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"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 #NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
Press Releases

Proliferation Security Initiative Advances

But Russia and China Keep Their Distance

Wade Boese

A U.S.-led coalition to interdict shipments of deadly arms around the globe scored a couple of firsts in February. The 11 original participants added three more states to their roster, and the United States concluded an agreement giving it the right to board ships flying the flag of Liberia, which accounts for the second-largest number of vessels on the high seas. Yet, China and Russia have defied U.S. entreaties to join in the effort, dubbed the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

President George W. Bush revealed the first expansion of the initiative in a Feb. 11 speech at the National Defense University, in which he outlined U.S. proposals to stop proliferation. “Three more governments—Canada and Singapore and Norway—will be participating in [PSI],” the president said. All three states, as well as Denmark and Turkey, attended a Washington-hosted PSI meeting in December. Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom have been involved since Bush’s launch of the initiative last May.

Bush said more states would be formally enlisted. Some 60 governments have endorsed the initiative’s principles, according to U.S. officials.

The three new participants will join in PSI activities to detect and interdict shipments of missiles and chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and related technologies at sea, in the air, and on land. Various governments have intercepted weapons shipments in the past, but PSI is aimed at better coordinating these national efforts.

Although PSI participants are in the middle of a series of ten public training exercises, they have been discreet about actual operations. However, after Libya renounced its weapons of mass destruction ambitions and programs last December, U.S. officials disclosed that PSI participants successfully had seized a shipment of centrifuge components destined for Libya just two months earlier. (See ACT, January/February 2004.)

While successful, the interdiction also underscored PSI’s limitations. Because the ship carrying the centrifuges was German-owned, Berlin was able to ask the shipping company to take its cargo to an Italian port to be voluntarily inspected.

If the ship had been registered to a non-PSI participant or an uncooperative government and did not pass through the waters of PSI participants, the opportunity to board the ship legally may not have arisen.

To board a ship in international waters, permission must be received from the government whose flag the ship is flying unless it violates some maritime rule, such as displaying improper registration or identification information.

Such constraints lent significance to the Feb. 11 signing of a boarding agreement with Liberia. The deal sets out the intentions of Liberia and the United States to allow their vessels suspected of transporting dangerous arms to be stopped and searched by the other’s military and law enforcement agencies.

Under the agreement, boarding permission will be sought on a case-by-case basis, but if a specific request is not responded to within a two-hour period, it will be treated as consent to act. Approximately 1,500 oceangoing ships are registered to Liberia—second only to Panama’s nearly 5,000.

A Department of State spokesman said Feb. 18 that the United States has approached up to 10 additional states, including Panama, about concluding similar boarding agreements.

Washington is also seeking to persuade Moscow and Beijing to become more actively engaged with PSI, but both capitals are hesitant. They have cited concerns about the legality and practicality of intercepting cargo in transit.

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton traveled to Russia at the end of January to sell the Kremlin on PSI but came away empty-handed. Russian officials reportedly are continuing to study the initiative.

China appears less receptive, if not more oblique. In a Feb. 12 press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue responded to a question about PSI by stating, “We believe that the issue of proliferation shall be resolved through political and diplomatic means within the framework of international laws, and all nonproliferation measures shall contribute to peace, security, and stability in the region and the world at large.”


 

 

 

 

 

A U.S.-led coalition to interdict shipments of deadly arms around the globe scored a couple of firsts in February. The 11 original participants added three more states to their roster, and the United States concluded an...

Questions Over Iraq Intel Continue to Plague Blair

Dan Koik

British Prime Minister Tony Blair faces growing criticism over his decision to go to war in Iraq, despite being cleared by Lord Brian Hutton Jan. 28 of any wrongdoing in the events leading to the suicide of British weapons inspector David Kelly last year. Hutton, the law lord tasked with investigating Kelly’s death, concluded that the Blair government had not acted in a “dishonourable, underhand, or duplicitous” manner and that there was no conspiracy to “sex up” the dossier documenting Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). (See ACT, October 2003 and September 2003.)

Instead, Hutton focused his recriminations on the BBC and its reporter, Andrew Gilligan, who first made the accusation that the government had knowingly made a false claim that Iraq was prepared to use weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. Hutton concluded that Gillian’s reports were “unfounded” and criticized the BBC editorial process for allowing the accusations to be aired and for defending the reporter during the ensuing public row with the prime minister’s office.

The report threw the BBC into turmoil and appeared to provide a needed boost to Blair’s weakening political position. The day after the report was released, BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies resigned; Gilligan and Director General Gregg Dyke followed shortly thereafter. Blair demanded and received an apology from the BBC.

Rather than producing a political clean slate for Blair, however, the Hutton Report has provoked a backlash by political opponents and much of the British public. Many believe that Hutton was unfairly biased in favor of the government and placed too much blame on the BBC. Critics are also unhappy that Hutton did not address the larger question of whether the British government overstated the case against Iraq. Polls show Blair’s reputation deteriorating. The Independent newspaper reported Feb. 7 that 51 percent of those questioned believed Blair should resign and 54 percent thought Blair exaggerated the prewar threat from Iraq.

Following former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay’s admission that intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was wrong, Blair tasked ex-Cabinet Secretary Lord Robin Butler to lead a committee examining the quality of prewar intelligence. However, political opponents immediately criticized the structure and independence of the inquiry. Charles Kennedy, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat party, refused to participate, arguing that the inquiry’s focus is too narrow. Others say that Butler, who has directly served five prime ministers, is too much of an insider. As stated by The Guardian newspaper, “He consistently showed deference to those in power.”

Blair’s troubles were compounded by his statement before a raucous session of Parliament Feb. 4, when he stated he did not know that the “45 minutes” claim referred only to battlefield munitions. Robin Cook, the former House of Commons leader who resigned in protest over the war, expressed skepticism over Blair’s statement, saying that he himself had been aware of the distinction at the time and he doubted Blair had not been informed. In later testimony before Parliament, Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon said that the 45 minutes claim had not been an issue in discussions about Iraq before the war.

Michael Howard, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, called on Blair to resign, saying he had failed to ask fundamental questions about Iraq’s weapons capabilities before deciding to go to war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Prime Minister Tony Blair faces growing criticism over his decision to go to war in Iraq, despite being cleared by Lord Brian Hutton Jan. 28 of any wrongdoing in the events leading...

Contrasting Views on Iraq's WMD

Paul Kerr

This material is adapted from the public version of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD Capabilities; CIA Director George Tenet’s Feb. 5 speech at Georgetown University; March 2003 and December 2003 reports from the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission; a March report from the IAEA; congressional testimony from former Iraq Survey Group adviser David Kay; and a Feb. 13 interview Kay gave to the Associated Press.

The Intelligence Community: October 2002

Chemical
Iraq has begun renewed production of chemical warfare agents, probably including mustard, sarin, cyclosarin, and VX. Iraq probably has stocked a few hundred metric tons of chemical weapons agents.

Biological
All key aspects of Iraq’s offensive biological weapons program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Persian Gulf War.

Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating biological weapons agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax.

Baghdad has established a large-scale, redundant, and concealed biological weapons agent production capability, which includes mobile facilities.

Nuclear
Most analysts assess Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. If Baghdad acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year. Without such material from abroad, Iraq probably would not be able to make a weapon until the last half of the decade.

Iraq’s aggressive attempts to obtain proscribed high-strength aluminum tubes are of significant concern. All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a gas centrifuge enrichment program. Such programs can produce fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. Most intelligence specialists assess this to be the intended use, but some believe that these tubes are probably intended for conventional weapons programs.

Delivery Systems
Iraq maintains a small missile force and several development programs, including for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that is probably intended to deliver biological warfare agents.

Gaps in Iraqi accounting to UN inspectors during the 1990s suggest that Saddam retains a covert force of up to a few dozen SCUD-variant Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs) with ranges of 650 to 900 km.

Iraq is deploying its new al-Samoud and Ababil-100 SRBMs, capable of flying beyond the UN-authorized 150-km range limit.

Iraq is developing medium-range ballistic missile capabilities.

UN Inspectors: March 2003

Chemical
Inspectors found no proscribed activities, or the result of such activities.

Biological
Inspectors found no proscribed activities, or the result of such activities. UN inspectors discovered no mobile facilities for producing weapons.

Nuclear
UN inspectors found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.They found no indication of resumed nuclear activities in new or reconstructed Iraqi buildings, or any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites. The UN found no indication that Iraq attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment.

Delivery Systems
UN weapons inspectors ordered Iraq to destroy its al Samoud missiles because their design was inherently capable of ranges greater than UN-permitted ranges. Baghdad was in the process of doing so when the invasion began. There was no evidence that Iraq was actually modifying the missiles to achieve a prohibited range. UN inspectors had not yet decided if the al-Fatah missiles, the most recent version of the Ababil, exceeded permitted ranges and they were still investigating Iraq’s UAV program as of the March 2003 invasion.

Postwar Inspections: February 2004

Chemical
Iraq did not have a large, ongoing chemical weapons program after 1991. Iraq’s large-scale capability was either reduced or destroyed by U.S. military actions during the 1990s, UN sanctions and inspections.

Biological
Iraq after 1996 focused on maintaining smaller, covert capabilities that could be activated quickly. Iraq concealed relevant equipment and materials from UN inspectors. Iraq had a prison laboratory complex that was possibly used in human testing of biological weapons agents. Additionally, Iraq had a clandestine network of laboratories and facilities. Iraqi scientists conducted some research that was possibly applicable to biological weapons.

The trailers discovered in spring 2003 were not intended for the production of biological weapons.

Nuclear
According to some Iraqi scientists and government officials, Iraq remained committed to acquiring nuclear weapons. Iraq began several small dual-use research initiatives in 2000, but there is no evidence that the research was applied to weapons production.

Iraq took some steps to preserve some technological capability from its previous nuclear weapons program. Several Iraqi scientists preserved documents and equipment from their pre-1991 research. There are indications that Iraq was interested, beginning in 2002, in reconstituting a centrifuge enrichment program. The use of the aluminum tubes is still undetermined, but experts agree that there was no centrifuge program.

Delivery Systems
Iraq was conducting R&D on several different projects designed to produce missiles with ranges exceeding the UN- permitted range. Iraq attempted to acquire technology from North Korea for surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 1,300 km and land-to-sea missiles with a range of 300 km. No such transfers actually occurred.

Unspecified sources have said Iraq ordered the development of ballistic missiles with ranges of at least 400 km and up to 1,000 km. It is unclear how far work on these had progressed. Iraq had two cruise missile programs.

However, Iraq halted engine development and testing on the second and disassembled the test stand in late 2002 before testing was complete. Iraq had several UAV programs. A prototype of one flew well beyond its permitted range during a 2002 test flight. Whether these vehicles were intended to deliver chemical or biological weapons is unknown.

CIA Director George Tenet: Feb. 5, 2004

Chemical
Saddam had the intent and capability to quickly convert civilian industry to chemical weapons production. Saddam had rebuilt a dual-use industry.

Biological
Iraq intended to develop biological weapons. Research and development (R&D) work was underway that would have permitted a rapid shift to agent production if seed stocks were available. The United States does not know if production took place. No biological weapons have been found.

Iraq after 1996 further compartmentalized its program and focused on maintaining smaller covert capabilities that could be activated quickly to surge the production of biological weapons agents.

There is no consensus within the intelligence community today over whether trailers discovered in Iraq in spring 2003 were for the production of biological weapons agents or hydrogen for the production of biological weapons agents or hydrogen.

Nuclear
Saddam Hussein did not have a nuclear weapon, but he still wanted one and Iraq intended to reconstitute a nuclear program at some point. There is no clear evidence that the dual-use items Iraq were attempting to acquire were for nuclear reconstitution.

Delivery Systems
U.S.-led inspectors have found an aggressive Iraqi missile program concealed from the international community. Iraq had plans for liquid propellant missiles with ranges of up to 1,000 kilometers.

Iraq had new work underway on prohibited solid propellant missiles. Iraq was in secret negotiations with North Korea to obtain some of its most dangerous missile technology.

The U.S.-led inspectors detected development of prohibited and undeclared UAVs, but the jury is still out on whether Iraq intended to use its newer, smaller UAV to deliver biological weapons.

 

 

 

 

 

This material is adapted from the public version of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD Capabilities; CIA Director George Tenet’s Feb. 5 speech at Georgetown University...

Top Pentagon Official Says Missile Defense Performance Questionable Without More Tests

Wade Boese

In an annual report to Congress, the Pentagon’s top official in charge of ensuring that U.S. weapons perform properly said he could not offer a final verdict on a proposed layered U.S. ballistic missile defense system because it has been only minimally tested.

The Bush administration is currently working to deploy the system’s initial elements—up to six missile interceptors in Alaska and four more in California—starting this June and ending in January 2005. The interceptors, part of the Pentagon’s ground-based midcourse missile defense (GMD) system, are intended to knock out a long-range ballistic missile warhead traveling through space after being fired from Northeast Asia.

Thomas Christie, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation, told lawmakers in January, “At this point in time, it is not clear what mission capability will be demonstrated prior to [initial defensive operations].”

Christie indicated that his uncertainty about the system’s future capabilities stemmed from the sparse testing conducted by the Pentagon over the past year. “Due to immature [missile defense] elements, very little system level testing was performed by the close of [fiscal year 2003],” Christie reported.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has not conducted a GMD system intercept test since a Dec. 11, 2002, intercept test failed. That failure dropped the GMD record to five hits and three misses.

MDA is planning a GMD intercept test in May or June and another in July or August. Christie warned, however, that, “[e]ven with successful intercepts in both of these attempts, the small number of tests would limit confidence in the integrated interceptor performance.”

No intercept test has been conducted of the proposed interceptor’s two key elements—the booster and the exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV)—together. The booster lifts the EKV into space. The EKV is then supposed to separate from the booster and home in on an enemy warhead for a destructive collision.

In all eight intercept tests to date, MDA has used a slower surrogate booster after nearly three years of setbacks in developing a more powerful booster. Yet, MDA may have turned the corner on its booster development with successful, nonintercept flight tests of two different booster models in January. Although MDA plans to keep both models as part of the program, only the Orbital Sciences Corporation model will be used in this year’s intercept tests and deployment because of a shortage of the Lockheed Martin Corporation model due to accidents at a plant involved in its production. (See ACT, December 2003.)

The lack of a more powerful booster has resulted in previous intercept tests being done at lesser speeds than what would be expected in a real scenario, Christie indicated. He also stated that all the tests have followed the same pattern and that the system knows what the target looks like in advance. In a real attack, the system may not have such details.

Christie further reported that the Pentagon has no current plans to test a radar located on a remote Alaskan island against an actual target to see if it can track an incoming warhead. The radar, Cobra Dane, is intended to gather information to help pinpoint an enemy warhead for the ground-based interceptors.

Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Armed Services Committee and an outspoken critic of the administration’s deployment plan, seized on Christie’s report, saying his findings “makes it clear that in a rush to win an ideological victory, President [George W.] Bush risks prematurely deploying a missile defense system by 2004 that is technologically unproven and will drain resources from other essential priorities.” Bush campaigned on the need for robust missile defenses and ordered the June 2002 U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to pursue a nationwide defense that would have violated the accord.

MDA spokesman Rick Lehner defended the pace of the GMD program following the release of Christie’s report. He said that, by the time deployment is underway, MDA will have proven that the system can detect, track, and hit a target. He added that the agency has “a great deal of confidence [in the interceptor], most of which comes from the many hundreds of modeling and simulation exercises we’ve completed as well as ground testing.”

Christie also assessed other U.S. missile defense systems. Although asserting that testing of a sea-based system against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles had become more challenging, Christie said the system will not have proven itself against separating or multiple targets before deployment of five of the sea-based interceptors scheduled for this year. The system’s five intercept tests to date involved a single target that stays in one piece.

The Patriot-3 (PAC-3) system, which saw action during the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, requires “significant improvements” to distinguish effectively between friendly and enemy targets, Christie wrote. While knocking out nine Iraqi missiles, Patriot systems—both PAC-3 and older versions—destroyed two friendly aircraft and targeted a third. Christie observed that his recommendation applies to all U.S. defense systems, not just the Patriot.

 

 

 

 

 

In an annual report to Congress, the Pentagon’s top official in charge of ensuring that U.S. weapons perform properly said he could not offer a final verdict on a proposed layered U.S. ballistic missile defense system...

U.S. Rebukes Russia for Failing to Withdraw Troops From Georgia and Moldova

Wade Boese

The United States is strongly criticizing Russia for failing to live up to past pledges to withdraw its armed forces from Georgia and Moldova. (See ACT, December 2003.)

Secretary of State Colin Powell Dec. 2 expressed regret that Moscow would not complete a total military withdrawal from Moldova by the end of 2003 nor finalize a timetable for vacating Russian-occupied bases in Georgia.

Speaking at a foreign ministers meeting of the 55-member Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Powell urged Russia to undertake the “earliest possible fulfillment” of these actions.

Although other OSCE members backed the U.S. position, Russia remained defiant. It refused to reaffirm its withdrawal commitments, which Moscow first made in November 1999 at an OSCE summit in Istanbul.

Because the OSCE operates by consensus, the meeting ended without a final statement. However, Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who served as chairman of the meeting, stated that “most ministers” support Russia’s withdrawal from Moldova “without further delay” and urged the “speedy conclusion of negotiations” on Russia’s continuing presence in Georgia.

Georgia and Moldova expressed displeasure at the meeting’s outcome. Georgia described itself as “deeply disappointed” that no agreed statement could be reached regarding its situation, while Moldova called for the “complete and unconditional withdrawal” of Russian forces from its territory.

Russia is making progress in its withdrawal from Moldova, which was initially supposed to be completed by the end of 2002. Russian and OSCE officials estimate that the ongoing task could be finished within seven to eight months if uninterrupted.

Similar optimism had existed in the first half of 2003. But separatists in the Transdniestria region of Moldova, where the Russian forces are located, blocked shipments of arms and ammunition from leaving the region. Although the separatists, who want financial compensation for Russia’s departure, briefly allowed the withdrawal to resume, theyreneged at the end of the year.

In Georgia, Russia continues officially to control two military bases; its forces occupy a third. The two countries remain divided over how long Russian troops should be allowed to remain. Moscow wants them to stay for at least 11 more years, while Tbilisi says three years are enough.

Reinforcing Powell’s OSCE message, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld traveled Dec. 5 to Georgia, where he described Russia’s future withdrawal as a “pretty good idea.” Rumsfeld’s visit was seemingly designed to signal Russia not to try and take advantage of the shifting political scene in Georgia following the Nov. 23 resignation of longtime President Eduard Shevardnadze.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov replied coolly to Rumsfeld’s remarks the next day, saying, “We are disposed to work constructively so as to find mutually acceptable solutions.”

Until Russia fulfills its withdrawal commitments, the United States and its NATO allies are refusing to ratify the 1999 adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. The accord is an updated version of an existing treaty that limits the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters deployed in Europe by 30 countries, including the United States and Russia.

The Kremlin wants the revised accord to enter into force soon so Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania can accede to it before officially joining NATO. The 19-member alliance invited the three countries, along with Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, to become members in November 2002; and NATO expects the process will be completed by its upcoming June 2004 summit in Istanbul. (See ACT, June 2003.) None of the three Baltic countries currently have arms limits, leading Moscow to suggest NATO could stockpile huge amounts of weaponry along Russia’s western border.

At the OSCE meeting, Ivanov charged that the treaty’s ratification was being held up by “artificial pretexts.” He added, “If we do not take serious and timely measures, the gap between the system of arms control and the actual politico-military situation in Europe may become unbridgeable.”

Despite the mutual recriminations of foot-dragging, the OSCE meeting was not marked by total discord. The 55 members issued a handbook of voluntary best practices for countries to control the illegal trade in small arms, endorsed a process by which countries can request assistance to destroy excess ammunition stockpiles, and called upon countries to improve export controls of shoulder-fired missiles. None of the measures were legally binding.

 

 

 

 

 

The United States is strongly criticizing Russia for failing to live up to past pledges to withdraw its armed forces from Georgia and Moldova. (See ACT, December 2003.)

U.S., Russia to Retrieve Reactor Fuel

Christine Kucia


U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and Russian atomic energy minister Alexander Rumyantsev issued a joint statement Nov. 7 pledging to cooperate in retrieving Soviet- and Russian-supplied weapons-grade nuclear fuel from 20 research reactors in 17 countries.

According to Abraham, the agreement “reaffirms our common objective of reducing, and to the extent possible, ultimately eliminating the use of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) in civil nuclear activity.” U.S. and Russian authorities working with the International Atomic Energy Agency will return weapons-usable HEU from foreign research reactors to Russia. The initiative will also provide assistance to reactor operators to convert their facilities so they can be fueled with proliferation-resistant low-enriched uranium.

This bilateral program builds upon previous efforts to retrieve nuclear fuel from insecure sites. Authorities retrieved 48 kg of fuel from a reactor in Serbia in August 2002 and removed 14 kg of weapons-grade uranium from a defunct Romanian research reactor in September 2003. (See ACT, October 2003.)
A government-to-government agreement outlining the specific reactors and the timeline for action will be signed in late November or early December, Rumyantsev said Nov. 7.

 

 

 

 

U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and Russian atomic energy minister Alexander Rumyantsev...

WMD Security Draws U.S. Government Attention

Christine Kucia

The Bush administration recently launched several programs to deal with securing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) worldwide, particularly radiological materials that could be combined with conventional explosives to form so-called dirty bombs.

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Nov. 3 formed a Nuclear Radiological Threat Reduction Task Force to control radiological materials by identifying and securing high-risk materials—especially abandoned sources—both in the United States and overseas, and identifying vulnerable research reactors worldwide needing further assistance securing their fresh and spent nuclear fuel. The task force will consolidate the Energy Department’s efforts in the United States and abroad.

According to NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks, the effort “shows Secretary [of Energy Spencer] Abraham’s commitment to meeting the threat posed by nuclear and radiological terrorism on a global basis.” Edward McGinnis, head of the task force, told Arms Control Today Nov. 18 that the program will address the “full spectrum” of threat reduction by not only providing security for radiological materials “but also [by] working [with governments] to develop a regulatory infrastructure, and an effective one.” The new program will work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the State Department.

The Energy Department task force is, in part, an attempt to address concerns raised in an August 2003 General Accounting Office (GAO) report on the security of radiological sources in the United States. According to the GAO, the United States has approximately 2 million sealed radioactive sources that may be used in medicine, construction, or other industries. More than 1,300 incidents of missing sources in the past five years showed inconsistencies in U.S. licensing and material control practices. Further, an April 2003 GAO report found that storage facilities for sensitive material are insufficient and that the Office of Environmental Management does not place a high priority on its domestic material recovery responsibilities. The Energy Department transferred this work to the task force. McGinnis noted that the task force’s consolidation of the department’s programs “does address very well that particular recommendation by the GAO that we ensure that importance is given organizationally” to securing dangerous materials in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Department of State has created a program to fill the gaps in international control of nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological materials. The Dangerous Materials Initiative was first mentioned by John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, in an Oct. 30 speech in London. Bolton told Arms Control Today Nov. 4 that the program “is intended to supplement a lot of the activity that we’ve had in export controls [and] border controls.” The initiative will focus on identifying needs that may not already be addressed by existing programs and helping countries develop near-term pilot projects that could lead to the establishment of long-term, sustainable systems of materials control. This new program aims to complement efforts already being carried out by the Energy Department and international agencies, according to the State Department.

Additionally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is ramping up its efforts to prevent illegal WMD acquisition. The bureau formed a new WMD section to raise the profile of the threat domestically and to allocate additional resources to identify possible threats, prepare its response to potential attacks, and prosecute offenders. The new section will not be responsible for material control, which is already supervised by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Energy Department.

 

 

 

The Bush administration recently launched several programs to deal with securing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) worldwide, particularly...

Russian Withdrawal from Moldova, Georgia Lags

Wade Boese

More than a dozen years after the Soviet Union’s demise, Moscow continues to wrestle with the need to abandon some of the outposts of its formerly far-flung empire.

Russia pledged in November 1999 that it would completely withdraw its armed forces from Moldova by the end of 2002 and would work out a schedule in 2000 for closing down its military bases in Georgia. Russia has so far failed to do either, and the two small former Soviet republics are increasingly anxious about the Kremlin’s intentions.

The 55-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes Russia, Moldova, and Georgia as well as the United States, announced last December that it looked “forward to early full implementation” of the Russian commitments. At that time, Moscow pledged to finish withdrawing from Moldova within the coming year.

European and Russian officials have acknowledged in the past several weeks that Russia will not meet that goal.

Russia has withdrawn 46 trainloads of weapons and ammunition from Moldova to date, but there is about an equal amount awaiting shipment back to Russia, according to OSCE estimates. OSCE spokesman Claus Neukirch projected Nov. 7 that it would take Russia five uninterrupted months to remove just the remaining ammunition. Yet, Russia’s withdrawal from Moldova has been fitful. Over a four-month period beginning this June, Russia managed only to ship out one trainload of arms.

Even when Russia finishes removing the approximately 26,000 tons of stockpiled ammunition, however, Russian troops and military hardware would remain on Moldovan territory. For example, Moscow has yet to withdraw an estimated 36 armored combat vehicles that it painted with red crosses and declared as ambulances.

The Kremlin faults armed separatists in the Transdniestria region of Moldova for slowing its withdrawal. The separatists have refused to allow equipment for destroying excess ammunition to be transferred into the region and have blocked trains loaded with weapons from departing. As compensation for Russia’s withdrawal, the separatists are demanding that a $100 million gas debt they owe Moscow be forgiven. This issue remains unsettled.

Russia has also failed to come to terms with Georgia over the length of time Russian forces will stay in that country. Georgia is demanding that Russia vacate the Georgian bases it occupies within three years, while Moscow wants to be able to withdraw over an 11-year period. The Kremlin contends that speeding up the withdrawal would require an additional $200 million.

The status of Russia’s withdrawal from both Moldova and Georgia is expected to be discussed at a Dec. 1-2 OSCE foreign ministers meeting in Maastricht, Netherlands.

Russia’s lagging withdrawal efforts are delaying entry into force of an adapted version of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which limits the amount of heavy weaponry that can be deployed by its 30 states-parties. (See ACT, November 1999.) Led by the United States, the 19 members of NATO have repeatedly linked their ratification of the updated treaty with Russia fulfilling the commitments it made to OSCE member states at a 1999 ministerial meeting in Istanbul.

 

 

 

 

 

More than a dozen years after the Soviet Union’s demise, Moscow continues to wrestle with the need to abandon some of the outposts of its formerly far-flung empire.

Intelligence Agencies Clarify North Korea's Nuclear Capabilities

Paul Kerr

As U.S. diplomats move closer to restarting talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, intelligence analyses recently made public shed new light on Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities and political stability. In unclassified responses provided to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence earlier this year and made public by the Federation of American Scientists Oct. 31, intelligence officials say North Korea has attained a nuclear weapons capability without conducting a nuclear test. They also portray the Kim Jong Il regime as more stable than some Bush administration officials have indicated.

The CIA response, dated Aug. 18, said that “North Korea has produced one or two simple fission-type nuclear weapons and has validated the designs without conducting yield-producing nuclear tests.” Noting “press reports” that North Korea has conducted tests with conventional high explosives, the report added that such tests allow the North Koreans to verify their weapons designs. “There is no information to suggest that North Korea has conducted a successful nuclear test to date,” the CIA stated.

The CIA also observed that “conducting a nuclear test would be one option” for North Korea “to further escalate tensions and heighten regional fears in a bid to press Washington to negotiate” on Pyongyang’s terms. The report, however, added that North Korea “appears to view ambiguity regarding its nuclear capabilities as providing a tactical advantage,” noting that a nuclear weapons test could produce “an international backlash and further isolation.”

On the question of a suspected North Korean nuclear arsenal, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) response, dated June 30, stated that “North Korea has produced one, possibly two nuclear weapons.” Although a 2001 National Intelligence Estimate says the intelligence community reached the same conclusion in the mid-1990s, the intelligence community’s assessment of this question has at times varied. For example, a January 2003 CIA report to Congress stated that “North Korea probably has produced enough plutonium for at least one, and possibly two, nuclear weapons.”

North Korea has said it possesses nuclear weapons and has issued apparent threats to test them. (See ACT, November 2003.) Pyongyang’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ri Yong Ho, told Reuters Nov. 7 that his country possesses a workable nuclear device.

Two intelligence agencies also addressed the question of North Korea’s stability. The Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research stated in its April 30 response that it does not “perceive [North Korea’s] collapse as imminent.” Similarly, the DIA asserted that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s “hold on power appears secure” and that the regime showed no indications of collapse from a declining economy.

Such assessments stand in contrast to Bush administration officials who have expressed the belief that economic pressure will induce Pyongyang to comply with administration demands that it dismantle its nuclear programs. For example, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz argued in May that North Korea “is teetering on the edge of economic collapse” and that this weakness “is a major point of leverage” for the United States and its allies.

 

 

 

 

 

As U.S. diplomats move closer to restarting talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, intelligence analyses recently made public shed new light on...

Congress Approves Syria Sanctions Bill

Karen Yourish

Congress has sent a bill to the White House that requires President George W. Bush to sanction Syria unless the country immediately halts development of ballistic missiles, stops producing biological and chemical weapons, ends its alleged support for terrorism, and withdraws from Lebanon. However, the bill provides the White House with broad authority to waive the penalties in the interest of national security. In acceding to the Senate’s version of the legislation Nov. 20, the House endorsed a more flexible measure that is supported by the Bush administration.

Representative Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the author of the original House bill, said after the 408-8 vote that the bill is “a fair approach to dealing with the threat that Syria poses to the stability of the Middle East and to American interests around the world.” Recognizing the watered-down nature of the measure, however, he urged the president to “strictly enforce this important legislation.”

The Bush administration was initially reluctant to impose sanctions on Syria, fearing it would make Mideast peace efforts more difficult. Administration officials changed their tune after warning Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, without success, that there would be consequences if Syria failed to stop its support for terrorism. (See ACT, November 2003.)

Ever the more cautious chamber, Senate leaders stressed the flexibility inherent in the measure. “The bill, as amended, adds to the tools available to the president to move Syria toward a more responsible course,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said on the floor prior to the Senate’s 89-4 vote on Nov. 11. He said the bill “provides the president with the ability to calibrate U.S. sanctions against Syria in response to positive Syrian behavior when such adjustment is in the national security interest of the United States.”

 

 

 

Congress has sent a bill to the White House that requires President George W. Bush to sanction Syria unless the country immediately halts development...

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