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ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Issue Briefs

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.

Posted: December 1, 2007

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.

Posted: November 1, 2007

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.

Posted: October 1, 2007

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.

Posted: September 1, 2007

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.

Posted: July 1, 2007

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.

Posted: June 2, 2007

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.

Posted: May 7, 2007

Avoiding a Space Arms Race

Forty years ago this month, the Senate approved the Outer Space Treaty, which bars signatory states from placing into orbit any objects carrying nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Although it has helped protect space for peaceful uses by all countries, the treaty has not closed off all threats to the safety of military and civilian space assets and the pursuit of other types of space-based weapons.

For instance, some countries have developed offensive weapons capabilities that can shoot down satellites in orbit using ground-based ballistic missiles. The United States is now contemplating “defensive,” space-based, kinetic-energy missile interceptors. The time has come once again for states to engage in dialogue on space security and avert a new and dangerous arms competition in the heavens. (Continue)

By Daryl G. Kimball

Forty years ago this month, the Senate approved the Outer Space Treaty, which bars signatory states from placing into orbit any objects carrying nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Although it has helped protect space for peaceful uses by all countries, the treaty has not closed off all threats to the safety of military and civilian space assets and the pursuit of other types of space-based weapons.

For instance, some countries have developed offensive weapons capabilities that can shoot down satellites in orbit using ground-based ballistic missiles. The United States is now contemplating “defensive,” space-based, kinetic-energy missile interceptors. The time has come once again for states to engage in dialogue on space security and avert a new and dangerous arms competition in the heavens.

As if to highlight the problem, China recently used a projectile carried into space by a ballistic missile to shatter one of its weather satellites orbiting about 850 kilometers above the Earth into thousands of fragments. The highly irresponsible experiment—the first of its kind since U.S. and Soviet anti-satellite testing in the 1980s—reaffirms the vulnerability of surveillance and communications satellites to attack.

At the same time, the Bush administration's fiscal year 2008 budget request includes $10 million for initial work toward a space-based missile interceptor test bed. According to the Pentagon budget documents, testing of a handful of kinetic missile interceptors might begin by 2012. Once proven, the United States could significantly expand the number of orbiting interceptors providing a thin, “multi-shot” defense against intercontinental missiles.

Russia and China worry that U.S. ground-based missile defenses, combined with possible space-based weapons systems, could threaten their offensive nuclear deterrent forces and early-warning satellites. Today, Russia has an arsenal of approximately 800 long-range, nuclear-armed missiles, which will likely shrink significantly in coming years. China deploys approximately two dozen such weapons.

For some defense planners, the Chinese satellite shoot-down underscores the need, as stated in the official 2006 U.S. space policy, “to promote and protect U.S. security and space assets.” As Air Force Maj. Gen. William Shelton said recently to Inside the Pentagon, “As the capability evolves on the part of the people [who] would want to do us harm in space, you've got to stay ahead of them.” But because the United States may not be able to stay ahead technologically and cannot always protect its satellites, it would benefit from agreements that limit the military space capabilities of all countries.

Unfortunately, international discussions that might produce new understandings on maintaining the peaceful use of space have been stymied until, perhaps, now. For years, China and Russia have called for talks at the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD) on “prevention of an arms race in outer space.” Until very recently, the Bush administration had been opposed to even discussions on space weapons, favoring negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), which would halt production of nuclear material for bombs.

But on March 23, the president of the CD presented states with a package that would allow for nonbinding discussions on space weapons issues, as well as long-overdue negotiations on an FMCT. The proposal has the support of a wide majority of countries, including the United States .

Leaders in Washington , Beijing , Moscow , and elsewhere should seize the opportunity for cooperative solutions. First, member states at the CD should explore options for limiting the testing or use of ground-, sea-, air-, or space-based weapons, including lasers and projectiles, against satellites or other space-based objects, as well as for legally binding standards for the mitigation of space debris.

A formal agreement through the CD, which works by consensus, would be difficult to achieve. Congress could help improve prospects by denying proposed funding for space-based missile interceptors. These are not critical to U.S. missile defense needs and could prompt Russia and China to accelerate work on less-costly countermeasures and retain more of their offensive nuclear-armed missiles.

If talks at the CD do not begin or become deadlocked, the nearly 100 signatory states of the Outer Space Treaty could seek to formally clarify that the treaty was also meant to ban non-nuclear Earth-orbiting weapons designed to strike satellites or missiles—weapons that would undermine space security for all. The treaty clearly allows states-parties to establish interpretations of the original treaty to take into account developments not anticipated in 1967.

As an interim step, like-minded states might also establish a less formal “code of conduct” for space security, whether or not all governments choose to participate. The goal would be to establish stronger norms against dangerous activities in space, including flight tests that simulate hostile attacks against satellites and the deployment of anti-satellite and space weapons.

It is foolhardy to deny that an offensive-defensive space arms competition is in the offing and could have unwanted consequences. The international community stands at a critical space-security crossroads that requires responsible and visionary global leadership.

Posted: April 2, 2007

Déjà Vu All Over Again

The Cold War may be over, but the nuclear-armed missiles and suspicions remain. Now, Washington’s plan to deploy ground-based missile interceptors in the former Eastern Bloc—coupled with the expansion of NATO and the Bush administration’s resistance to further offensive nuclear reductions—are increasing Moscow’s anxieties about U.S. strategic missile capabilities.

U.S. officials say their anti-missile systems are designed to deal with a potential Iranian missile force not Russia’s. They correctly note that even if 10 U.S.-controlled missile interceptors are eventually stationed in Poland, Russia’s missiles could overwhelm and evade the defenses with far cheaper countermeasures. (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

The Cold War may be over, but the nuclear-armed missiles and suspicions remain. Now, Washington’s plan to deploy ground-based missile interceptors in the former Eastern Bloc—coupled with the expansion of NATO and the Bush administration’s resistance to further offensive nuclear reductions—are increasing Moscow’s anxieties about U.S. strategic missile capabilities.

U.S. officials say their anti-missile systems are designed to deal with a potential Iranian missile force not Russia’s. They correctly note that even if 10 U.S.-controlled missile interceptors are eventually stationed in Poland, Russia’s missiles could overwhelm and evade the defenses with far cheaper countermeasures.

Rather than simply dismiss Russia’s complaints as an overreaction, U.S. and European leaders should engage Russia in a broad strategic dialogue and negotiate further, verifiable reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. If the situation is mishandled, it could revive dormant tensions and instability.

Recent signs do not bode well. Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military leaders said a European-based anti-missile system could trigger a new arms race and lead Moscow to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. That pact led to the elimination of more than 2,600 U.S. and Soviet short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles, and with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), helped thaw the Cold War confrontation less than a generation ago.

The commander of Russia’s strategic forces also bluntly warned Poland and the Czech Republic that if they host U.S. anti-missile systems on their soil, Russian forces would be “capable of having these installations as their targets.” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shot back, calling the comment “extremely unfortunate.” The Czech foreign minister accused Russia of “blackmail.”

It was not supposed to be this way. Five years ago when President George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, he asserted that U.S. withdrawal would not “in any way undermine our new relationship or Russian security.” Putin resisted the move but could do little to stop it. To save face, Putin successfully pressed Bush to codify planned reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, which led to the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT).

But SORT, unlike previous agreements, provides far too little predictability and transparency. SORT obliges Russia and the United States to reduce their respective deployed strategic warheads to 1,700-2,200 by 2012, but the warhead limit expires the day it enters into force, allows each side to retain thousands of nondeployed reserve warheads and delivery systems, and provides no new monitoring or verification mechanisms.

The approach gives U.S. defense planners the flexibility to reconstitute a larger nuclear force and utilize leftover strategic nuclear delivery systems for conventional strike missions. Having discarded the ABM Treaty, the Bush administration rushed to deploy rudimentary ground-based missile interceptors in Alaska beginning in 2004. It wants to deploy a similar system in Europe around 2011. Russia, which is no longer able to maintain parity, sees these combined developments as a threat to its shrinking nuclear strike force. Making matters worse for both sides, START is due to expire at the end of 2009, and with it the verification provisions that U.S. strategic forces commander General James Cartwright has said promote transparency and stability.

It was in this context that on June 27, 2006, Putin called for the resumption of the U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear dialogue. Unfortunately, U.S. officials rejected Russia’s September proposal for expert-level talks. Without the transparency and limits of START and INF Treaty, the United States and Russia risk returning to the distrust, worst-case assumptions, and arms competition of the past.

Now, Bush is asking Congress for $225 million for fiscal year 2008 to begin building the anti-missile system in Europe. Lawmakers should reject the project, which can’t work effectively, is intended to counter a potential Iranian missile threat that is still years away, and would undermine other risk reduction priorities.

Congress should also call on the White House to pursue talks with the Kremlin to preserve the INF Treaty and START verification provisions, and to accelerate the drawdown of the still massive and dangerous U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons stockpiles. Thousands of these warheads remain on high alert. Withdrawal of the 400-some U.S. short-range nuclear weapons in Europe could spur cuts in Russia’s far larger arsenal of these smaller and more portable nuclear weapons, which remain high-value targets for terrorists and a threat to everyone.

Russia ’s cynical rhetoric should not be seen as an invitation to confrontation so much as a reminder that there has not been enough meaningful cooperation. Given the long history of U.S.-Russian nuclear rivalry and Russia’s increasingly assertive foreign policy, U.S. and Russian leaders must extend the life of their existing arms control agreements and seek new reductions to reestablish trust and stability.

Posted: March 1, 2007

New Reasons to Reject New Warheads

For years, some scientists and policymakers have worried that the reliability of U.S. nuclear warheads could diminish as their plutonium components age. Such concerns have led some to argue the United States should resume nuclear testing, rebuild its older warheads, or both. Most recently, plutonium aging has been used by the Bush administration to justify an ambitious new proposal for remaking the weapons complex and the nuclear arsenal.

Think again. A new set of government studies finds that the plutonium primaries, or pits, of most U.S. nuclear weapons “will have minimum lifetimes of at least 85 years,” which is about twice as long as previous official estimates. The findings have led the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) to admit that “the degradation of plutonium in our nuclear weapons will not affect warhead reliability for decades.” (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

For years, some scientists and policymakers have worried that the reliability of U.S. nuclear warheads could diminish as their plutonium components age. Such concerns have led some to argue the United States should resume nuclear testing, rebuild its older warheads, or both. Most recently, plutonium aging has been used by the Bush administration to justify an ambitious new proposal for remaking the weapons complex and the nuclear arsenal.

Think again. A new set of government studies finds that the plutonium primaries, or pits, of most U.S. nuclear weapons “will have minimum lifetimes of at least 85 years,” which is about twice as long as previous official estimates. The findings have led the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) to admit that “the degradation of plutonium in our nuclear weapons will not affect warhead reliability for decades.”

The plutonium research results obliterate the chief rationale for NNSA’s emerging strategy to replace at least six of the major U.S. nuclear warhead types with new warheads over the next 20 to 30 years. This approach would gradually overtake the existing Stockpile Stewardship program, which involves periodic upgrades of the conventional explosives and nonnuclear components in existing weapons, and, if necessary, remanufacture of the plutonium pits to previous design specifications. To produce new types of “replacement” warheads, the NNSA also wants to build a new, multibillion-dollar “plutonium center” to increase the current U.S. capacity to produce plutonium pits for warheads from a few dozen to 125 per year.

The new evidence that weapons plutonium lasts for a century without significant degradation makes it even clearer that United States can reliably maintain its arsenal under the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Moreover, there is no reason to spend scarce tax dollars to expand bomb production capacity, let alone try to replace thousands of well-tested warheads with new, unproven designs.

As a result, NNSA’s new plan, known as “Complex 2030,” will be even tougher to sell to skeptical lawmakers. In response, administration officials are now using other but still dubious reasons for building replacement warheads.

For instance, NNSA argues that more efficient and modern replacement warheads would be less expensive to maintain. In reality, costs will rise, not fall, for the next decade or two because NNSA will continue to spend billions to extend the life of existing warheads until such time as their replacement warheads are built.

Acting NNSA administrator, Thomas D’Agostino, has argued that some warheads in the U.S. stockpile, such as the W76 submarine-launched missile warhead, were designed to minimize size and weight and maximize yield, making them sensitive to changes and upgrades, especially to the nuclear components.

Perhaps. But the reliability of existing warheads can be maintained more easily by avoiding unnecessary alterations to the existing weapons during refurbishment. Rather than build new and robust replacement warheads, the reliability of existing warheads can also be improved by adding more boost gas to increase the explosive energy of the primary stage of the weapon well above the minimum needed to ignite the secondary, or main, stage of the warhead.

In fact, confidence in the reliability of U.S. nuclear stockpile could erode if warhead designs are changed to those not validated by past nuclear testing. Nevertheless, according to news reports, the NNSA may choose a design to replace the W76 that consists of various components that have not been previously tested together.

The new plutonium findings also warrant Senate reconsideration of the technical viability and security benefits of the signed but unratified CTBT. As former Secretary of State George Schultz, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), and others recently wrote in January in The Wall Street Journal, the time has come for “initiating a bipartisan process with the Senate…to achieve ratification of the [CTBT], taking advantage of recent technical advances, and working to secure ratification by other key states.”

Action on the CTBT is more important than ever. Leaders of many key states doubt the United States and the other nuclear-weapon powers intend to pursue their own nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)-related disarmament obligations, which include ratification of the CTBT. That shrinking faith erodes the willingness among certain states in the non-nuclear-weapon majority to fulfill their own NPT obligations, much less to agree to strengthen the regime. U.S. leadership on the CTBT would also spur others, particularly China, to follow suit and make it more difficult for them to build new and more dangerous types of nuclear weapons.

Rather than pursue a costly and unnecessary campaign to build a new breed of nuclear weapons, the scientific evidence and international security situation calls for a reduction in the role and number of U.S. nuclear weapons, the use of existing tools to maintain those that remain, and approval of the global test ban.

Posted: January 1, 2007

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