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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

Bush Seeks Cuts in Pentagon Threat Reduction Programs

Philipp C. Bleek

The Bush administration is seeking reduced funding for Pentagon programs that assist former Soviet states in dismantling and securing weapons of mass destruction. The Bush proposal would cut some programs while expanding others, but senior officials emphasized that the administration may alter its request once an ongoing White House review of all threat reduction efforts wraps up.

In the amended defense budget it submitted to Congress in late June, the administration asked for $403 million to pay for the Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) efforts in the former Soviet Union for the fiscal year beginning in October. That figure is 9 percent below this year’s $443 million allocation.

The modest overall reduction is largely a function of year-to-year fluctuations in funding requirements rather than an effort to reduce funding across the board, as appeared to be the case with cuts the administration has sought for Energy Department non-proliferation programs. (See ACT, May 2001.) Annual appropriations for Cooperative Threat Reduction have fluctuated between about $300 million and almost $600 million since 1994, due in part to budgeting procedures and varying program needs.

The administration has requested substantial cuts for some programs, notably several strategic weapons-related efforts in Russia. A senior Pentagon official explained in an August 8 interview that funds for strategic arms elimination had been ramped up in recent years as Russia worked to meet START I levels by the December 2001 deadline but that less money is needed now that the program has “caught up.”

Another initiative intended to help Russia package fissile material from dismantled weapons was scrapped after the two sides failed to reach agreement on technical issues. Additionally, the administration is requesting no 2002 funding for the fissile material storage facility in Mayak because construction is 70 percent complete and funds already appropriated are deemed sufficient to finish the project next year, the senior official indicated.

The White House has also requested that some programs be dramatically expanded. The administration is seeking to almost double previous funds for strategic elimination efforts in Ukraine. According to the senior defense official, the funds will be used to address unexpected technical difficulties encountered in processing the fuel from SS-24 long-range missiles and to continue to help Ukraine dismantle 40 non-START-accountable Tu-22M Backfire bombers. (See ACT, June 2001.)

The administration has also requested funds to construct conventional power plants to replace three nuclear reactors in Russia that produce weapons-grade plutonium. In 1994, the United States pledged to help construct the plants, but that plan has been modified several times. Senior administration officials indicated that a decision has been reached to proceed with fossil-fuel plants instead of modifying the existing reactors to produce less plutonium, as decided in 1997.

Cuts Counter to Campaign Pledge

Though the budget cuts are apparently not intended to reduce the scope of threat reduction efforts, they clearly do not fulfill President George W. Bush’s campaign pledge to “ask Congress to increase substantially our assistance to dismantle as many of Russia’s weapons as possible, as quickly as possible.” (See ACT, September 2000.) White House officials were unavailable to comment.

The White House review of threat reduction efforts is expected to be finished soon, and officials emphasize that the administration could ask Congress to alter funding levels based on the review’s findings. Some senior administration officials have been openly critical of threat reduction efforts. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and the head of the CTR program have all expressed concern that threat reduction programs free up funds for Russia to use in modernizing its strategic forces.

But attempts to substantially scale back threat reduction efforts are likely to face resistance in Congress, where the programs enjoy bipartisan support. Most recently, in an August 9 speech, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) called for restoring “cuts the president made [to] programs to control and destroy Russian nuclear weapons and weapons material, and find alternative employment for nuclear scientists.”


Russian Duma Passes Bill Allowing Import of Spent Fuel

Philipp C. Bleek

Russia’s lower house of parliament approved a controversial bill June 6 that would allow Moscow to import spent nuclear fuel from other nations. Importing spent fuel could generate billions of dollars for the cash-starved country, but the initiative has raised concerns about the environmental and proliferation consequences of making Russia the world’s nuclear-waste dumping ground.

The Duma approved the hotly contested legislation by a vote of 250-125. The bill, which will bypass the Federation Council and must now be approved by President Vladimir Putin, would amend an existing environmental protection law that bars the import of spent fuel for storage or disposal.

Opponents of the measure claim that, given Russia’s lax safety and environmental practices and deteriorating infrastructure, making the country a major nuclear waste repository could have dire environmental and proliferation impacts. But after stagnating for years, the plan was shepherded through the Duma by Putin and the influential Ministry of Atomic Energy, who argued that portions of the potential revenue stream could in fact be used to improve Russia’s infrastructure and finance much-needed cleanup work at contaminated nuclear sites.

Demand for the spent-fuel storage services Russia may soon offer is evident. In many countries, temporary spent-fuel storage ponds located at reactor sites are reaching capacity. Construction of several geologic repositories—such as the one proposed for Yucca Mountain in the United States—has been delayed, and a number of reprocessing programs have been cancelled or postponed.

Assuming transfers could be made politically palatable—which is far from certain, given the vociferous protests already coming from both Russian and international environmental groups—it appears likely that countries such as South Korea and Taiwan would pay considerable sums to be relieved of their spent-fuel burdens. Russian officials have indicated that they hope to import and reprocess 20,000 tons of spent fuel over a 10-year period, which they have predicted would yield more than $20 billion in revenue and about $7 billion in profit.

In the short term, Russia would store the imported spent fuel, but in the future Moscow apparently hopes to transition from a storage provider to a supplier of advanced-technology reprocessing services and nuclear fuel. Not only would providing such services yield significant additional revenue, but it would also mesh with Russia’s long-term vision of generating energy by using plutonium in a proliferation-resistant fuel cycle. (See ACT, October 2000.)

The U.S. government remains the primary barrier to the plan’s implementation. Nearly all the fuel in countries likely to be interested in the Russian service is of U.S. origin, and nuclear cooperation agreements with those countries give Washington a veto over shipment to third parties. The United States does not have a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia, and historically it has only approved transfers to states with which it has such an arrangement.

Russian officials have indicated in recent weeks that they hope to reach agreement on nuclear cooperation with Washington. U.S. officials have responded by emphasizing that a range of non-proliferation, environmental, and safety considerations need to be taken into account.

According to a State Department official, the negotiation of a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia has been impeded since the early 1990s by the U.S. government’s decision to use the issue to discourage Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran. It appears that the Bush administration remains firmly committed to making a deal on Iran a requirement for agreement, while Russia appears equally committed to completing at least the first power reactor at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear site.

Whether the differences can be bridged remains unclear. The official put the matter bluntly, saying, “Russia will have to make a decision about whether to cast its lot with the United States or with Iran.”

Establishment of a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement requires a lengthy process, including congressional review and approval, that the State Department official indicated would likely take at least two years.

Washington is also concerned that Russia’s potential reprocessing plans would work at cross-purposes to U.S.-financed initiatives to secure and dispose of fissile materials and reduce the proliferation risk from Russia’s deteriorating nuclear weapons complex. Washington has sought a commitment from Moscow that it will not reprocess any more spent fuel and thereby produce weapons-usable plutonium. The Clinton administration came close to reaching, but did not secure, an agreement with Russia on a 20-year plutonium-reprocessing moratorium.

In a policy statement released after the Duma’s passage of the new law, the Bush administration said that Washington would not allow Russia to reprocess U.S.-origin spent fuel. Whether this policy would apply to future reprocessing technologies that would not fully separate reprocessed plutonium into weapons-usable form, as apparently envisioned in both Russia’s plans and the administration’s recently released energy policy document, remains unclear.

U.S. Finishes Packaging Kazakh Plutonium, Reviews Next Step

Philipp C. Bleek

In late June the United States and Kazakhstan completed a joint project to package spent fuel containing weapons-grade plutonium for permanent storage. Conclusion of the work represents a key milestone in a multi-year effort to inventory, secure, and permanently store material containing some three tons of plutonium in order to make it less susceptible to theft.

Presidents Bill Clinton and Nursultan Nazarbayev agreed in November 1997 to a three-part program to accurately inventory spent fuel produced by a Soviet-era BN-350 breeder reactor located in Aktau, Kazakhstan; seal the material in casks; and place it in permanent storage under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Under a parallel agreement signed in December 1999, the United States is also helping to shut down the breeder reactor permanently.

The packaged fissile material is currently stored in cooling ponds at the breeder-reactor complex on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Technicians have been working on-site since December 1998 to place the reactor’s used fuel assemblies into an estimated 2,800 one-ton, 13-foot long, welded steel canisters. Radioactive waste was placed in the canisters before they were sealed, resulting in a “heavy, hot, and highly radioactive package that is far more difficult to steal,” according to the Energy Department’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation office.

The project’s next step involves construction of a longer-term storage facility for the material, since the fuel canisters in which the plutonium is currently stored are only designed to maintain their integrity for five years while submerged in the cooling ponds. Scientists from the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory have proposed constructing a dry-silo facility that would be engineered to contain the material for 50 years. (A U.S. official indicated that after 50 years Kazakhstan, which is currently pressed for funds, is expected to be able to finance the construction of a more permanent disposition facility.)

After evaluating 10 possible locations for the dry-silo facility, a team of Argonne scientists recommended two long-term sites, one at the former Soviet nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk in northeastern Kazakhstan, near the Russian border, and the other in Aktau, near the reactor complex. Aktau’s coastal location in the vicinity of several nuclear weapons aspirants, notably Iran, served as a prime motivator for the joint threat reduction effort. As a result, early discussions on the issue of permanent storage focused on moving the material far inland, and the Kazakh government has announced that it would like the material to go to Semipalatinsk, the more costly of the two possibilities. But U.S. government officials emphasized that both storage site options remain on the table.

No agreement has yet been reached on the issue, and according to a U.S. official, the whole issue of short- and longer-term storage options “is now being re-evaluated.” However, because the plutonium can only be kept dry in the cooling ponds for five years, terminating the cooperative U.S.-Kazakh effort at this stage would make any long-term storage effort considerably more difficult, the official said.

Even among Clinton administration officials, who initiated the project, there was some disagreement regarding the necessity of constructing a costly longer-term disposition site at Semipalatinsk. Although the fissile material’s quantity, quality, and location put it at risk of diversion or even forcible seizure, the fact that it remains in spent fuel elements and is now protected by additional highly radioactive waste significantly reduces those risks. With the administration seeking substantial nuclear threat reduction budget cuts, Energy Department officials may ultimately decide that other projects—some involving unprotected, separated fissile materials—pose a greater short-term proliferation threat. (See ACT, April 2001 and May 2001.)

Bush Meets Opposition to Missile Defense While in Europe

Wade Boese

Although President George W. Bush expressed satisfaction during a mid-June visit to Europe that Russian President Vladimir Putin and other European leaders had showed “receptivity” to his intention to develop a new strategic framework, including missile defenses, Putin and key NATO leaders reiterated their concerns with U.S. plans and warned the United States against pushing ahead alone.

On his first visit to Europe since winning the presidency, Bush traveled to five nations in five days, beginning with Spain on June 12 and capping the tour with his first meeting with Putin June 16 in Slovenia. In between these stops, Bush attended a NATO heads-of-state meeting and a summit with the 15-nation European Union.

At each stop, the president delivered the same message, urging his counterparts to “think differently” about preserving their security in the post-Cold War era, when Russia is no longer a NATO enemy, and rogue states, such as North Korea and Iran, are seeking long-range ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

The president further argued that this new world necessitates building ballistic missile defenses that would require Washington and Moscow to “set aside” the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which prohibits nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles. However, Bush presented no specifics on his missile defense plans or the other elements of his nascent strategic framework, such as unilateral strategic reductions. “We are open as to what form [the new strategic framework] takes,” national security adviser Condoleezza Rice explained to reporters June 15.

Speaking at a joint press conference after their meeting, Putin welcomed Bush’s premise that Russia and the United States were no longer enemies in a changing world with new threats, but he said that those threats needed to be “defined” before it could be decided how to tackle them. He later implied they could be addressed through means other than strategic defenses, such as diplomacy and nonstrategic or theater missile defenses. Putin, who had warned earlier in his remarks that “any unilateral actions can only make more complicated various problems and issues,” concluded by saying, “I think we can work out a common approach.”

In an extensive interview with selected U.S. journalists in Moscow two days later, Putin called for further consultations with the United States and appeared to open the door slightly on amending the ABM Treaty. Putin twice stated that Washington and Moscow should look at what specific provisions in the ABM Treaty prevent the United States from countering perceived threats. He noted that the treaty can be amended and that it does not rule out all defenses, originally allowing the two countries to deploy two regional defenses. A 1974 amendment to the treaty trimmed this allowance to one regional defense per country.
The Russian president further said that the two sides should discuss what the United States sees as the threat, what can be done about it, and what the Bush administration means when it says the U.S. defense will be “limited.”

If the United States acts independently and opts to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, Putin declared that Russia would pull out of START I and START II, which limit the number of U.S. and Russian deployed strategic warheads. If that happened, he explained that Moscow would be free to keep multiple warheads on its land-based ICBMs, an action proscribed by START II, and that Russia and the United States would lose the ability to monitor each other’s nuclear reductions. Top Russian officials have recently stated that more than 30 strategic accords are tied to the ABM Treaty.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have both dismissed the specter of a new arms race with Moscow, asserting that Russia must cut its arsenal because it cannot afford to maintain its forces at current levels and that U.S. missile defenses will be limited, thus posing no threat to Russia’s deterrent and removing any reason for Moscow to build up or alter its strategic forces.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 20, Powell explained that Russia should not worry about a limited U.S. defense because the two countries will remain vulnerable to each other’s missiles. “You can’t entirely do away with what has been known as mutual assured destruction [MAD],” Powell said. Bush, however, has equated MAD with the ABM Treaty, calling them both bankrupt relics of the past that should be left behind.

Putin was not alone in expressing concerns about U.S. plans during Bush’s European tour. French President Jacques Chirac warned that missile defenses could prompt other countries to step up efforts to acquire ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction in order to overwhelm a U.S. defense, while Dutch Prime Minister Willem Kok counseled that a unilateral U.S. abrogation of the ABM Treaty “would not be the right approach.” Emphasizing the need for continued U.S. consultations on its missile defense plans, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that there are a “host of issues that need to be clarified,” a message Berlin has voiced repeatedly in the past several months.

After his June 13 meeting with the NATO allies, Bush acknowledged that “there’s some nervousness” about U.S. plans. But Bush also said that he thought he had made progress in convincing other leaders to accept his approach, claiming that their worries are “beginning to be allayed when they hear the logic behind the rationale.”

Rice seconded the president in a post-trip June 17 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” asserting, “We’re bringing people along with us.” U.S. officials have named Spain, Turkey, Britain, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary as places where they say the Bush initiative received a positive reception.

Some of those countries, however, have cautioned that U.S. actions should not divide the alliance and that Washington needs to proceed cooperatively, not unilaterally. And some, particularly Britain, have said only that they understand why the United States is looking at missile defenses and that they are reserving judgment until they know program specifics. In the NBC interview, Rice said winning allied support would be needed to permit the United States “the full range of options in missile defense.”

Bush disputed accusations that the United States is acting alone, saying June 13, “Unilateralists don’t come around the table to listen to others.” Nevertheless, Bush officials have repeatedly declared that Washington will move forward with missile defenses.

The president vowed the United States would continue its foreign consultations, which have been universally welcomed, and he specifically charged Powell and Rumsfeld with carrying out “regular, detailed” discussions with their Russian counterparts. Putin noted that expert working groups would also be established to discuss specifics, such as identifying the threats. By the close of June, these proposals had not been given any shape yet, according to administration officials.

Although President George W. Bush expressed satisfaction during a mid-June visit to Europe that Russian President Vladimir Putin and other European leaders had showed “receptivity” to his intention to develop a new strategic framework, including missile defenses, Putin and key NATO leaders reiterated their concerns with U.S. plans and warned the United States against pushing ahead alone. (Continue)

U.S. BWC Protocol Policy Still Unclear With Talks Short on Time

Seth Brugger

Three months after the release of a chairman’s draft of a protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the United States has yet to announce its position on the text. Although the administration has chosen to remain silent until it finishes conducting a protocol policy review, press reports and testimony by two senior administration officials suggest that Washington may reject the protocol.

BWC states-parties, including the United States, have met multiple times each year in Geneva since 1995 to negotiate a legally binding compliance protocol to the convention, which outlaws biological weapons but does not contain verification measures. In late March, the chairman of the negotiations, Ambassador Tibor Tóth, issued his version of the protocol, known as the “chairman’s text,” which contains compromises on long-outstanding issues.

Under the leadership of Ambassador Donald Mahley, the head of the U.S. delegation to the negotiations, the administration has been reviewing its protocol policy since February. It has not made any of the review’s details public yet, but The New York Times reported in May that an interagency review team had found 38 problems with the protocol and recommended that the White House reject the chairman’s text.

A House Government Reform subcommittee invited Mahley and Owen James Sheaks, assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, to testify on the protocol June 5. The administration declined to send Mahley and Sheaks to testify in person, apparently seeking to maintain a low public profile on its protocol policy, but the two officials did submit written testimony.

In his comments, Mahley stressed that the United States “unreservedly” supports the BWC but that Washington has “serious substantive concerns” with the chairman’s text. He also said that the United States does not share the position of other countries that the fifth BWC review conference, scheduled to begin November 19, is a deadline for completing the protocol negotiations. Rather, Washington views the conference as a “target.”

But Mahley acknowledged that, if there is “no sense” during the conference that a protocol is “in sight, we can expect a very troublesome review conference, with some bitterly fought attempts to incorporate national views” into the conference’s final document. The United States is weighing the consequences of such an outcome in its review.

Although Sheaks recognized in his testimony that the Clinton administration’s goal during the negotiations had been to promote transparency, he said that he would not address “the level of transparency achieved” by the chairman’s text or “the potential value of that transparency.” Instead, Sheaks focused almost all of his testimony on how the protocol is not verifiable.

Sheaks said that, under the protocol, countries would only declare a “small fraction” of their facilities that could “potentially be used for offensive biological warfare purposes.” He added that states with offensive programs would not declare facilities with illicit activities or would “embed” these activities “beneath an effective cover of legitimate biological activity.” These loopholes, and the fact that “illicit work” could “easily be concealed or cleaned up” at visited facilities, would undercut the verifiability of the declaration-visit regime set out by the protocol. (See ACT, March 2000.)

Sheaks maintained that “challenge investigations could help to deter cheating” but added that they have “inherent limitations,” such as the time it takes to approve a request for an investigation and place an investigation team on-site. These delays “would likely permit more than enough time to clean up or otherwise conceal evidence of a BWC violation.” He further contended, “The dual-use nature of biological activities and equipment could readily be exploited by a violator to ‘explain away’ any concerns, with ‘managed access’ rights available as a last resort to deny access to any incriminating evidence.”

In an effort to sway the Bush administration’s apparent opposition to the protocol, Tóth met with senior State Department officials and National Security Council staff in Washington on May 22. According to State Department spokesman Philip Reeker, the administration shared some concerns it has and reaffirmed that, after completing its review, it would work with Tóth to “develop a strategy to move forward” during the next negotiating session.

The European Union and Russia also recently targeted U.S. protocol policy. The European Union parliament passed a resolution June 14 that noted “with concern” reports that the U.S. review had recommended rejecting the chairman’s text. It invited the European Union Council to discuss the protocol with President George W. Bush during a mid-June summit in Sweden.

According to a Swedish official, the protocol was not brought up with Bush because it has been raised using other avenues and because other items, such as missile defense and missile proliferation, filled the summit agenda. He added that the European Union has contacted Washington on this issue with increasing frequency over the past two months through senior embassy staff.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement June 26 that also expressed “concern” over reports that Washington might reject the protocol. It added that adopting the protocol “this year” is “realistic” and that the protocol “must become a major instrument strengthening the regime for the prohibition and nonproliferation of biological weapons.”

The Geneva Negotiations

Consistent with its low profile on the protocol, the U.S. delegation to the protocol negotiations in Geneva remained largely silent during the latest negotiating session, held April 23-May 11. The resulting lack of clarity on the U.S. position has taken its toll. According to one official in Geneva, “Without knowing what the U.S. is going to do, I think a number of countries—China, et cetera—are reluctant to say, ‘Yes, we will negotiate on the [chairman’s] text.’”

Whether the delegations would accept the chairman’s text as an official platform for the negotiations has been a question ever since Tóth released the text March 30. During the last session, many countries supported using the text as the basis for the negotiations. However, a few countries, such as China and Iran, while tacitly agreeing to discuss the text, have not been willing to endorse it as the basis for negotiations.

During meetings held the final week of the session, Tóth identified and discussed areas where the delegations have substantive differences. According to the Geneva official, the talks focused mainly on the long-controversial topics of declarations, visits, and investigations, but many delegations simply repeated their previous positions, resulting in a lack of compromise.

“Delegations were still dancing around each other. Nobody wanted to make the first move by saying, ‘I’ll give up my national position here if you do the same here,’” the official said.

The group will meet again from July 23 to August 17, its last session before the BWC review conference in November.

CFE Review Conference Held; Russian Compliance Urged

Wade Boese

Meeting May 28-June 1 in Vienna for the second review conference of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, the 30 states-parties touted treaty successes, though NATO members and other European countries called on Russia to fulfill its commitments to lower its weapons deployments in the North Caucasus region and to withdraw its forces from Georgia and Moldova.

Moscow gave assurances that it would meet all these obligations but also used the treaty review conference to register its long-standing opposition to NATO expansion, warning against the possible inclusion of any or all the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—in the next round of expansion, which is expected to take place in 2002. A June 4 Kremlin press release said NATO invitations offering alliance membership to any of the Baltic countries could have “destructive implications” for key provisions of the treaty.

Originally signed by members of NATO and the former Warsaw Pact in November 1990, the CFE Treaty capped the number and location of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that the two military blocs could keep between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. A 1999 treaty adaptation agreement, which has not yet entered into force, replaces the bloc limits with specific caps on the amount of treaty-limited arms that each nation can possess in the entire treaty area and have deployed within its own borders.

At the conference, the states-parties deemed the treaty’s accomplishments “impressive.” The countries reported in their “formal conclusions” of the review conference that they had reduced their arsenals by more than 59,000 weapons and carried out more than 3,300 on-site inspections and observation visits under the accord.

In addition, the states-parties noted that Moscow had completed the destruction or conversion of 14,500 additional weapons in accordance with a 1991 pledge. That pledge was designed to ease NATO unhappiness after the Kremlin moved an estimated 57,000 arms east of the Ural Mountains before signing the CFE Treaty in order to exempt the weapons from the treaty. Under the pledge, Russia is obligated to destroy another 2,300 tanks, a commitment on which it is currently working.

Russia is also gradually drawing down the tanks, ACVs, and artillery it currently has deployed in violation of the treaty’s flank-zone limits, which cap the amount of ground weaponry located in the northern and southern regions of Europe. The exact magnitude of Russia’s noncompliance with its flank-zone limits is uncertain but will become clearer after a July 1 information exchange. In the past, Russia, whose total weapon holdings are below its overall CFE limits, has reported exceeding its flank limits for ACVs by approximately 1,000 or more and exceeding its tank and artillery limits by much smaller amounts.

Although Moscow maintains that its current noncompliance stems from the need to combat separatists in Chechnya, Russia has long objected to the flank-zone limits because it is one of only two countries (the other being Ukraine) that has limits on where it can deploy its own weaponry on its own territory. Nevertheless, NATO has insisted that Moscow meet its limits, which have been revised twice—the latest in the 1999 treaty adaptation—to allow Russia more weapons in the region.

Russia has also been slow in fulfilling its obligations under the CFE Final Act, a series of nonbinding political commitments concluded in conjunction with the adaptation agreement, in which Moscow pledged to withdraw its weapons from Georgia and Moldova. Russia successfully finished the first phase of its withdrawal from Georgia last year by reducing its number of tanks, ACVs, and artillery to agreed levels, and it appears that it will have disbanded two of its four military bases in Georgia by July 1 as promised.

Moscow and Tbilisi, however, have not been able to work out the details for how long Russian forces may remain at the other two bases. The negotiations, which were suppose to be completed by the end of last year, have been held up by Russian insistence that it maintain basing privileges for 14 years (initially it wanted privileges for 25 years) whereas Georgia prefers a three-year period, though Tbilisi has recently suggested it would show some flexibility.

Russian progress in withdrawing from Moldova has been negligible. Russia is expected to withdraw its CFE-limited weapons by the end of this year, and all Russian military forces are to exit by the end of 2002, but only one trainload of Russian military equipment has been shipped out of the country over the past seven months.

Part of the delay stems from the problem of what to do with a Russian ammunition dump of approximately 42,000 tons. Moldova does not want Russia simply to leave the stockpile behind because it would likely fall under control of Moldavian separatists in the Transdnistria region, who are led by ethnic Russians.

On June 15, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) signed an agreement with Russia detailing which Russian withdrawal activities from Moldova the OSCE would be willing to facilitate and how it would do so. The United States has also offered to reimburse Russian expenses incurred in withdrawing from both Georgia and Moldova, though Moscow has yet to accept.

U.K., Russia Issue Draft Proposals To Revamp Iraqi Sanctions Regime

Alex Wagner

Seeking to overhaul the decade-old Iraqi sanctions regime, the United Kingdom, in coordination with the United States, submitted a draft proposal to the UN Security Council on May 21 that would substantially alter the existing regime, easing some sanctions while tightening enforcement of others. In what is widely believed to be a stalling tactic, Russia submitted a competing resolution that offers Iraq significant concessions without attempting to improve the troubled UN sanctions system substantially.

The draft resolutions come as a six-month extension of the UN oil-for-food program, which Washington wants to replace as part of revamping the sanctions regime, is set to expire June 4. The program allows Iraq to sell unlimited amounts of oil and deposit revenues into a UN-controlled escrow account, which Baghdad can use to purchase construction and humanitarian supplies under UN supervision. To date, the program has been extended nine times.

The British draft resolution incorporates many of the ideas floated by Secretary of State Colin Powell over the past few months. (See ACT, April 2001.) Most significantly, the resolution lifts restrictions on the sale or supply of civilian goods to Iraq. The draft also creates a comprehensive new list of military and dual-use items that require the United Nations’ permission for import. This list replaces the full military arms embargo on Iraq and a list of restricted dual-use items. Furthermore, the draft preserves the requirement that all oil sales revenue be placed in a UN-administered escrow account.

The resolution also seeks to tighten controls on Iraq’s illegal oil exports and surcharges, which generate an estimated $2-3 billion per year. The draft would allow only trading organizations meeting specific criteria set out by the UN secretary-general to sell or supply Iraqi oil. But, realizing that compliance by Iraq’s neighbors would be critical to enforcing a tighter regime, under the proposed resolution the secretary-general would designate authorized checkpoints, monitored by UN personnel, from which Iraq could export oil to border states. Proceeds from oil sales would be deposited in separate national escrow accounts, from which Iraq could draw to pay for commercial transactions with those states. If Iraq stopped exporting oil to border states as retribution for their cooperation with the UN, the draft would protect those states’ economies by compensating them with revenue already in the UN escrow account.

The proposal would also create “new authorized border crossings with Iraq” to restrict other illegal imports or exports. It is presently unclear whether UN or national officials would staff these checkpoints. Furthermore, the resolution would allow countries to resume commercial air flights to and from Iraq, but it would require all flights to land at designated inspection points staffed by national authorities and monitored by UN observers.

On May 22, James Cunningham, acting U.S. representative to the UN, told reporters that Washington wants the British draft resolution adopted before the oil-for-food program expiration date and that it “ought to be negotiable” by that time. In addition to removing controls on Iraq’s civilian trade and focusing on security and disarmament, Cunningham said the draft addresses “a bunch of other issues that have been under discussion in the council for some time where other members have made it clear they wanted to see movement. We have met those concerns.”

On state-run Iraqi television May 23, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz responded to the new British draft, calling it “very wicked and malicious.” He stressed that, even if the resolution is approved, neither Iraq nor its “sister states” would comply with it. And on May 7, Al-Thawrah, the newspaper of Saddam Hussein’s ruling Ba’ath party, warned Iraq’s neighbors that “compliance with this plan by any state or government would cause grievous harm to its interests.”

Apparently attempting to delay any significant overhaul of the sanctions regime, Russia’s draft incorporates the basic elements of the oil-for-food program, such as retaining the six-month renewal process, but makes several modifications. For instance, it would lower the “deduction rate” taken by the United Nations from oil revenues deposited in the escrow account from 25 percent to 20 percent. The UN uses the 25 percent deduction rate in the current phase of the oil-for-food program to finance Persian Gulf War reparations.

Most significantly, the resolution permits Iraq “unrestricted use of civil aircraft, sea and railway transport for carrying passengers and commercial and humanitarian cargo,” subject to notification of the Iraq Sanctions Committee. Unlike the British draft, no inspections would be required, effectively opening the door to unlimited, virtually unregulated imports.

By retaining the oil-for-food program’s structure, failing to offer new controls, and proposing changes favorable to Iraq, the Russian draft resolution appears politically unacceptable to the United States and United Kingdom. According to a UN source, Washington and London have ruled out consideration of the Russian resolution as a basis for negotiation.

Absent in both resolutions is any mention of a resumption of weapons inspections. During an interview on the May 20 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, Vice President Dick Cheney refused to link easing sanctions to weapons inspections and said that, although the administration continues “to demand inspection…exactly what’s going to come out of the consultations that are now under way, I wouldn’t want to predict.”

It appears unlikely that the UN Security Council will have time to consider fully and approve any major overhaul of the sanctions regime before the June 4 expiration of the oil-for-food program. Although there would be political resistance from many members, UN sources say that the most likely result will involve a short-term continuation of the oil-for-food program in its present form.

Bush Outlines Terms For Resuming Talks With North Korea

Alex Wagner

Concluding a four-month policy review, President George W. Bush announced June 6 that his administration is prepared to resume “serious discussions” with North Korea on a “broad agenda.” The decision marks a shift from the doubts Bush aired earlier in his presidency about negotiating with North Korea.

In March, the president suspended negotiations aimed at ending Pyongyang’s production and export of ballistic missiles while his administration completed a review of its North Korea policy. Those negotiations had reportedly been close to success just prior to the end of the Clinton administration. In announcing a halt to the talks, Bush expressed “skepticism” about North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and explained that he had concerns about Washington’s ability to verify an agreement with a closed society like North Korea. (See ACT, April 2001.)

In a shift in tone, Bush’s most recent statement set out what he termed a “comprehensive approach” to North Korea and detailed priorities in dealing with Pyongyang. The president said that his administration plans to seek “improved implementation” of the 1994 Agreed Framework, which froze North Korea’s nuclear weapons program; “verifiable constraints” on Pyongyang’s missile programs; a ban on its missile exports; and—perhaps most controversially—a “less threatening” North Korean conventional military presence on the peninsula.

Bush also said he would provide Pyongyang with incentives to cooperate during discussions. Offering North Korea “the opportunity to demonstrate the seriousness of its desire for improved relations,” the president indicated a willingness to reward North Korea for responding “affirmatively” and taking “appropriate” action. Incentives included expanding humanitarian aid, easing sanctions, and taking unspecified “other political steps.”

At a June 7 press conference, Secretary of State Colin Powell laid out the difference between the Bush approach and that of the Clinton administration. “We have expanded the areas of dialogue by putting conventional forces on the agenda and by making it clear to the North Koreans that we want to talk about missiles and missile technology and missile sales and nuclear weapons programs, but also we want to talk about humanitarian issues,” he said.

During its time in office, the Clinton administration did not link progress in nuclear weapons or missile talks to each other or to negotiations on conventional forces. When asked at the press conference whether including conventional forces in talks was a precondition for discussions, Powell remarked, “We’re not setting any preconditions right now.” But he added that North Korea’s conventional forces are still of concern and said that “you can’t really have a full set of discussions without raising this particular issue.”

Later in the month, press reports indicated that Washington had agreed to let Seoul take the lead on the conventional forces dialogue. A South Korean official confirmed these reports, saying agreement was reached during a June 22 visit to Washington by South Korean Defense Minister Kim Dong-Shin. However, the official stressed that the new arrangement did not represent a change in the Bush administration’s desire to address conventional issues in parallel with nuclear and missile issues.

Pyongyang waited until June 18 before responding to Bush’s announcement. In a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesman described Bush’s proposal for resuming dialogue “as unilateral and conditional in its nature and hostile in its intention.” The statement contended that inclusion of Pyongyang’s nuclear, missile, and conventional forces in Bush’s proposed agenda illustrated that Washington is attempting to “disarm the D.P.R.K. through negotiations.” The spokesman noted that this approach contrasted with the “previous dialogue,” which was “held in conformity with the interests of both sides and produced results helpful to improving bilateral relations.”

Instead of holding comprehensive discussions, the spokesman insisted that bilateral talks focus on compensating Pyongyang for the loss of electricity due to delays in the construction of the nuclear reactors required by the Agreed Framework. Warning that the accord is in “danger of collapse,” the statement characterized U.S. fulfillment of its obligations under the agreement as “the most realistic and urgent issue at present.”

The Bush administration has stated it remains committed to the Agreed Framework, but construction of the first light-water reactor called for in the accord has not yet begun and the project is years behind schedule. However, according to a State Department official interviewed June 26, the oft-repeated rumor that the Bush administration might try to amend the agreement by substituting conventional power plants for the light-water reactors is “not something that we’re looking at right now.”

Despite its concerns with Bush’s announcement, North Korea sent its ambassador to the United Nations, Li Hyong Chol, to meet Jack Pritchard, U.S. special envoy for Korean peace talks, to arrange for future talks. The meeting, held June 13 in New York, was the first official contact between the United States and North Korea since Bush took office in January. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker described the two-hour meeting as “businesslike and useful as a beginning to the dialogue process.” No date has been set yet for future discussions.

Pentagon Seeks Missile Defense Budget Increase, Reorganization

Wade Boese

The Bush administration requested nearly $8.3 billion for ballistic missile defenses—a $3 billion increase over current spending levels—as part of the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2002 amended budget request, which it unveiled June 27. The proposed budget also outlines a reorganization and reorientation of U.S. missile defense programs.

In the budget, President George W. Bush requested the largest sum ever—a little more than $7 billion—for the Pentagon office in charge of overseeing ballistic missile defense programs, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO). The other $1.3 billion in next year’s budget is allocated to missile defense programs administrated by the different military services. Until now, the highest request for BMDO over its 17-year history, including when it was known as the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, was $5.4 billion in fiscal year 1993.

The BMDO budget request allocates no funds for deployment of missile defenses, and the administration has indicated that BMDO will now concentrate its efforts on research and development (R&D). “Programs showing success will move forward towards deployment as soon as practical,” a BMDO spokesperson said. The goal, according to the spokesperson, is to have “one or more [systems] ready for deployment as part of an integrated layered defense between ‘04 and ‘08.”

The shift in emphasis suggests that missile defense programs will be driven by testing developments rather than by arbitrary deadlines, a change that has been recommended in several high-profile government evaluations. According to the spokesperson, “There is no deployment decision and won’t be until the technologies are evaluated and tested.”

Because BMDO will be focusing on research and development, it is transferring control of current programs that it believes are mature to specific branches of the military. The Army will assume responsibility for the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) and the Medium Extended Air Defense System, a joint project with Germany and Italy that will employ the PAC-3 interceptor. The Navy will run the Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense program. All of these systems are targeted at defending against lower-tier threats, such as cruise missiles and short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

At the same time, BMDO will assume responsibility for Air Force missile defense programs whose development is not as advanced. Specifically, BMDO will take over the two anti-missile laser programs, the Airborne Laser and the Space Based Laser. BMDO will also take the lead on the Space-Based Infrared System-low, a planned constellation of satellites in low-earth orbit intended to track ballistic missiles and discriminate between warheads and decoys.

The programs that BMDO administrates will be funded and grouped according to the stage of flight—boost, mid-course, or terminal—at which it will attempt to intercept the target.

The largest portion of the proposed BMDO budget, $3.9 billion, will be aimed at developing ground- and ship-based interceptors to stop warheads during the midcourse phase, when the warhead is moving through space. Because the midcourse stage is the longest phase, it potentially permits multiple chances to destroy a warhead, but it is also the time in which an attacker could most effectively employ countermeasures, such as decoys, to beat a defense. The Clinton national missile defense system, which uses ground-based interceptors and which BMDO considers the most mature of the upper-tier programs, falls into this category.

Programs dedicated to defending against warheads during the terminal, or re-entry, stage will be given $968 million. This stage is very short, approximately 30 seconds, and possible defenses will most likely be geared toward countering slower, short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

A total of $685 million will be devoted to technologies aimed at knocking out missiles after their launch, when their rocket engines are still burning—a relatively brief period of one to five minutes. At this time, the missile is moving relatively slowly, it has a highly visible infrared signature, and it has not deployed any decoys.

Within the boost-phase category, BMDO will explore lasers, both space-based and airborne, as well as sea- and space-based interceptors designed to destroy their targets through collisions. An estimated $40-50 million will be allocated for exploring the space-based interceptor.

UN Security Council Not Likely To Agree on Iraqi Sanctions

Alex Wagner

As a July 3 deadline approaches, Russian opposition appears likely to prevent the United Nations Security Council from passing a U.S.-endorsed, British draft resolution to revamp the 11-year-old sanctions regime against Iraq.

Since June 20, Security Council technical experts have been discussing a slightly revised version of a British draft resolution initially submitted in May, which would, among other things, allow most commercial transactions with Iraq to proceed and bring all illegal oil-export relationships under UN control.

Over the June 23 weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, informing him that Russia “cannot allow” passage of the British approach to reshaping the current sanctions regime, which was imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. During a Security Council meeting June 26, Moscow’s ambassador to the UN, Sergey Lavrov, criticized the British draft for burying hopes for ongoing arms monitoring and for damaging the legitimate economic interests of many countries, including Russia.

In response to the British proposal, Lavrov announced submission of a new Russian draft resolution, which purported to present a “comprehensive approach” to resolving the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Lavrov said that the Russian draft contained “clear criteria for suspending and then lifting sanctions, tied with the deployment” of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which was created by Security Council Resolution 1284 in December 1999.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher responded harshly to Russia’s criticisms of the British draft and questioned the motives of “other members of the Security Council, including some with extensive commercial relationships with Iraq.” Boucher called it “ironic that now that the United States has proposed a radical shift in how we deal with Iraq.…some on the Security Council oppose this change despite the fact that they had long advocated it.” Addressing Russia’s rejection of the revised British draft, Boucher shot back, “Our goal is not to allow Iraq what it wants. We have seen where that leads.”

Outside the Security Council on June 26, James Cunningham, acting U.S. representative to the UN, dismissed the Russian draft resolution as having “very little substance” and said that it would “not be a useful basis for discussion.”

Among the other permanent members of the Security Council, the primary point of contention had been the contents of a comprehensive “goods review list,” a catalog of weapons-related and “dual-use” items that would require UN authorization before being imported by Iraq. The list would be composed of three elements: proscribed items identified by UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency as related to weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles; conventional and dual-use technology items governed by the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export control regime; and items detailed in a document proposed by the United States.

However, on June 29, Cunningham announced that Britain, China, France, and the United States had come to an agreement on what items would be included on the goods review list.

Discussions have intensified in the last month, as a general consensus emerged among council members that the current sanctions regime needs to be refocused. The United States had hoped to obtain agreement on altering the sanctions regime by the beginning of June, when the latest six-month phase of the oil-for-food program expired. (See ACT, June 2001.) Unable to come to a decision, the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution June 1 that extended the oil-for-food program for one month in order to provide members more time to consider the available proposals. The resolution declared the council’s desire to work on proposals that would re-energize the sanctions regime and to “consider new arrangements” that would improve both the flow of civilian goods to Iraq and controls on prohibited items.

In response to the short-term rollover of the oil-for-food program, Iraq stopped all of its UN-authorized oil exports, though it continued to export oil to neighboring states illicitly. Unsurprisingly, as the council’s experts met throughout June, Iraq remained highly critical of any approach to alter the existing regime.

France submitted a draft proposal of its own to the Security Council on June 19. Operating from the same basic principles as the British draft, the French resolution differs most notably in that it would allow Jordan and Iraq to maintain an oil-export relationship whose revenues would not be controlled by the UN, permit foreign investment in upgrading Iraq’s oil industry, and allow inspection of cargo flights within Iraq’s borders by UN personnel.

The British draft consents to foreign investment in civilian sectors but not in the oil industry. According to a UN official, France is not likely to oppose adoption of the British draft resolution if the United States and the United Kingdom accept some of the modifications outlined in the French proposal.

China has also expressed concerns regarding Washington’s and London’s attempt to reach a quick decision on such a complex issue, and at the June 26 Security Council session it supported elements of the French draft resolution that allow investment in the Iraqi oil industry and limit interference in oil relationships with Iraq’s neighbors.

A UN official indicated that Beijing has taken a much more constructive approach to the British draft than the Russians, tabling amendments and participating actively in technical experts meetings. It is believed that China does not oppose a resolution to overhaul the regime in principle, and Beijing has yet to indicate that it would veto the British draft should it be brought to a vote.

Were the United States and the United Kingdom able to secure French and Chinese support for the British draft, a UN official suggested it is possible they might push for a vote in order to challenge Russia’s willingness to veto the resolution. No Security Council resolution on the Iraqi situation has been vetoed by a permanent Security Council member. However, abstention by China, France, and Russia on Resolution 1284 has been cited as one of the reasons why Iraq has felt little pressure to comply with its terms.

Cunningham said June 29 that, facing a stalemate, the council will pass another temporary extension of the oil-for-food program, giving the diplomats additional time to work out the details of a comprehensive new arrangement. When asked June 25 about the prospects of another short-term extension, Powell expressed his desire to instead “see a new resolution” and hear what others have to say about the revised British draft before “prejudging what the council might do.”

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