's suffice to say, it exists in both cultures. The weapons trade is very real, as you may know, the S400s that were sold to China or recently promised to China by Russia, would give the Chinese essentially airspace denial capability over Taiwan.
That's a really, really big deal. And the Russians, I think, are signaling something important by making that sale. And then the economy, there is a functional modus vivendi between Russia and China in Central Asia, where the Chinese get economic dominance and the Russians get political and military dominance.
That's working, but more importantly the Russian-Chinese direct economic relationship is big and it's growing, and the half trillion dollar gas deal, although the details people sort of snicker, "Well, we don't know what the price is, oh, the Russians got screwed."
Look, we don't know is the operative term and they nonetheless signed the deal, and two leaders who are obsessed with personal prestige, you know, what I said earlier about Sochi, signed that deal in public, associated themselves with it in public, so I suggest to you that that's a very real deal, and it's very, very big.
KELLEHER: I would like to add a somewhat dissenting voice to this, and to argue that one of the hallmarks, I think of long-term Russian policy is the increasing nationalist xenophobic strand, and one in which is -- has more than a little of a racist trend.
And whether one talks particularly about the military, where it's rampant, or in terms of the general reliance in -- outside of Moscow in the major cities on this kind of definition of Russian-ness that is non-Asiatic, very definitely a cultural empire with long tradition, I think that is a major stumbling block as long as Putin and his successors are dependent on that kind of national support, it will always be a question from the Russian side about who is dominant -- and there is -- it seems to me if I were Mr. Putin, I would run that calculus very carefully, since there are many indications that suggest it will not be Russia that's the dominant partner.
And once that becomes apparent, I think it puts a great deal of question into how long and how deep this particular present relationship will run. But may I also speak to Jim Goodby's very good question?
You know, lots of trees have died in the search for European security architecture. I think at one point, I counted up. There were either 52 or 53 different plans that had been published for how to set the organizational framework.
I think it doesn't matter. It's clear that the NATO-Russia ploy is over, at least for the foreseeable future. And the question is, what's left? We have tended, particularly in the years -- recent years, in which we've more or less neglected, I think, the organizational underpinnings of the U.S.-Russia relationship and they certainly, as Matt wisely pointed out, the amount of non-tending domestic expertise in this area.
I think we really have to have a framework, however, where we meet, whether we want to or not. That's one of the hallmarks of that framework. It's like the U.S. having to go to NATO and meet its allies, whether or not it wants to meet them all at once, you know, it's the convening power if you will, and the fact that not showing up turns out to be disastrous.
I think there -- OSCE is the only thing we've got at the moment. And unless we pick up something like the organization that was suggested the -- a linked organization that was Brzezhinski's and Kissinger's idea in 2011 -- 2012, there have been other arguments about having kind of a mini U.N. in Europe kind of meeting.
But whatever the framework is, we need one. And the question is then to take it seriously. United States has always held its nose in OSCE and said "Not much here, not our play, not our vocabulary." And the fact is, as this crisis has shown, we have a need for this kind of organization and it's not just to engage the Russians. It's to engage a number of other states, as well.
THIELMANN: Thank you, Catherine. Let's take the next two questions, and I'm going to just mention that there is more specificity in the Deep Cuts report particularly on the OSCE forum, and also noting that the Germans are going to be chair of the OSCE coming out, and seeing opportunity for moving in that forum.
So the next two questions -- let me try to go to the back a little bit maybe in the middle there, the first (inaudible) and then over to Nick by the window.
PROVEAUX: Thank you. Mr. Rojanski mentioned that we are losing slowly our Russian expertise, and I was wondering what your thoughts are on Peace Corps volunteers. So obviously there's the problem of, we don't want other nations to think that we're spying on them, but at least for the case with Ukraine, there's at least, I think, there were at least 400 volunteers in Ukraine. And they seem like they could be a good resource for getting the lay of the land, so to speak.
I mean, they have very, very good relationships with the locals, et cetera, even in the east and Donetsk, so I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on that? Thank you.
THIELMANN: And at the end of the question I just ask you to identify yourself, sorry I should have mentioned that.
PROVEAUX: Oh sure. My name is Adam Proveaux. I'm a graduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
THIELMANN: Thank you.
ROTH: Nick Roth, Belfer Center. Thank you. Both of your talks were very interesting. One question I have is about a specific type of cooperation that was cut off early in 2014 between the U.S. and Russia, which is joint scientific research. And that was cut off on the U.S. side.
So my question for both of you is, based on your presentations, I would think that you would think -- you would decide that was not a wise decision. But so, I guess, one question is do you agree with that or not, and if not, what case would make to the U.S. government on why, and -- or how that type of cooperation should continue or restart?
THIELMANN: Anyone. Yeah, Catherine.
KELLEHER: Yes, OK. Let me pick up the cooperative question. I think it -- I think there are two very good sides to the argument about whether or not we should have cut off cooperative links.
How much of it was cutting off our own nose? How much of it was real signal that we were serious this time? So let's leave that discussion to the past. It what we could think of is what is, the sequence. What is the series of domains in which we want to gradually restore some of those links, because they are useful for us, or we see that this is a way to at least engage the Russians in a dialogue that is -- has the possibility of leading to further cooperation, if that's what we want?
I think there are two that I think have been very useful, and the Deep Cuts argument actually comes out and says, 1.5 and 2 level dialogues are the first place to invest. I think it's been extremely useful to have the mil-to-mil dialogue. It has not turned out always in the best way, I must say for the Russian military participants. A large number of them have found themselves without jobs when they went home, or under great suspicion of having been turned by the CIA.
But the idea of having open meetings, which are transparent, that do in fact convince other observers that there is something to be discussed, is a very important one. Let me give you one specific example.
Almost nobody knows about the cooperative discussions that have gone on both in Northeast Asia at the colonels' level for well over 10 years. And it's a question of not just arriving at individual personal knowledge, but a sort of background that has to do with signaling the, sort of, if you will, creation of trusted persons, people who are looked on as experts or points of contact from both sides as being of value.
These turn out in specific crises, particularly when you need to send a signal fast, to be very, very useful techniques. They are of -- in and of themselves a kind of confidence building measure that's of some value.
I think in the scientific area, this is also the case. I think there is much less emphasis on it. Things like Pugwash, or the Dartmouth discussions, or any number of other scientific exchanges than there was, say, in the heydays of the '70s.
But it is still -- there is a still vast area, in which even with the open -- relatively open scientific dialogues that exist in functional fields, it is a valuable resource to have, if only because it's precisely this kind of organization that can try trial balloons, develop stakeholders, do the kinds of things that are so difficult to do in something like the NATO-Russia forum where you started with adversarial relations from the first.
ROJANSKY: And do you want -- yeah, in which by the way is still frozen or suspended. It might be good news to you and to others here, I don't think I'm violating any confidentiality by saying that the Dartmouth Conference at the plenary level, the high level that was suspended in 1990 has actually restarted with support from the Kettering Foundation, which sort of has taken over has brand since November of last year, and in fact the next high level meeting will be slated for the fall here on the U.S. side.
So -- and this scientific exchange is exactly on the agenda. We have had very senior doctors, for example. And -- the issue really is do you see useful capacity on both sides? A problem from the U.S. side for a long time has been just general dismissiveness of Russia's relevance and capacity.
If they had nothing to offer, why do we need to do anything jointly with them, what, just for the sake of going through the motions? No, we don't do that sort of thing. And, of course, the reality is, they have a tremendous amount to offer, if you know basic economics, right? It's the idea of comparative advantage.
It doesn't matter if they are 10 percent less good than you, they may specialize in something that you don't, and that makes sense. On the human capital issue, the answer Adam is, yes, returned Peace Corps Volunteers are extremely valuable. I've actually hired at least two of them myself.
But, you know, that's not the only program, and the problem with Peace Corps is it's not in Russia. It's only in Ukraine, and Georgia, and other former Soviet republics. And that phenomenon has become a kind of troublesome two way street, where on the one hand, we can't actually go to the places and gain experience in the places where engagement with Americans and American knowledge is most urgently needed, because we're barred from those places, perceived as being some form of espionage or soft color revolutionary activity by Putin, initially back in 2002, which is why he booted the program.
But on the other hand, we often come back with a version of post-Soviet knowledge that is skewed towards the countries where we have these large contingencies of a Peace Corps volunteers.
So, it tends over time, to shape the field such that throughout the State Department and the Defense Department and Commerce and other places now, when you're sitting now with a now mid-level working level official who started out as a Peace Corps volunteer, which is a common phenomenon, you know, they really -- their language was Ukrainian, right?
And so, it sort of deepens the problem. And I'm not saying there's not a problem with engaging with Ukraine. I'm all for it. I started the Ukraine program when I was here at Carnegie. It's just that the perception from the Russian side, again, it's a two-way street. They banned us in the first place, but we invest in human capital that, as a result, makes it even harder for us to deal with them because we're perceived just being biased, so it's tricky.
THIELMANN: Thank you, one up front and one in the far back.
QUESTION: Should I do it now, or should I wait for (inaudible)
THIELMANN: You should wait for Michael.
QUESTION: OK. My name is Richard Golden. I'm a member of the ACA. I'm also a Rotarian. As a Rotarian, I have been active in the Russia and U.S. exchanges. I have been told by people who I believe are much more knowledgeable than I, today, NGOS is where it's -- where it is at. Do you have any comments as to whether NGOs might want to take the lead in reestablishing constructive exchanges between the two countries?
QUESTION: Hi, Brian Bradley from Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor. One line in the Deep Cuts Commission report, particularly caught my eye and raised another question for me, the line where it said the U.S. and Russia should resist misleading calls to give up on the INF Treaty.
My question is, given the fact that both sides are basically accusing each other of violating the treaty, what is the action chain that would have to happen to get both sides basically to agree on the provisions and agree on cooperation on the treaty going forward?
And also, Ms. Kelleher, I believe you touched on the possibility of replacing -- negotiating a replacement for the INF Treaty going forward. How do you envision that playing out, given the status of INF right now?
THIELMANN: Let me say something about the INF Treaty, since that was one -- I'm sorry, one of the subjects I was significantly involved with. One is struck by the absence of any activity in resolving the INF Treaty compliance concern on the table, of anything like that envisioned by the authors of the treaty, the special verification commission that was supposed to work on compliance concerns, last met in 2003.
It has not been engaged in any way in this -- in this dispute. And there are some reasons for that having to do with the fact that there was only the Soviet Union once upon a time and now there were several members that kind of inherited the treaty.
But the point is, and this came out very strongly in the Deep Cuts discussions, you really have to have technical experts, military professionals, people on the ground, on the spot working through these issues. And when the U.S. and Russia try to resolve the U.S. complaint, it was at a very high level, and the Russians basically kept saying, "We don't know what you're talking about." And the U.S. kept saying, "Yes, you do."
And that -- and that sort of led us to where we are now. I see an opportunity here in using the Russian complaints about U.S. violations of the INF Treaty, to use that as leverage. The U.S. has been dismissive of all of those complaints, including the potential use of the launchers that are destined for Romania and Poland, that their maker Boeing bragged could also launch Tomahawk missiles. And now we assure the Russians that neither the software nor the hardware would allow them to launch Tomahawk missiles.
That was a very easy opportunity for us to say, "Come and look at this equipment. We will show why this is impossible.” We, as far as I know have not made such a suggestion at all. Were we to suggest that then it would be much easier for us to say, "And we would like to look at our complaints about your testing of a ground-launched cruise missile."
So I think there needs to be an attitudinal on change first and foremost on the U.S. part, in order to try to make progress on what I think is very legitimate complaint about what the Russians have done.
Let me go to others, Catherine?
KELLEHER: Can I just add on to Greg's very cogent argument? I think two mistakes were made specifically. One is we decided for reasons that I still am not clear about in the Bush administration, to leave the Russians, to fight the extension of the INF Treaty scope, the joining perhaps of other countries, to leave that to a Russian lead, and we didn't make it a very important priority in terms of our own negotiating agenda.
And the -- we essentially said we didn't see it as terribly urgent, and this having to do with extending the treaties both perhaps to include the Chinese, the Indians, and the Pakistanis, all of whom have programs of interest, shall we say.
And we essentially allowed that one to run into the sand. I think that was a mistake on our part, a serious mistake. It would have looked like a much more important and persuasive push, I think, if we had enlarged the scope at least to force discussion.
If we couldn't do it in MTCR, we could have forced a discussion about their plans, what they saw as the in fact on strategic stability in their particular regions, in a way that would have been very useful for us at several points.
The second think and I think the more important thing is, the escalation of this discussion with Russians resembles a schoolyard fight more than anything else, I mean, “so's your old man” is the sum of a lot of the discussion.
And I think we should -- we've been forced into a position that really is beneath our dignity, if you may allow me a judgment, and we could have done other things at other points. And it's just been folded into the general discouragement, disappointment, disregard, whatever you want to say about policies too often in the last five years.
ROJANSKY: I have to take this opportunity before this panel concludes to make a very important broader point in answer to the INF problem and a number of others, like Russian participation in the Nuclear Security Summit, what we may or may not get from them on the NPT RevCon.
The bottom-line is, we ourselves should know, imposing economic sanctions in response to military action, that all issues are linked, right? You cannot deal in total isolation of one set of issues from another set of issues.
And what that means is my well-meaning, but I think totally misguided colleagues, who write op-eds in the same week, publishing op-eds in the very same week saying, "Let's send weapons to the Ukrainians so they can believe to the Russians more, so they can send home more Russian body bags, and change Putin's calculus."
And in the very same week say, "Let's not give up on the INF." It blows my mind, right? I mean, we are not dealing with some kind of robot here, right? We are dealing with people. And with people, issues are linked. We ought to understand that. So I think that point just needs to stand.
And the on NGOs, Richard, this speaks to the two-way street problem, right, which is that the Russians have created a very tight environment for NGO activity in their own country. They have a foreign agent law, which says, "Any NGO which is receiving foreign money, or which is acting in general on the interest at the behest of a foreign partner.”
That NGO will be labeled a “foreign agent," and that's essentially poison to -- in Russian society. So what you're left with -- and my own organization has been evolving in this direction, is that you cannot invest overly in what you would ideally want to do, which is build institutions on the ground, you know, employ Russians, get Russians going in activities that are of mutual interest.
What you have to do is look for opportunities where existing Russian institutions are looking on the basis of total formal almost very archaic seeming, almost cold war style equality, right? You sit opposite at each other at the table and have little flags, and you negotiate memoranda of understanding, and you sign those.
That's the nature of the partnership that the Russian government is allowing today. And if you try to circumvent that, you're likely to get yourself and your Russian NGO partner in a lot of trouble, so I would discourage that under the current circumstances.
But you've -- we've got to push through. Pulling back completely and saying, we're going to punish you by not engaging, you know, that's obviously a mistake because you lose the Russian people.
THIELMANN: Thank you very much for your questions. I'm afraid we have run out of our allotted time, and I would urge you to join me in thanking our two panelists.
KIMBALL: All right. And while we have a stage transition here to the next panel, we're going to take about four or five minute break, and we're going to reconvene at about 20 until the hour for our Nonproliferation Treaty Panel.
Speakers: Andrea Berger, Deputy Director, Proliferation and Nuclear Policy Programme, Royal United Services Institute; Lewis A. Dunn, Principal, Science Applications International Corporation; Randy Rydell, former Senior Political Affairs Officer, United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs
Moderator: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
KIMBALL: All right, everyone, we're going to get started in just a moment if I could ask you to sit down. I'm sorry to interrupt your conversations. We will have plenty of time during the lunch hour to share thoughts with one another.
All right. Welcome back. It's great to have all of you here this morning at the Arms Control Association's 2015 Annual Meeting. And just a correction to my earlier remarks about the hashtag for today's event, it's armscontrol15. My communications team is grousing with me. I told you the wrong hashtag before. So, it's #armscontrol15.
And this panel, the second panel of the day is going to be exploring the challenges facing the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, as evidenced by the ongoing 2015 review conference that's taking place this week at this hour in New York and which runs through May 22nd.
So, as most everyone here knows the -- over the past 45 years the NPT has established an indispensable, but imperfect, set of interlocking non-proliferation and disarmament obligations and standards. And rather than having dozens of nuclear armed states, as John F. Kennedy forecasted in the early 1960s, we have only -- it's too many -- but we only have four additional countries beyond the original five nuclear weapon states that are recognized as nuclear weapon states under the NPT.
The taboo against nuclear weapons use has grown stronger. The push for disarmament continues. The effort to fortify the safeguards against the spread of nuclear weapons continues.
And like any treaty, the NPT requires ongoing work to update, renew and implement key objectives to keep up with the times and the technologies. And there have been and are and are going to be ups and downs and our job for the Arms Control Association and the rest of the international community is to make sure the ups are more frequent and more substantial than the downs.
And as we'll hear in a minute from some of our great speakers here, it's clear that, as the diplomats gather in New York, the treaty is reaching something akin to a mid-life crisis. They are in the process in New York of reviewing implementation of the treaty, considering how to advance and accelerate the lofty goals of the NPT.
I think this morning they were reviewing some of the latest drafts coming out of the working groups relating to the three pillars of the treaty, nonproliferation, peaceful uses and disarmament. And it's clear as we'll hear the frustrations are mounting due, in part, to the great power tensions that we heard about in the first panel between the United States and Russia, as well as other problems in the Middle East and elsewhere.
So, the probability for breakthroughs, I think, is probably low. New initiatives are few and far between and the possibility for consensus is extremely low at this particular stage. But success is not always -- does not always translate into a consensus final document. That's not the only measure of success of these conferences.
So, we have three fabulous speakers to talk about these issues and more, especially to consider how after this particular conference is over the NPT states can move ahead with some concrete positive steps forward to reinforce the regime. And so, I've asked them to focus on those issues this morning.
And first, we're going to hear from Andrea Berger who is just arriving from New York, like Alex Kmentt, navigating the difficult northeast corridor in the past couple of days. She is the Deputy Director of the Proliferation and Security Program and a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London.
And then following Andrea, we're going to be hearing from Lew Dunn who among other things is the former Assistant Director for the Arms Control Disarmament Agency and the U.S. Ambassador to the 1985 Review Conference and knows the NPT very well.
And another person who knows NPT and has overseen it extremely well is our friend and our board member Randy Rydell who served for some 17 years, I think it was, at the United Nations Secretariat as a Senior Advisor to several high representatives for Disarmament Affairs and he was a lead researcher for the Blix Commission which released its report in 2006, among other things.
So, we've got an enormous amount of expertise on the panel, and in the crowd as I said before we have Larry Weiler with us. We have one, two -- we've got two other U.S. representatives to NPT review conferences -- Susan Burke and Norman Wulf. And so, we've got a great set of people here and I hope the conversation afterwards is very good.
So, Andrea, thanks for being here. Take it away.
BERGER: Thanks very much, Daryl. And thanks to the Arms Control Association for inviting me here to speak today. It's a great pleasure to be with you this morning. As Daryl mentioned, I've been asked to speak a little bit about what's happening at the review conference at the moment and what states parties can do to strengthen the treaty in years to come.
And as you might imagine, those are two very big topics to cover in 12 to 15 minutes, so I hope you'll allow me just to touch on a few points with relation to each. And actually, the one I wanted to start with dovetails very nicely from the last session.
And it strikes me from the first few weeks of the review conference that there's some very real direct and pressing threats to the treaty that aren't being addressed necessarily in the way that one might expect them to.
You have Russia, as we discussed, in the last panel who's consistently using threatening language about its nuclear forces. In London in January, it put the P5 -- counterparts of the P5 process meeting on notice that its participation in the process should not be taken for granted. We know that they're becoming, shall we say, disinterested in certain arms control obligations that they have. So, if we're talking about reducing the role of nuclear weapons in national doctrine, that's a pretty pressing issue, I would say.
China then for its part is, of course, by all accounts developing its nuclear forces in a way that I think contravenes the very basic norm that we might think we've established over 20 years of indefinite extension of the NPT, which is that arsenals should move in a downward direction.
So, if the review conferences are meant to be something of a health check for the treaty, I think we need to try to get creative and find better ways to diagnose and treat the most malignant issues. And I know that's difficult because you don't want to have those countries become even more uncooperative or have review conferences turn into a giant finger-pointing match.
But we do need to think a bit more, in my view, about how we can better address some of the really big and most serious issues here.
There are two related risks, I think, at this juncture if you call it a mid-life crisis or have another term for it. One is, of course, that states party to the treaty fail to strengthen the treaty and really outline concrete new steps that can be taken to do so. I think some of the other panelists are going to talk to that a bit more. And so I'll offer a few suggestions in the next few minutes, but I know that they're potentially going to offer many more.
A second risk here is that both nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states in the process of expressing their legitimate frustrations with the treaty and seeking to rectify those frustrations swiftly inadvertently create very deep fractures, even deeper ones than we already see, potentially downplay the centrality of the Non-Proliferation Treaty or confidence in it. And perhaps set off on other avenues where it's difficult later to course correct, if we find that we need to.
And so, that's one of the issues that I'm going to touch on in the next few minutes and in particular two themes that are being debated in the Main Committee, one that deals with disarmament at the review conference as we speak. Those are the so-called legal gaps on disarmament and the issue of timelines and deadlines.
On the issue of legal gaps in disarmament, this is one of the really big talking points. And a good example was Monday's meeting in Main Committee I in which this was really what took up the bulk of the time in states' comments.
And sitting in the gallery, the NPT Review Conference for that session, it was clear that the discussion is quite frayed over the concept of the legal gap. International law is something that I think should be very carefully thought out before it's formed and certainly before it's attempted to be formed.
And it's clear that some states have thought through that better than others. And so, to give you sort of an overview of what the conversation looks like at the moment, you have some states who argue there's a legal gap on disarmament because nuclear weapon states are not -- nuclear weapons are not outlawed in the way that chemical and biological weapons are.
You have some states who argue there's a legal gap because the term "effective measures" as is stated in Article VI of the NPT is not defined. You have some states who argue there's a legal gap because we have no legally binding assurance that is unconditional over the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and that’s one of the key constituencies that's pushing that discussion.
You have some states who say that, while unilateral disarmament measures are an excellent bonus, they don't really count towards Article VI implementation because Article VI implementation specifies multilateral negotiations. So, I've seen Ireland, for example, make this argument a few times.
Some others take it even further and say that multilateral negotiations under Article VI because it's in the NPT mean actually all NPT states party. So, we need to be having multilateral disarmament negotiations with everyone.
And then, of course, you have states who say that Article VI is clear and intentionally leaves open the possibility of legal possession of nuclear weapons the threat of their use and indeed even their use and that, therefore, there is no legal gap. So, that's the discussion over whether here is a legal gap.
Now, then there's the divisions over how to rectify the legal gap that we're not in agreement over the nature or even the existence of. So, you have a number of countries -- a growing number of countries actually -- that suggest that we need in the near future either a ban treaty or a comprehensive convention that covers the whole range of issues in one document so, possession, stockpiling, use, et cetera.
As we know, over 70 states have signed on to the Austrian pledge that calls for an instrument to prohibit and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons. Then, of course, you have a discussion over where this comprehensive agreement should be negotiated.
Some say it needs to be put into a subsidiary body of the Conference on Disarmament in the next review cycle. Iran on Monday, for example, was curiously arguing that it needs to be concluded there by 2022. I'm still not sure if that was a misreading of their notes but they very specifically were saying 2022. You have some states that say it used to be in the general assembly because the general assembly has broader membership and doesn't have the threat of veto looming over it.
The New Agenda Coalition, or the NAC, says that actually let's put all that aside for a second because there's a second option here that maybe we should be thinking about more clearly which is that you could have an overarching legal instrument with subsidiary arrangements negotiated underneath it.
So, there's a real range of views here. You have then on top of that the Non-Aligned Movement who says that whatever you do on either of those points, there needs to be a treaty negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament beginning in the next review cycle on negative security assurances -- legally binding negative security assurances.
So, as you can see, the debate is still, I would say, slightly messy. And all the while, you have countries like France who are sitting in the corner and turning to their P5 counterparts, especially the U.S. and UK, and are saying, we told you so.
And to be honest, this is becoming a very difficult discussion to have. The French are arguing that the -- all this talk of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, of new information and its significance, of legality and illegality may mean that in the near future some non-nuclear weapon states push to revisit the 1996 ICJ advisory opinion.
And actually, I wanted to bring out one of the pieces of the first draft which the French have been pointing to that says sort of look, we have a point here. The Main Committee I draft that was circulated on Friday last week reads: "The conference recalls the ICJ advisory opinion on the legality of the threats or use of nuclear weapons issued at The Hague on the 8th of July 1996. The conference acknowledges that new information has emerged regarding the humanitarian consequences of any nuclear weapons and that this information raises significant implications for assessments of nuclear weapons under international law."
And as a consequence of that sort of formulation, I've heard P5 colleagues warn the U.S. and U.K., for example, that their participation at future humanitarian conferences or the statements they make there may be used to further de-legitimize the step-by-step approach and build a body of customary international law against deterrence doctrines in particular.
I think that's a bit overblown, but the word "legal" is being used so much at the moment in Main Committee I that it's partially understandable to see why there's some nervousness on the part of P5 states and especially on their NATO counterparts who are becoming, I think, slightly sympathetic to the French table-banging. They're not necessarily to the way that the French are expressing their dissent, shall we say.
This whole dynamic raises a number of issues and questions at a strategic and a tactical level that I think non-nuclear weapon states and nuclear weapon states need to think more about. For example, does this whole discussion reduce the prospect that the U.S. and UK will want to engage constructively and positively in the humanitarian consequences initiative, which is something that I was very happy they did in the last year.
Will it, perhaps, increase the likelihood that the P5 process withers during the next review cycle because here they've -- while they haven't done that much, they've done a little bit and wanted someone to encourage them to continue, at least certain P5 states did, and are seeing not that much of that positive encouragement at the review conference.
So, still not going to get anything for it, perhaps, it might quietly fade away. Will NATO states be more or less likely to participate in the humanitarian consequences initiative and would a broader fracturing of the community over this issue actually result in deep divisions that mean in the future certain NPT constituencies actively disregard the views of others and really just on the issue of forward movement on disarmament obligations we have a complete split.
So, those are some of the big questions, I think, that relate to this. You can then talk about whether it's difficult for, if some states set off on a specific legal course of action and others ignore that whether in the future at some point when we have an opportunity to build a more inclusive or, some might suggest, a practical legal framework, whether that's going to become relatively impossible to do so.
In short, I don't think we're -- at the moment -- that we're contemplating these issues in the way that we should be in devoting the time and attention to them when the issue is as important. And I don't think that we should not have this discussion. I actually would really encourage it. And I would encourage nuclear weapon states to continue to engage with the humanitarian consequences initiative and for those who haven't in 2014 to do so in the future.
But for focused and forward-looking discussions on these points and the potential pitfalls associated with them also need to happen before we set off on a specific course. And equally, the situation suggests to me that not only do we need nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states to talk to each other more and better, but we need non-nuclear weapon states to talk to each other more and better.
So, one of the things that I would advocate for in the next review cycle is actually another open-ended working group that can maybe treat some of these points in more detail with more time and out of the time-bound pressure that exists around a review conference.
I would also encourage said working group, if it were to come to fruition, to give the P5 process some more concrete and specific requests. If we're unhappy with the glossary because it doesn't have certain terms, say, we would expect that in version two of the glossary you will have these terms defined for us. And to spell something out like that that's more narrow, concrete and that can actually really be taken forward as an expectation in the next review cycle.
In the same vein on the second point I wanted to address, we need to think through our timelines and deadlines that we're pushing for in this review conference very carefully. And this applies both to the disarmament and non-proliferation obligations and should really be one of the key lessons learned for us from 2010.
Clearly, timelines and deadlines can be useful in catalyzing action and changing behavioral patterns when those timelines and deadlines build realistically on the status quo. The deadline that we set for P5 transparency and reporting declarations in 2014 is a perfect example of this.
However, our experience with the 2012 WMD-free zone conference in the Middle East deadline which was by most accounts, too ambitious, should also remind us that we really need to consider carefully whether those timeline commitments are feasible because all it takes is one angry state who is upset that their expectations were raised and then not met to prevent forward movement on an important issue like this.
And we're seeing the Egyptians, for instance, advocating that the Finnish coordinator should no longer continue their mandates on this point. So, things like the Non-Aligned Movement's proposed timeline for disarmament convention that completely eliminates nuclear weapons by 2030, Iran's insistence, I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but we need a convention by 2022. The calls by a number of states that we need to have P5 annual reporting on things like stockpile numbers, et cetera, which the Chinese are still miles off agreeing to and annual reporting may not necessarily be that feasible at least yet.
Those are the sorts of things that remind us that we need to think through what worked and what didn't work from the last review cycle very carefully. And the review conferences are meant to be that opportunity to take stock of implementation of the treaty in the last five years to express frustrations when those expectations are not met and try to employ the collective to find ways to solve them in the future.
But each part of that process the review, the reprimanding, if you will, and the rectifying need to be very closely related to one another. So, for example, new timelines are unlikely to be effective unless we've considered in detail our experience with previous timelines and we reach out to those who would be bound by them to convince them that their cooperation would be helpful confidence-building measure in the future.
So, this is, I would suggest, my new pitch for a three-part balancing act as it relates to the NPT processes as important perhaps in this instance as pillars as we have our NPT mid-life crisis. So, I will leave it there, but I'd be happy to discuss any other points and questions.
KIMBALL: Thank you very much, Andrea. That was a great overview of the questions and the situation in New York. And I hope that Lew and Randy can now turn to the question of how might we in the future months and years address some of these issues. And I will just note that just as Lew begins if you haven't seen it he wrote excellent feature article in the April issue of Arms Control Today. I'm sure he'll touch on some of those points.
So, Lew, thanks for being here. Take it away.
DUNN: Thank you, Daryl. I'm pleased to be here. I'm pleased to offer some remarks on the topic at hand of, quote, "Mid-life Crisis, the Future of the NPT." These are my personal remarks. They reflect my long involvement in NPT matters, but they also reflect my well-known reputation as a free electron not constrained by official positions.
As a preface, I would just remind us all that we were in the middle of the third week of the review conference. There's still quite a bit of time left and the optimist that I am, I still believe that prospects are good to come up with some sort of cooperative outcome which moves forward the overall NPT process and gets us into the next stage of our life if we're in a mid-life crisis.
I'd like to make five and one half points in the time allotted. So, let me begin. My first point is that today's stalemate between the NPT non-nuclear weapon states and the NPT nuclear weapon states with regard to how to advance the Article VI goals of the treaty serves neither of their interests.
For the non-nuclear weapon states they have focused new attention on the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, on the need to reenergize the nuclear disarmament process, but they have not and they cannot alone advance nuclear disarmament.
For the nuclear weapon states -- for the nuclear weapon states, though they have steadfastly defended their record as well as their step-by-step approach, they risk creating a situation in which today's frustration among non-nuclear weapon states may yet undermine the legitimacy, effectiveness and support for the NPT.
For both the non-nuclear weapon states and the nuclear weapon states, the type of fracturing that Andrea Berger has just speculated about serves neither of their interests.
My second point, I believe that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty remains an irreplaceable framework for a livable nuclear future, an irreplaceable framework for a livable nuclear future. Now, we can all agree, I think, that it remains a bulwark against non-proliferation. But I believe, as well, the NPT provides an irreplaceable framework to pursue the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.
It provides a legal, moral and political obligation on the five NPT nuclear weapon states to pursue and ultimately achieve that goal. And it has produced real nuclear disarmament progress, even if much less than desired. It also comprises I believe, an obligation that in today's world -- in today's world will not be recreated and cannot be recreated in some type of new international or multilateral nuclear weapons framework ban or convention, call it what you will.
Why? Because for many reasons, none of the five existing nuclear weapons states will today join any such international framework or its negotiation. At some point down the road in the nuclear disarmament process, such a framework may, indeed, likely will be a closing step toward a world of no nuclear weapons. For now, pursuit of such a framework will, I believe, be self-defeating even if it's couched in the language of implementing Article VI.
Third, I believe that the time has come for a full discussion among all NPT parties of Article VI's call for the negotiation of effective measures as a central part of a strengthened and continuing process of substantive engagement on nuclear disarmament among NPT parties after the review conference, a substantive process of cooperative engagement between all NPT parties.
I would argue that the review conference has the possibility of moving us towards that outcome with a wide-ranging and inclusive agenda. What are these effective measures called for by Article VI? In effect, what are all the actions needed for implementing Article VI's obligations?
Some of those are very clear. Some of those are stated in the preamble to the NPT and some of those, I think, are less clear. What are the pluses and minuses of different approaches for pursuing effective measures? If the nuclear weapons states believe in step-by-step, well, why not hold their feet to the fire and have a continuing discussion about, OK, what does this mean in practice. If there are proposals for an international framework, what does that mean?
Regardless of whatever approach particular countries may take to how we advance effective measures, there are building blocks that need to be taken to make progress on nuclear disarmament. What are those building blocks?
Finally, how can countries cooperate in practical and effective ways to advance this process? Where are there realistic timelines that could be agreed to and pursued? Where are there cooperative measures that can be put in place now such as the international verification initiative to try to deal with some of the tough questions that will result?
But otherwise, how can all of the NPT's nuclear weapon states realistically take advantage of what is today's nuclear disarmament law? We just had a panel with regard to the United States and Russia, the outcome of which suggests to me that there isn't going to be any big nuclear disarmament between Russia and the United States anytime soon.
How does one take advantage of this lull to put in place the necessary understandings, concepts, activities to take advantage of the possibility of progress later? Fourth, it seems to me there are many different ways in which a new process of cooperative engagement amongst all NPT parties could be pursued after the review conference.
Andrea mentions the idea of a UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament. I believe this approach could work. There are key details that would have to be worked out in terms of what do you call it, what's its mandate, what its duration, what's its rules or procedure. A UN open-ended working group is one approach.
My own personal preferred alternative actually would be which is, I think a heresy amongst most of my friends in the U.S. NPT community -- my own preferred alternative would be to establish an NPT intercessional process, an NPT intercessional working group for intercessional discussion of nuclear disarmament and other priority issues.
In effect, this would draw on the successful precedent of the biological and toxin weapons convention. Drawing it in terms of the BWC precedent in terms of approach, procedures and a cost-sharing which would be more in line with that of international organizations, rather than the NPT cost-sharing, which I have the misfortune of being the person who probably got the U.S. into 40 years ago which is very inequitable.
If you went down the road of the intercessional approach, it would keep the discussion within the NPT family. It would recognize the NPT with its irreplaceable obligations to my mind still offers the best chance for real nuclear disarmament progress.
You could create also a group of governmental experts at the -- at the CD on these issues. The precedent is that of the group of scientific experts. And clearly, as the international partnership on nuclear verification -- disarmament verification goes forward, there are conceptual issues that need to be discussed.
What do we mean by irreversible verifiable and transparent nuclear disarmament? I can give you a definition, but that would be mine. And my fifth point, humanitarian impact conferences have focused global attention on the consequences and risks of the use of nuclear weapons.
As this process continues, the most important question now is how does one address those concerns? How does one address concerns about the risks of use of nuclear weapons raised by this process?
Participants in the humanitarian impact movement call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons as the only absolute guarantee against the risk of nuclear weapons. This may be true but it's not going to happen anytime soon.
So, the challenge is how do we identify and pursue practical and effective measures to reduce to an absolute minimum the risk of use of nuclear weapons, ensure that the nuclear taboo is sustained pending the ultimate elimination of these weapons.
The non-nuclear weapon states at the review conference have put forward in many cases the argument that there should be the full de-alerting of the nuclear forces of the United States and Russia. The American and Russian officials have opposed this. There's no reason to believe that somehow in the next week and a half they're going to change their mind.
So, let me suggest two different ways in which the review conference and the nuclear weapon states could address these concerns raised by the movement. First, I believe and it's sort of something which is kind of in there in one of the drafts now much more generally. But I believe specifically the review conference could call for the United States and Russia to task their respective ministers of defense to assess jointly what, actions other than full de-alerting, they could take to address these concerns and to report the results back to the review conference. There's a good timeline that you could have.
OK. You don't like de-alerting, you tell us that all you're doing is planning to, you know, launch these weapons into the open sea, if anything happens. There must be something else that you two could do. Go ahead and assess it and come back and tell us what it is. We want -- we want to know what your alternative is.
Second, it seems to me -- and this is something that the review process could encourage by encouraging the P5 process emphasizing its importance. The five nuclear weapons states, the NPT nuclear weapons states, through the P5 process, I believe, should accept the responsibility to take practical and effective measures to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again.
Through this P5 process which now exists, they can make sustaining the global nuclear taboo a priority, not because it will make the non-nuclear weapons states happy, but because it will serve their own interests amongst the P5. The P5 will be amongst the most dramatically impacted by any use of nuclear weapons.
What can they do? They could create a P5 experts group. We've had the glossary experts group, which is likely to continue. Why not a P5 experts group to discuss amongst themselves how could the use of nuclear weapons occur and what cooperative actions can we take to prevent any such use, terrorist use, use amongst other nuclear weapon states or involving us?
Second, I would propose that the five NPT nuclear weapon states could work to create amongst themselves a P5 code of nuclear conduct. A P5 code of nuclear conduct in which they discuss amongst themselves and eventually put down on paper what are the rules of the road which govern our behavior with regard to nuclear security, nuclear safety, the changes of our nuclear postures, decision-making, modernization, crisis management.
Some of this will be controversial because in my P5 code of nuclear conduct, I would argue that it doesn't serve any of the P5's interest to make gratuitous comments about well, you know, we nearly went on nuclear alert at the beginning of Ukraine.
But the P5 could have this kind of a nuclear code. Is there a review conference role here? Yes. I think there is a review conference role -- to call for the P5 to intensify their discussions of those risks and, again, to report back to the review process.
The reporting mechanism is a tremendously important precedent that was set in 2010. And kicking and screaming, the five nuclear weapon states met their obligation to report. Now, I think, there are other ways it could be used.
OK, let me finish up with my half point. The moderator asked me to address issues of the Middle East WMD-free zone. This is a quick half point.
KIMBALL: Only a half point?
DUNN: It's only a half point.
DUNN: First, to my mind the Finnish facilitator has made unprecedented progress. What this Ambassador achieves I never would have thought he ever could have achieved.
The review conference participants should let this process continue and they should accept the lesson of nearly 50 years of nuclear-free zone process which is that the results of nuclear-free zones have to come from within the region and it can't be imposed from without.
Second, it seems to me that the review conference participants as we go into this end game next week should not allow success in breaking today's nuclear disarmament stalemate, if it's achieved, should not allow that success to be held hostage to the Middle East nuclear issue.
Or ultimately, I believe, both nuclear disarmament and pursuit of a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East both of those will be the big losers. Thank you.
KIMBALL: Thank you very much, Lew. And thanks for putting on the table very practical, concrete suggestions. And I think, by the way, it's -- the term is not free electron, it's free radical. And so, some of those ideas are radical and we thank you for them.
So, Randy Rydell, over to you for your thoughts on the future of the NPT and how we can improve it.
RYDELL: Well, I spent a little bit of time contemplating the title of this panel. And to help me a little bit with this, I decided to consult Wikipedia's article on mid-life crisis.
KIMBALL: We didn't think deeply about it, Randy.
KIMBALL: You've gone further than we have.
RYDELL: So evidently, that's the case. The article says the following, "Despite popular perception of this phenomenon, empirical research has failed to show that the mid-life crisis is a universal experience or even a real condition at all."
Well, "Mid-life," the article continues, "is also significant as a time adults come to realize their own mortality. Also, it involves a condition involving a deep sense of remorse for goals not accomplished."
Well, interesting. This is a very fitting subject, by the way, for someone who just recently retired.
The first question that we're posing before this panel is: Why problematic? And I hardly know where to begin.
So, let's try a brief tour de tab. There is a growing perception among many, if not most, states parties to the treaty that the treaty is unbalanced in its obligations. That its basic fairness is being called into question at each -- serially, at each review conference. This is not a new phenomenon, but it's getting worse.
Detailed intrusive controls are called for in the non-proliferation area, but not matched by parallel commitments in the nuclear disarmament realm. The President of the 1995 conference, Jayantha Dhanapala, once wrote that the NPT's grand bargain is looking more and more like a swindle to many states parties.
There's much obvious dissatisfaction over the slow pace of disarmament or the lack of it altogether. Long-term well-funded plans for modernization, qualitative improvement in nuclear weapons and delivery systems, nuclear deterrence remains deeply embedded in the security doctrine of all states with nuclear weapons.
The nuclear weapon states have an allergy against negotiations required in Article VI, against timelines, against discussing even outlines of a nuclear weapons convention, against anything resembling what might be called a disarmament plan.
There is a complete lack of congruence between lofty international commitments to a nuclear weapon-free world versus the lack of any reflection of this goal in domestic laws, regulations, budgets, plans and agencies.
Where are the disarmament agencies? It's hard to even find the word "disarmament" on government business cards anymore, at least in the nuclear weapon states. This gross mismatch suggests that disarmament commitments are simply not being taken seriously.
At the UN, there's even a growing concern over the uneven transparency. Action 21 of the 64-point action plan of the 2010 review conference called upon my office, the Office of Disarmament Affairs, to establish a repository data on concrete actions taken to implement disarmament commitments.
This repository looks more like Mother Hubbard's Cupboard with a very high ratio of rhetoric to facts. Many calls for standardized detailed reporting have been made, especially by Japan and Canada, in recent years. And -- however, enormous obstacles stand in the way, in particular China and the non-NPT states are especially problematic on transparency issues.
Other longstanding disarmament standards are not being fully implemented such as irreversibility, international verification and others. This brings me to the issue of the lack of progress in achieving treaty universality.
The treaty growth process seems to have hit a stonewall— widespread doubts among non-parties joining. Worse, the India deal and others that followed fostered the impression that benefits of international cooperation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy did not require NPT membership. Why join? Better to have your cake and eat it, too.
It's an ironic consequence also of weakening incentives to remain in the treaty if benefits of membership can be benefited -- it can be enjoyed by those deals with non-parties. The lack of progress on the Middle East zone is another thorn in the side of this treaty.
The Middle East nuclear weapon-free zone was first introduced as a proposal in 1974 in the UN. And many of you might not be aware of this but that proposal has been endorsed by the General Assembly each year since 1974 and each year, not once with one negative vote.
The Israelis abstained for the first five or six years during those -- that period. And ever since then, they have also joined the consensus. There was a full consensus of all members of the UN on the goal of establishing such a zone.
The Arab group and Iran have been aggressively trying to internationalize this issue through a number of gestures. First, they included it in the package deal that led to the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995, that resolution on the Middle East.
Second, they've endorsed -- they've had numerous General Assembly resolutions endorsing this. Third, they've involved the secretary general personally as a co-convener of the conference in 2012 and they have given him other roles and the current Arab Group proposal also envisages another role for the Secretary General to convene a conference after this review conference. Yet, the whole debate on this is wrapped in a sterile, tiresome dispute over which must come first. Peace or disarmament.
All right. Next, we have the stalemate and the multilateral disarmament machinery: the C -- the Conference on Disarmament, the UN Disarmament Commission, and also, obviously deep, divisions in the first committee of the General Assembly on nuclear resolutions. We have problems getting -- achieving the entry into force of the CTBT. We have problems commencing negotiations on the fissile material treaty. And we have a complete reluctance of the Security Council to take up disarmament per se as a serious issue.
Add to this the deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations. How do you get much nuclear disarmament when states with 75 percent of the world's nuclear arsenals are planning to retain them for decades into the future, while also making continued threats of use, implicit or otherwise?
Then there's the endless competition in non-nuclear military areas. Intercontinental conventional weapons, space weapons, missile defense, cyber offensive warfare, and then weak international norms to the extent they exist at all governing military spending, conventional arms, production, stockpiling, and trade.
Meanwhile, fundamental UN charter norms are routinely being ignored. Including fundamental ones such as the positive obligation to settle disputes peacefully, the ban on threats of use of force, and the norm about limiting the diversion of funds from social and economic progress to military uses.
NPT disarmament goals, as agreed in 1995, 2000, and 2010, are also extremely imprecise, lacking clear benchmarks or guidelines because they were the result of compromise and least common denominators. This leads to endless debates over bad faith and compliance. One of the classic illustrations of this is this phrase, "Reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines." Well, if you buy that, then you're suggesting that there is a legitimate role for nuclear weapons in security doctrines. So, again, endless circle.
There is also currently a deep and growing division between nuclear weapon states and their allies and the rest of the world on the issue of preconditions for disarmament. A widening gap between step-by-step and comprehensive nuclear disarmament approaches is also apparent. It's unclear what would become of the ultimate goal long agreed in the world community on general and complete and disarmament.
It's become a little more than a rhetorical slogan now, yet it offers the only fully integrated view of the relationship between nuclear disarmament and WMD disarmament, conventional arms control, and the basic norms of the charter.
It's interesting that the non-nuclear weapon states haven't yet started talking about their own preconditions for complying with their non-proliferation commitments. There is no step-by-step process toward compliance with non-proliferation.
So what does the future hold? First, some dead-ends to avoid. The NPT, I don't believe, is the ideal venue for advancing global nuclear disarmament. The treaty is not a universal treaty. Four possessor states are outside the regime.
Second, NPT created a universal norm to negotiate in good faith on nuclear disarmament and the general and complete disarmament. But it did not outlaw nuclear weapons per se. Although the ICJ has advised that -- states parties are obligated to bring such negotiations to a conclusion. The NPT also lacks institutional support structures with my office, the UNODA providing a de facto secretariat.
I think the best hope for the NPT is in contributing to the larger process of pursuing a nuclear weapon-free world through the means of its -- it's what we call the strengthen and the review process. To the extent that the review process can be focused on concrete evidence and results rather than policy statements and diplomatic posturing, the review process can indeed make a very significant contribution to this larger goal. Even if only in building international confidence that disarmament commitments are in fact being fulfilled. And secondly, in contributing to the de-legitimization of nuclear weapons.
It remains to be seen if the data repository created by ODA, pursuant to Action 21, will be taken seriously by the nuclear weapon states. But it does offer a good centrally-located place for registering such data. Another key contribution promoting the establishment of the WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East is also very important because its fate will have a great bearing on the future of the NPT.
I don't really hold much faith in the CD. It is deadlocked. It cannot start negotiations on a fissile maturity and has been unable to start negotiations on nuclear disarmament. It faces the usual obstacles of the consensus rule. And also the CD has a certain other problem, which is lack of universality.
Now, there's a new movement under way to promote the idea of a plurilateral ban-the-bomb treaty, where a group of likeminded states will sign a treaty claiming to outlaw nuclear weapons as a global norm -- as a new global norm. There's a bandwagon effect under way, building on strong international support for an international humanitarian approach to disarmament.
Finally, this is an issue that has drawn significant support from young people. I think it's important to emphasize that. The problem is that the possessors and their allies won't join, making this treaty far from global or universal.
In effect, it becomes a kind of NPT, too, without the nuclear weapon states or an initiative to disarm the unarmed. Advocates insist that once such a treaty is negotiated, it will be possible to bring pressure to bear to on non-parties to join, yet they offer no compelling reasons why membership will, in fact, expand to include possessor states.
Instead, they put forward a kind of faith-based argument. Trust us -- those states will feel the pressure and will yield to it. Yet, the models offered by other plurilateral efforts including the Ottawa Landmine Treaty and the Oslo Cluster Munitions Convention are still difficult to view as disarmament treaties, given that thousands of landmines and cluster munitions continue to exist and are used in many countries. This does not really offer an auspicious model for nukes.
Another alternative is the nuclear weapons convention. And there are many strong arguments in favor as an approach to achieve a nuclear weapon-free world. There are five key multilateral norms in disarmament: verification, irreversibility, transparency, binding-ness, and universality.
A fully comprehensive universal treaty is the only available means of advancing all of these norms in a coherent integrated way. The very idea that global nuclear disarmament will ever be achieved without legal commitments is just absurd, even laughable. The road to global nuclear zero will not -- will not be paved with toasts and press releases.
A model nuclear weapons convention has already been proposed in 1997 and 2007 and circulated among the UN member states. The lack of any serious discussion with the nuclear weapon states over this is one indicator of their lack of seriousness about the disarmament goal itself. This is a case of willful blindness. An unwillingness not to discuss, but even to think about what type of legal framework would be needed to achieve nuclear disarmament.
Problems with the nuclear weapons convention are numerous, political in nature, especially. It's hard to get it off the ground if the possessors and their allies are not part of the conversation.
Unlike the NPT, the General Assembly does have a legitimate claim to universality. And so, in theory, it would offer one possible means of approaching this issue through, for example, the organization of a major international conference with the initial goal of discussing the legal requisites for a global nuclear weapon convention.
This could later lead to actual negotiations on specific terms for an arrangement. Although this would obviously require intensive bilateral engagement between the United States and Russian Federation as well as close consultation with the nuclear allies.
Another problem with the nuclear weapon convention is its silence on the relationship between the obligations of the treaty and its wider international security environment. A nuclear weapons convention is not, therefore, the end of the line for disarmament.
The rule of law in disarmament is notoriously underdeveloped. There is also the challenge of achieving universal membership and compliance with the other WMD regimes, the BWC and the CWC. There is the challenge of achieving entry into force of CTBT. There is the challenge of negotiating a fissile material treaty or of incorporating the fissile material issue in text of a nuclear weapon convention.
There is the challenge of doing something about the lack of any multilateral treaties governing the production and stockpiling of conventional arms, of multilateral norms for the trade in such weaponry going somewhere beyond the very frail framework offered by the Arms Trade Treaty.
All of these could be pursued -- must be pursued simultaneously because the security challenge will -- challenges that will exist in a nuclear weapon-free world are not -- must not be approached as a mere afterthought. These other legal initiatives will help to answer the question of what kind of security will exist in such a world, once nuclear disarmament is achieved.
There is a term for this approach to security. It is general and complete disarmament under effective international control, a goal already found in Article VI of the NPT and a dozen other multilateral treaties. A concept that has the -- that has been the international community's ultimate objective since the General Assembly's first special session on disarmament in 1978 and an issue that has been on the General Assembly's agenda since 1959.
The alternative to this comprehensive approach to disarmament is some kind of step-by-step process. Not the deceptive variety practiced today by the nuclear powers of steps toward disarmament, but steps actually in disarmament.
This kind of step-by-step process requires benchmarks, yardsticks, and accountability process and commitments to timelines. Precisely the empirically grounded approach now being explored in draft reports from the NPT's main committee one and its subsidiary body. The other type of step-by-step process of viewing the disarmament as a mere goal is a dead-end and a non-starter for the vast majority of the UN member states.
The longer it is touted, the worse will be the prospects both for the NPT and the future of disarmament. We may one day find ourselves not facing an NPT midlife crisis but an NPT post-mortem.
In sum, what's needed is reconsideration of a possible revival of a comprehensive approach to disarmament, with its various security components pursued simultaneously rather than sequentially.
The step-by-step process towards disarmament should be abandoned for the charade that it is and replaced by a step-by-step implementation of disarmament commitments. Transparency and accountability arrangements including those -- not limited to the NPT arena, can help to build confidence in implementation while also helping to further de-legitimize nuclear weapons.
Finally, existing international commitments to disarmament must be grounded in domestic laws, policies, budgets, plans, and institutions rather than totally disassociated with them, as is now the case.
I wish to thank ACA for inviting me and for their own dedicated efforts to pursue a safer more secure and saner world than the imperfect one we have today. Thank you.
KIMBALL: All right. Thanks all three of you for your provocative and helpful presentations. I think you've kind of thrown down the gauntlet with some practical ideas, some practical problems, and some, perhaps impossible problems, too.
But now it's time for all of you to join the conversation. The microphones are circulating around. Please raise your hands. We're going to take a couple at a time. Let's take this question upfront here and then we'll go to Norm Wulf in the middle. So please identify yourself and tell us who you want to answer your question.
LEAH: Hi. My name is Christine Leah from Yale University. My question is about conventional arms control as it -- contributing to the goal of disarmament. Frankly, I'm not surprised that disarmament is taken as a jerk.
I mean the Russian and the Chinese will say, "OK, disarmament, that makes it safe for the U.S. conventional power in the world." So my questions -- two big questions. To what extent do you see nuclear disarmament as being a precondition for serious dialogue about conventional arms control or at what stage of nuclear reductions between the United States and Russia do you see a multilateral dialogue with states like China on sort of Northern Hemispheric arms control dialogue?
KIMBALL: All right. And then into the middle please with Ambassador Wulf.
WULF: Thank you. And thank you to the panel for such interesting presentations. My question is to Lew Dunn and it concerns the obvious fact that as numbers go down, confidence and compliance must go up. So we have this new effort I guess by the State Department or this international verification discussion. I think they've had one meeting. And I just wondered whether what Lew and the panelists think of that effort and what other things might be done to deal with what will be, if we're ever to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, will be a very daunting problem?
KIMBALL: All right. A building blocks question. All right. Lew, Randy, Andrea, you want to try to answer the question about conventional nuclear relationship dynamics? And then we'll go to the second question.
DUNN: Well, let me -- let me address both questions. You know, first, I think there clearly is a relationship between conventional activities and what would be better put, I think, at this point in time in reality is as nuclear arms control process with the Russians and the desire and goal of creating some type of process of mutual strategic restraint in the nuclear field with the -- with the Chinese. And that it becomes necessary in both of those areas to go after the issues both U.S.-Russia and U.S. China in a comprehensive fashion.
With regard to the United States and Russia, my own prejudice is to argue that it's been tried over the course of quite a few years to find a way to meet the Russian concerns about missile defense as a conventional area.
There have been very, very senior level track one and a half discussions of this which have actually identified ways where if the Russians were game, you could move forward on some type of cooperative missile defense.
So the Russians are more pessimistic. I think you're right. You got to work all of these issues on the table at the same time. And then in my own view with the Russians, is you don't really begin to work these seriously until you get to 2019, 2020 when the Russians probably start to say to themselves, "Oh my God, the START Treaty actually is going to go out of existence and this is not in our interest."
It would be nice to do -- I think Catherine Kelleher was right. We got to be working with all the building blocks issues. With the Chinese, I think we're now at a key point in time. What I've seen working with the Chinese over the course of the last four or five years is that the Chinese are starting to take onboard the notion that if there is a growing military competition between United States and China, it will serve neither of our interests.
I believe the Chinese have taken onboard the -- both sides have taken onboard the notion that we understand what each side is nervous about. In the United States, we understand what the Chinese are nervous about and the Chinese understand pretty well what we're nervous about. But we can't figure out a way to move into a process first of mutual reassurance where we take some practical steps, not just talk, some practical steps to reassure the Chinese about what's happening with U.S. missile defense and the Chinese take some practical steps to reassure us about what's happening with their nuclear modernization.
On Norm's question -- it strikes me, Norm, that the international partnership on nuclear disarmament verification. As Catherine suggested and as I suggested, is the type of critical piece of building block work that needs to be done. At this point in time, I don't think we have the slightest idea of a workable approach to monitor and verify the elimination of nuclear warheads.
We all know that conceivably when the Russians come back to the arms control process, a next phase beyond START might actually include nuclear warheads as a (inaudible) of account. And so it seems to me this is a -- this is a type of building block work that needs to be pursued and you can also fold into this building block work some of the kinds issues that have been raised in the review conference process.
So there's a lot of work to be done, which could be constructively done if everybody wants to become involved. And a lot of work can be done to try to figure out how do you provide some sense, some involvement on the part of the non-nuclear weapon states. Because the old answer that we would have given 20 years ago, "OK, we and the Russians, we're eliminating these weapons. If it's good enough for you, it's good enough for -- you know, if it's good enough for us, it ought to be good enough for you." Trust us, that's not going to go anywhere. They want to have some involvement in this, and this allows us to work this issue in a real way with as many of the players as we can get.
KIMBALL: All right. Any other more -- yes, Randy. Andrea.
RYDELL: I'd just like to -- oh, I'm sorry.
KIMBALL: Go ahead.
RYDELL: I just have brief historical point I'd like to mention on this question about conventional arms control. When the UN Charter was signed in 1945 in June, nuclear weapons had never -- had not even been tested at that time. It's a -- it's a pre-atomic document.
The first thing the General Assembly did when it met in London on 24 January 1946 was to adopt its first resolution. The first resolution called for the elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of -- adaptable to mass destruction, chemical and biological weapons.
The challenge that the General Assembly faced in January '46 was to differentiate between two different goals that are found in the UN Charter. There are two references in the charter to the word "disarmament." There are other references to the word "regulation of armaments." They are not synonyms.
Disarmament was clarified in January '46 and has been there ever since as meaning the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. Resolutions adopted later in 1946 clarified that regulation of armaments applied to conventional arms and also to reducing military spending.
So what I'm trying to say here is that the basic framework for pursuing both disarmament and arms control -- or regulation of armaments simultaneously goes all the back to none other than the UN Charter itself.
There's 70-year history here. This is not new, OK? What's new is trying to get it implemented and to try to actually have these be systematically pursued. A classic example is Article 47 of the charter, which mandates the Security Council to prepare plans for the regulation of armaments. Have they done so? No, they have not done so. Are they likely to? Probably not.
So the -- you can't blame an instrument when it's not used. There's an issue of political will here that is inescapable. And anyway, I'm -- I -- sorry about this long excursion here but it is important to the issue.
BERGER: I was just going to add on your question, Christine, that I think this is one of the interesting aspects about when we discussed whether there's a way that you can try to get nuclear weapon states to talk about putting meat on the bones of -- what step-by-step process is because what wound up happening is it will look very much like something that is not just nuclear-centric in the way that some of the working documents that are currently on the table at the review conference might imply.
There's -- I don't want to give too much credence to the French and the Russian insistence that you need to keep referring to general and complete disarmament because that's what's in Article VI and they do do that a lot. But there are -- if you look at a step-by-step process and how that might realistically pan out, there are intervening variables, there's conventional issues, there's other WMD issues and that's one of the things that's going to make it very challenging, as I'm sure nuclear weapon states do not agree on when those intervening variables are likely to come in when the conventional discussions in a regional -- certain regional contexts are likely to come in, where WMD discussions other than nuclear are likely to come in, so.
KIMBALL: All right. We've got lots of questions. I'm going to try to get everybody -- we're going to do three at a time and I want your questions to be quick and I'd like to ask our panelists to be as brief as they can. So let's go to the middle table to Susan and Larry please.
SUSAN: Thanks a lot. One comment and one question. On the verification point, picking up on Norm, I think this is something that there's a -- the initiative is a great one. There's work that's been done on the issue of latency. Joe Pilat has done some really important work on that and I think that's an area that needs to be explored both for disarmament and for non-proliferation.
The question is, picking up on Catherine Kelleher, she talked about how there's enough blame to go around. You know, FMCT, it's held up by the Pakistanis. The P5 are only as strong as the weakest link or links.
Bilateral arms control takes two to tango. We've got three nuclear weapons free zones, sets of protocols on the Hill that the U.S. has submitted, no actions, CTBT, languishing. And this is really mostly for Randy because of your past life, but also for Lew and Andrea if you have a comment.
But ACA is doing a tremendous amount of work to try build a constituency for these issues and I've always felt, we don't have a natural constituency in this country for these issues. What can be done because a lot of the holdup here is agreements that get negotiated, when they get negotiated, and you can't get them ratified and all of these other things. I mean, you have to look at who's -- where's the problem and what can be done to fix the problem and the problems are all different.
KIMBALL: OK. Question, Larry Weiler, right at the same table. Right behind you. Yeah, put up your arm, Larry. He's right behind you. All right. Thank you.
WEILER: Just a couple of reflections and I'd like your views on them. I remember when we and the Russians agreed on the text of the -- of the NPT a long time ago, and walking down the Rue de Lausanne, we sent off the telegram saying that we had agreed on a common text.
And I thought -- at the time, my thought was I wonder how long it will last. So I just offer that observation, we're getting so pessimistic. We didn't know -- certainly, I didn't know, that it would go beyond the 40-day -- 40 years which was the original text at German insistence.
We don't have anyone arguing today for a limitation on the duration of the NPT. So don't be too pessimistic. On a more immediate practical thought, my view frankly is that combining nuclear disarmament with general and complete disarmament is a mistake because it leads people to think you're pie in the sky don't know what you're talking about, so. We are -- it's legitimate to focus on the nuclear side because that's the one that threatens the future. And it seems to me that this combining the two is a mistake and also, it's not factual in terms of what the real problems would be down the way.
WEILER: Another final observation is as long as the continual meetings that are held on the NPT review include a continuation to accept the general complete breakdown of the multilateral negotiation process in Geneva with this absurd arrangement that they have.
But then it's no one but the -- but the owners of the cafes and the Rue de Lausanne and other places in Geneva, it's a -- it's a statement that they don't believe what they're writing...
KIMBALL: All right.
WEILER: ... in the resolutions.
KIMBALL: OK. I mean, so -- let me re-interpret part of your observation there, Larry, and send this back to the panelists about, you know, how we can as, I think, Lew was trying to suggest, look for other venues for that bridge, that divides between the nuclear and the non-nuclear, the north and south, that apparently do need to be created in part because it's only the cafe owners in Geneva that are benefiting from the CD's paralysis. So if we could just have quick responses to that and then we're going to try to get to two or three more questions before our time is up for this session. Andrea?
BERGER: I'll just add a very quick thought but one of the interesting thoughts of amendments that keeps going around the text the main committee one and the subsidiary body one at the moment at the review conference is the inclusion of the word "preferable" in front of the Conference on Disarmament as a forum.
So I think there's notes that a sizable portion of the review conference community at the moment agrees with your last point there, that we can't continue to just say, "Well, you know, the CD is the only forum and we encourage it to start moving in the next review cycle." There's definitely a number of states that are saying the word "preferable" must be going in there. So just that as a thought.
KIMBALL: All right. Others.
DUNN: Quickly. I would not combine nuclear disarmament -- nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament, but I don't think you can -- you can't work the nuclear issues with Russia and China, unless you work the non-nuclear issues.
They're interwoven and we're going to have to work them both together. I agree we shouldn't be too pessimistic. And as the great optimist, I don't -- I shouldn't be too optimistic either. We need to be realistic optimists.
That said, as someone who came out of Hudson Institute where we used to think the unthinkable back in my youth, I find it easier than I would care to believe to come up with scenarios whereby by the NPT because of this frustration gets itself in real trouble pretty soon. I would do FMCT outside of the CD. If you can't get the CD to negotiate, let's go and negotiate an FMCT out of the -- outside of the CD in some fashion, with whomever will play.
KIMBALL: All right. Randy.
RYDELL: Susan, your extremely cogent and difficult question on the -- on action has troubled me very deeply because in answering that question, I have to not look at my experience just working at the UN, but I also have 11 years working as an aide to Senator Glenn.
And I'd compare the kind of political culture that we dealt with in the Glenn years between '87 and '98 with the circus that exists now and the rivalries and personal and ideological cleavages that are tearing that institution apart and it really breaks my heart to see what is going on there.
I don't have a clue as to how to fix that problem. I've thought a lot about it, but it has to be fixed because it comes back to the point I was trying to make about the lack of internalization of this great commitment we have to getting to a nuclear weapon-free world.
Many of you will remember that when President Obama made his speech in Prague, he said that we seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. He didn't say we seek peace and security so that we may achieve a world without nuclear weapons. That's how it was interpreted and translated for the public.
And I think that the public has to understand better how their security interests are benefited in a very, very concrete way by the serial elimination of these weapons. I think the military has got to contribute to this -- to this conversation.
Where are the military leaders? They have enormous insights into these issues. They have credibility that maybe people in Congress will listen to. I think we need to increasingly hear from them as well because I don't think any of them are just serially going to oppose disarmament. I think that -- hell, half the U.S. military, the two service -- branches are already non-nuclear, the Marines and the Army. So it's a -- it's an important food for thought. I think the military has an important role to play. Sorry.
KIMBALL: All right. We have time for one more question -- I'm sorry -- before we -- the lunch -- the lunch is on schedule, Tim? OK. Otherwise, you won't be able to eat and we'll be behind schedule and that would be a greater sin. So I want to go -- the first person I saw in the next round, Edward Ifft, and then we're going to close out. And I do apologize -- I mean, this subject could be the basis for about a month-long conference I think and that's why it is.
So, Edward, very quickly, and then we're going to close out.
IFFT: Yes. Sorry to be the last troublemaker. Edward Ifft, Georgetown University. A lot of good ideas have been put forward here, but nobody has really picked up the proposal made by the Four Horsemen two years ago, which was to create a joint enterprise, whose goal would be to create the conditions for going to zero.
A lot of high-level studies, for example, the Congressional Commission, have said the conditions for going to zero do not exist today but then we don't seem to be taking the logical next step, which is to identify what are those conditions and what specifically are we doing to create them.
I mean, the two obvious big problems are verification and how does deterrence work in a world with zero nuclear weapons. As far as the forum goes, it seems obvious to me five is too small, 65 in the CD is too big, 190 in New York is way too big, but the four statesmen proposal was a group of maybe 20 or 30 states with high levels of nuclear expertise. Thank you.
KIMBALL: All right. On the subject of how to move the conversation forward to deal with what I think -- this is a term Jim Goodby coined, joint enterprise that addresses all these things in an intelligent way. Lew, you talk about a few. Randy, you've talked about another variation to Ed's question and then we'll close.
DUNN: That's the great beauty. The proposal for the International Partnership on Nuclear Disarmament Verification. Its whole purpose is to at least work one of the longest poles in the tent of a world without nuclear weapons. And that's why I think it should receive broad support.
KIMBALL: OK. Andrea, any thoughts on this?
BERGER: My only thought is that part of the difficulty in the NPT discussion at the moment is that many non-nuclear weapon states want to see movement on some point somewhere, regardless of what those who possess nuclear weapons think might be the conditions for such a world, and would probably prefer not to spend the time discussing and debating what those might be, but want something in pretty short order.
They sat there, they say, for 45 years and waited for more to happen. Next year -- next review cycle, it will be 50-year mark of the treaty. The treaty will be half a century old and they say, "Really, let's stop talking about the conditions here and have something happen."
I agree that the discussion on conditions should happen. I agree that that's, you know, a realistic way forward, but there is also a frustration here that needs to be addressed in some other way and we need to think about how to do, too.
KIMBALL: All right. Well, let me just also add one small thought on this. I mean, I think Ed is asking I think a great concluding question. It's the -- where do we go next, how do we carry this conversation forward problem. And in my view, this is a question that has not been answered adequately by the non-nuclear weapon state majority and it is being resisted by the P5.
And you can see that in New York right now. They do not want to open up the conversation about nuclear weapons beyond their club and that is, I think, to their own detriment. I think President Obama and his people are smart enough and really do have the vision enough to see that we need to broaden the conversation some way, somehow. And there were inklings of this concept in not just the Four Horsemen op-eds but in Barack Obama's own statements in 2009 and '10.
So, you know, President Obama has another, what, 18 months or so left. There will be opportunities for the United States working with some of the more thoughtful, active, and energetic non-nuclear weapon states, some of whom are represented here, we'll hear from them in a little bit, to forge some sort of new conversation about these issues that definitely have to be carried forward and worked through or else, as Randy said, the midlife crisis could turn into something terminal.
So on that note -- sorry.
But, you know, we're in the nuclear weapons business, so I'm sure that all of you have dealt with the terminal aspects of this subject, so it shouldn't be a shock to anyone here. So with that, we need to conclude and move to our lunch session. But first, let's all thank our panelists for their really thoughtful input.
And we will continue to press on this topic. And outside, let me just remind you of the logistical situation. We have two buffet lines. You only need to go through one to get your food.
Don't go through both, because you'll notice it's the same menu in both. So that's to ease the flow. And so please take a quick break, get your food, come back in. We're going to start in about a half an hour with our keynote luncheon speaker, Ambassador Alex Kmentt.
Speaker: Ambassador Alexander Kmentt, Director of Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Austria
Moderator: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
KIMBALL: All right, everyone, if I could please ask you to settle in once again, find your seats. I'm sorry to interrupt your conversations and your -- I hope you enjoy your lunch and desserts.
So we're back here for the lunch segment of our program today. And we've had a special segment today, because every year since 2007, the Arms Control Association staff has nominated several individuals and institutions that best exemplify leadership and action in pursuing effective arms control non-proliferation and disarmament solutions.
And each nominee on the list, which is about 10 or so people each year, in their own way has provided leadership to help to reduce weapons-related security threats. And once we nominate, we open up the online polls to let you and others around the world decide who is the most deserving of the honor in any given year.
And we do this to highlight the fact that there are, in this sometimes very discouraging business, success stories each year, and there are heroes. And there are bold acts of leadership, there are new ideas to solve tough problems, acts of dogged determination, and people who take personal and political risks in the hope of reducing the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.
And we're pleased this year to have with us, as our keynote speaker, our 2014 Arms Control Person of the Year, otherwise known as Alexander Kmentt of Austria. And he earned the highest number of votes in our end of the year online poll last December, surpassing nine other worthy candidates.
And those other worthy candidates included the runners-up, Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the OPCW and Sigrid Kaag, head of the OPCW-UN joint mission for their work in removing 1300 metric tons of chemical weapons from Syria.
And Pope Francis, none other than Pope Francis -- who is on the cover of this month's Arms Control Today was the second runner-up in online voting, though I'm not sure if the Catholic world was aware that we had this online poll.
Nonetheless, campaigning for the title is allowed and encouraged, and Alex won this year's honor. And now, we've had several winners in the past, this is the first time we are bestowing the award in person.
Alex Kmentt is now Austria's director for Arms Control Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. And he started his career at the Austrian Federal Ministry for European International Affairs in 1994. And I'm sure even before then was active.
And he's been a leader on a range of arms control issues over that time, from the Nonproliferation Treaty to cluster munitions, Conference of Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and other topics.
And the 2014 Arms Control Person of the Year Award is in recognition for his work to organize and host the third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons from December 8th to 9th in Vienna, which included delegations representing some 158 states, I think it was, the United Nations and many, many more from civil society around the world.
And this conference built upon the work of the two previous Humanitarian Impacts Conferences. And the Vienna meeting, in particular, expanded the agenda to talk more about the physical impacts of nuclear weapons use in modern circumstances, the health effects of nuclear weapons production and testing, the application of international law to the consequences of nuclear weapons issue, and the shortfalls in the international capacity to address a humanitarian emergency triggered by the use of nuclear weapons.
And as many of you, if not all of you know by now, for the first time in this series of conferences the list of participant countries included two of the nuclear weapon states recognized by the NPT, the United Kingdom and the United States. And two other nuclear-armed countries, India and Pakistan, took a part in the Vienna meeting in the previous two meetings.
And the award is also in recognition for something you heard about earlier this morning, Austria's pledge at the close of the Vienna Conference, quote, "To cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks."
And that Austrian pledge has been endorsed by 80 states, perhaps more at this -- 84, at this -- at this stage.
And truly the Vienna Conference and all three of these conferences, and the renewed focus on the global health consequences of nuclear weapons production, testing, and use, has changed the international conversation, I think, for the better, and provided renewed urgency to the long-running effort. As we heard before, it will continue to be a long-running effort to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons.
So Ambassador Kmentt, thank you very much for your hard work, dedication, and vision. And we're very pleased to bestow you with this award, modest in size and appearance though it may be, it represents a great deal of work, and we thank you very much for all you've done.
KMENTT: Thank you very much.
KIMBALL: Why don't you put it there? And now, Alex will address the topic of the Humanitarian Initiative and the NPT.
KMENTT: Thank you so much. Thanks for the very, very kind words.
It's a great pleasure and honor for me to be here today. First I have to apologize to Daryl, because I know that this is also supposed to be a fund raising event for the great work that the Arms Control Association is doing. Of course it's a significantly bigger challenge to do this with me as keynote speaker than it would have been with Pope Francis.
But I'm -- I'm of course, extremely happy to be here and to get this great recognition. I'm aware of course, that I got elected because there was a civil society campaign to push me over the finishing line, because friends and family alone would not have made that happen.
But I know, of course, that the real Arms Control Person of the Year is the Humanitarian Initiative and the intensive focus of the past few years on the consequences and risks of nuclear weapons.
So, I'm extremely happy. This helped me a great deal. It went down extremely well with the Austrian Foreign Ministry. Even the Foreign Minister made a press release because of that. So, it didn't hurt.
I also realize that this is of course the real expert audience here, an audience very much tuned in, in the nuclear weapons debate, from a nuclear weapons state perspective. Expert on Russia relations, China relations, very much focused on the Iran and DPRK issue.
So an expert audience that may -- and if I'm wrong please I apologize -- an expert audience that may not have been so tuned in, in the humanitarian debate, and may not be so tuned in, in the way nuclear weapons are seen by the non-nuclear weapons states, the vast majority of UN member states.
And so, I thought I would use this opportunity to try to explain this perspective, which now enjoys a clear support of three quarters of international community and UN member states.
So, I'd like to give first my take on the development of the initiative of the past few years. And secondly, make a few points where I think this initiative has had, and will have, a significant impact on the nuclear weapons debate.
Of course the humanitarian focus or the humanitarian issue itself is not a new one. That's very clear. It underpins all efforts that we do in multi-lateral work to establish a global disarmament and non-proliferation regime. This notion is encapsulated in all the preamble paragraphs of essentially all the treaties.
But of course, the focus has been very much on the security dimension, on the nuclear deterrence dimension, especially in the Cold War. So the recent focus, I always say the Humanitarian Initiative is inspired by the Prague speech from President Obama, because he re-energized the disarmament community.
Another specific focus on the humanitarian dimension, I think can be traced back to the International Committee of the Red Cross, where former President Kellenberger gave a very important speech to the Geneva diplomatic community just a few weeks prior to the last NPT review conference.
He recalled the ICRC experience as the first humanitarian respondent present in Hiroshima. And he highlighted the completely inadequate capacities to address the humanitarian emergencies that would result from any use of nuclear weapons. And of course, as the guardian of international humanitarian law, the ICRC president also stated the ICRC finds it difficult to envisage how any use of nuclear weapons could be compatible with the rules of international humanitarian law.
So this speech by the president of the guardian of international humanitarian law was intended to be, and proved to be, a very important input for the 2010 review conference.
The final document included the following reference, and I quote, "The conference expresses its deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, and reaffirms the need for all states at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law."
It was actually the first time since the adoption of the treaty that such a reference was explicitly included in an NPT review conference document.
But Action 1 of the 2000 action plan also included the following reference. It committed all states parties to pursue policies that are fully compatible with the treaty and the objective of a world -- and the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons.
So the expression of the humanitarian concern, plus Action 1, became a sort of de facto mandate for many states to pursue the humanitarian initiative as a means to implement their own treaty obligation of Article VI.
So there are, of course, those actions that only nuclear weapons states can do, but there are others including a deepening understanding on the humanitarian dimension that non-nuclear weapon states can do.
And this focus then became operationalized very substantively in the course of the subsequent years. First, through joint cross-regional declarations, initiated in 2012 by a group of 16 countries, including Austria -- and at subsequent meetings of the NPT and the general assembly, the group of 16 countries endorsing these joint statements grew to 160.
And the latest statement endorsed by 160 countries was delivered by the Austrian Foreign Ministry just a few weeks ago at the beginning of the -- of the NPT Review Conference.
And it's actually to our knowledge, the biggest cross-regional joint declaration ever on a substantive issue in the UN context, so more than three quarters of UN member states have felt compelled to highlight the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and the need to prevent such consequences through urgent progress on nuclear disarmament.
And it also includes, of course, a lot of states whose voices are hardly ever heard on this issue. And I think that also must be considered a significant shift in the discourse on nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament.
And the second track, of course, are the three -- are the international conferences specifically dedicated to this issue, first of all in Norway in 2013, and then two last year in Mexico and in Vienna. And these conferences added very substantive evidence, research, and findings to the humanitarian debate, and there is not enough time to go into detail. But very clearly it was seen as extremely interesting from the non-nuclear states' perspective to look at the actual impact of nuclear weapons.
And there are -- for instance, as a spin-off from the climate change debate, really disconcerting findings on the long-term consequences on the -- on the climate, on food security, which -- findings that go beyond the studies of -- and findings of nuclear winter from the 1980s.
So that the scope, the scale and the inter-relationship of these consequences are worse, and more complex than previously understood on the environment, climate, health, socio-economic development, social order, and so on. And the -- and the -- and the systemic dimension of these consequences is hardly understood.
On the health side, for instance, new findings on a distinct gender perspective, that greater active contamination is disproportionately higher for girls and women, also new findings.
Then the element of risk was examined in more detail, looking at doctrines and war plans, at risks of accidental mistaken unauthorized use, the vulnerability of command and control systems, human error, cyber attacks. Eric Foss's book, for instance, was extremely instrumental in this context.
So even when individual states take measures to reduce risk, as an aggregate globally the risks are increasing over time, and added to this of course are today the risks from non-state actors and terrorists gaining access to nuclear weapons or material.
And then, of course, of key relevance to this debate were the very clear warnings from virtually every humanitarian responder from the UN system, from the ICRC, and also from a national perspective that no capacity exists to deal with the humanitarian emergencies, or the long-term consequences of nuclear weapons explosions, specifically of course in a populated area. There aren't even any plans, because it's seen as a futile exercise.
So the need and the urgency for prevention was focused -- was strongly into focus.
At the conference in Vienna, we also looked at the -- at the legal aspect. If you look at the consequences, what's the -- what does exist that international law has to say. So international health law, environmental law, it is -- it is impossible to conceive the use of nuclear weapons without breaching existing international law.
And the ICRC, based on the new evidence, stated that in light of the new evidence further that we discussed on whether nuclear weapons could ever be used in accordance with international law. And that of course, is also -- we also had it in Vienna. We looked at the moral and ethical dimension. We were extremely fortunate to have a message from Pope Francis there, and the position paper from the Holy See. And the Holy See further developed its position from the 1980s.
And I just wanted to quote one paragraph from this -- from the position paper. I quote, "Since what is intended is mass destruction, extensive and lasting collateral damage, inhumane suffering and the risk of escalation, the system of nuclear deterrence can no longer be deemed a policy that stands firmly on moral ground."
I think this is a highly significant shift. And it's echoed increasingly by other faith-based organizations. And I think it will have a lasting impact on the nuclear weapons debate.
So we aimed in Vienna to pull all this information together, and take it to the NPT with as much support as we can. And I'm happy to talk about the -- how this impacts the NPT discussion right now in New York. But I wanted to use the second half of my talk to make these few points that I think how the Humanitarian Impact may have -- or in my view, has had a lasting impact on the nuclear weapons debate.
The first one is that a large part of the appeal of this initiative, the statements and the conferences, lies in the openness of the process. All states, even those who are normally very visible in the nuclear weapons debate, they can participate. And that can actually make a pertinent point, because from that perspective they also have a clear stake.
In this debate, in that context it's not as dysfunctional as the existing structures that we have. We talked about the conference on disarmament. So it's a -- it's a -- it's a positive and engaging debate in those-- in those meetings.
The non-nuclear states can make -- can set a progressive agenda, or make these voices heard without being procedurally stifled, which is unfortunately the case in the existing structures. Then the role of civil society and academic experts is not only -- they are not only invited, they are welcomed as an extremely important contribution to a broader and more -- yes, to a more broader discussion on these issues, which of course brings in constituencies beyond the arms control community.
And that's extremely important. And it makes the discussion that we have in the other fora look sometimes more anachronistic and un-Democratic. So the need for a more open discussion on those issues and broader discussion, I think, is one thing that has really come into focus.
Secondly, the support from the -- the support for this initiative, of course, has to be seen in parallel with the developments that have taken place in the arms control world. And as I said before, it was in a way stimulated by the Prague speech in 2009.
But as high as the expectations may have been in 2009 and 2010, the developments that followed unfortunately didn't live up to them, and it became increasingly clear to the non-nuclear weapons state that the -- that the determination from nuclear weapon states, although of course there are big differences, but that this determination to really implement the action plan with the sort of sense of urgency that non-nuclear weapon states thought came out of 2010, that that wasn't there.
And, I think, the nuclear weapons states haven't really grasped how much the modernization plans and budget allocations, which clearly indicate a willingness to retain and rely on nuclear weapons well into the second half of this century, how this undermines trust in the disarmament commitments given under the NPT.
So, the Humanitarian Initiative in a way gained strength also as a function of the increasing credibility and trust deficit experienced by the non-nuclear weapons state, and sort of as an outlet to express the sense of urgency.
So that's the second point, which I think will just simply get stronger, and we see that very much in the NPT context as well.
And then thirdly I believe that the -- that the humanitarian -- that the substantive discussion from a humanitarian perspective, actually challenges the nuclear deterrence orthodoxy and the -- and the acceptance of that orthodoxy by a large part of the international community.
The case for nuclear deterrence rests, of course, on the credible threat of inflicting unacceptable destruction to a possible adversary. But of course, we all bank on the assumption that the threat will succeed, that these capacities will never have to be deployed. But we have to be clear that the credibility of the threat requires the readiness to use nuclear weapons, and since the mid and long-term consequences, based on these discussions and findings, of even a limited nuclear war would be considerably more serious than previously understood, and most likely global in the consequences.
In such a context, the notion of a credible first strike or counter strike, becomes largely irrelevant or winning a nuclear war is almost impossible and then seems like an absurd idea. This doesn't square with the underlying foundation of nuclear deterrence, namely that it leads to rational behavior of all actors, because of the consequences for friend and foe alike and all humanity, that's the logic of it, are devastating and essentially suicidal, the threat itself becomes incredible.
What's left is of course the considerable danger of escalation and crisis situations between nuclear weapons state, and the trust that in the end it will not come to the worst. But the reasoning that governments are always rational enough to handle nuclear deterrence, and that nuclear deterrence works because it makes governments always act rationally, is essentially a circular argument.
And then in order to avoid these global consequences nuclear deterrence is required never to fail. But the new discussion on risk, or the new understanding on risk raise serious doubts to what extent this requirement can be fulfilled, because there is an inherent contradiction between maintaining nuclear weapons in a manner that demonstrates readiness to always use them, which of course, is required for the credibility of nuclear deterrence, and the need to ensure that they will never be used by accident, human, or technical error.
The measures that would be necessary to reduce the risks associated with nuclear weapons are the ones that restrict readiness to use nuclear weapons, thereby undermining the case for nuclear deterrence. So it seems from the, I believe, broadly shared by non-nuclear weapons states, respective of the nuclear weapons states, are stuck in a vicious circle of maintaining an uncontrollable and ultimately uncontrollable risk of inflicting global consequences. Or to reduce these risks, which is -- which essentially would remove the arguments in favor of nuclear deterrence itself.
And then of course added to this, is the clear understanding that there is no capacity to deal with these consequences in a remotely adequate way.
So we heard before, nuclear weapon states are so concerned that the Humanitarian Initiative has the aim to make nuclear weapons illegal under international law. But in reality, I think it's not the legality of nuclear weapons, but the legitimacy of nuclear weapons and the security approach based on nuclear deterrence that has come into clear focus as a result of the Humanitarian Initiative, and that is being challenged.
Nuclear weapons have catastrophic consequences, their possession carries considerable risks, their use would be illegal, except maybe for a small range of mostly hypothetical scenarios, and the combination of these factors together with the underlying readiness to commit mass destruction make them immoral.
And these views, these line of argument, I think, is gaining significant grounds in the international community among the non-nuclear weapon states against the background of frustration and trust deficit, and credibility deficit. And that's what we're seeing in the NPT at the moment.
The fourth point of the Humanitarian Initiative, therefore, is that it's sort of exposes a very clear rift and we've talked about this before in the international community on the approach towards nuclear weapons, and what should be done to address these challenges.
And states that continue to make the case for the step-by-step approach, even though from my perspective it's not very -- not a very credible approach at the moment, but the logic is that it has to be done, nuclear disarmament has to be done in a way that allows for the maintenance of nuclear deterrence.
But I think non-nuclear states increasingly see this as an argumentative stretch to insist on nuclear weapons for one's own security, but that these weapons should be kept out of the hand of everybody else, and at the same time, being in favor of nuclear disarmament.
So, I think this argument has become increasingly more difficult to make. And the Humanitarian Initiative has thus more clearly exposed a double standard there. And I think it also puts into question whether reliance on nuclear weapons and support for nuclear disarmament are not essentially mutually exclusive concepts, or at least in the view of what nuclear disarmament should mean in the eyes of probably a majority of NPT member states, as against the view of what nuclear disarmament means from those who promote the step by step approach.
And it will be problematic of course for the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime if this rift cannot be overcome. But I think nuclear weapon states need to realize that they -- they sort of can't have it both ways.
To support -- to maintain support for the NPT on the global regime, much more credibility needs to be added to nuclear disarmament efforts. It's difficult to imagine how support for non-proliferation can be maintained, if NPT nuclear weapon states -- well, of course are also the five permanent members of the Security Council, continue to advocate a security concept that is increasingly seen as illegitimate by the rest of the world. And that has actually implication that goes beyond the nuclear weapons debate.
Let's have a look for instance at the P5+1 talks. Of course they are broadly supported, because nobody wants to see a nuclear weapons program. But the fact and the irony is not lost on anybody, that it's states who argue for the importance for nuclear weapons for their own security, while insisting on the unacceptability of these weapons for other states.
So, nuclear weapon states are actually proliferating the concept and value of nuclear weapons. And I think that is a -- that is a very damaging recognition by non-nuclear weapon states that that is actually the case.
The credibility of non-proliferation efforts would be greatly enhanced if it would be accompanied with a much more determined move away from nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence. And that leads to my very short fifth and final potentially lasting impact of what I hope the Humanitarian Initiative should be, because it strengthens the taboo about -- the taboo against nuclear weapons, against nuclear weapons as such.
Building case for the illegitimacy of nuclear weapons based on the consequences and associated risks that works as a strong set of arguments for disarmament and non-proliferation. So the humanitarian focus should be or is maybe the best hope to shore up broad international support for the NPT, and for the creation of a strong -- and for the maintenance of a strong disarmament and non-proliferation regime.
It should be seen as a -- as a wake-up call, and it should really be embraced. And it should unite the international community into much more urgent action on these issues. And unfortunately from the perspective that I have now after two and a half weeks in the NPT, that the push back is much more fundamental. There's not even a recognition that there really is an issue. And I think that makes me very pessimistic, or skeptical at to what extent we will be able to breach these differences. But with that, I leave it.
Thank you very much.
KIMBALL: Well, thank you very much, Alex. I think it's very important to outline the origins and as you say, the implications of this effort, and to clarify misperceptions that are out there about it.
We have a few minutes for you to ask Alex your questions about -- your questions about this issue, the NPT Review Conference. Just once again, please raise your hands. We have microphones and we will bring the mic.
Let's start here in the front with Paul Walker at the Walker table.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Ambassador. It's very, very helpful and very interesting.
I want to ask you a little bit about the future of the Humanitarian Initiative. Where do you think it's going to go after three, you know, very interesting conferences, as well as the NPT this year?
KIMBALL: Why don't you go ahead?
KMENTT: I have no idea. I think what I tried to outline is a broad support for the kind of -- the substantive notion behind it. And I think some of the conclusions, there is a large convergence among the non-nuclear weapons states. But in terms of how to operationalize this into a concrete way, I think that's still a very broad charge.
And in the previous panel, we heard that in the NPT, it goes in a lot different directions. There is, of course the sort of “banned” discussion is getting traction. NAM still talks about everything has to take place in the conference on disarmament. So I think it's still very unclear.
The three-quarter support for this is on the -- is on the substantive dimension. And I think the nuclear weapon states have, in my view, made the mistake to look at this initiative primarily from the question on the process, where does it lead to, rather than engaging really on the substantive and sort of legitimate questions that are being asked.
Because -- I mean, even the proponents of a ban treaty would say of course it's not the best option. Of course it's better to go forward broadly. And I think that was very clearly also our intention in the way we tried to structure the conference in Vienna, to package it sort of as input for the NPT. But what are we getting at the NPT in response to it?
At the moment, it's not very clear what this is going to be. So what will happen after the NPT, there could be a fragmentation of different initiatives? But there is -- there is -- there is no clear plan.
There was some talk at some stage that South Africa may host a follow-up meeting, but they haven't -- they haven't made any concrete steps and haven't said anything specific. But I believe that the narrative itself, the initiative itself will, of course, go beyond the NPT. It will be raised, I think now from the proponents in every forum and every framework that we have.
KIMBALL: All right. Thank you.
There are also a couple of other questions. Yes, over here and further on the background. We take two at a time.
Please identify yourself.
QUESTION: Hi, I'm Martin Fleck, Physicians for Social Responsibility. And we are excited that you got the award. Very well deserved.
And we spent considerable effort last year to urge the United States to send a delegation to Vienna, and we're glad that they did. But my question for you is, as organizers in the United States, you've got 84 nations that have signed on to the Austrian Pledge. We could wait for a long time before the United States signs on. But what would you advise us to do, those of us who want to promote the Humanitarian Impact initiative here in the United States?
What would be most helpful?
KIMBALL: All right. And then, Stephen Young.
QUESTION: Stephen Young with the Union of Concerned Scientists. First, congratulations. Well deserved award to you.
Question actually for you is -- sorry, is to just could you -- have you give us your sense of how things are going in New York now, and what you expect what might happen in the next couple of weeks?
KMENTT: We were extremely happy that two nuclear weapon states decided to come, and I hope that they didn't regret their decision. I think it was also very important that because of the increasing debate here in Washington on whether or not to participate, also the expert community, think tank community got more engaged in these issues.
And I think this is probably the most important spin of -- that there should be at least -- I would say, the discussion should be primarily on the substantive issues.
Is there really -- and we're getting a pushback from nuclear weapon states in the NPT who challenge the fact that there is even anything new, that there is even an issue. And I think from, at least the perspective of the non-nuclear weapon states, who of course know less about these issues than nuclear weapons states. But from their perspective, there is a lot of new and pertinent information. I think that would be very helpful if there would be more of a discussion on these issues from a humanitarian angle, rather than the -- which I think is the normal type of discussion that takes place here, very much from a security policy and nuclear deterrence based focus.
So if you address nuclear weapons issues from the impact of nuclear weapons and the risk issue, I think that may have -- that may be a good contribution to the debate. What it -- what it will lead to here in Washington, of course, I don't know and I don't want to comment.
But I think it's important to move away from an exclusive focus on process, but really get into the -- into the substance. That is also -- at the moment, I'm very pessimistic, because we felt that we have spent five years building a case for a renewed urgency based on humanitarian arguments, better understanding on risk.
And what we're hearing in New York, from the nuclear weapon states, also of course with differences, but by and large, is that there is no new evidence, there is no issue. The French Ambassador, for instance, said, "Risk is a non-issue," so it doesn't -- I mean, there is no discussion on it.
And that, of course, is perceived, I think is very frontal. So we had the action plan. We have the arguments and the sense of urgency, and the expectation of urgency. So there needs to be more. And if we don't get that, then I think the NPT will have taken a blow. And the credibility of the NPT as a disarmament framework, which already is in -- is in dire straits will be further weakened.
QUESTION: I want to just ask you a further question on the NPT, if I could. I mean, based upon what you've heard in the formal presentations from the five original weapon states, and in the closed conference rooms.
Have any of them brought forward what you or some of your colleagues involved in this initiative, which say are, new ideas or new initiatives to move forward on actions, Step 5 of the 2010 Action Plan? I mean, it??
KMENTT: No. I think it's -- I think the push from the nuclear weapon states is primarily a rollover of 2010, which of course is not -- is not -- it doesn't match up to the expectation that -- of course, the countries that have pushed the Humanitarian Initiative.
I mean it's 160 countries of -- what is the number of NPT members, that it's 190 or so. So it's a -- there is a clear feeling that consensus should be built around that view, that there is a sense of urgency.
Just as -- if I may, coming back to the previous panel and the discussion on an open-ended working group establishment. It was an idea that Austria, Norway, and Mexico pushed in 2012. And it was established -- they met in Geneva in 2013.
But nuclear weapon states opposed the establishment of that group. I mean, it met anyway and I think it did some useful work, but there was an explanation of vote in the general assembly by the P3 explaining why they'd vote against it, why they think it's a complete waste of time, and stating that they will disregard any outcome.
So, I mean, it was a very difficult review cycle for the -- for the -- for the states that felt that the action plan and the positive agreement 2010 was actually a call for urgent action, because it didn't -- it didn't -- it didn't transpire on the -- in the multi-lateral battlegrounds, if I may say.
KIMBALL: OK. Why don't we go to Susan Burk in the middle and then over here on the right.
QUESTION: Congratulations, Alexander.
QUESTION: And thanks for your remarks. You made a comment that the nuclear weapon states made a mistake by looking at the initiative as a process.
And I want to say, I think looking at it from outside the government. I'm not representing a government. Maybe after Mexico that would have been illegitimate, because clearly the conclusion documents suggested that this was leading to a convention, which I think all the people I've indicated they're going to support.
And the Vienna conference seemed to put it back more on the track of addressing issues, say, the practical issues. What's the likelihood or the appetite for using this to really have a substantive discussion with technical people about consequence management?
I was kind of encouraged by the statements that have been made in New York that you're -- it's including the risk of non-state actors and terrorists. And in the previous life, when I did Homeland Security for the State Department, that was one of the issues that was being looked at, was, you know, consequence management with the Department of Homeland Security and partner states, and these were public, you know, exercises, looking at how do you manage a plague event, or a radiological event, or something, being seen as the kind of thing that the nations needed to be concerned about.
If it went in that direction and sort of to create a confidence or have a discussion on issues that they may all could agree, yeah, these are legitimate concerns. I mean, is there any appetite for doing that kind of thing?
I mean, it sounds like what you're saying, but I'm not -- I'm not sure.
KMENTT: I think that the nuclear weapon states has really made a mistake. The first conference was organized in Oslo. It's a NATO country.
They were very cautious in how to structure the meeting, but received a coordinated P5 position on non-attendance, saying that it is a distraction from the NPT. And I have to say I think this was a fundamental, tactical error from nuclear weapon states, because of course, Norway, of all countries certainly would have liked its NATO nuclear weapons states allies to be there.
I think that in a way energized a sort of more political dimension, which we then saw in Mexico. And the wish of states to make political statements there, which of course didn't happen in Oslo which was very much focused on the -- on the -- on the -- on the technical and fact-based side.
I think the -- to answer your main question I think it would be very important to engage on that -- on these substantive elements. There was yesterday which I think was very welcome, was a briefing organized by the U.S. mission on the issue of de-alerting.
Of course it was a bit -- from the substantive side, it was a bit disappointing that de-alerting which sort of seems to -- pretty much everybody as the absolute logical first step to reduce risks that should be taken and could be taken, and there is vast support for a UN general assembly resolution in this issue. And the U.S. basically gave a number of reasons why more concrete steps on de-alerting are not possible.
But at least that kind of engagement on substance I think is extremely important. So there should also be an engagement on response capabilities. And of course, that's going to be a difficult discussion for nuclear weapons states to have, because if the consequences are global, how do you explain to -- for instance, countries in Africa who have done everything right. They are all members of a nuclear weapon free zone, how can it be explained to them that the consequences would impact them as well?
But I think engaging on that kind of discussion has been mostly lacking so far. So I think it would be very good to demonstrate these concerns are taken seriously, and that these are absolutely legitimate questions, and they shouldn't be just pushed aside into the -- to the -- this just has the agenda to push a legal ban. I think that's a mistake.
KIMBALL: All right. We have time for a couple of quick questions. Right over here, Shervin, there she is. And Edward Levine, and then we'll close. Please?
QUESTION: Thank you.
I'm Veronica Cartier and I'm always for the openness, in the sense that I would like to express that I'm glad. I'm so happy that I voted for you. You are the right.
KMENTT: I hope all of you voted for someone. Yes.
QUESTION: Yes. Maybe all of us, but I think you are in the right person for the right position. You stated a non-deterrence orthodoxy, it is -- I think it is factual.
KMENTT: I'm sorry, I didn't?
KIMBALL: Deterrence orthodoxy.
KMENTT: OK, yeah.
QUESTION: Deterrence orthodoxy, and also the factual of threat, maintaining of readiness. I think currently we are in the sense of looking for the readiness.
And I would like to address a question in the sense of urgency, what direction and advice you can give for the nuclear proliferation states in the framework to reduce errors, because I think that is the -- we need to focus on that. Thank you.
KIMBALL: All right. And then, let's take the final question, Edward Levine, please?
QUESTION: Edward Levine, retired from the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The nuclear weapon states are clearly afflicted with contradictions as you have pointed out, in that if they are sensitive to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, they still are not going to let that interfere with their reliance upon deterrence. But it seems to me that the non-nuclear weapons states too often fall into a similar set of contradictions, in which they say, "If there is not enough urgency shown on disarmament we won't support non-proliferation," as though proliferation would be of any use to them from the humanitarian standpoint.
So I wonder, from your position working with the non-nuclear weapon states, what can be done to focus your efforts more clearly on what is doable by everybody, rather than on the exchange of brickbats?
KIMBALL: Easy questions, folks, yes.
KMENTT: Easy questions, yeah.
On the issue of reduction of errors, I think that is -- that is a question that really nuclear weapon states have to address. I think non-nuclear weapon states can make the point that the information, the findings that we hear is disconcerting, but how the command and control structures are set up, of course greater degree of transparency would be welcome. But that is -- that is an issue that, really, nuclear weapon states can -- or should answer.
On the question from Ed, well, I agree that if you're looking for contradictory positions, the disarmament and non-proliferation world is the right place to look. Yeah, I mean, the Humanitarian Initiative has the support from some countries who probably have an agenda that's not totally humanitarian driven. I think that's a problem.
The way I see it, it should -- I mean the NPT is a -- is a -- is an uneven treaty. But of course it's clearly a security benefit to everybody. But of course it clearly benefits primarily the nuclear weapon states.
So, what can be done through the humanitarian initiative is applied pressure. And I think this is -- this is -- the pressure should not be that if you don't disarm, that everybody else will proliferate, that's absolutely clear. But the bargain of the NPT holds only if nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation deals are upheld. And the very clear voice coming that the nuclear disarmament bargain is not upheld, we hope will compel the nuclear weapon states to do more to upheld -- to uphold their end of the bargain.
I'm not sure that this is a satisfactory, specific answer. There are a whole range of legitimate questions that are being asked. There is, of course, an implicit building up of momentum that if the NPT is not delivering, that other developments could happen. And I think in order to stop that from happening and maybe stopping some crazy things from happening, nuclear weapon states should really take this much more seriously to keep it all in the NPT, which is certainly what most countries that support the humanitarian initiative want.
So they want to see progress in the NPT. But what's on offer?
KIMBALL: And that's the question I want to leave you with for now. We're out of time for this session.
I want to thank you once again, Ambassador Kmentt, for all your ground-breaking work, your dedication, your persistence.
Like many of you here who've worked at treaty and negotiations -- I was just talking to Larry Weiler about this, it takes time from one's personal life. And I know that you've dedicated a lot, and I'm glad that you can be here with us today, especially in the midst of the NPT review conference.
KMENTT: Thanks a lot, everybody. Thank you.
KIMBALL: All right. And if I could please ask Kelsey Davenport and our other panelists for the next session to come up here, so that we can make a quick transition. Richard Nephew and Ariane Tabatabai, please come on up.
Speakers: Richard Nephew, Program Director, Economic Statecraft, Sanctions, and Energy Markets, Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy, and Ariane Tabatabai, current Associate Professor, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University
Moderator: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association
DAVENPORT: Well, thank you all again for being here today. We're entering this final stretch of the Iran talks with just about six weeks left before the June 30th deadline to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal.
The progress that's been made over the past two years is really quite incredible. We've had over 15 months of successful implementation of the interim agreements, and on April 2nd, parameters were announced to guide the drafting of the final agreement that from a nonproliferation standpoint are very strong.
And from our perspective at ACA a deal is not only possible at this point but it's probable. So, I'm very excited today to have a panel to discuss where we are now in the talks, what remains to be done and then, look a little bit at implementation of the final deal.
So to start off today we have Richard Nephew. Richard is the program director on the economic statecraft, sanctions and energy markets with the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, and prior to joining Columbia University, he was the principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the State Department, a position which he held beginning in 2013. So he has been on the ground at the Iran talks until he took up his post at Columbia.
Following Richard, we have Ariane Tabatabai. She's an associate at the Belfer Center's International Security Program and Project on Managing the Atom and is now a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown University. And she is going to give us a look at some of the dynamics inside Iran and reactions to the nuclear deal and the announcements that have made thus far.
So, we'll start with you Richard.
NEPHEW: Thank you very much.
And thanks everybody for being here. These are very interesting conversations -- oops, that would help. These are interesting conversations even more if the microphone is on, but I'm looking forward to offering you a few thoughts and then, most importantly, having a bit of a conversation afterwards.
You know, I think - I was asked to talk a little bit about sanctions relief in the comprehensive plan of action that hopefully will be concluded by the end of June and in particular how to bridge whatever gap may exist between the P5+1 Iranian positions but also what they're saying in public and what this means really in terms of the talks.
And I think my fundamental conclusion would be that even though there is a gap in how the parties are talking about sanctions relief, I don't think that there is a real gap in understanding what will need to be part of a comprehensive deal, and nor do I think that there is a fundamental gap on what will need to happen on the Iranian side and on the P5+1 side to make sanctions relief a reality.
I think what's really at the heart of the debate that has happened in public between Iran and the P5+1 is a messaging problem, and it's a messaging problem that frankly speaks to the heart of the Iran nuclear issue.
I think, you know, like Kelsey said, I believe that a deal at this point is highly likely coming out at the end of June, but I also think that at the end of June there is still going to be a strong dissimilarity between what the P5+1 and what Iran is saying about how sanctions relief is going to be implemented.
And you can already see a number of people scratching their heads saying, well, how can that be when the deal is done? That should be the time in which there is clarity between the sides. But I think at the end of the day there will be this gap because both sides need to say different things, which may be true, not withstanding that. And I'll speak a little bit as to why.
You know, I think the P5+1 view of the Iran nuclear negotiation has been very straightforward from the beginning. It's really, truly an instance of pay for performance, that the Iranians will have to take certain specific nuclear steps on a specific timeframe in order to get specific relief.
But that's not Iran's position in looking at this negotiation. You know, what I think what the Iranians have been very clear about is they are not seeking a transaction here. What they're seeking is a rationalization of what they perceive to be a status quo, which is that sanctions are not actually working, that in various different ways they're helping Iran or they're immaterial to Iran, and so on and so forth. but that the nuclear program is proceeding regardless.
And what I think they are trying to have is a nuclear deal in which there needs never be a concession that sanctions where in fact inflicting a great pain on Iran, they're instead more of an inconvenience.
If that's the case, then it would be very difficult for them, in fact, to get into a transactional conversation with the P5+1, because to do so implies that there are costs being imposed on both sides and that those costs are to some measure equal.
Well, that would cut against a lot of what Iranian rhetoric has been for a long period of time. So, instead, what they have to say is sanctions will be relieved and they have to be relieved because it would be illogical for them to remain in place. Not that, frankly, in every single negotiating round that the P5+1 has had with Iran, but they're the core of the issue and that getting sanctions relief in a timely manner has been the Iranian position from the get-go and continues to guide what their negotiating strategy is.
And I think at the end of the day, this is because they need to avoid being seen as having caved to Western pressure. I think that cuts against their domestic narratives, it cuts against their own sense of self and it cuts against the clear negotiating instructions they've taken from the supreme leader.
So what they've had to do, I think, is to some degree perform a lot of verbal gymnastics to basically say we need to get sanctions relief, it needs to happen in a timely manner, it will be done in exchange for nuclear steps, but not as some sort of quid pro quo transactional basis, rather it was simply a logical outcome of a deal.
So what does that really mean, though, in terms of the results of the deal? Not much. You know, the two sides are going to talk about things in a different way, but just as that P5+1 has had to accept certain realities about Iran's nuclear program, Iran has to accept certain realities about sanctions relief.
You know, enrichment will continue in Iran as part of this deal but so will the presence of some sanctions for a period of time as well as other sanctions that govern human rights, terrorism, so on and so forth, and the Iranians are going to have to reconcile themselves to that, they're going to find some way of having to describe that.
And the words chosen by both sides will differ and differ markedly but Iran has already demonstrated that they're prepared to accept this lack of this consistency between the positions in the P5+1 Iran joint statement of April 2nd, where they said that they would be prepared to accept terms like cease the application of U.S. sanctions as opposed to terminating them on day one.
And I think what this means ultimately is that there is less actually being disagreed upon between the P5+1 and Iran on the substance, and it's more about making sure that the final day in which sanctions are supposed to be suspended is met with certain nuclear steps having been taken.
So what will that day look like? In my view, I think it will be very similar on what happened on January 20th, 2014, which we were describing at that time as a long day in which the IAEA verified very early in the morning in Iran that certain nuclear steps had been taken, and it provided reports to Brussels and it provided a report to Washington as to what the nature of those nuclear steps were.
And we went through a list in which we review what Iran had to do consistent with the joint plan of action and confirmed that all of those steps had been taken. And once we were able to go through that list and verify that those things had been done, we were able to trigger the sanctions relief that had been promised as part of the joint plan of action.
Now, Iran is going to have to do an awful lot of work in order to get there, but the Iranians have already started priming the pump and prepping their audiences for this, in Takht Ravanchi saying, for instance that there are preliminary works that will have to do be done as a way of getting ready for the day of implementation.
And what I think that basically means is they will be taking steps to modify the Arak reactor, to slow down enrichment, to remove centrifuges, to remove nuclear material, but that because that won't have been verified by the IAEA at that point, it will all be preliminary. It will all be something that can be reversed until such time as the IAEA confirms that all has been done, and at that point sanctions relief can in fact start to flow.
With respect to sanctions relief, there will have to be three almost simultaneous steps taken, and that's where there will be some complication.
First, the UN Security Council will need to vote on a resolution that changes the character of the UN Security Council system. Now, that resolution may be set in place earlier on as part of the time lag between the signature of the deal, if such a deal was signed, and its actual starting implementation.
But the practical impact of the UN system having been changed probably won't take place until after the IAEA has verified that these nuclear steps have been taken.
The EU will have to vote to modify its sanctions, and this will come likely in the form of council resolution, council statement and council conclusion that establishes a new legal basis for whatever measures still are in place and then, establishes whatever the snapback criteria are going to be for the EU. And I think on that there's still a lot of work to be done, and I'll speak to that in a moment.
And the United States will have to trigger its sanctions relief, which will be in the form of presidential waivers and State Department and Treasury Department modification of their implementation rules and regulations.
Now, that will probably be done in a variety, a blizzard of paperwork, and stacks and reams of paper will be signed off on, but ultimately, what it will come down to is a package that will go to the president, to the secretary of state, and to the secretary of treasury, triggering whatever relief has been agreed to and then, establishing what the process will be for implementing what measures are still in place. I think this then will be the situation for a number of years.
If what we're hearing out of the negotiations is consistent with reality, then I think everything will basically happen on one day, that there will be a verification of a variety of nuclear steps being taken in the morning and sanctions will be suspended in the afternoon. And that will be the situation that then pertains until one of two things happens. Either the Iranians cheat and sanctions snap back, or we reach the end of either a time period or some milestone that Iran's nuclear program has to achieve in which further sanctions relief will take place.
And that will largely be in the UN Security Council context and be a form of removing the existing restrictions on Iran's nuclear program, its ability to acquire sensitive items, so on and so forth.
And I think at that same time you would see then the United States begin the process of formally terminating its remaining legislation and any residual nuclear-related sanctions that have been suspended. Now, that will require new law. That will require drafting a new bill that changes the standards by which the current sanctions ought to be judged, because the termination clauses in many of these laws do in fact reflect terrorism, human rights and other related purposes.
But this is not that unusual a circumstance, law can be changed, that's the reason why we have an active legislature. And I think the point at which we have finally decided that Iran has met certain benchmarks is when that bill can be put forth. Whether, of course, it will voted on in year 10, 15 or 20 is a whole separate conversation.
I think I'll conclude with three items that I think are worth sort of thinking about. First is how the EU will actually take its steps. I think there's been a lot of discussion about the difference between the statements and the joint statements between the P5+1 and Iran, between how the EU would take a sanctions relief and how the United States would take its sanctions relief.
I think it speaks to the different nature of the legislature processes in the two places. For the EU, they have to get 28 countries together to vote to suspend or terminate legislation. They then have to have the same 28 come together to put new sanctions in place. I think the fact that the EU would be going to consider a termination of its sanctions does not mean that there would not be the possibility of snapback.
And I think that you could see a snapback rule set up such that sanctions are formally terminated by the EU, but that the EU also decides that they will come back into place if some criteria has been tripped, and this could be something as simple an IAEA director general's report that Iran has violated some part of the conference of plan of action or it could be something much more complicated. But there is still room within the termination of EU sanctions to have some kind of snapback arrangement.
On the UN, I think it will be frankly a creative drafting exercise of a Security Council resolution. Paragraph one of a resolution will probably say something like we terminate the existing Security Council resolutions and their various provisions. Paragraph two will say, except for the following paragraphs, and put them back in place. At the end of the day, this isn't rocket science, it's just simply words. And there is a way of making the words in a Security Council resolution say what you need them to say and to re-impose the restrictions that have been agreed upon in a comprehensive plan of action.
The real tricky part is getting the political agreement on what those restrictions need to be. And I think that's, again, part and parcel of the negotiations that are ongoing today.
On the issue of snapback more generally, I think a lot of attention is focused on whether or not there is legal mechanism for snapback, and that to me is an absurd way of looking at this. Certainly, there's a legal way of doing snapback.
The more important issue is under what circumstances snapback would be triggered because I don't think it's credible that for something as innocuous as a centrifuge valve being out of place, all the sanctions regime would go back in place. And I don't, frankly, the Iranians would be all that concerned about that, because they know that that would then risk the entire plan of action.
I think the bigger issue really is differentiating between material breaches and nonmaterial breaches, technical violations. And I think that's actually where some more useful work ought to be done. How we would respond to the things that are technical violations of the deal and how we respond to material breaches of the deal.
One would certainly trigger a snapback of all the sanctions that could be suspended, the other one may trigger something less, like, for instance, prohibition on the ability of an entity to engage in procurements for a year or six months, something like that. But there ought to be a way of structuring a system in which certain violations are treated in a certain way and other violations are treated in another way.
And I think this speaks to a larger issue about snapback. Some of the debate on snapback has focused on whether or not snapback will preclude an Iranian breakout attempt. I think that's a ridiculous abstraction. If the Iranians decide to break out, sanctions are not going to be how we respond. A true Iranian breakout attempt with undeclared facilities and a brush past all the diplomatic efforts that will be taken to try and pull them back, sanctions are not going to be the way that they'll be arrested, instead that's when we're going to be in a place in which military force is going to have to be considered.
So, therefore, the real question is not how to deal with a massive breakout and whether or not sanctions can arrest that, because at that point we would be on a very shrinking timeline with limited options other than military or how to deal with the technical, small violations which can be dealt with, but this middle space. And it's in the middle space where the need for more breakout time is so important.
If the Iranians are at a minimum a year away from having enough enriched uranium for a bomb, that does give you plenty of time to go down the sanctions path and to escalate the pressure on the regime in a very serious way. The key issue will be context and how the United States and its partners choose to sell their decision to snapback on the sanctions.
In instances in which there is widespread and systemic violations that will comparatively easily. In instances in which there isn't, that's where the debate will be harder. And I think what this all again speaks to is the need to be very careful in how we design our snapback, how we sell a deal, and then, how we implement the deal thereafter to assure that we have that maximum year to address the breakout attempt in the more sneak out sort of scenario. And I think I'll stop my comments there.
DAVENPORT: Great. Thank you, Richard.
TABATABAI: Thank you, Kelsey. Thank you, Daryl and the rest of the ACA team for obviously this event but also all the hard work you guys have been doing to support this very worthy process.
I'm really glad Richard brought up the issue of messaging and words, because that's what I'm going to be focusing on for the next 10 minutes. I've heard from a number of cold warriors that one of the shortcomings of their efforts during the U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations was that they often mistook rhetoric for policy.
And a number of people have raised the question, are we doing the same with Iran? And the answer is yes. Every time the supreme leader says something, and it's very frequently, it's almost once a week, if not more, people around town start to raise questions and throw their arms in the air and say that's it, the negotiations are going to derail, that's the end of the process, we're not going to get anything out of this.
And in the next, six weeks, I guess, is the time until we have until June 30th, this is going to become increasingly a challenge because domestic dynamics in Iran is -- are, you know, there's more and more conflict within Iran on this topic. There are a number of conflicting forces. And the rhetoric is going to be increasingly conflicted and increasingly contradictory, in fact.
So I want to focus on the major actors inside Iran that are going to have a say on the nuclear issue. And I want to sort of break it down and talk a little bit about what they've said so far on the negotiations and what that means for the implementation of a deal.
So let's start with the supreme leader, obviously the person everybody thinks about when thinking about this issue. The supreme leader, you know, as I said, he talks a lot, he says a lot of things, and he often says things that are interpreted as very strict redlines.
For those of you who live in DC, you'll remember that about a year ago he came up and put a number, a figure, to the enrichment issue, which, until that point, was a very sort of vague discussion about, you know, Iran has a right to enrich.
A year ago he came out and said we need 190,000 separative work units to fuel Bushehr. And at that point everybody was saying, well, that's it, 190,000 SWU, there's no way we're going to accept that. Nobody sat down and thought, OK, let's think about this. Do the Iranians actually have the capability to get to 190,000 SWUs?
Obviously, the answer is no, not right now. All you have to do is read the second sentence to find out that what he was saying was you may not need it in the next two years, three years or five years, but eventually we will need to get to that point. So we need enrichment and we need to be able to get to that point at some, you know, at some point in the future.
Why am I talking this - why am I reminding you of this? Because since the extension of the agreements in November 2014, there's been a number of instances where he's come out and said things that have been interpreted again as very strict redlines that were going to derail the process.
So, for instance, shortly before the March deadline for an agreement, for a framework agreement, the supreme leader said, look, we don't want a phased process. We're going to have a single process, and that's going to be it. We're not going to have a framework agreement followed by a comprehensive agreement.
And, in fact, what happened was that we did get a framework agreement and we're going to get a comprehensive agreement in June.
Likewise, when the Lausanne agreement was announced, he said something about sanctions and whether or not sanctions should be lifted all at once, whether or not they should lifted right after an agreement is reached. Obviously, that was interpreted again as, well, the supreme leader is saying that sanctions must be lifted right this instance, and that's not going to happen, so we can't have an agreement then.
But, you know, again, looking at what he said and interpreting what he says, reading between the lines, essentially, indicates that every time he comes up and fixes a redline, the redline can be crossed and it's not a strict redline.
And in fact, I would argue that he has been giving flexible enough redlines for the negotiating team to be able to sell the deal domestically using the framework as it's been established by the supreme leader.
And that's exactly what the negotiating team has been doing in Iran in the few months. Zarif, Salehi and others in the team have been giving interviews, very long ones, in Iranian media, trying to sell the deal to their domestic constituency.
And I know I'm going to get into a lot of trouble for this but, you know, despite how conservative the supreme leader is on most issues, on the nuclear issue, he has been a moderating agent.
If it wasn't for him, first of all, we wouldn't have a process. There would be no process, and this would be (inaudible). And second, if the supreme leader didn't step in and tell the hardliners in Iran to quiet down essentially, there would be a lot more challenging of the agreement, of the process all together. And the negotiating team would have a much harder time selling this deal and negotiating in fact than it has been having.
So what he's doing is very similar in fact to what the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has been doing, balancing conflicting interest, balancing various domestic constituencies, but at the same time trying to negotiate, because there is, I would argue, a national consensus around the idea that the negotiations need to happen, that there needs to be a deal in Iran.
So the IRGC has been essentially echoing what the supreme leader has been saying, which is, you know, the negotiations must happen. We back the negotiations and the negotiators. We believe that they are going to be acting within the framework of national interest.
They, of course, have a lot at stake, first of all for their sort of vague involvement in the nuclear program, second for reasons relating to sanctions, they have arguably benefited from sanctions. It's very obvious, you know, walking around the streets of Tehran you can see that they play a huge role in most areas of sort of public life.
So they have been benefiting from this, and obviously the deal is going to change that dynamic to some extent. So despite having these conflicting interests, they have been supporting the negotiations.
For the most part, they were very cautious in doing that. But after the Lausanne, it was a very sort of resonating endorsement. They congratulated the supreme leader for the children of the revolution, quote/unquote, "achieving" what they achieved.
But the most, the biggest challenge is going to come from Majlis, and it has so far. What Majlis does is that it essentially mirrors Congress. So every time Congress does something, which is pretty frequently these days, within three days you know that Majlis is going to do something as well.
Most recently, they tried to pass a bill that negotiations would stop unless the United States stopped threatening Iran. That's probably not going to go anywhere, like most of what they say. But they have been trying to put a lot of pressure on the government, some members of Majlis, anyway. And there are people who have a lot of influence in Majlis.
But, again, this is where the supreme leader comes into play, because he has been backing the negotiators and the process altogether, Majlis hasn't been able to do as much as it would like to do. Ultimately, what Majlis wants is what Congress wants, which is to supervise the process.
But much of the power play between Majlis and government has essentially manifested itself outside the nuclear issue even though it is deeply connected to the nuclear issue. So, for instance, whenever Majlis wants to do something to put pressure on government, instead of trying to push back on the nuclear issue, it says, OK, I'm going to impeach this minister or we're going to give you a hard time while you're trying to do this other thing on the economy or domestic issues.
So a lot of the sort of domestic dynamics there have been focused on other areas, trying to stop the Rouhani government from doing things that it's planned to do without necessarily crossing the redline of pushing too much on the nuclear issue.
The speaker of Majlis, even, Larijani, has come out and strongly supported the negotiators. He's not by any means a, you know, someone who's sort of prone to supporting negotiations with the United States. He's not a liberal by any means, but he has come out and supported the team.
Last point I want to leave you with, but going back to the supreme leader is that, you know, one of the issues is we tend to look at some of his statements, and they're very often connected to a big deadline.
So, for instance, after Lausanne, everybody was expecting him to say something. So, everybody was tuning in and waiting for him to say something. There, he didn't say his sort of -- his backing of the negotiations wasn't as resonating.
But when he does his resonating endorsement of the process, it's generally in response to something that is happening domestically. So if the hardline newspaper Kayhan has a headline about the negotiations, the supreme leader might come out and say, look, I'm still behind the negotiators. But he's not going to have the same level of endorsement following international events where he knows that everybody is going to be paying attention. And I think that's sort of the going back to good cop bad cop sort of thing where he's saying, look, I'm fixing redlines, I'm asserting my authority, and I'm not going to, you know, give too much of the leeway so that the West doesn't think it can get as much from Iran.
So I'm going to stop here and sort of wrap it up, and I'm happy to discuss any of these in more detail in Q&A. Obviously, there's a lot to talk about.
But essentially, my reading of the Lausanne agreement is that it does meet Iranian bottom lines. Iran manages to walk away with exactly what it has said it would not negotiate on, enrichment itself. It would not close down any facilities. Arak will remain a heavy water reactor.
Now, I know that there's going to be some push and pull on so this means that it's a bad deal for us. No, it's not. The numbers and the sort of the details of that make it a good deal for the United States, I believe. But the bottom lines, the sort of, you know, big things that Iran wanted to achieve, it's managed to get out of this.
So, with this in mind, I think that the comprehensive deal, if it sort of follows what we've been -- what we've seen so far is going to be something that is going to be sellable in Iran. The problem though is sanctions, going back to Richard's presentation. The issue of sanctions is that with the Lausanne agreement, unlike everything else which was very much detailed in the agreements, the sanctions bit was not.
And so, there's been a lot of push and pull in Iran about sanctions. Zarif, Salehi and others have made it clear that they would get sanctions relief once Iran starts to implement the agreements. But that's not fully clear for most Iranians I think. And so far, there's been a lot of back and forth on this. I suspect there's going to be a lot more once we get closer to the June 30th deadline. And I suspect that there's going to be a lot more going on in Majlis on that front.
So, yes, I'll stop here.
DAVENPORT: Great. Thank you both for the excellent presentations. Both of our speakers did a great job sticking to the time limits, probably because I threatened to kick them under the table if they didn't. So that luckily leaves us plenty of time for questions.
So we'll start here with Barbara.
SLAVIN: Thanks, Kelsey. Barbara Slavin from the Atlantic Council.
Can you explain how snapback is supposed to work for the UN Security Council? The Russians yet again are saying there will be no automaticity to use the French phrase. So how do you -- how do you arrange this in such a way that it doesn't take away their veto right?
Also, you talk about one long day, but if memory serves, it took a very long time to implement many aspects of the JPOA. They didn't get the channel for humanitarian transactions I think until four or five months after, you know, the implementation had been promised. So is it going to also be a very slow process to have all the various provisions implemented? Thank you.
NEPHEW: Sure. So I would say a couple of things. On the UN side, I think that's clearly something that still has to be negotiated, but I can give you a couple of thoughts and guesses.
I mean, first is what does automatic snapback mean, right. Some people think it means the moment that there is any breach whatsoever detected, sanctions snap back on, well, then, OK, that kind of automaticity might not be there, right? It might not be the case that the moment, within seconds, of the IAEA director general finding something that's out of joint that sanctions are back in place.
The real question is more of whether or not the time lag and the process between detection of a violation and reimposition of sanctions has got places where people can say no and turn it back off, right?
It may be that there has to be a prolonged review process. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that there's a vote of yes or no, right? But there may be a prolonged review process for a couple of weeks while whatever the issue is discussed at the IAEA Board of Governors in some sort of emergency process, or an emergency meeting of the Security Council, but that if for instance there is not an agreement of the Security Council not to re-impose sanctions, that sanctions get re-imposed automatically.
In other words, there may be a role to be played by every member of the Security Council to vote yes or no, right, but the question of whether or not that vote flips the logic here, that's up for debate, I think.
And I would just sort of note, while it's true the Russians and Chinese have probably been the most vocal in talking about the need for the veto, they're not the only ones. I mean the U.S. has got an interest in the veto of Security Council resolutions remaining in place. So does France, so does the U.K., and a lot of countries might not like that, but at the end of the day, the five veto holders do want to hold their vetoes, and it's an important asset they want to keep.
So I would just sort of say I think there is a way of navigating the veto issue that gives countries a say, a chance to influence what the process is, but that does not mean that there cannot be a defined process that leads to sanctions coming back in place while the debates are still going on or if the debates are unresolved, you know, at the end of some number of days or something like that.
In terms of the long day, what I would say about the sanctions relief and how that manifested, it is not true that the channel did not exist on day one. The channel, the humanitarian channel existed on day one, January 20, 2014. Adam Szubin signed a number of different pieces of paper that authorized the humanitarian transactions and frankly those were already embedded in the law anyway. The issue that we had was finding banks that were prepared to make that happen.
Well, that's a different issue, right? That's a commercial issue. That's an issue of finding a bank that's willing to do it. And the amount of time we had from when we had the first discussions on implementation with the Iranians in December to when it got implemented, that was a fairly short number of days to be able to get a bank to put itself at (inaudible) at risk.
So what I would say is this, from a legal perspective, I think that it's certainly true, sanctions relief will be effective the day the paper is signed, and I would imagine that would be on the beginning of this long day.
That does not mean that commercial deals will start that day, right? And I actually think the real concern that the Iranians ought to have is that there are going to be banks out there saying I'm not getting involved in Iran until I've seen six months of compliance, a year of compliance.
That is not an issue of sanctions, that is an issue of questioning whether or not there's going to be a violation, that sanctions have to be snapped back, et cetera. But I think that's an implementation challenge that is simply going to have to be dealt with through messaging and things like that.
DAVENPORT: OK. Let's take two questions this time. Joseph, we have the gentleman in the middle and then, Shervin, back there.
GOODBY: Jim Goodby, Brookings -- not Brookings, but Hoover Institution.
I am concerned about the dynamic under way now between the Sunni Arabs and the Iranians in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen. And I'm wondering if that dynamic is going to continue, probably so, unless there's some change radically in the way the Revolutionary Guard see their role.
And isn't it going to be very difficult to insulate the nuclear agreement from those other things going on in the Middle East, that's - I would think that would be the major threat to the whole process, not the specifics, technicalities if you will, of the nuclear agreement.
DAVENPORT: Yes, thank you.
BOHLEN: Avis Bohlen, retired Foreign Service Officer.
I have a question for Richard Nephew. Could you review for us, maybe this is elementary for some of the other members of the audience, but what will be the sanctions, the U.S. sanctions, that will come off on this long day one and what will be the ones that will be left by the legislation? Thank you.
DAVENPORT: Thank you.
Ariane, perhaps you could take Jim's question and then Richard can take...
TABATABAI: So on the question about Sunni Arabs and Iran, yes, that's - yes, there's a lot going on, and, unfortunately, it's not going anywhere. In Iraq, specifically, Iran feels a direct threat to its territorial integrity because of ISIS. So it is going to remain involved in Iraq as long as ISIS is there, as long as the Iraqi situation doesn't change.
With regard to Syria, it's not as clear. Iran doesn't have as -- a vital threat as it does in Iraq, but it's still going to remain very much involved, especially now that it seems like the tides are turning and Iran believes, I think, that they have been right on Assad, now that, you know, the prospect of regime change is no longer really there.
Is that going to have an impact on the negotiations? I don't think so. I mean all these issues have been ongoing for the past two years and, you know, the ISIS threat, Iran's involvement became very obvious already a year ago and yet the negotiations have been ongoing. So I don't see a threat from, sorry, for the pun, but, yes, I don't see a threat from that issue for the nuclear negotiations.
NEPHEW: And on issue of sanctions, it's easier really to talk about what's not coming off, as opposed to what's coming on, I think it's a much more distinct group.
I think it's very obvious that the terrorism and human rights specific sanctions are going to remain in place. So that includes things like Iran remaining a state sponsor of terrorism, designations of individual Iranian entities and people will remain in place if they were sanctioned for involvement in terrorism and human rights violations. I mean those things will remain in place.
I think it's also highly likely that the U.S. unilateral embargo will remain in place as well, right? So what did the P5+1 in Iran joint statement talk about? It talked about secondary sanctions. Well, secondary sanctions is a term of art basically meaning U.S. interference in third party business with Iran.
But the U.S. unilateral embargo with regard to Iran hasn't been talked about as coming off. So I think it's still highly likely that General Motors and General Electric and any other U.S. company or bank you can talk about is probably not going to be going into Iran unless it's under a specific license for specific things, like in aircraft spare parts, you know, that's part of the joint plan of action.
In terms of, you know, what's coming off at that point, you're basically then talking about the entire structure of sanctions that have affected Iran's ability to do international financing, international transport and international energy, including having energy companies come in and help Iran with investment and structuring its fields.
Is that all?
DAVENPORT: Great. Thanks.
I'd like to remind everybody too that the closing keynote will be given by Colin Kahl, the national security adviser to the vice president. So some of your questions maybe better directed to him.
But, Shervin, let's go to the back, and if we could take Joe's question and then, Andrea's question as well.
CIRINCIONE: Thank you very much. Joe Cirincione Ploughshares Fund and thank you, Arms Control Association for a very thoughtful and thought-provoking set of panels today.
This is for Professor Tabatabai. I was struck by your comment of confusing statements for policy. So, can you -- do you have an assessment of what you think the supreme leader's policy is right now on the Lausanne agreement, that is if we actually translate this into a final agreement, is he inclined to do it? And if so, why?
BERGER: Hi, Andrea Berger, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. A quick comment, if I may, sort of a reaction to one of the speakers. And then, a question to Ariane.
On the potential lag from the banking sector, it strikes me that actually that lag may come not necessarily as a result of banks wanting to see six months or a year of compliance, but banks maybe not being able to navigate what becomes a need for a nuanced picture.
Banks have been used to doing this sort of blanket risk-based approach to implementing sanctions, where they don't do business with Iran. That's very easy for them. They see an Iranian end-user, or suspect an Iranian end-user, they don't process that transaction.
Well, now, we're getting into a sanctions landscape where they're going to some sanctions on Iran. They're still going to have counter proliferation finance obligations from 1540, and it's going to become much more difficult for them to distinguish between a transaction that they're allowed to process with an Iranian end user and one that they probably should avoid.
And I think it might take banks a little while to figure out exactly how to do that. And I think the lag may come from that partially as a result, perhaps in addition to the questions over Iranian compliance.
But a question to Ariane briefly, you talked about mirror imaging between effectively the legislative bodies of the U.S. and Iran, and I wonder, we're having this discussion in the U.S. over how to determine what might be material breach. Do you foresee that same discussion happening in Iran over what would be noncompliance on the part of the rest of the parties to this agreement?
If there is a delay in releasing certain funds for example, how long the delay have to be before it becomes viewed as material breach by Iran? Is that discussion happening?
TABATABAI: Yes. Let me start with Joe's question.
So my assessment of the supreme leader's policy so far is that he is cautiously sort of agreeing to what is going on. It would be a mistake to think that the supreme leader doesn't know exactly what's happening, what's on the table at Lausanne or now in Vienna or wherever they are these days, because, you know, he has a direct channel to the negotiating team. Araqchi, one of the negotiators, is within the supreme leader's circle.
So I don't foresee a scenario where essentially he would be presented with an agreement, and he would say, hey, what is this, I've never seen this. I don't think I can sign up to this.
I think that he is aware of the details, even though, again, and this is where policy and rhetoric should be distinguished, he said that he doesn't know the details. He knows broadly what's going on but he doesn't have an understanding of the details.
I believe he does, and I believe that if he is letting the negotiations go this far, it indicates that he is willing to sign up to the final deal.
Obviously, you know, the framework agreement has essentially outlined the most important concessions Iran will have to make. And so, if he wasn't OK with this, he would have said something, he would have done something. And yet the negotiations are going on, the language is now being negotiated in various venues, and I think that's a good indication that he's onboard.
Now, we'll have to see what happens ultimately, but I think that he's aware of what's going on and he's onboard with this.
Andrea, your question about mirroring of legislative bodies, what is Majlis talking about these days, my answer is not to the same level as in the U.S., there is not as much detail being discussed. And frankly, I think Majlis is more busy right now trying to put pressure on the Rouhani government to - and sort of to have an impact on the process itself, to talk about noncompliance.
That said, yes, there has been -- there have been a number of sort of discussions about noncompliance on this side. The supreme leader again has come out and said, look, we can't trust the U.S., we know that there may never be sanctions relief in the end. And that's something that has been echoed by Majlis, by Iranian media saying we may not get sanctions relief ultimately, but we are trying.
And so, the discussion is not as detailed as it has been here. And I think another part of that, it has to do with the fact that there has not been an Iranian equivalent of the fact sheet that we had in the U.S., which sort of laid out all the issues or broke down all the technical issues. And so, Iran has not really dominated, has not really shaped that part of the discussion domestically.
I want to give Richard a chance just to response to your comment.
NEPHEW: So, just real quick, I mean, I think that's a good point about how the implementation side of the relief is going to lag just in part because banks have to figure out their due diligence requirements and things like that.
The only thing I would say though is, you know, to some extent that's all going to be dictated by their customers. If they get a big, you know, customers, big energy companies for instance, that want to do start doing business inside of Iran, they'll sort themselves out relatively quickly.
I think ultimately the real issue is it's going to be a combination of pressures on banks and on companies to decide how they want to translate relief. It will be made easier if relief is all in one big hunk and if they've got six months to prepare for it, right, because then they can work through all the due diligence requirements that they will have to have in place for that day when sanctions relief is triggered.
It would be quite different if all of a sudden the deal were to be implemented on the first of September. You know, I think that's when you'll see even greater lag as they struggle to catch up.
But ultimately, I think the bigger question is will they decide to go in? Sure, they will decide to go in and they will decide to go in when they have customers wanting to go in, when they've got confidence that they're not going to have the rug pulled up from under them and when they're confident that the reputational risk that they would take from doing so would be fairly modest.
DAVENPORT: Great, thanks.
I'll take the question here in the center, Joseph, and then, up here in front, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. This is -- I'm Norman Wulf, formerly of the State Department. One question for Mr. Nephew, is on the verification side, is there going to be additional protocol alone, additional protocol plus, could you give a few comments on that?
And the second question is do either of you see that if the agreement is successfully implemented, that leading to any changes to Iranian behavior in other areas like terrorism, Hezbollah, et cetera?
Joseph, and then if you could come down over the front, please.
QUESTION: Richard Golden, a member of the association. In the entire process, at this point is Israel irrelevant?
DAVENPORT: Richard, why don't we start with you?
NEPHEWS: Sure. Hey, can I - can I not answer what question?
So I'll be brave, I'll take a whirl at this. No, Israel is not irrelevant to this at all. I think, you know, look, the idea that the United States has not taken onboard the concerns of Israel with regard to this deal is simply false.
I spent as many hours talking with Israeli government colleagues as I did with the U.S. Congress whenever we were out of sessions with the Iranians, and that was 18 months for the process.
I think that the fact that there was a secret sort of conversations with the Iranians for a few months before the big process emerged in November of 2013 has colored people's impressions of the amount of engagement that this government is having with the Israeli government.
The simple reality is there were video-conferences, trips to Israel, trips from the Israelis to Washington, there was lots of conversations. Israeli's thinking and some of their specific comments and reactions form the basis of positions that we took in the talks, not the sole basis, but a basis, provided information, provided context, provided concerns.
And I would just sort of say that Israel was relevant to our policy is we were pushing it before I left the government in December. And I am quite certain that Israeli concerns at least at a technical level are part of the process now.
So, no, I don't think they're irrelevant at all and they certainly won't be irrelevant going forward as this thing is implemented.
On the issue of whether or not at a political level it will interfere with doing a deal or not, that I think has been demonstrated already that the Obama administration is, you know, wants to proceed.
On the issue of AP, AP-plus, I would say this, I would say that certainly is the case of the additional protocol and its implementation will be part of this. As you know quite well, there are ways to implement the additional protocol and then, there are ways to implement the additional protocol.
And if you implement the AP very aggressively, and if there's agreement, for instance, that when the IAEA says I got to go to this facility or that facility, that it gets granted that access, that itself is not per se the additional protocol, but it's an enhanced implementation of the additional protocol.
I personally would guess, I'm not in government anymore, so I'm just guessing, but I would guess that that's the kind of thing we're going to see. We're going to see an aggressive implementation of the initial protocol, but enough that gives the Iranians very clear legal ability to say we're just implementing the additional protocol, but gives the access and transparency that the United States and its partners really need to see in Iran on a day-to-day basis.
TABATABAI: Yes, I will just add to the -- I'll answer the question about the behavior, will Iran change its behavior following a deal? Well, I guess, the answer is it depends, you know, in some places it won't.
Again, on Iraq there is -- there is a very clear sort of threat to the national security as far as the Iranians are concerned. So, Iran's behavior is not going to change.
That said, there might be some more cooperation with the United States and I say this, you know, I'll go back to the supreme leader at the - I've been talking a lot about him today. He - in one of his many speeches recently, he said that the nuclear negotiations serve as a test for Iran-U.S. relations. That's not something that has been widely reported here, but that's something that he said and that is kind of —it's a pretty big deal. He hadn't said this for a very long time as far as I remember. So that might actually provide some grounds for further Iran-U.S. coordination anyway.
On a number of other issues, it may change Iran's behavior. In places where Iran doesn't have a clear interest, where it's really just trying to poke the U.S. in the eye or the Saudis in the eye, it might change a little bit. But I think that it's a very much a case-by-case basis that we need to look at this issue. But I think the sort of general assessment within the, Iran's regional sort of power play is no, it's not going to change too much.
DAVENPORT: Great. Thank you, both. Unfortunately, we're out of time for this panel, but I would urge everyone to stay in their seats as we transition to our last keynote and before that, please join me in thanking both of our panelists.
Speaker: Colin Kahl, Deputy Assistant To The President and National Security Adviser To The Vice President
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
KIMBALL: All right. Thank you. All right.
So as I said, we're moving into the closing round for our conference today, and we're very lucky to have with us one more dynamic speaker who's going to be addressing the P5+1 in the Iran nuclear negotiations, the Lausanne framework agreement, and the on-going talks, and the implementation steps beyond the June 30 target date for concluding the talks.
And he is Colin Kahl, the deputy assistant secretary to President Obama and the national security adviser to Vice President Biden. And he has been deeply involved in the administration's effort to negotiate a comprehensive joint plan of action to address Iran's sensitive nuclear activities, and has been working in and out of government for more than a decade, Georgetown and elsewhere, the Defense Department, on the security challenges in the -- the Middle East.
And we're especially grateful to have him here today. We're taking him away from Camp David and the festivities and the festivities and conversations there.
But I think it's very important that we have his voice here to talk about not just the agreement, but the broader Middle East issues that are being discussed up at Camp David.
So, we hope to have him talk about what a -- what the completion of a final deal based around the parameters we talked about and discussed in Lausanne would do to set back Iran's nuclear program, how the agreement would enhance regional security and that of our allies.
And before I ask him to come up and speak and take a few questions after his -- his talk, just note as Kelsey said that we at the Arms Control Association along with dozens of other non-proliferation experts across the United States and around the world judge the agreement that is emerging from these negotiations to be a net plus for -- for non-proliferation, and we wish Colin and the rest of the team good luck with the Iranians in the weeks ahead.
So, Colin, thanks for being here. All right. The floor is yours.
KAHL: Well, good afternoon everybody. Thanks Daryl.
Thanks to everybody here at the Arms Control Association for all the tremendous work you do every day in the non-proliferation and nuclear security and disarmament arenas. You also do a fantastic job in educating the public on enormously complex issues to include the issue that I'm going to talk about today, which is Iran.
As Daryl mentioned, I'm here really to talk about the prospects for achieving a comprehensive diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear challenge, and I hope perhaps most interestingly for you all, address a number of concerns and criticisms that have been expressed about such an agreement.
I hope that my remarks will be a useful companion to what I thought was a really terrific panel with Richard and Ariane. And those of you, I didn't actually know Ariane very well until very recently, when I realized that she's teaching the class I used to teach at Georgetown.
So, in any case, I'm sure she's doing a much better job than I did, although I guess we'll see when the teaching evaluations are in.
I know -- I know she's having fun. I miss being in the classroom for sure.
As all of you know, from day one, president Obama has been committed to using all instruments of national power to prevent the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran, an outcome that we believe could set off an arms race in the Middle East and raise the specter of a nuclear war in what is already the world's most troubled region.
To accomplish this objective, our administration has pursued a dual-track approach, combining unprecedented sanctions and pressure with a willingness to directly engage Iran and our international partners in the so-called P5+1, the other U.N. Security Council members plus Germany, to find a diplomatic means to ensure that Iran's nuclear program is used exclusively for peaceful purposes.
We took an important step towards this outcome in November of 2013 when we reached, alongside the P5+1, the joint plan of action, the so-called JPOA, an interim nuclear accord with Iran that froze Iran's program in place and rolled back some of its most troubling dimensions, to include its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, while we continued negotiations to achieve a comprehensive solution.
On April 2nd, as was mentioned in the previous panel, we released the parameters for such a deal. If finalized over the next two months, the deal we are negotiating will effectively prevent the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran by closing off the various pathways whereby Iran could pursue a bomb.
Notably, an attempt to break out -- so-called "break out," by producing weapons grade uranium at one of Iran's two enrichment facilities, Natanz or Fordow, a plutonium path using the Arak, that's Arak, not Iraq, the country, apparently they're completely different places, the Arak heavy-water research reactor, or what some call a "sneak-out" at new, covert facilities.
So, let me say a few words about hoe the deal, if completed, will block these pathways.
As it relates to enrichment, for the next 10 years under this deal, Iran's centrifuges will be cut by two-thirds, from around 19,000 today to a total of 6,000, only 5,000 of which will be operational. All 5,000 will be present at Natanz, all 5,000 operational centrifuges will be at Natanz, and all of them will be the most basic IR-1 models.
In contrast, in the absence of this deal, Iran would likely install and being operating tens of thousands of additional centrifuges, including thousands of much more advanced models in a very short period of time.
For the next 15 years under the proposed deal, Iran will also reduce its current stockpile of 10,000 kilograms of low enriched uranium, enriched up to the 3.67 percent, which, if further enriched to weapons grade, would be sufficient for as many as eight nuclear weapons. Under the deal that we're negotiating, they would reduce that stockpile by 98 percent, to a working stock of about 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, which is a fraction of what is required for a single nuclear weapon.
Meanwhile, the deeply buried Fordow facility would be converted. It would no longer be a place where enrichment can occur or uranium can be stored.
The result, for a decade under this deal, breakout time, which is the time it would take upon a political decision to do so, for Iran to produce one weapon's worth of highly enrichment uranium, that break-out timeline would be extended from the current timeline of about two to three months to more than a year.
That cushion, in our assessment, provides ample time to deter Iran from going down this road. It would provide us plenty of time to detect it if they tried and marshal an effective enough response to stop them in their tracks.
And for years beyond this point, beyond the 10-year stockpile limitations and other constraints on Iran's enrichment program would produce, in our assessment, a longer break-out timeline than exists today.
The deal will also close off the plutonium path. Once construction is complete in the status quo the Arak reactor, as currently configured, could potentially produce one to two bombs worth of weapons every single year.
Under the deal we're negotiating, however, Arak would be redesigned to produce zero weapons grade plutonium. The spent fuel from which this plutonium could be extracted will also be shipped out of Iran for the life of the reactor. And Iran will be barred from building a reprocessing capability that would be necessary to separate bomb-grade plutonium.
These steps, taken in combination, we believe, shut down the plutonium path using Arak forever.
What about "sneak-out"? Under the deal we'll also put in place the toughest transparency and verification requirements ever negotiated, providing the best possible check against a secret pathway to a bomb.
From the outset, Iran will implement the so-called additional protocol to their safeguards obligations, which will allow the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, to inspect both declared facilities like Natanz and Fordow and Arak and Esfahan, and undeclared sites where illicit activities are suspected or may be under way.
This obligation, the additional protocol, is permanent, as is Iran's continuing obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the NPT, to never produce nuclear weapons.
The proposed deal will also place every link in the nuclear supply chain under international surveillance. For the next 25 years, the next quarter century, inspectors will have access to Iran's uranium mines and mills, and for the next two decades, they will have access to Iran's centrifuge production, assembly and storage facilities.
Throughout the life of this deal, in addition, all purchases of sensitive nuclear equipment will be strictly monitored. And as part of the transparency measures under a final agreement, Iran will also have to address IAEA concerns about the possible military dimensions of its past nuclear research.
Let me be absolutely clear about something. This deal is not about trust. OK? Frankly, we don't trust the Iranians.
This deal is not about that. It's about verification. All right? It's not even Reagan's old phrase of "trust, but verify." This is distrust and make sure you verify.
And if at any point, Iran breaks its commitments under this proposed deal and goes for a weapon in the open or in secret, we're much more likely to detect is and we'll have much more time to respond under the proposed agreement than would be the case otherwise.
So the constraints and the verification measures in this proposed deal are significant.
Now, of course, Iran's willingness to sign up to something like this is not out of the goodness of the regime's heart. They expect something in return, and that's where the issue of sanctions relief comes in.
So they expect that there will be a reciprocal commitment by the United States and our P5+1 partners to offer meaningful relief from nuclear and proliferation related sanctions.
But, again, let me be clear. Iran must verifiably complete its implementation of nuclear commitments before it receives substantial U.S., E.U., or U.N. sanctions relief. This could happen relatively quickly, but only if Iran acts quickly to meet its commitments.
Even then, many sanctions will be suspended, as Richard talked about in the previous panel, not terminated, and sanctions will only be ended once Iran has restored confidence in the peaceful nature of its program. And throughout there will also be clear procedures in the final deal that allows both unilateral and U.N. sanctions to snap back into place, if Iran cheats.
Taking all of these elements into consideration, the accord outlined in the April 2nd parameters, if finalized, is a good deal. It's a good deal for the United States, and it's a good deal for the world.
And when one considers what a world looks like without this deal, a world in which Iran's break-out timeline rapidly shrinks from its two to three months period already, a world in which its stockpile of enriched uranium grows, a world in which Arak becomes a plutonium factory, and our ability to detect a covert program diminishes, rather than increases, and we get back on the road to a nuclear-armed Iran, a military combination or both, when one compares that world to a world of the deal, the conclusion that this is a good deal becomes incontrovertible in our judgment.
Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped a number of folks from pointedly criticizing the proposed deal. It's worth noting, as many of you in this room know, that more than a year and a half ago, we heard some more skepticism about the JPOA from most of the same folks.
Yet, these criticisms ultimately proved unfounded. And some of the JPOA's biggest critics today argue that it should be indefinitely extended.
They went from describing is as an historic mistake to a great deal.
This track record notwithstanding, the argument against a final deal we are working on must still be taken seriously, and we do take them seriously, because this is deadly serious business.
So in the time that I have left, I thought that I would address some of the major criticisms that we've heard about the proposed agreement head-on.
Some of our critics contend that the administration is so desperate for any nuclear deal with Iran that we're willing to settle for a bad one. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, if we were so desperate for a deal that we were willing to rush to a bad deal, we could have had one in July of last year or November of last year, when the JPOA was originally set to expire.
But instead we decided to extend the JPOA not once, but twice, to keep negotiating to drive towards a deal that met our bottom lines.
So there's simply no empirical reality to the notion that we're desperate for a deal. We could have taken one a year ago.
Now, because of the parameters that have been agreed to, we're close. We're much closer to a comprehensive deal that achieves our bottom line objectives. But we're obviously not across the goal line yet. And let me assure you, if the Iranians backtrack on the parameters or if unresolved issues related to sanctions or inspections are not resolved in ways that ensure Iranian compliance with a comprehensive agreement, there simply won't be a deal. Period.
Other critics reject the deal we are negotiating on the grounds that there is a better deal out there. If we just step back, dial up the sanctions, rattle the saber, make more military threats, and drive the Iranian regime to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure completely and forever.
There's just one problem with this line of argument. It's wishful thinking. We've seen this movie before. And, spoiler alert, it doesn't end well.
In 2005, after a two-year suspension of Iran's nuclear program, the Bush administration refused to accept a final nuclear accord unless it mandated zero enrichment and associated infrastructure. So we've run this play before, the United States has. And what was the result?
Starting in early 2006, Iran went from 164 centrifuges, that's 164 centrifuges, to thousands of centrifuges. The United States because of its position, rather than Iran, was viewed as the intransigent party, which made it very, very difficult in the latter part of the Bush administration, to marshal the type of effective pressure that we've been able to marshal in the last several years against Iran.
And it took the better part of a decade to get the Iranians back into serious negotiations and bring the world with us in those negotiations, and it only happened because President Obama succeeded in 2009 and 2010 in reversing the narrative, making it clear that it was Tehran, not Washington, that was to blame for the diplomatic impasse.
This is what allowed us to ramp up effective pressure and build an international coalition to support our efforts to put meaningful and verifiable constraints on Iran's program.
Moreover, it is not at all clear why today's proponents of a so-called better deal believe that Iran will fold and that they would fold in time before they crossed the nuclear threshold. After all, this is a regime that is mortgaged its domestic legitimacy in the face of withering international sanctions on defending the country's nuclear program as a national right.
And this is the same regime which, two decades ago, during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, was willing to suffer perhaps 1 million casualties and $600 billion of economic damage, and it still took them eight years to agree to a tie.
So why do critics believe that Iran today is likely to completely capitulate just because we want them to, or just because they say they should? Because no bona fide Iran expert inside or outside of the government believes it. None.
There's no reason to think that if we abandon the good deal that we've placed on the table, one that the rest of our P5+1 partners have signed up to as tough but reasonable, if we abandon that in favor of a unilateralist, maximalist approach, that the international community would come with us?
Indeed, running that play, running the play that our critics oppose, pulling back and attempting to unilaterally escalate the pressure would likely backfire, producing less international consensus and thus less net pressure on Iran. That would be the very definition of self-defeating.
Ultimately, if we go on our own, insisting on conditions that neither Iran nor, most importantly, the international community can accept, we're likely to end up with the worst of all worlds, the end of diplomacy, an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program, a shattered international consensus around sanctions and, as a result, a greater likelihood of an Iranian bomb, a military confrontation or both at a time when there's already so much turmoil in the Middle East.
In our view, that's a pretty high price to pay for wishful thinking.
Another criticism one hears focuses on the proposed sunset provisions of the deal. Because some of the constraints in the proposed deal loosen over time, our critics charge, this deal, quote, "paves Iran's path to the bomb 10 or 15 years down the road."
But let's get something absolutely straight. Iran already has a path to the bomb today, and blowing up diplomacy doesn't get you off that path, nor, frankly, would military action, which would delay the program for significantly less time than the duration of the deal we're talking about here.
Additionally, military action would likely incentivize Iran to kick out inspectors and double down on their efforts to build a bomb to deter a future attack. In our view, that is hardly an enduring solution.
Indeed, when one considers what is necessary to block Iran's path to nuclear weapons, no other realistic alternative gets you a decade of a one-year breakout cushion, a generation of insight into their entire nuclear infrastructure and permanent commitments on Arak, the additional protocol and the NPT. No other alternative gets you that.
And if 10, 15 or 20 years from now, Iran violates its NPT obligations and resumes its march towards nuclear weapons, no option available to deal with that threat today will be off the table down the line. In fact, some of these options will be far better, because we'll know a lot more and we'll have a lot more capabilities.
So let me conclude by addressing one final criticism -- and I'm going to linger on this a little bit longer, because it's important -- the concern that the proposed deal would provide Iran with a windfall of cash, enabling the regime in Tehran and the Revolutionary Guard in particular to escalate their destabilizing activities and facilitate their domination of the greater Middle East.
Some critics have even gone so far as to argue that, quote, "a richer Iran is more dangerous than a nuclear-armed Iran." Now, they tell us.
This concern, in all seriousness, should be taken seriously, and we do, but there are several, I think fundamental problems with it. For one thing, it is not at all clear that Iran will spend the majority of its money from sanctions relief on troublesome foreign behavior. Because Iran is in such dire straits economically, Iranian spending in the immediate aftermath of a deal is likely to focus on domestic priorities. That is, at least for some period of time, on butter over guns. As a result, consider this.
As a result of U.S. and international sanctions, the Iranian economy is probably 15 to 20 percent smaller than it would've been otherwise and it will take Iran a long time to dig out from this economic hole, even with substantial nuclear-related sanctions relief.
Our oil sanctions alone have probably deprived Iran of over $160 billion in oil revenues, just since 2012. Because Iran's economy is in such disrepair, the majority of new revenues are expected to be used to address economic needs, including shoring up Iran's budget, building infrastructure, maintaining the stability of the real, and attracting imports.
Indeed, the scale of Iran's domestic investment needs alone is estimated to be at least a half a trillion dollars, which far outstrips the benefits of sanctions relief.
President Rouhani's political imperatives lend additional credence to this assessment. Rouhani was elected on a platform that included economic revitalization, and Iranians are expecting tangible economic benefits from constructive engagement with the international community.
Politically, Rouhani and other Iranian leaders will be under immense pressure to deliver economic improvement once Iran starts receiving sanctions relief.
Of course, despite these objective economic and political imperatives, it is certainly conceivable that the regime could choose instead to devote additional money to support Iranian operations abroad. And the unfortunate reality is that many of these foreign operations are not very expensive, which is why Tehran continues to fund them despite sanctions, and will likely continue to do so whether or not the sanctions are maintained.
Much depends on what type of actor Iran ultimately chooses to be in the region. It is conceivable, although far from inevitable, that a nuclear deal could incentivize Iranian moderation. It is also possible that it won't.
Those of you who follow Iranian politics closely know that there is a major debate among Iran's fractious political elites. Some pragmatic elites seek greater integration with the international community and more normal relations with the world and other regional powers. Other hardliners however clearly aspire to dominate the greater Middle East via militant proxies. There's no doubt about that.
A deal might empower pragmatists by giving them a big win, potentially allowing them to claw back more influence on Iran's foreign policy and push domestic reform. By demonstrating the benefits of constructive engagement with the international community and dealing a blow to those elements within Iran who thrive under a sanctions economy and resistance to the West, it is conceivable that we would see a situation in which Iranian leaders begin to place greater emphasis on growing Iran's economy, re-entering the world community, and lessening Iran's provocations in the region.
But it is also possible, and we have to be mindful of this, that the supreme leader could seek to placate or compensate hardliners in the aftermath of a deal by doubling down on what he calls "resistance."
Because it could go either way, the nuclear deal that we're negotiating is not premised on making a big bet on Iran's future geopolitical orientation. Let me say that again. The nuclear deal that we are negotiating is not premised on the assumption that Iran will change its stripes in the region. It simply is not.
So let's be clear. The potential nuclear deal is not a grand bargain with Iran. We do not see it as such. We are not banking on the regime transforming itself. But we do believe that the deal makes sense regardless of what type of Iran emerges in the aftermath of a deal.
The deal is also not a permission slip for Iran to continue to make trouble in the region, and we are communicating that to them very, very clearly.
If, and it's a big if, if Iran begins to moderate its behavior after a deal, there may be opportunities for further engagement to deescalate regional tensions, but where Tehran persists in destabilizing actions or chooses to escalate them, we will continue to push back against these activities and defend our allies and partners in the region. That is why we will continue to call out Iran's leaders for their detention of American citizens, for their anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic statements, and their human rights violations.
And it's also why, irrespective of a possible nuclear deal, our sanctions targeting a broad array of Iran's non-nuclear activities, including human rights violations and terrorism will remain in full effect and will be vigorously enforced.
It is also important to understand, and this is a -- this is a very critical point. It's important to understand that many of Iran's gains in recent years in the Middle East was more a byproduct of the weaknesses in many regional states where Iran and its proxies operate, rather than a manifestation of Iran's inherent strengths.
So the solution is to build stronger partners and pursue political solutions across the region that help stabilize countries and make them more immune to nefarious influence of all varieties.
That's why in places like Iraq and Lebanon, where Iran attempts to use proxies to exercise undue influence and build these parallel institutions, we will continue our work to strengthen national institutions and militaries to harden them against foreign interference. And in places like Syria and Yemen, we will continue to promote political transitions and inclusive power-sharing arrangements to end the violence and ensure that all parties, not just Iran's proxies, have a say in governance.
Moreover, even as we pursue a nuclear deal, we will expand our already robust cooperation with Israel and other regional partners, including the Gulf states, to push back against Iranian threats. With Israel, our security cooperation is as strong as its ever been, despite obvious policy disagreements, and we are committing and committed to strengthening it further.
Indeed, no president has done more for the security of Israel than President Barack Obama. That's just a fact, and it's not going to change. When I ran the Middle East office at the Pentagon the first three years of the Obama administration, Israel was in my portfolio. I traveled to Israel 13 times. The only country in my portfolio I visited more was Iraq. I went there 16 times because we had more than 100,000 forces there.
But in all the -- of all the 14 other countries that were in my portfolio, no other country received the attention that Israel did. I had more than 100 meetings in my three years with senior Israeli defense and political leaders. So I know how much hard work has been done by this administration from the very outset to make Israel safer.
Our administration has worked with Congress to provide record-setting levels of U.S. security assistance, nearly $1 billion over and above our foreign military financing for -- for the Iron Dome system, to defend Israel against Iranian proxies, whether they be in Gaza or in Southern Lebanon. And we've provided Israel with the F-35 fighter and other state-of-the-art technology to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge against any potential adversary in the region.
Our intelligence cooperation has also become deeper than ever. And all of this, when taken together, and I could list quote after quote after quote after quote from senior Israeli official is unprecedented.
In the Gulf too, we have taken important steps to protect our partners. On any given day, there are 35,000 U.S. forces in the Gulf region, stationed there to deter aggression and defend our partners against it. We're also working to expand the defensive capabilities and collective security potential of our Gulf cooperation council partners by improving their air and missile defenses, their ability to coordinate on maritime security, critical infrastructure protection, and cyber defenses, as well as their counter-terrorism capabilities. That's the purpose of the meeting the president is hosting today with both leaders in Camp David.
Of course, some of our critics want us to go a step further. They believe that we should condition the removal of nuclear sanctions on changes in Iran's destabilizing behavior, including holding a nuclear agreement, not removing any nuclear-related sanctions until Iran ends all of its support for terrorism, militancy, subversion, and calls for Israel's demise.
By the way, we share the desire for Iran to end all of these abhorrent practices, and we will continue to push Iran to alter its behavior in all of these areas. But the nuclear sanctions were put in place to pressure Iran to accept a nuclear deal out of recognition that as destabilizing as Iran's activities are today, a nuclear-armed Iran would be exponentially more dangerous. It would be able to hide behind a shield of a nuclear deterrent to advance its hegemonic ambitions and support for terrorism and militancy across the region with impunity.
And its actions would now carry the risk of sparking crises that could spiral into a regional nuclear conflict: a risk that does not exist today.
So the purpose of these sanctions and this deal is to reduce that risk, not to resolve every problem we have with Iran and every threat and challenge that Tehran may continue to pose. A similar rationale of course drove arms control agreements during the Cold War with the Soviet Union: another regime that engaged in reprehensible people at home and abroad, brutalized its own citizens, sponsored proxies, and threatened our allies.
The United States made repeated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, even as they continued to engage in behavior that was far more threatening to our interests than Iran's activities are today. Why? In order to reduce the nuclear threat and prevent a nuclear war.
As my boss, the vice president, reminded an audience just last month, Kennedy didn't condition the partial test-ban treaty on the Soviets surrendering Cuba first.
Nixon negotiated the SALT treaty without conditioning it on Moscow ending its assistance to North Vietnam.
Regan demanded to Gorbachev, "tear down that wall," but he didn't condition nuclear talks at Reykjavik on the Soviets tearing down the Berlin Wall first.
And throughout this entire period, we never demanded that Moscow recognize the legitimacy of global capitalism, or stop its support for communist regimes and insurgents in Africa, Central America, and elsewhere as a precondition to step back from the brink of armageddon.
These presidents pursued these arms control agreements with the Soviets because nuclear weapons pose an existential danger that must be dealt with, and refusing to do so, unless all of our other concerns are met, would leave us far more vulnerable to the threat of nuclear proliferation and devastating conflict. We didn't do it during the Cold War. We shouldn't apply that standard -- a different standard today.
Moreover, there's simply no reason to believe that conditioning sanctions relief on Iran fundamentally changing its behavior throughout the region would work. Insisting on this highly ideological regime in Tehran ending all of its objectionable behavior in the region is tantamount to insisting on regime change as a condition for a nuclear deal.
It won't work because the regime won't accept it, and even more importantly, the world would not back this play, meaning it would leave us, not Iran, more isolated, and it would leave Iran freer, not more constrained, to cause mischief.
Last but not least, we can be just as confident that maintaining the current nuclear-related sanctions or attempting to escalate them in the absence of international consensus around that escalation won't be sufficient to solve the problem of Iran's nefarious activities either, since Iran has already proven both willing and able to engage in these activities, despite the sanctions.
Ultimately, it is geopolitical constraints, not financial ones, which will limit greater Iranian activity in the region. That is why a strategy that simultaneously pursues a nuclear deal and takes steps to support our allies and counter Iran's destabilizing actions makes more sense than rejecting this deal as our critics would have us do, in the fanciful hope of driving the Iranian regime and its proxies out of business.
So, despite all the criticisms leveled against a potential deal with Iran, it is clear that the deal we are pursuing advances core American interests. Is the deal we are negotiating perfect? It is not. Will it solve every problem in the Middle East? It most certainly will not.
But if completed, it represents the best available option to address the looming threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, and in the process would make the United States, our regional allies, and the world a safer place.
So thanks for your patience, and I look forward to your questions.
KIMBALL: Well, thank you very much Colin. Oftentimes one invites an administration official to give a talk about a serious topic, and it's not as substantive as you'd like, but that was a very meaty and serious and thorough presentation, so thank you.
So we have -- we've got time for several questions, and I want to give the reporters in the room a first crack at -- at Colin. So, I see a hand over here from -- from Barbara, who has strategically positioned herself closer to the moderator. So -- and then we'll come up here for another question up front, after Barbara.
Thanks, Colin. Thanks for your spirited defense of the agreement.
We see reports all the time that the Iranians are continuing to try to procure various elements for centrifuges, other nuclear parts. How are you going to define material breach in the comprehensive agreement? How are we going to know what is going to trigger this -- this attempt at least to snap back some of the sanctions, and what is -- is a relatively minor concern? Will it be precisely defined?
KAHL: Yeah, I mean I don't want to judge how it will be defined. I think that clearly what's allowed under the agreement and what's not allowed will be clearly defined. The degree to which, you know, a particular -- a particular action is defined as a material breach, I just -- I don't know that yet. I don't know the answer to that question.
But it is -- it is something that we're going to have to come to closure on in the next -- in the next six weeks. I will tell on the specific issue of procurement, a major piece of this agreement of course will be to establish a procurement channel, so that any sensitive nuclear-related technologies or associated dual-use technologies will have to be purchased through this internationally-monitored channel.
Anything that's purchased outside that channel, by definition, will be illicit. So, I think that's actually quite an important part of the transparency and verification mechanisms that we're going to put in place.
KIMBALL: All right. We'll take this question here, if you could identify yourself, please.
QUESTION: Hi, Jessica Schulberg from the Huffington Post.
Thanks for coming out -- very compelling. Could you speak a little bit about the process by which the IAEA would grant -- gain access to certain sites? There's been a lot of talk within Iran about military sites being off limits, and then we hear different things regarding the additional protocol.
KAHL: Yeah, so, I mean under the additional protocol, the IAEA can request access to any site in the country that they suspect there's illicit nuclear-related activity going on. So, that means any site is open for them to request.
Now, Iran could deny that request. If they deny that request, they would have to be able to provide to the IAEA information to settle the dispute, in the absence of getting physical access. If they can't do that and they still deny access, then there will likely be an adjudication mechanism under the agreement. They will have a finite period of time to come to closure.
And if Iran is basically required under that procedure to provide access and they do not -- they still do not provide access, then it's a violation of the agreement. And any of the enforcement measures snap back, or other measures will kick in at that -- at that stage.
So under the additional protocol, there are no places that are off limits. Obviously, the IAEA would have to make the case that they need access to it for, you know, to -- to verify compliance with the -- with the agreement, but there aren't going to be off-limit places.
KIMBALL: All right. We're going to go to the back. I see Eli here. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thanks a lot.
If crippling sanctions didn't deter Iran from continuing to build centrifuges, why do you think that snap-back sanctions will deter them from cheating on the agreement?
KAHL: I think that -- look, I think the deterrent is more comprehensive, frankly, than snap-back. I think that the -- signing onto the agreement to begin with represents a strategic decision, a calculation by the regime that a world of the agreement in which they accept meaningful constraints on their program is better than a world in which they are isolated, pressured, and under threat.
And to the degree that violating the agreement puts them back into a world in which they are isolated, under pressure and potentially under threat, that alternative would be worse.
So I mean, I guess -- I guess you should direct that question to Iranian officials and ask them that. I think it is our judgment that sanctions have had a meaningful effect in driving Iran to the table. It's nonlinear, as you note, Eli, because of course we had gradually escalating sanctions from 2006 through 2010 and then a significant increase in sanctions from 2010 onwards, if you kind of put the -- put the -- plant the flag at the U.N. Security Council resolution 1929 in June of 2010.
And then obviously, the NDAA and CISADA and other steps that the Congress took, as well as the E.U. oil embargo and et cetera. You had a substantial ramping up of pressure.
I think it's our assessment that it was the combination of that pressure and, frankly, some leadership changes in Iran as a consequence of their 2013 presidential elections. Those two things coming together affected Iran's calculus and their determination to -- to strike a deal.
Now, we'll see -- by the way, it's not clear it will happen. I think the chances are decent and improving, but not inevitable. If Iran strikes this deal, it's basically then coming to the realization that a world with a deal is better than a world without a deal where the pressure will be increasing.
I think, you know, Richard's point in the previous panel is an important one, too.
I think a, you know, what -- if they violate the deal, it would be a major strategic decision as well, and it would put them at enormous risk: enormous risk of unraveling all the progress they would make in unwinding the sanctions and frankly, it would spark an international crisis that could put -- put folks on a path to a military confrontation, which the regime likely wants to avoid as well.
KIMBALL: All right. I think there was another question in the back. Shervin, right there.
Tom Collina of Ploughshares Fund.
Colin, thank you very much, and Daryl, thank you very much as well.
Colin, a question about timing. Assuming the Corker Bill becomes law, as it looks like it will be, but how will that impact the administration's timing and timeliness of suspending sanctions?
And as part of that question, do you expect the Iranian regime to, if you will, kind of pre-implement the deal in order to accelerate the time-frame where sanctions can be lifted? Thank you.
KAHL: You know, under the terms of the Corker legislation, if something nearly identical passes in the House, there's about a 30 day review period, and it could be extended under certain circumstances for a period of time.
So, I think the answer is that the -- that the entire deal would probably be delayed in implementation until the review period is -- is over. So, it would delay. It could delay Iran taking meaningful steps in the first 30 days, and obviously, because of the nature of the law, it doesn't allow any statutory sanctions to be waived, that is suspension of U.S. unilateral sanctions during that period.
So, I think the delay is kind of baked into the review period. Of course, Congress may not take the entire review period. They may look at it for a shorter period of time and pass their judgment, and then we would go from there.
Whether Iran will pre-implement, I think again, a question probably better directed towards Iranian officials than me. If they started to take steps tomorrow to remove the calandria from Arak and dismantle centrifuges and do other things, I'm not sure why that would be a bad thing. I don't see any indication that they're doing -- doing that yet. And under the terms of the deal we're negotiating, they don't get major sanctions relief until they've taken the major steps associated with dialing back their -- their nuclear program.
So, you know, obviously the sooner they do that, the sooner relief might kick in, and if they calculate from that that it serves their interest to start taking steps to roll back their program earlier rather than later, I'm not sure why that would be a bad thing, but I haven't seen any signs they've done that yet.
KIMBALL: All right. And before we just take the next question, let me just ask you Colin, while we have a chance, if you could just describe in general how the talks are proceeding, what the schedule is, who is meeting between now and 30th, how -- how were the remaining details of the JCPOA based upon Lausanne framework being put together?
KAHL: Yeah, I mean, we've had a number of expert-level meetings and political -- now political director level meetings. Much of the discussion, at least out of the outset, and this has all been reported in the press, focused on sanctions and the -- and the timing and phasing of -- of sanctions.
But we continue to have conversations with them on other technical issues related to the annexes, on enrichment capacity, you know, research and development and other things.
We don't have a firm timeline. That is when Wendy and her team, you know, will meet on the calendar, and when Secretary Kerry and Zarif will get back together at the -- at the ministerial level with the rest of the P5+1. I think at the moment, we're trying to make as much progress as we can at the expert level in almost constant conversation with -- with the Wendy Sherman level, the political director level, you know, meeting every couple weeks. And then as we get closer to crunch time, I expect that the ministers will lock themselves up in a hotel room somewhere in Switzerland or somewhere else, and hammer out the remaining details.
KIMBALL: All right. All right, a couple other questions here, into the middle, please. Mr. Levine, and then we'll come over here to the left.
QUESTION: Colin, thank you for a splendid presentation. Nothing to object to at all, but I...
KAHL: Could you tell my wife that?
KAHL: Just in general.
QUESTION: Yes, yes.
But I do think that at the very technical level, there will still be people raising questions that you have not quite addressed.
One would be what to do about the problem when conversion or down-blending of uranium is not easily achieved, and how reversible it might be.
A second would be, does the additional protocol really apply to a case in which Iran is -- is suspected of nuclear weapons activity that does not involve nuclear material, but rather involves something like explosive testing.
And thirdly, will the PMD issue be specifically tied to sanctions relief? Or will it be sort of a floating obligation in the agreement?
KAHL: Yeah. I'll handle those in reverse order. The -- the -- on the PMD issue, the answer is yes, it will be tied to specific sanctions relief. It will not be something that's just floating that out in the ether. And Iran will have to come to a resolution on the key issues associated with -- with the PMD investigation with the IAEA before they get the major tranche of sanctions relief.
KIMBALL: That's made clear in the Lausanne framework.
KAHL: It's -- and it's -- and it's actually -- by the way, from a timing perspective, this is just a question of political will on Iran's case, right? They can -- they can provide access to people, places and things relatively quickly.
It may not mean that the IAEA finishes its investigation in that time period, but Iran has to give the IAEA the access required within that time period to get the major tranche of sanctions relief. And, as Daryl mentioned, that's spelled out, or alluded to in the parameters of April 2nd.
Does the A.P. apply to -- I mean, in essence, you're asking would the additional protocol, as we're understanding it, apply to a Parchin-like situation in the future? And the short answer is, yes, in our -- in our understanding of what would be allowed. If there was -- because the agreement will also rule out of bounds certain weaponization-related activities. So in the Parchin case, where the IAEA alleges, or suspects that there was explosive -- conventional explosive testing related to the possible experimentation surrounding an implosion warhead, those types of activities would be verboten under the type of agreement we're talking about. And our interpretation of the additional protocol, at least as far as I understand it, would allow the IAEA to get access in a future Parchin-like scenario.
As it results -- as it relates to down-blending -- look, currently, you know, the 10,000 -- how do you get from 10,000 kilograms, roughly, of LEU at 3.67 percent in various forms, although mostly gas, as you -- as you know, down to a working stock of 300 kilograms? The answer is dilution, not -- we're not -- we're not looking at oxidation, which I think raises the issue.
You know, under the -- under the Joint Plan of Action, they dealt with the 20 percent stockpiles through a combination of dilution and oxidation. And some critics raised the problem of could you, you know, oxidation can be reversed, so you turn the powder back into gas.
Now, one of the ways the JPOA addressed that of course is that they didn't have the piping or the technology to do that, and any -- and setting that up in and of itself is a violation of the JPOA, and there's no evidence that they did that.
But under this, I mean, going down to 300 kilograms, we're not talking about putting the other 98 percent of material on the powder. It's going to have to be diluted.
What happens to that material is obviously part of the negotiation. There are various mechanisms. Does it get shipped out of the country? Does it get sold on the open market for reactor fuel? You know, is it diluted and stored in the -- in the country? I think there are different ways you could get at that, but we have to be confident that they don't have a working stock above 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium.
I'm wondering, as we have six weeks left, what personally is most boring (ph) to you, or what impediments do you see for the -- to get to a deal in the next six weeks?
And another way of phrasing this is, if we do not get to a deal in six weeks, what do you think are the most likely factors that would have caused that, and what are the implications moving forward?
KAHL: Well look, I think getting a deal is going to take political will on all parties. I think the parameters establish a great foundation, and also frankly a degree of momentum: not inevitability, but a degree of momentum.
My sense is that Iranian leaders, you know, if you -- you see the way in which the Iranian negotiating team was welcomed back home by -- by a lot of the Iranian public, I think there's a real sense of pent up expectations in the Iranian populace for their leaders to deliver on a deal. I imagine, you know, there's real politics in Iran. I imagine that puts some pressure on them to get across the goal line.
Obviously, they have issues that they're going to insist upon. We have issues that we're going to insist upon. And I -- and I -- you know, I foreshadowed a number of the areas where we're going to, you know, take a pretty hard line, and that things like we're not going to give a bunch of up front sanctions relief in the absence of -- significant implementation of -- on the Iranian side in terms of their commitments under the agreement.
There's not a something for nothing principle associated with this. That's clear in the parameters that we released, and we're going to stick to that.
There are also these issues obviously as it relates to sensitive site access, and the -- the clarifying the writ of the IAEA as it relates to inspecting, you know, potentially clandestine activities somewhere. And so we're -- and we're going to be pretty hard on that as well. I'm sure there will be conversations on research and development and other topics that are -- that are controversial, which is a reason -- which is the reason why a deal at this point is not inevitable. I think it is more likely than had you asked me six months ago, but you know, more likely doesn't mean it's a done deal. Things could still come off the rails.
I think the good -- the good news is is that I think we have a fair amount of P5+1 consensus. Well, first of all, we have total consensus around the parameters, and we have a -- and I think we have a good amount of consensus around those issues where there's controversy, and that's important, because being able to bring the rest of the P5+1 with us is important as we get -- as we get down to the wire.
Let me say one other thing on -- on sensitive site access too. I think that there's been a lot of focus on -- one one particular part of the verification regime, and that is sensitive site access. I think it's useful, which is important, and critically important, but I think it's useful to think about this -- this whole thing holistically. A lot of people presume that all it takes for Iran to develop a clandestine nuclear weapon is to, you know, dig another hole in the ground like they did with Fordow, and fill it with stuff, and suddenly they have a nuclear weapon the next day.
That's actually not the case. They have to dig the hole and not get caught. They have to have a source of uranium and not get caught. They have to turn that uranium into, in the first instance, yellow cake, and then convert it into hexafluoride gas. They have to have a source of centrifuge components, construct those components, and then be able to deliver those to the facility. And they have to put it all together without getting caught.
And the -- the thing that's I think quite promising about the parameters on this deal is that we have visibility across that entire chain.
Right? For a generation, we will have access that beyond anything the IAEA's had in Iran before, to the uranium mines and mills, as well as their centrifuge production, storage, and assembly facilities, and the -- and then you pile on top of that the ability to go to access locations where the IAEA suspects illicit material.
And so if you're Iran and you're calculating how likely it is that you can get away with a secret program, you're a lot more likely to calculate that you can get away with it today or in a world without a deal than you are in a world with the deal.
And I just don't know any other option that gets you nearly as much confidence that you would detect a secret program as the deal that's on the table. There's no other, I mean, in the absence of, you know, invading and occupying the country, it's hard to imagine a -- a -- a realistic, negotiated inspections and verification system that would be more likely to detect an Iranian sneak op than the one that we're talking about.
KIMBALL: Yeah, that's a great point about the layered approach to verification. I mean, there have been several questions here about the additional protocol. It is more than just the additional protocol, it's important to remember.
All right, we've got time for one or two more questions before we -- we wrap up. And I want to keep moving around the room, and I want to go all the way to the back to the person in the white. Identify yourself.
QUESTION: Thank you. Evandra Bernstein (ph), Sputnik International News.
So, it looks like the House is going to pass the Iran Nuclear Agreement Act. Things could happen. But I spoke with Senator Menendez after the Senate passed it. He said that Congressional review would strengthen the U.S. negotiating hand rather than weaken it.
I'd like to get your thoughts on that and -- and also why once again, just why the administration changed its position on accepting the congressional review.
KAHL: You know, I think -- I guess -- I guess we could -- you know, I think there are compelling arguments cutting in different directions about whether review itself intrinsically gives the negotiators more -- more leverage in the negotiations. I mean, clearly the fact that Congress is skeptical, irrespective of the Corker Legislation, you know, means that the Iranians are under no illusion that this is an easy thing for us to do politically.
They understand that the deal has to be tough and that we have to be able to defend it, or we won't be able to sustain it in our own political system, and in the absence of doing that, it's difficult for us to have a deal and for them to get the sanctions relief they -- they want.
Now, whether you needed the Corker legislation to communicate that to the Iranians or not, I guess you could -- we, you know, there could be a debate about that.
I think that the administration is satisfied that the legislation as currently written, as it came out of the Senate, you know, provides a useful structure for Congress to weigh in on the deal, a predictable structure for doing -- for doing that, and hopefully if -- if the House passes something, it -- it tracks what the Senate -- what the Senate passes, because -- and the president has said he'd be willing to sign it at that point.
Why did we change our position on the Corker bill? It's a long -- it's a long story, but the short of it is that there were certain things in the original legislation that were extraordinarily problematic for us.
There were -- there were elements of the bill that -- that on a plain reading, made it sound like it gave Congress an up or down vote on the deal itself, which our lawyers and the president himself had enormous concerns about from a precedent standpoint, since executive agreements and political understandings along the lines of this deal have been negotiated hundreds and hundreds of time without Congress weighing in, to include all of the status of forces agreements that we have protecting our troops all over the world, so pretty important national security issues, and there is not a -- a precedent for Congress weighing in on that.
And I think there's concern that Congress setting the precedent of weighing in on every executive agreement in the national security space could be quite problematic for the conduct of foreign policy, not just by this president, but by any president, Republican or Democratic.
So, it was useful when Senator Cardin and others got behind clarifying language, that what Congress is ultimately voting on is to approve or disapprove the ability of the president to use statutory authority to waive sanctions, which of course these are congressionally imposed sanctions, and it is within -- clearly within Congress's authority to weigh in on that.
And we've always said from the beginning that Congress had a role to play in this inevitably, because sanctions will never be terminated down the line unless Congress terminates them, because they're not in the power of the executive to do it.
So, I think once the legislation clarified that this was not an up or down vote on the deal, but an up or down vote on the sanctions portion of it, that helped. There were also some problematic certification requirements associated with the deal, especially on terrorism, that are extraordinarily important in terms of the behavior that we're worried about on the Iranian side of things, but are extraneous to the nuclear issue per se, and would set up a circumstance in which the worst actors in Iran could engage in the worst activities around the world and do it to sabotage the deal, which doesn't strike me as something we want to encourage.
So, we took a pretty hard line on certification requirements, and that is certification for snapback, or imposition of additional sanctions, but those had to be tied actually to nuclear-related activities as covered by the deal, as opposed to being extraneous from the deal.
And so when that provision was modified and in addition to what I said previously, we became more comfortable with -- with the legislation.
KIMBALL: All right. Before we go to the last question, I wanted to ask you a question, Colin, that relates to today's GCC summit at Camp David and to the New York Times article that appeared this morning. David Sanger wrote, quoting an unnamed leader or official from one of the states that is represented at the meeting, to the effect that we will match Iran's enrichment capacity step for step, et cetera.
Now, I mean, our answer at the Arms Control Association would be that it's clearly not in Saudi Arabia's interests or anyone else's interests to reject a deal that limits Iran's capacity and then to get into a centrifuge race. But could you just give us a sense of what, if this is actually being communicated at -- at Camp David today, what you would anticipate the response from President Obama and others at the meeting might be to that sort of comment?
KAHL: Yeah, it's a kind of strange argument.
Let's keep in mind, Iran's nuclear program started under the shah in the 1950s. And Iran's enrichment program started in earnest in the mid to late 1980s when they started to acquire technology from the A.Q. Khan network. So, the fact of Iranian -- of Iran's nuclear infrastructure and their enrichment program is not a new fact. Right? It has been a reality in this part of the world for, do the math, 60 years.
And so here's the weird part about the logic. Their program's capacity, including their enrichment capacity, is here. In the absence of a deal, it'll go to here. With the deal, it'll go to here. And yet somehow this, compared to this right as now, or this, where it'll be in a couple years, has a higher potential for the Saudis and others acquiring nuclear capabilities that would tee them up for nuclear weapons.
How does that make sense? How is that world worse on net than a world in which their capacity is heightened, as we'd describe today, or in the future, in the absence of a deal? It makes absolutely no sense.
Now, it is true that countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE and others have nascent nuclear programs at various levels, and the Gulf countries at various times have talked about consortiums and cooperating on nuclear energy, and we think that there's a role for nuclear energy in that part of the world. We have a so-called one, two, three agreement with the UAE, which facilitates nuclear cooperation. We don't think that there's any need for these countries to pursue domestic enrichment, neither for the domestic economic reasons, because it doesn't make much sense to produce this indigently, nor for the security reasons, since these countries already sit comfortably under a quite robust security assurance from the United States, so it's not clear why pursuing these capabilities would make them any safer than they would otherwise be.
And a major topic, obviously, of the GCC summit up in Camp David today is clarifying a couple of things to the leadership of the GCC. One is actually describing what's in the deal and what's not in the deal. Because there's at least as many myths among our partners and allies in that part of the world about what was actually negotiated as there are here in the halls of Washington.
And I think when Secretary Kerry met with his foreign ministerial counterparts from the GCC last week in Paris, he was able to really go into great detail on the nature of the deal, and found that a lot of them came away much more reassured, simply by having the facts about what's in and what's out and realizing that this deal, relative to either the status quo or the future in the absence of this deal, puts substantially more constraints on Iran's program than there would be otherwise, and therefore addresses the motivation that has been bandied about in the New York Times and in other places.
And then the second component that's talked about -- that's going to be talked about up in Camp David, of course, is clarifying our overall security assurance to the Gulf states. Again, this is nothing new. I mean, you go back to Eisenhower, Nixon, and Carter, it's been a mainstay of American foreign policy since the beginning of the Cold War to make it clear that any external attack on our partners in the Gulf region is an attack on the vital interests of the United States, and that we reserve all means to respond to that attack in consultation and joint action with our partners.
And the president will make that clear today in the joint -- in the joint statement. I mean, I should say, he made it pretty clear at the 2013 U.N. General Assembly speech that he gave, where he made it clear that we would use all instruments of national power, including unilateral military action, if necessary to defend our partners in that part of the world against external aggression.
So, there's that.
The last point I would make is it's not clear to me why other countries looking at the totality of the Iran package would say, "you know what, I want to do that."
You know, suffer decades of crippling sanctions, and at the end of the day, roll back a program you've invested a lot of money in and provide more intrusive inspections. I'm not sure that the average country looking at that suite of options, saying "that looks like a great path forward."
Right, so, it's hard in the totality of history to judge Iran as coming out a winner in this equation, and I think when countries recognize that there are better ways to achieve their economic and security interests than going down the pathway that Iran took, that we should be able to persuade them otherwise.
KIMBALL: All right, I actually think that's a very good point to end on. We're over time.
Please join me in thanking Colin Kahl for being here.
And for the hard work that you've done and the hard work that's ahead, this won't be the last time that we go over thoroughly the P5+1 and Iran talks. And we're moving towards the conclusion of our session today, and I want to thank everybody here who has stuck with us through this detailed and rich discussion on various subjects.
I want to thank my hard-working staff, Greg Thielmann, Kelsey Davenport, our non-proliferation policy director, for their moderation work. Tim Farnsworth, our communications direction, Shervin Taheran for her work pulling all this together, and thanks to all of you for your support and for being here.
We will have a transcript of all of this, believe it or not, thanks to Federal News Service, online soon with the priority on Colin Kahl's remarks this afternoon.
So, thanks a lot for being here, and we are adjourned.