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"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Issue Briefs

Getting Real About Nuclear Disarmament

For nearly 40 years, American presidents have expressed their intention to fulfill the U.S. obligation under the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue “effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

Still, few presidents have taken that goal seriously, and those who did missed historic opportunities to move closer toward a nuclear weapons-free world. Beginning with the next U.S. president, that can and must change, or else the global effort to reduce the risk of nuclear war, curb proliferation, and prevent catastrophic terrorism will falter. (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

For nearly 40 years, American presidents have expressed their intention to fulfill the U.S. obligation under the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue “effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

Still, few presidents have taken that goal seriously, and those who did missed historic opportunities to move closer toward a nuclear weapons-free world. Beginning with the next U.S. president, that can and must change, or else the global effort to reduce the risk of nuclear war, curb proliferation, and prevent catastrophic terrorism will falter.

As George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and more than two dozen other former Republican and Democratic government officials have written in essays in The Wall Street Journal, we are approaching “a nuclear tipping point.”

If Washington is not serious about disarmament, states in the non-nuclear-weapon majority will continue to resist new measures to restrict the spread of bomb-making technologies, improve verification, and enforce NPT compliance. This is a chief reason why Shultz et al. have called on the United States to reaffirm the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and pursue immediate steps toward that end.

Each of the three remaining presidential candidates have expressed rhetorical support for renewed U.S. action on disarmament. To reestablish U.S. legitimacy on nonproliferation, the next president must translate words into dramatic and meaningful action in three key areas.

First, the next president must pursue dramatic and irreversible reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, which together total more than 10,000 warheads. The White House and the Kremlin have not been able to agree on follow-on measures to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and verification provisions, which are due to expire in December 2009. This is due in large part to President George W. Bush’s resistance to Russian proposals to reduce deployed strategic nuclear forces below 1,700-2,200 warheads. To “hedge” against unforeseen and unspecified dangers, Bush also opposes treaty-mandated missile reductions and seeks to build new warheads and bolster the U.S. weapons production complex.

Yet, with the end of the Cold War, there is no plausible reason for the U.S. and Russian leaders to maintain thousands of strategic nuclear weapons on high alert. Besides the United States and Russia, no state possesses more than 400 nuclear warheads. Massive arsenals capable of annihilating entire nations within an hour are more of a liability than an asset because they breed mistrust and worst-case assumptions among other states and perpetuate the risk of accidental or unauthorized launch.

New thinking can and should lead to a new treaty that results in dramatically deeper reductions of all types of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads­to 1,000 or less­and lower ceilings on the strategic missiles. With streamlined START-style verification, the agreement could restore confidence that each country will actually dismantle, not simply warehouse, warheads and missiles. To avoid missteps, each state also can move to increase the time necessary to launch nuclear strikes.

Second, as Shultz and others suggest, the next president must lead a new, bipartisan effort to reconsider and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) at an early date, which is considered to be a litmus test of the commitment of nuclear-weapon states to disarmament. Convincing the Senate of the nonproliferation value and verifiability of the treaty, as well as the ability of the United States to maintain its existing stockpile under a permanent CTBT, is difficult but possible.

Unfortunately, some have offered unnecessary compromise measures that would undermine the purpose of the test ban. Former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, former CIA Director John Deutch, and others have suggested adopting Bush’s costly plan for new, so-called “reliable” replacement warheads to buy support from CTBT skeptics.

Such proposals are politically risky and shortsighted. Not only is the U.S. capability to maintain its existing stockpile more than adequate, but the production of a new generation of warheads could lead to calls to test the new designs and would undermine the chief value of the CTBT to disarmament and the NPT: ending new warhead development. If pursued, other states would see the United States as circumventing the CTBT and conclude it is of little benefit.

Third, the next president must also reassess and radically reduce the role of nuclear weapons. Today, there is no conceivable circumstance that justifies the use of U.S. nuclear weapons to fight a non-nuclear adversary. Policies that assert a war-fighting role for nuclear weapons only deepen the risk of proliferation. The next president should declare that the United States will not use nuclear weapons first or against states that do not possess such arms.

Not surprisingly, the cynics and supporters of the nuclear status quo believe action toward a nuclear weapons-free world is an exercise in wishful thinking. The real fantasy, however, is to expect nuclear restraint and greater commitment to nonproliferation from other states in the absence of bold U.S. action on disarmament.

Contradictions Still Plague U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal

Two and a half years after President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced their proposed U.S.-Indian civil nuclear cooperation deal, the ill-conceived arrangement faces a highly uncertain future. In the next few weeks, decisions will likely be made at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that will determine whether the deal occurs at all and, if so, at what cost to the global nuclear nonproliferation system.

As soon as this month, the IAEA Board of Governors may be convened to consider a new India-specific safeguards agreement. If approved, the 44 other members of the NSG might then act on a U.S. proposal to exempt India from long-standing guidelines that require comprehensive IAEA safeguards as a condition of nuclear supply. If these bodies agree, the United States and other suppliers could finalize bilateral nuclear trade deals with India. (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

Two and a half years after President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced their proposed U.S.-Indian civil nuclear cooperation deal, the ill-conceived arrangement faces a highly uncertain future. In the next few weeks, decisions will likely be made at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that will determine whether the deal occurs at all and, if so, at what cost to the global nuclear nonproliferation system.

As soon as this month, the IAEA Board of Governors may be convened to consider a new India-specific safeguards agreement. If approved, the 44 other members of the NSG might then act on a U.S. proposal to exempt India from long-standing guidelines that require comprehensive IAEA safeguards as a condition of nuclear supply. If these bodies agree, the United States and other suppliers could finalize bilateral nuclear trade deals with India.

Although many states are willing to bend some rules to help India buy new reactors and the additional fuel needed to run them, there is growing resistance to forms of nuclear trade that could indirectly enable India’s nuclear weapons program or that would allow continued nuclear trade if India breaks its pledge not to resume nuclear test explosions. There is good reason for such concern because India violated past agreements on peaceful nuclear cooperation when it tested its first nuclear device in 1974 and has refused to allow comprehensive IAEA safeguards.

Contrary to claims of its proponents, the deal does not bring India into the nonproliferation mainstream. In fact, given India’s refusal to join the five original nuclear-weapon states in halting the production of fissile material for weapons, foreign supplies of nuclear fuel could free up New Delhi’s existing (and limited) uranium stockpile and increase its capacity to produce more nuclear bomb material. Unlike 177 other states, India has not yet signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Meanwhile, Indian officials are highly sensitive to concerns that the deal could affect its nuclear weapons program. To preserve India’s military options, the Singh government has bargained hard for unprecedented fuel supply assurances and unspecified “corrective measures” in the new safeguards agreement to offset disruptions that might occur if India resumes testing.

Indian leaders are also demanding terms of trade with other nuclear suppliers that sidestep the minimal but vital nonproliferation conditions and restrictions established by Congress in 2006 implementing legislation. The law, known as the Hyde Act, would require the termination of U.S. nuclear trade if New Delhi resumes nuclear testing or violates its safeguards commitments.

To improve its fuel production and spent fuel reprocessing capabilities, the Singh government has fought tooth and nail to secure access to uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies. The Hyde Act effectively bars the transfer of these sensitive nuclear technologies, which India could potentially use to enhance its military nuclear program.

Yet, India is demanding an NSG exemption without any of these and other conditions or restrictions. To date, the Bush administration has carried India’s water. The current U.S. draft proposal calls for a “clean” exemption, and the bilateral U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement contradicts the Hyde Act in several areas.

But at a hearing Feb. 13, the new chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), challenged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on this approach, noting that would give other nuclear suppliers, such as France and Russia, a commercial advantage and undermine U.S. nonproliferation objectives. Rice told Berman that the United States would pursue India-specific nuclear trade guidelines that are “completely consistent” with the Hyde Act.

Days later, India’s special envoy, Shyam Saran, contradicted Rice, saying that “it is our expectation that there would be a fairly simple and clean exemption from these guidelines, without any conditions or even expectations regarding India’s conduct in the future.” He asserted that India has “no problem with permanent safeguards provided there are permanent supplies of fuel.”

Saran noted that, in the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement, the Bush administration pledged to help India amass a strategic fuel reserve and provide fuel supplies for the lifetime of its safeguarded reactors. Yet, at the urging of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the Hyde Act stipulates that fuel supplies should only be “commensurate with reasonable reactor requirements.”

Now is the time for Congress and responsible members of the NSG to hold the Bush administration to Rice’s pledge to support international guidelines for trade with India that, at the very least, incorporate the minimal requirements mandated by U.S. law. If India’s leaders cannot even abide by these minimal standards and decide to reject the deal, that is their choice. Additional concessions to India will only further compromise the already beleaguered global nonproliferation system.

Transforming U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy

Effecting change in Washington, and nuclear weapons policy in particular, is exceedingly difficult, requiring strong presidential leadership and a working bipartisan majority. Yet, recent congressional actions and trends will give the next occupant of the White House a rare opportunity to initiate sweeping changes in outdated U.S. nuclear weapons and arms control policies.

Congress in December struck down the Bush administration’s ill-conceived plan for new “replacement” nuclear warheads and an additional plutonium pit production facility to help build them. Although President George W. Bush may try to revive these projects and insist that the nuclear arsenal is as small as possible, there is growing support and a strong security rationale for fewer, not newer, nuclear weapons. (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

Effecting change in Washington, and nuclear weapons policy in particular, is exceedingly difficult, requiring strong presidential leadership and a working bipartisan majority. Yet, recent congressional actions and trends will give the next occupant of the White House a rare opportunity to initiate sweeping changes in outdated U.S. nuclear weapons and arms control policies.

Congress in December struck down the Bush administration’s ill-conceived plan for new “replacement” nuclear warheads and an additional plutonium pit production facility to help build them. Although President George W. Bush may try to revive these projects and insist that the nuclear arsenal is as small as possible, there is growing support and a strong security rationale for fewer, not newer, nuclear weapons.

Rejecting administration arguments for new replacement warheads, appropriators led by Reps. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio), Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), and others denied the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) $89 million request for the program. In a July 2007 paper, the administration claimed the delays in the replacement warhead program would “raise the prospect of having to return to underground nuclear testing to certify existing weapons.”

In an August letter, Visclosky and Hobson shot back, saying “[i]t is irresponsible for the administration to make such an assertion.” They correctly noted that that “there is no record of congressional testimony or reports sent to Congress by the Administration claiming…that a resumption of testing to verify the performance of warheads would be a necessity.” Indeed, the latest studies on warhead aging show that weapons plutonium lasts for 80 or more years without significant degradation.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino acknowledged he was “concerned…about some misunderstandings…about our views on the possible need for nuclear testing.” In a December letter to Congress, he wrote, “Let there be no doubt: today’s nuclear stockpile is safe and reliable and has not required post-deployment nuclear testing to date, nor is nuclear testing currently anticipated or planned.”

Bottom line: The existing Stockpile Stewardship Program works. Through regular surveillance and periodic upgrades of the conventional explosives and non-nuclear components, the weapons labs can reliably maintain a smaller U.S. arsenal under the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which should be reconsidered by the Senate and ratified in the next presidential administration.

Reflecting bipartisan frustration with Bush’s nuclear policies, Congress also mandated a top-to-bottom review of the role and size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal by the end of 2009. This represents an opportunity that the next president must not squander.

Previous Bush and Clinton administration nuclear posture reviews fell woefully short. Each version only slightly modified previous Cold War targeting plans and policies. As a result, the number of deployed nuclear weapons were trimmed, but the force is still enormous. The 1994 nuclear posture review endorsed a force reduction from 3,500 deployed strategic warheads to 2,500. Bush’s 2001 review called for a force of 1,700-2,200 such warheads by 2012.

Breaking with past policy, the Bush administration also embraced the idea that the U.S. arsenal should not be governed by any new treaty-mandated timetables and verification arrangements. The emphasis on flexibility has lessened predictability and increased Russia’s sense of vulnerability, adding to U.S.-Russian friction on a range of arms-related issues.

Washington’s reluctance to pursue deeper reductions, definitively end new warhead production, and ratify the CTBT has also eroded confidence that the nuclear-weapon states intend to fulfill their nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments to take concrete steps toward disarmament. This has complicated efforts to repair the beleaguered nonproliferation system.

These policies can and must change. The current U.S. nuclear posture does not match the post-September 11 threat environment in which nuclear weapons are a greater security liability than an asset. The next administration must recognize that there is no plausible threat scenario that justifies the possession of more than a few hundred nuclear warheads, let alone 2,200. New nuclear weapons are unnecessary and provocative. The United States should not be threatening terrorists or non-nuclear-weapon states with nuclear weapons, but rather should be doing all it can to keep nuclear weapons material and technology out of their hands.

Early on, the next president must begin work with Russia to negotiate a new treaty that locks in far deeper, verifiable reductions in each nation’s nuclear and missile forces before START expires at the end of 2009. As Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said last October, “[T]he administration must reject the arguments from some that suggest the U.S.-Russian relationship has moved beyond the need for legally binding treaties.”

These and other developments open the way for the next president to pursue a new approach to nuclear weapons policy and restore U.S. global leadership that is needed to win support from other states to bolster nonproliferation efforts and eliminate the nuclear weapons threat.


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The CFE Treaty and European Security

A mere 20 years ago, massive numbers of conventional and nuclear forces stood poised for attack on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain. NATO and Soviet bloc countries were finally able to draw down their arsenals, ease tensions, and build trust with verification through a series of landmark arms control agreements concluded in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Much attention has been focused on the impact of the treaty eliminating intermediate-range nuclear forces and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in solidifying the end of Cold War hostilities. No less important is the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, which slashed NATO and Warsaw Pact armies and their equipment and effectively eliminated the possibility of a blitzkrieg-style land attack across the East-West frontier. (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

A mere 20 years ago, massive numbers of conventional and nuclear forces stood poised for attack on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain. NATO and Soviet bloc countries were finally able to draw down their arsenals, ease tensions, and build trust with verification through a series of landmark arms control agreements concluded in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Much attention has been focused on the impact of the treaty eliminating intermediate-range nuclear forces and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in solidifying the end of Cold War hostilities. No less important is the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, which slashed NATO and Warsaw Pact armies and their equipment and effectively eliminated the possibility of a blitzkrieg-style land attack across the East-West frontier.

Over the years, the CFE Treaty has provided an unprecedented level of transparency, predictability, and stability to European security and the U.S.-Russian relationship. The treaty has led to the destruction of more than 60,000 heavy conventional weapons and more than 4,000 on-site inspections. The resulting post-Cold War military balance has erased the old rationale for maintaining tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, which was to counter the Soviet bloc's conventional military strength.

All of this may soon change, however, if CFE member states do not abide by core treaty principles, adopt an updated version of the treaty, and avoid confrontational steps that put the treaty in jeopardy. The Bush White House and the Kremlin are already at odds over U.S. plans to deploy strategic missile interceptors in eastern Europe, and they disagree about the future of START.

Now, Russian President Vladimir Putin is poised to suspend implementation of the CFE Treaty Dec. 12 unless the United States and its NATO allies address Russia's concerns. Moscow's key grievance is that NATO countries have failed to ratify a 1999 adapted version of the treaty, which would relax some arms limits on Russia and open up the treaty regime to additional members, including new NATO members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia.

Led by the United States, NATO members have maintained they will not ratify the updated treaty until Russia completes military withdrawal commitments from Georgia and Moldova made in conjunction with the adapted treaty. A core element of the adapted CFE Treaty is that individual states give their consent to any deployment of foreign military forces within their territory. Approximately 1,200 Russian military personnel and massive ammunition stockpiles remain in Moldova, and another 200 personnel remain in Georgia.

To convey its goodwill and support for the adapted CFE Treaty, the United States reportedly has endorsed a more flexible course of action, allowing individual NATO members to start some ratification steps but not complete the process. They have reiterated their support for replacing Russian forces in Moldova with international peacekeepers.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has said that the U.S. proposals represent "a step to the right direction." Yet, after the latest round of talks in November, Lavrov said, "[S]o far there is no progress." Russian officials have been vague about what the threatened suspension of treaty implementation might entail, but they have hinted that it might unilaterally redeploy some of its forces and end participation in inspections and data exchanges.

Such a course of action would be counterproductive. Other states may be tempted to unilaterally interpret the 1990 treaty, and some legislatures might slow, not hasten, their consideration and ratification of the adapted treaty. Over time, the absence of good information about Russia's capabilities may lead some Western military planners to adjust their calculations, which could lead to new conventional force buildups in Europe.

Key players must now take the right steps to avoid confrontation between former adversaries. Putin must resist internal pressure to undermine the CFE Treaty as a means to lash out at the United States over what Russia perceives as a lack of respect for its interests. The CFE Treaty still serves Russia's vital interests, particularly because it maintains reasonable limits on NATO forces. The Kremlin must also do its part and finally fulfill its commitments to withdraw its residual forces in Georgia and Moldova, which are not vital to security in those regions.

For their part, NATO member states should initiate the process of ratifying the adapted CFE Treaty within the next several weeks. If Russia suspends implementation of the 1990 treaty, other CFE member states should continue to abide by their treaty commitments. Doing so would avoid a total unraveling of the CFE regime and keep the door open for Russia to return to the treaty. CFE members should also strengthen the regime by agreeing to even lower force limits.

Moscow and Washington have enough troubles to solve without provocative new actions that further undermine the international arms control framework. It is time for renewed leadership to bring the adapted CFE Treaty into force in order to maintain security and cooperation across Europe's old dividing lines.

Time to Rethink U.S. Strategy on Iran

Since Iran’s leaders two years ago rejected a multilateral package of incentives to halt their uranium-enrichment program, the United States and Europe have adopted a strategy of targeted sanctions. But this effort has failed to slow progress on Iran’s most worrisome nuclear projects.

Rather than engage Iran in a broad-based dialogue, the Bush administration has said it will only negotiate if Iran complies with UN Security Council calls to suspend its nuclear program. At the same time, the president and vice president have suggested that they may be willing to use military force to prevent Iran from “acquiring the knowledge to make nuclear weapons.” (Continue)

By Daryl G. Kimball

Since Iran’s leaders two years ago rejected a multilateral package of incentives to halt their uranium-enrichment program, the United States and Europe have adopted a strategy of targeted sanctions. But this effort has failed to slow progress on Iran’s most worrisome nuclear projects.

Rather than engage Iran in a broad-based dialogue, the Bush administration has said it will only negotiate if Iran complies with UN Security Council calls to suspend its nuclear program. At the same time, the president and vice president have suggested that they may be willing to use military force to prevent Iran from “acquiring the knowledge to make nuclear weapons.”

That is a recipe for failure. Although divided on tactics, Iran’s leaders are now more determined than ever to pursue uranium enrichment and build heavy-water reactors. Tehran claims that these facilities are solely for energy and medical isotope production, but they can also create bomb-grade fissile material. Iran’s leaders should recognize their defiance undermines their prestige and the possibility of a rapprochement with other countries.

A more effective approach is needed and soon. As the United States and other key Security Council members seek to impose still tougher sanctions targeted at Iran’s leaders, its military and energy interests, and foreign investment, they must also engage in a comprehensive and sustained direct dialogue with Iran’s leaders.

Even though European-led efforts faltered in 2005, a new and fortified U.S.-backed package that increases the benefits of restraint and creates the possibility of removing tough international sanctions could still succeed in limiting the scope of Iran’s enrichment capabilities. U.S. and European leaders could open the talks by offering to halt further sanctions so long as Iran halts its sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle work and expands cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Moscow’s earlier offer to provide nuclear fuel services and joint research opportunities at facilities in Russia should be put back into play. U.S. officials and presidential wannabes should bite their tongues about military strikes, which would only delay Iran’s nuclear program, cause a wider war in the Middle East, and tilt Iranian opinion in favor of building nuclear weapons.

Instead, U.S. diplomats should dangle the possibility of guarantees against pre-emptive attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities or leadership targets, so long as Iran refrains from full-scale enrichment, allows greater IAEA access, and fully answers outstanding questions about its once-secret nuclear experiments.

Key nonaligned states, including India and South Africa, also have a responsibility to help restrain Iran’s program, rather than reinforce the false notion that nuclear technology enhances prestige and that Iran has the “right” to pursue enrichment capabilities. Under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), non-nuclear-weapon states may make “use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes” but only if they abide by their NPT safeguards commitments, which Iran has not done.

Such a strategy offers no guarantee of success, yet it appears to be the only approach that might avert a U.S.-Iranian military conflict, a nuclear-armed Iran, or both. U.S. and European diplomats may win support from the UN Security Council for tougher sanctions, but Iran’s nuclear program is moving faster than the effort to halt it. One year ago, Iran had 300 gas centrifuge machines in place; today it has nearly 3,000.

As Iran deploys more uranium-enrichment centrifuges, its leverage increases and the value of a “suspension” is diminished. If Iran moves from research to a production-level enrichment capacity or further to nuclear weapons, several other Middle Eastern states might feel compelled to follow suit.

Still, there is time to test whether a negotiated resolution to the crisis is possible, but only if a more serious initiative is pursued. Iran’s enrichment capability is still limited. The IAEA estimates that Iran might have enough material to produce a bomb in three to eight years if it decides to do so.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration spurned earlier diplomatic openings out of fear that direct talks would bestow legitimacy on Iran and achieve nothing. As President George W. Bush put it on Oct. 4, “Negotiations just for the sake of negotiations often times send wrong signals. Negotiations to achieve consequences are worth doing.”

Certainly. But as Bush himself has pointed out, the administration engaged in six-party talks with North Korea, even as Pyongyang operated a reactor and a facility to reprocess plutonium for weapons. The strategy yielded an imperfect yet vital deal that has verifiably shut down North Korea’s major facilities and could lead to the dismantlement of its nuclear program.

If a certain policy fails to produce favorable results, most politicians and diplomats have the good sense to make adjustments rather than advocate more of the same. Leaders in Washington, Tehran, and elsewhere must rethink their current strategy and have the courage to take the first step toward a solution.

Of Missiles and Missile Defenses

Two decades ago, President Ronald Reagan proposed a simple yet bold idea to reduce the risks of nuclear-armed ballistic missile attacks and “mutual assured destruction.” At the October 1986 Reykjavik summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan suggested that both countries eliminate all offensive ballistic missiles within 10 years while researching and developing strategic missile defenses.

Although Gorbachev rejected Reagan’s proposal, the exchange set the stage for the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which scrapped all of their ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers and eased Cold War hostilities. (Continue)

By Daryl G. Kimball

Two decades ago, President Ronald Reagan proposed a simple yet bold idea to reduce the risks of nuclear-armed ballistic missile attacks and “mutual assured destruction.” At the October 1986 Reykjavik summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan suggested that both countries eliminate all offensive ballistic missiles within 10 years while researching and developing strategic missile defenses.

Although Gorbachev rejected Reagan’s proposal, the exchange set the stage for the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which scrapped all of their ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers and eased Cold War hostilities.

Since Reykjavik and the INF Treaty, U.S. leaders have spent more than $100 billion chasing Reagan’s dream of missile shields, but they have lost sight of Reagan’s goal of eliminating offensive ballistic missiles. Decades of research make it clear that current U.S. strategic missile defense programs, at best, might provide rudimentary protection against a small number of long-range ballistic missiles shorn of simple countermeasures. But even that modest capability remains unproven.

Even if missile defenses can be developed and pass operationally realistic testing, foes can always counter by building sufficient numbers of offensive ballistic missiles to overwhelm a system. Recognizing that problem, the Reagan administration in 1987 helped found the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) which aims to stem the spread of technologies related to missiles capable of carrying nuclear, chemical, and biological warheads. MTCR membership has grown to 34 states and has contributed to constraining or ending missile programs in several countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Iraq, South Africa, South Korea, Syria, and Taiwan.

Today, 32 states possess ballistic missiles, but only 10 states have produced or flight-tested missiles with ranges exceeding 1,000 kilometers. For now, China and Russia are the only two states that have a proven capability to launch ballistic missiles from their territories that can strike the United States. Yet, the effectiveness of the MTCR’s voluntary guidelines will remain limited so long as MTCR members, and other states such as India, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, slowly but steadily expand and improve their missile capabilities and consider them high-prestige weapons.

All of this underscores the need for a more sensible approach to missile control. Contrary to the wishful thinking of missile defense acolytes, no evidence exists to suggest that missile defenses will dissuade missile buildups. Iran and North Korea have continued to build and test missiles despite U.S. strategic missile defense proposals. Instead, it is more likely that missile defense will spur greater offensive missile production. For instance, Russia’s concern that U.S. missile defense plans for Europe could evolve in ways that threaten its strategic security could lead it to delay deeper missile cuts or withdraw from the INF Treaty.

What can be done? First, the United States and Russia must work together in a more serious way to address missile defense concerns, explore technical alternatives, and achieve deeper offensive missile force reductions. Further friction on missile defense would perpetuate high-alert postures and threaten the long-delayed Joint Data Exchange Center, which is designed to help avoid an accidental or mistaken nuclear attack.

Second, rather than pursuing controversial and expensive strategic missile defenses of questionable value, U.S. research and development should focus on systems designed to deal with short- and medium-range missile threats, which are more numerous, present a more immediate threat, and can be defeated more easily. Even these systems must be pursued with caution to avoid destabilizing defensive versus offensive missile races.

Third, Washington must actively work with others to increase transparency and dialogue through the 2002 International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. The United States and 125 other nations have endorsed the code, but progress has been stymied by lackadaisical implementation by Washington and others and by the nonparticipation of missile possessors such as India, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. The code, which obliges states to exchange information on missile holdings and testing and exercise restraint with respect to their ballistic missile programs, could become the blueprint for a binding set of limitations on the most destabilizing types of missiles.

High-priority should be placed not only on long-range ballistic missiles, but also on cruise missiles, which are fielded by only a handful of countries today. That could soon change as countries such as France, India, Russia, and the United Kingdom sell advanced cruise missiles to others for profit and influence.

As major powers modernize their ballistic missile fleets and missile arms races advance in Asia and the Middle East, strategic anti-missile systems amount to little more than hole-filled umbrellas in the face of a gathering storm. Given the risks of further missile proliferation and the limits of strategic missile defenses, new tougher missile controls and significant new diplomatic efforts are necessary to devalue missile ownership and move toward a world free of the most dangerous offensive missiles.

Fixing a Flawed Nuclear Deal

After months of contentious negotiations, U.S. and Indian officials recently concluded a formal agreement for nuclear cooperation that contradicts long-standing U.S. nuclear export policies and threatens the global nonproliferation order.

The proposed agreement endorses undefined “India-specific” safeguards and fails to explicitly state that renewed Indian testing would lead to a termination of U.S. nuclear trade. The pact promises India assurances of nuclear fuel supply and advance consent to carry out sensitive nuclear activities that are unprecedented and inconsistent with legislation approved by Congress last year. (Continue)

By Daryl G. Kimball

After months of contentious negotiations, U.S. and Indian officials recently concluded a formal agreement for nuclear cooperation that contradicts long-standing U.S. nuclear export policies and threatens the global nonproliferation order.

The proposed agreement endorses undefined “India-specific” safeguards and fails to explicitly state that renewed Indian testing would lead to a termination of U.S. nuclear trade. The pact promises India assurances of nuclear fuel supply and advance consent to carry out sensitive nuclear activities that are unprecedented and inconsistent with legislation approved by Congress last year.

The sum of these and other U.S. concessions could give India—a country that has violated past agreements on peaceful nuclear cooperation by testing a nuclear weapon—terms of nuclear trade more favorable than those for states that have assumed all the obligations and responsibilities of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which India has never signed.

Much is at stake. In the coming months, Congress and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) can prevent further damage by using their authority to close the loopholes in the deeply flawed U.S.-Indian agreement.

The pact is based on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s July 2005 pledge to “separate” India’s military and civilian nuclear facilities and put eight additional reactors under international safeguards by 2014. In exchange, President George W. Bush pledged to seek an India-specific exemption from U.S. laws and NSG rules that restrict trade with states that do not allow “full scope” safeguards. Congress approved changes to U.S. nuclear export laws with conditions, but it must still approve the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement. It may do so only if the NSG agrees by consensus to waive its comprehensive safeguards requirement for India.

While many NSG member states support India’s legitimate nuclear energy goals, they are also deeply uncomfortable with the agreement and for good reason. Partial safeguards in India are hardly worth their estimated $10 million annual cost. Yet, the U.S.-Indian agreement cheapens their value by endorsing the concept of India-specific safeguards and allowing India to take unspecified “corrective measures” if fuel supplies are disrupted. Congress and the NSG should reject any proposal for nonstandard safeguards for Indian reactors.

Unlike other nuclear cooperation agreements, the U.S.-Indian deal fails to clearly state that a resumption of nuclear testing would lead to a termination of nuclear transfers and the return of U.S.-supplied equipment and material. To protect its testing options, India sought and got an unprecedented U.S. commitment to help India amass a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any supply disruption. Incredibly, the agreement also commits Washington to help New Delhi secure fuel supplies from other countries even if India resumes testing.

Officials at the Department of State may argue that the fuel supply assurances are political and not legal commitments and are there only to assuage Indian domestic audiences. This is not how the Indian government interprets the agreement. Such ambiguity has no place in international nonproliferation rules. Congress and the NSG should clearly establish that any India-specific exemption from existing nuclear trade rules shall be terminated if India resumes testing.

U.S. negotiators also agreed to allow for possible future trade involving sensitive nuclear technology, including uranium-enrichment and plutonium-reprocessing-related goods. Even if such transfers are destined for safeguarded facilities, they could be replicated and used to support India’s weapons program. The NSG should specifically bar such transfers to India.

Even though India has refused to put existing reprocessing plants under safeguards, India also won long-term consent to reprocess U.S.-origin nuclear fuel. To exercise the right, an additional U.S.-Indian agreement governing a new, safeguarded reprocessing facility is required. Still, the reprocessing concession could allow India to negotiate more favorable terms from less scrupulous suppliers, such as Russia.

Unless the NSG also requires that India halts fissile material production for weapons as a condition for nuclear trade, supplying nuclear fuel to India for power production would free up its limited domestic supplies for bomb production. This would not only contradict NPT restrictions barring assistance to other’s nuclear weapons programs, but it would prompt neighboring Pakistan to increase its fissile material production capacity.

The U.S.-Indian agreement may lead usually sensible states to ignore their legal commitments too. Australia has announced it is ready to sell uranium to India even though its current foreign minister said in 1996 that the South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty “imposes a legal obligation not to provide nuclear material unless subject to the safeguards required by Article III.1 of the NPT, that is, full scope safeguards.”

Rather than sidestep their own nonproliferation policies and laws, leaders in Congress and other capitals should maintain common sense conditions on nuclear trade that help ensure India meets the same standards expected of other responsible countries. Now is the time to stand up to the White House and the nuclear profiteers and prevent further erosion of the already beleaguered nonproliferation system.

Missile Defense Collision Course

When President George W. Bush withdrew from the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty five years ago, he asserted that “my decision to withdraw from the treaty will not, in any way, undermine our new relationship or Russian security.” Now, Bush’s latest proposal to site 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic has severely compounded the Kremlin’s anxieties about growing U.S. offensive and defensive strategic capabilities.

President Vladimir Putin’s response to missile defense deployments in two former Warsaw Pact states has been hostile and counterproductive: he has threatened to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; to target the sites with Russian missiles; and to stop work on a Joint Data Exchange Center intended to help avoid an accidental or mistaken nuclear attack. (Continue)

By Daryl G. Kimball

When President George W. Bush withdrew from the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty five years ago, he asserted that “my decision to withdraw from the treaty will not, in any way, undermine our new relationship or Russian security.” Now, Bush’s latest proposal to site 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic has severely compounded the Kremlin’s anxieties about growing U.S. offensive and defensive strategic capabilities.

President Vladimir Putin’s response to missile defense deployments in two former Warsaw Pact states has been hostile and counterproductive: he has threatened to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; to target the sites with Russian missiles; and to stop work on a Joint Data Exchange Center intended to help avoid an accidental or mistaken nuclear attack.

For some Americans and Europeans, a rudimentary defense against a potential long-range missile threat from Iran may seem attractive. But for now, it is a flawed idea whose time has not come.

Russia’s concerns may be exaggerated, but that does not alter the reality that the European anti-missile plan is premature and the technology unproven. And, if Washington presses ahead despite Russian objections, it could trigger the renewal of U.S.-Russian missile competition and hamper efforts to further reduce each nation’s still massive nuclear warhead and missile arsenals.

In recent weeks, U.S. officials have crisscrossed Europe to say the proposed system is not designed to counter Russia’s nuclear-armed missiles and therefore does not threaten Russia’s security. To be sure, 10 U.S. interceptors would only provide a rudimentary defense against a handful of incoming missiles, let alone Russia’s current force of some 500 land-based missiles. Highly scripted tests involving prototypes of ground-based interceptors now deployed in California and Alaska have failed three out of five times since 2002. The proposed system in Europe would use a new type of interceptor that has yet to be built, let alone tested.

But just as U.S. officials are seeking missile defenses against an Iranian missile threat that does not exist, Russian leaders are worried they cannot maintain their strategic nuclear retaliatory capability against a porous strategic missile defense that has not been built and a potential U.S. nuclear buildup that will not likely materialize.

Why? Because old habits die hard. Russia and the United States each still deploy approximately 4,000 nuclear warheads on delivery vehicles on high alert, and as a result, military strategists on both sides plan for the worst. Under the flimsy 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), the United States will be able to maintain a large “hedge” arsenal of reserve warheads and excess missile capacity. After SORT expires in 2012, the United States could increase its deployed strategic arsenal from 2,200 to well over 4,000 nuclear warheads.

Russia is on a path to maintain approximately 2,000 deployed strategic warheads by 2012. But the size of Russia’s long-range missile force would be relatively smaller. Independent estimates are that Russia’s land-based missile force could shrink dramatically, down to as few as 150 by the year 2015.

Russia’s fear is that the larger and more accurate U.S. missile arsenal would be capable of delivering a decapitating first strike. U.S. missile defense assets could then counter the few remaining missiles based in Russia’s European territory that might survive and be launched.

To avoid this scenario, Russia could slow its planned nuclear force reductions and accelerate deployment of new long-range missile systems, an option made easier if the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is allowed to expire in 2009. But dismantling strategic arms reductions pacts in order to preserve Russia’s ability to annihilate the United States does not make missile defense a better idea.

Unfortunately, Bush and Putin will not likely resolve their differences and avert a collision on missile defense any time soon. Putin’s offer to use the Russian-leased Gabala radar in Azerbaijan to evaluate Iran’s missile program and, if necessary, to use other basing plans that would not interfere with Russian missiles is worth exploring. Nevertheless, the White House seems determined to begin construction of the European system before Bush leaves office.

Such an approach is mistaken and reckless. There should be no rush to deploy an unproven system against a potential missile threat that will not likely materialize until 2015 or beyond. In any case, Congress is on track to cut the administration’s $310 million request for the European strategic missile defense project and focus U.S. efforts on more capable short- and medium-range interceptors.

The United States and its NATO partners should defer work on the European strategic missile defense project until Bush’s and Putin’s successors arrive. In the meantime, they should engage Russia in a meaningful dialogue to address its missile defense concerns, explore technical alternatives, and advance new proposals for deeper warhead and missile force cuts that would reduce tensions and erase Russian fears of U.S. nuclear supremacy.

START Over

Five years ago at the signing ceremony for the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), President George W. Bush claimed the agreement “liquidates the Cold War legacy of nuclear hostility” between the United States and Russia. Think again. Although SORT calls for deeper reductions in deployed strategic nuclear warheads, to 1,700-2,200 each by 2012, it has not liquidated the weapons nor mutual nuclear suspicions.

The treaty’s emphasis on flexibility detracts from its predictability, lessening its value in building a more stable and secure U.S.-Russian relationship. Unlike the earlier Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) approach, SORT does not require the destruction of strategic delivery systems. SORT also allows each side to store nondeployed warheads. The treaty fails to establish new verification mechanisms, relying instead on those contained in START. (Continue)

By Daryl G. Kimball

Five years ago at the signing ceremony for the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), President George W. Bush claimed the agreement “liquidates the Cold War legacy of nuclear hostility” between the United States and Russia. Think again. Although SORT calls for deeper reductions in deployed strategic nuclear warheads, to 1,700-2,200 each by 2012, it has not liquidated the weapons nor mutual nuclear suspicions.

The treaty’s emphasis on flexibility detracts from its predictability, lessening its value in building a more stable and secure U.S.-Russian relationship. Unlike the earlier Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) approach, SORT does not require the destruction of strategic delivery systems. SORT also allows each side to store nondeployed warheads. The treaty fails to establish new verification mechanisms, relying instead on those contained in START.

Now, news reports indicate that neither government wants to extend START past its scheduled expiration on Dec. 5, 2009. Although the 1991 treaty may require adjustments to reflect present-day realities, it serves as an important foundation for deeper, faster, and irreversible reductions in U.S. and Russian arsenals that would head off renewed strategic competition.

U.S. plans to install missile interceptors in Poland have added to Russian concerns that the United States might redeploy its reserve nuclear forces and utilize leftover nuclear delivery systems for conventional strike missions. In response, President Vladimir Putin has authorized new strategic missile systems and plans to increase the number of warheads carried by certain missile systems. Putin also has threatened to withdraw from the 1987 U.S.-Russian treaty banning intermediate-range nuclear forces.

The loss of START would complicate an increasingly complicated relationship. START was a breakthrough agreement that helped end the Cold War. It slashed strategic nuclear forces from approximately 10,000 warheads each to no more than 6,000 apiece by December 5, 2001. The accord also limits each side to 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles (land- and submarine-based ballistic missiles, plus heavy bombers).

In addition, START established a far-reaching system of notifications and inspections that provides an accurate assessment of the size and location of each side’s forces. In 2002, the intelligence community warned that its ability to monitor SORT would be significantly compromised in the absence of START. If no new verification mechanisms are established, a former U.S. verification official told Arms Control Today in 2005 that the two countries would be “flying blind” in their nuclear relationship.

U.S. and Russian experts began discussions in March on follow-on measures to START, but the two sides are at odds over several core issues. Russia favors negotiating a new treaty that would reduce strategic nuclear warheads to less than 1,500 each, with additional limits on delivery systems. The Bush administration rejects further weapons limits and prefers new, informal transparency and confidence-building measures.

Both sides want some verification measures after START. But Russia claims that more intrusive measures, such as on-site inspections, would need to be included in a legally binding agreement as required by Russia’s domestic laws. U.S. negotiators argue for understandings that would allow for “visits” to each other’s weapons storage sites.

What should be done? Informal transparency measures may be helpful but provide too little certainty and do nothing to achieve deeper and more lasting force reductions. On the other hand, given the Bush administration’s antipathy toward arms control treaties, the prospects for a new legally binding agreement before the end of 2008 look dim. The next U.S. president will have limited time to work out a new arrangement before START lapses.

Rather than allow the pact to expire or mask long-simmering differences with halfway measures, Bush’s and Putin’s successors should agree to continue to observe START until they can enter into a new agreement that achieves what SORT did not: permanent and verifiable reductions of excess U.S. and Russian Cold War nuclear forces. A new treaty with streamlined START-style verification protocols is necessary to restore confidence that each country will actually dismantle, not simply warehouse, warheads and missiles originally deployed to destroy the other.

Such an agreement should map out permanent, phased reductions of all strategic nuclear warheads, deployed and reserve, to a level of 1,000 or less and establish ceilings on the number of non-nuclear strategic missiles. As the two sides’ strategic arsenals shrink, they must also account for and agree to scrap Russia’s residual arsenal of at least 3,000 tactical nuclear warheads, as well as the smaller U.S. stockpile, which includes 480 warheads stationed in Europe.

The year 2009 will mark two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The United States and Russia are no longer enemies, yet their still massive nuclear arsenals continue to engender distrust and worst-case assumptions. What is required is a new push for real nuclear reductions based on the proven principles of START.

U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal: Round II

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) faces enough difficulties without the additional burden of preferential treatment for NPT holdout states. Nevertheless, the George W. Bush administration won congressional approval last December for an ill-conceived nuclear trade bill that would blow a hole in U.S. and global nonproliferation rules. The legislation would allow India-specific waivers to U.S. laws designed to prevent the misuse of U.S. nuclear technology to build weapons, as India did in the 1970s.

Yet, the deal is not done. The United States and India must still conclude a formal agreement for nuclear cooperation, and U.S. leaders must win the consensus approval for changes to the guidelines of the 45-nation Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), which restrict trade with states that do not accept comprehensive nuclear safeguards. (Continue)

By Daryl G. Kimball

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) faces enough difficulties without the additional burden of preferential treatment for NPT holdout states. Nevertheless, the George W. Bush administration won congressional approval last December for an ill-conceived nuclear trade bill that would blow a hole in U.S. and global nonproliferation rules. The legislation would allow India-specific waivers to U.S. laws designed to prevent the misuse of U.S. nuclear technology to build weapons, as India did in the 1970s.

Yet, the deal is not done. The United States and India must still conclude a formal agreement for nuclear cooperation, and U.S. leaders must win the consensus approval for changes to the guidelines of the 45-nation Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), which restrict trade with states that do not accept comprehensive nuclear safeguards.

In the weeks and months ahead, U.S. officials cannot afford to make further concessions that could compound the damage to the nonproliferation system. Other leading governments also have a responsibility to help remedy the deep flaws in the deal and hold all states to a higher nonproliferation and disarmament standard.

In exchange for Bush’s commitment to help lift restrictions on nuclear trade with India, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated India’s pledge not to resume nuclear testing and agreed to allow international inspections of more reactors by 2014. But India insists on keeping at least eight other reactors and India’s extensive military nuclear complex off-limits and refuses to halt the production of plutonium and uranium for bombs.

Under these circumstances, partial safeguards are all symbol and no substance. Even worse, U.S. supplies of uranium could free up India’s limited domestic uranium supply for weapons and violate U.S. legal obligations under Article I of the NPT not to assist India’s bomb program.

The Bush administration has brushed aside these objections, but new difficulties are surfacing that could derail the deal. U.S. and Indian negotiators are at odds over their draft agreement for nuclear cooperation. Under pressure from its nuclear establishment, Indian officials are lobbying for further concessions that would reduce accountability and increase the capacity of its civil and military programs but would be inconsistent with minimal conditions for trade established by Congress last year.

Current U.S. law stipulates that nuclear trade would end and U.S. nuclear supplies must be returned if India resumes testing or otherwise violates the agreement. Nevertheless, New Delhi wants to drop references in the agreement to these requirements and ensure that commercial nuclear contracts continue even if the underlying agreement is breached. Unlike 177 other states, India has so far refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and is under no legal obligation not to test. At the same time, New Delhi must face the reality that other states are under no legal or political obligation to assist India if it defies the world with another nuclear blast.

Congress also specified that safeguards on India’s “civil” nuclear facilities and U.S.-supplied material must be permanent and consistent with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards. India has rejected comprehensive safeguards but allows permanent, facility-specific safeguards for six older reactors. Nevertheless, New Delhi is seeking “India-specific” safeguards that would be suspended if foreign fuel supplies are interrupted. There is no precedent or safeguards plan for such an option, and it would be highly irresponsible for the IAEA or its 35-nation board to ever approve such a hollow arrangement.

Last year’s legislation specifically prohibits U.S. transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to India, including uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation equipment. It also preserves a requirement for U.S. consent for the enrichment or reprocessing of U.S.-origin material. Indian officials are strenuously objecting. But so far, U.S. negotiators are resisting, partly because India has rejected permanent safeguards on its reprocessing and enrichment facilities and its plutonium-producing fast breeder reactors.

Finally, the deal must win the NSG’s consensus approval. Despite heavy pressure from U.S. and Indian diplomats, many NSG states remain skeptical or opposed, but until they see all the details, they are officially reserving judgment. Meanwhile, Chinese and French officials suggest the NSG should adopt “criteria-based” trade guidelines rather than an “India-specific” rule. This could open the way for nuclear trade with China’s ally Pakistan and possibly with Israel, creating additional proliferation risks.

To ensure that nuclear assistance to India or others does not aid weapons production, responsible NSG states must hold the line. At a minimum, they must reject proposals that could allow nuclear trade involving enrichment or reprocessing technology to any non-NPT member and bar nuclear trade with any non-NPT member that continues to produce fissile material for bombs or resumes nuclear testing.

The ongoing struggle to stop the spread and stockpiling of nuclear weapons will only become more difficult if leading states preach compliance for the many and create exceptions for their friends. India can gain access to the global nuclear technology market if it can overcome the urge to build up and improve its nuclear arsenal. For others, the proposal is a test of their commitment to a more universal and responsible approach to nuclear control in the 21st century—a test we cannot afford to fail.

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