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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

START Over

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.

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)

U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal: Round II

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.

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)

Avoiding a Space Arms Race

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.

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)

Déjà Vu All Over Again

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.

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)

New Reasons to Reject New Warheads

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.

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)

Anything but Conventional

Daryl G. Kimball

What is the most serious weapons-related security threat? The answer depends on who you are and where you live. For many Westerners, the biggest worry may be catastrophic nuclear terrorism. But for millions of people in conflict-ridden developing regions, the greatest threat emanates from the free flow of and trade in conventional weapons. With global arms sales soaring to more than $44 billion in 2005 and hundreds of thousands of people dying annually from weapons and war, tough new controls on international arms sales are urgently needed.

U.S. and global leaders recognize the high-consequence dangers posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. As a result, they have established a patchwork system of legally binding treaties restricting the possession, proliferation, and use of “unconventional” weapons. However, there is no international treaty regulating the export of conventional arms, which produce more misery and carnage on a day-to-day basis.

During the Cold War, weapons sales were primarily used by Washington and Moscow to win friends and fight proxy wars. Since then, the global arms market has persisted but is driven more and more by profit and interest in sustaining domestic armaments industries.

Partly as a result, countries have sought but been unable to achieve binding restrictions on the global arms trade. After the 1990 Persian Gulf War, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States initiated talks on regulating weapons transfers. The talks limped along until September 1992, when a U.S. decision to sell 150 F-16 fighter aircraft to China’s rival, Taiwan, halted the effort.

Later, in the mid-1990s, a bipartisan congressional coalition sought and failed to establish tougher criteria for U.S. arms sales. The Clinton administration, which relaxed nearly two decades of restrictions on advanced arms sales to Latin America, strongly opposed the adoption of any new standards. A 2001 UN conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons foundered because the Bush administration opposed provisions affecting civilian gun ownership or arms transfers to nonstate actors.

The latest geostrategic rationale for many U.S. sales is the so-called war on terror. For instance, U.S. officials claim that the recent sale to Pakistan of F-16 jets with air-to-air missiles will help in the fight against al Qaeda. In reality, they are for fighting India, and they create a market for selling similar U.S. fighters to India.

The result is a robust global arms bazaar led, in order, by the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and China. Sixty-eight percent ($30 billion) of all weapons sales last year were with developing nations, many of which have subpar records on human rights and democracy. Last year, the United States alone signed deals worth $6.2 billion with states such as Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates for attack helicopters, missiles, aircraft, and other weapons.

Is the arms trade a cause or a symptom of global conflicts? It is both. As outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently put it, “Arms buildups can give rise to threats leading to conflict, and political conflicts can motivate the acquisition of arms. Efforts are needed both to reduce arms and to reduce conflict.”

In particular, the burgeoning trade in small arms and light weapons, including rifles, machine guns, and mortars, helps increase the level of violence of civil conflicts in many countries, from Angola to Colombia, Congo, Haiti, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and the Darfur region of Sudan.

In response to this unacceptable situation, one major supplier state, the United Kingdom helped spearhead and win UN support for a process that could eventually lead to a new global arms trade treaty. In October, the United Nations’ First Committee endorsed a resolution that calls for exploring common standards for the import, export, and transfer of conventional weapons. Multilateral negotiations could begin in two years. The goal is not to outlaw arms sales but to require suppliers to operate in a more transparent, responsible, and accountable manner.

The resolution won 139 votes, while 24 states, including Russia and China, abstained. The United States was the only state to oppose it. U.S. officials complain that the effort will produce more meetings and less action and lead to a lowest-common-denominator set of standards. Yet, to paraphrase Churchill, what is wrong with more jaw-jaw if it means less war-war?

Rather than impeding the initiative, the United States should be out front pulling. U.S. diplomats should listen to their British counterparts who point out that key suppliers can and should work together to ensure that the treaty compels states to adopt stronger, not weaker, arms transfer controls.

As the world’s leading arms supplier, the United States has a special responsibility and a clear self-interest in establishing tougher, binding standards on conventional arms transfers. Today, most arms sales have little or nothing to do with self-defense and the arms being sold only help fuel conflicts and tensions in unstable areas, undermining prospects for peace and opportunities for the less fortunate. We can no longer afford to ignore the long-term cost to human security. The time to act is now.

What is the most serious weapons-related security threat? The answer depends on who you are and where you live. For many Westerners, the biggest worry may be catastrophic nuclear terrorism. But for millions of people in conflict-ridden developing regions, the greatest threat emanates from the free flow of and trade in conventional weapons. With global arms sales soaring to more than $44 billion in 2005 and hundreds of thousands of people dying annually from weapons and war, tough new controls on international arms sales are urgently needed.

U.S. and global leaders recognize the high-consequence dangers posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. As a result, they have established a patchwork system of legally binding treaties restricting the possession, proliferation, and use of “unconventional” weapons. However, there is no international treaty regulating the export of conventional arms, which produce more misery and carnage on a day-to-day basis. (Continue)

Balancing Nuclear "Rights" and Responsibilities

Daryl G. Kimball

Since the beginning of the nuclear age, efforts to exploit nuclear technology for energy and for profit have complicated the task of reducing the nuclear weapons threat. Now, as states such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Iran, and South Africa either pursue or consider moving into the business of enriching uranium, the complexities and dangers could significantly deepen.

The 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) grants states the “right” to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, so long as states forswear nuclear weapons and comply with safeguards against the diversion of nuclear technology and materials for weapons purposes.

International safeguards can help detect and deter cheating, but they cannot prevent “breakout” scenarios. Yet, if current trends continue, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has warned that we could “have 20-30…virtual nuclear weapons states, meaning countries that could move within months into converting their civilian capacity or capability into a weapons program.”

About 12 states already possess uranium enrichment or plutonium separation facilities, or both. These technologies can be used to produce fissile material for bombs. Government-affiliated and subsidized entities in the United States, Russia, and France, as well as a British-Dutch-German consortium, provide an enrichment capacity sufficient to meet current and projected future nuclear energy demands. As President George W. Bush noted in 2004, “enrichment and reprocessing are not necessary for nations seeking to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Even though they have small domestic nuclear energy sectors, Argentine, Brazilian, and South African officials, like Iran’s leaders, cite domestic nuclear fuel needs and the possibility of cutoffs in external supply as the rationale for exploring new, multibillion-dollar centrifuge-enrichment facilities. Prime Minister John Howard has called for Australia to enter the uranium-enrichment market although it is also economically infeasible for his country.

However, supply interruptions are only likely—and would be appropriate—if the recipient state violates its nonproliferation commitments. That is not likely, given that these states are members in good standing with the NPT and have supported action toward global nuclear disarmament. But if they insist on having enrichment capabilities, others such as Iran or South Korea, with weaker compliance records and stronger motives to pursue nuclear weapons, are sure to insist on having them too.

To reverse the trend, several states and a leading nongovernmental organization have offered ideas to create assured nuclear fuel supplies for states that forgo enrichment and reprocessing. At a special IAEA conference last month, a range of schemes were discussed. A “global nuclear fuel bank” is an old idea that may someday become a reality and could address the supply concerns, real or imagined, of many states.

Meanwhile, tighter restrictions on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology and on the construction of new facilities are in order. Bush’s 2004 proposal that Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) states not sell enrichment and reprocessing equipment to any state that does not already have the capability is good but is not enough. It would allow Japan to move ahead with a major plutonium reprocessing plant and the construction of new U.S. and French centrifuge-enrichment plants. Not surprisingly, the NSG has not endorsed this discriminatory approach.

If we are to succeed in limiting the number of states capable of producing nuclear bomb material, all states must be willing to provide responsible leadership and restraint. In the near future, there is no economic rationale for new states to enter the civil uranium-enrichment or plutonium-separation arena. The further pursuit of plutonium separation by states such as Japan, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and especially the United States will only lead to more proliferation risks.

As supplier and buyer states explore options to deal with potential market shortages and interruptions in fuel supply, they must also all agree that recipient states meet basic nonproliferation standards. Otherwise, the growing trade in nuclear fuel and technology could facilitate weapons production. At the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, member states endorsed a policy requiring “full-scope” safeguards as a condition of nuclear supply.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration, along with France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, is moving to weaken the existing safeguards regime by pursuing full civil nuclear trade with India, which refuses safeguards on all its facilities and produces fissile material for weapons. The leaders of Australia, Brazil, and South Africa have become a part of this problem too. All three have recently said they are prepared to reverse nonproliferation policies in order sell their uranium supplies to New Delhi.

Speaking for many nonaligned, non-nuclear-weapon states, South African officials have resisted restrictions on enrichment and plutonium separation technology that infringes on what they call their “inalienable right” to nuclear energy. Such interpretations of the NPT are dangerous and out of touch. Just as the nuclear powers have an obligation to agree to verifiably halt fissile production and dismantle their weapons stocks, non-nuclear-weapon states must exercise their “rights” in a way that helps avoid the further proliferation of nuclear weapons-related technology and the nuclear anarchy that would ensue.

 

 

Number Nine

Daryl G. Kimball

North Korea’s October 9 nuclear test explosion could cause irreparable damage to an already beleaguered global nonproliferation system. Unless the world’s ninth active nuclear weapons program is verifiably halted and reversed through more effective diplomacy, the test may be the tipping point that prompts other states to follow suit. The blast should also trigger far more energetic action to tighten global nuclear nonproliferation standards and ensure universal compliance with those already on the books.

UN Security Council Resolution 1718 rightly condemns North Korea for its half-kiloton yield nuclear blast and calls for its return to the negotiating table. North Korea’s leaders now say they will rejoin six-party talks on their nuclear program. If they do, the Bush administration must seize what could be the last best opportunity to check Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities. It must finally engage in genuine diplomacy to implement the step-by-step process of verifiable disarmament in exchange for normalized relations as outlined in a joint statement last year.

After six-years and four previous rounds of inclusive six-party talks, there can be little doubt that the Bush administration’s approach has failed: Pyongyang has hunkered-down and accelerated its nuclear bomb program. Punitive sanctions alone cannot reverse its nuclear program or force the collapse of the already-isolated Kim Jong Il regime. Nor do North Korea’s insecure leaders appear capable of making a bold, Libya-like decision to completely eliminate their nuclear weapons program for fear it would jeopardize the regime’s survival.

For now, North Korea possesses fissile material for fewer than a dozen bombs. It is not yet capable of delivering working nuclear warheads on its ballistic missiles. Such a threat is still deterrable without the United States or other countries resorting to nuclear weapons threats. But if the crisis continues to be mismanaged and Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal grows, Tokyo and Seoul will seriously consider building their own nuclear weapons. Japan, with its large stockpile of “civilian” plutonium and new plutonium reprocessing plant, is a virtual nuclear-weapon state. If it were to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and exercise its capability, South Korea would likely do so too, and China would likely increase its arsenal of some 100 weapons.

To head off this proliferation nightmare, President George W. Bush must finally recognize that dialogue with adversaries such as North Korea is not a reward for bad behavior, but a vital tool to deal with nuclear dangers. U.S. officials should be authorized to meet separately with North Korean officials to resolve issues of concern, including U.S. financial sanctions imposed on North Korea in reaction to its money laundering activities.

To keep North Korea at the negotiating table, China’s leaders must also exert maximum diplomatic and economic influence on Pyongyang. To improve the chances that North Korea will deliver on disarmament, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States must clarify not only the costs of further defiance but the benefits of cooperation. They should develop a detailed proposal outlining the security assurances, trade benefits, and energy support that they would be prepared to provide if North Korea dismantles its nuclear complex. The first priority should be to reinstate a verifiable freeze on Pyongyang’s plutonium production, which would limit the amount of fissile material for weapons and possibly for sale to others.

The emergence of North Korea as the world’s ninth nuclear-weapon state is yet another reminder that we can no longer afford to lurch from one nuclear crisis to the next. The current U.S. policy of isolating “unfriendly” states to try to prevent proliferation while permitting “friendly” states to possess and improve their nuclear arsenals is unsustainable and a recipe for nuclear anarchy.

Today’s security environment requires a more comprehensive and balanced U.S. nonproliferation and disarmament strategy. To prevent the emergence of additional virtual nuclear-weapon states, all states should observe an indefinite moratorium on all new uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation plants. To cap the size of existing arsenals, all states with nuclear weapons, including India, Pakistan, and Israel, should halt the production of fissile material for weapons and join the global nuclear test ban regime.

Finally, major nuclear-weapon states must restore confidence they will fulfill their NPT obligation to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons and eventually eliminate them. The United States and Russia should resume talks on further verifiable reductions of their strategic and tactical nuclear arsenals, which will still number more than 5,000 warheads each by 2012. All nuclear-weapon states should disavow the development of new types of nuclear weapons and the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states and targets. This would reduce the incentives for other states to develop their own nuclear weapons.

Ambitious? Yes. But the dangers of the bomb are growing. Without more comprehensive global leadership in all, not just some, of these areas, the struggle against nuclear proliferation will fall short and leave behind a more dangerous world for generations to come.

Revive the Test Ban Treaty

Daryl G. Kimball

Ten years ago this month, UN member states overwhelmingly endorsed and later opened for signature the longest-sought, hardest-fought nuclear arms control treaty: the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Today, despite widespread support for the CTBT and a de facto global nuclear-test moratorium, the treaty still has not entered into force.

The CTBT is a simple treaty with profound value to the struggle against proliferation. By verifiably prohibiting “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion,” the treaty would simultaneously help constrain the qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons, curb proliferation, advance disarmament, and delegitimize nuclear weapons.

Moving forward on the CTBT is an essential step toward restoring confidence in the beleaguered nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. The nuclear-weapon states’ commitment to achieve the CTBT was a crucial part of the bargain that won the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995.

A decade later, it is feared that North Korea may conduct a nuclear test explosion to demonstrate its suspected weapons capability. Iran is threatening to leave the NPT and may be able to produce bomb-grade material within a few years. The existing nuclear-weapon states, including China, India, and Pakistan, could use another round of testing to perfect new and more dangerous nuclear-weapon capabilities.

Indeed, support for the treaty has steadily grown, as 176 states have signed the CTBT and 135 have ratified it. But the U.S. Senate’s highly partisan 1999 rejection of the CTBT, the ideologically driven opposition of the Bush administration, and the reluctance of nine other CTBT “rogue states” have delayed its formal entry into force and left the door open to renewed nuclear testing.
The current U.S. policy is most problematic and perplexing. Since 2001, the Bush administration has said it will not seek Senate reconsideration and approval for ratification. Senior officials say the CTBT is neither verifiable nor compatible with maintaining the existing U.S. stockpile.

At the same time, there is no requirement for new warheads that would necessitate renewed U.S. testing, and senior officials repeatedly say there is no other need for the resumption of nuclear testing in the foreseeable future. As a signatory, the United States is also bound by customary international law not to take any action contrary to the purpose of the CTBT. The Bush approach requires the United States to assume most CTBT-related responsibilities but robs U.S. diplomats of the moral and political authority to prod other nations to refrain from testing and help strengthen the nonproliferation system.

As 2008 Republican presidential hopefuls Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.) noted back in 1999, the Senate can and should reconsider the CTBT. “A clear majority of the Senate have not given up hope of finding common ground in our quest for a sound and secure ban on nuclear testing,” wrote Hagel.

If the next president were to press the Senate to reconsider and support ratification of the CTBT, that body would find that all the previous arguments against ratification have been soundly rebuffed. A July 2002 report of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) states that the United States “has the technical capabilities to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its existing nuclear-weapon stockpile under [a test ban].” The NAS report documents that no would-be CTBT violator could have confidence that a nuclear explosion of any military utility would escape detection. The CTBT international monitoring and on-site inspection system, buttressed by national intelligence, are more than equal to the task.

The United States is not the only guilty party. China, which signed the treaty in 1996, has said for more than three years that “all necessary work is underway in a serious and orderly fashion” to ratify. Beijing owes the world a detailed explanation for its continued delay.

Some prominent non-nuclear-weapon states whose ratification is needed for CTBT entry into force, including Columbia, Egypt, and Indonesia, have not ratified and should do so without delay. Action by these states, along with the United States, could help cure India’s CTBT allergy and lead New Delhi as well as Islamabad to enter into a legally binding test moratorium.

Overcoming the reluctance of the few also requires a stronger effort from the many friends of the CTBT. Unfortunately, top leaders of states committed to the CTBT, including Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom, often fail to press their counterparts in the CTBT holdout states when they have the opportunity.

CTBT entry into force is within reach. But because of the inaction of a few states, the viability of a verifiable, comprehensive ban on nuclear tests and the future of the NPT itself is in jeopardy. With the 2008 U.S. election approaching, it is vital that CTBT supporters put the treaty back on the U.S. political map and move to secure ratification by other key states before it is too late.

 

 

Next Stop: The NSG

Daryl G. Kimball

Within months, the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will move from the periphery to the center of a year-long debate about whether India should become eligible for full civil nuclear trade even though it does not yet observe the nonproliferation practices expected of other states. The outcome will have a profound impact on the future of the entire nonproliferation system.

The NSG was formed as a direct response to India’s 1974 bomb test, which used plutonium produced by foreign-supplied reactors that were supposed to be operated only for peaceful uses. Although the group’s guidelines are not binding, it has helped curtail the flow of dual-use technologies, materials, and nuclear fuel and reinforced the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

The NSG debate will provide an opportunity for action by the leaders of states who correctly believe the U.S.-Indian proposal could further erode the nonproliferation system and allow India to expand its nuclear stockpile. When that time comes, possibly as soon as October, they have a responsibility to insist on a better alternative.

In June, two key congressional committees approved bills based on a July 2005 proposal from President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. They called for granting India an unprecedented exemption from U.S. laws and NSG guidelines that restrict nuclear trade with states, such as India, that do not allow international safeguards of all nuclear sites. Among the provisions added by Congress, however, is a requirement that the president must win consensus approval from the NSG for nuclear trade with India.

So far, the NSG remains split on whether to grant India a country-specific exemption. France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are the main proponents, while the majority of other states have unresolved questions and concerns. Meanwhile, China and a handful of other states, including Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden remain opposed to creating a loophole for India without additional disarmament commitments from New Delhi.

One of the concerns of the skeptics is that an India-specific exemption from NSG guidelines would compromise efforts to restrict peaceful nuclear trade only to those states that have joined the NPT and meet global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament standards.

The U.S. proposal has already encouraged Russia to ignore NSG guidelines and supply India’s two Tarapur light-water reactors with nuclear fuel. At a later point, China may also seek similar exemptions for Pakistan, one of its allies and nuclear trading partners.

Many concerned NSG members also realize that the proposed separation of India’s civilian and military nuclear facilities and the application of international safeguards to additional civil facilities is more symbol than substance. If India gains access to advanced nuclear equipment, especially uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation-related technology, it could be replicated and used to improve India’s weapons program.

Despite objections from the White House and New Delhi, the Senate legislation includes a partial prohibition on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology. But unless the NSG states also agree to bar such transfers, India could obtain these dual-use technologies from other willing suppliers.

Given that India has not joined the five original nuclear-weapon states in halting the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for bombs, many NSG governments worry that supplying nuclear fuel to India could allow it to devote its limited supply of uranium exclusively to its weapons program. That could lead to further arms competition among China, India, and Pakistan. So far, Congress has failed to require the president to certify that U.S. nuclear trade does not, in any way, assist India’s bomb program.

Unless the NSG requires that India join a multilateral fissile material cutoff regime before getting the full benefits of peaceful nuclear trade, India could increase its annual bomb production rate from about six to ten bombs to several dozen. The NSG should also condition full nuclear trade on the formalization of India’s eight-year-old nuclear test moratorium.

With Congress poised to vote on the committee-approved legislation for renewed U.S. civil nuclear trade with India, Washington, Paris, and London can be expected to press the NSG to take action this year. But there should be no rush to judgment.

Before the United States can deliver nuclear-related goods under the deal, India must first negotiate a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. U.S. and Indian negotiators must also resolve at least six major points of contention on a bilateral agreement for nuclear cooperation.

The Bush-Singh proposal to make a special exception to the nonproliferation rules and standards for India has the potential to undermine the NSG and the nonproliferation system. For NSG states concerned about the fragility of the nonproliferation system and the adverse impact of the India nuclear deal, this is the time for them to stand up in defense of their security priorities and the future of the nuclear nonproliferation system.

 

 

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