I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
December 2005
Edition Date: 
Thursday, December 1, 2005
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Ship-Based Anti-Missile System Scores Hit

Wade Boese

The Pentagon ratcheted up the degree of difficulty for the latest test of its nonstrategic ship-based missile defense, and the anti-missile system responded by intercepting its target. This system has showed greater progress recently than other missile defenses under development.

The Nov. 17 test marked the sixth successful intercept test in seven attempts for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, which is designed to counter short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. This test differed from its predecessors because the mock warhead target separated from the missile booster. Earlier targets stayed in one piece.

Rick Lehner, a spokesperson for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), told Arms Control Today Nov. 21 that the use of a separating target made “the test more representative of medium-range ballistic missile technology of the type now being deployed by North Korea and Iran.” He added that crew members aboard the ship firing the interceptor were in an “alert window” but “did not know the time of the test.”

The separating, medium-range target was fired from Kauai, Hawaii. Using its onboard Aegis system, the U.S.S. Lake Erie detected, tracked, and fired a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor missile at the target four minutes after its launch. Six minutes later, the interceptor’s kill vehicle rammed into the target more than 160 kilometers above the Pacific Ocean and some 600 kilometers away from Kauai.

By the end of this year, the MDA is supposed to have delivered up to 10 SM-3 interceptors to the Navy, which currently has two cruisers outfitted to launch them. The goal is to have one more cruiser and 18 destroyers capable of launching the interceptors by the end of 2008, according to Lehner.

Meanwhile, the short- to intermediate-range Terminal High Altitude Area Defense had its first flight Nov. 22 after a six-year hiatus. The test did not involve a target or intercept attempt.

The MDA announced last July that it intended to conduct two non-intercept tests with its strategic ground-based midcourse defense before 2006, but Lehner stated it is now likely that only one such test will occur by then. The system’s interceptor failed to leave the ground in its last two tests (see ACT, March 2005), and the last time it hit a target in flight was in October 2002.


Congress Cuts CTBTO Funding

Jacob Parakilas

Congress on Nov. 10 approved a Bush administration request to cut the U.S. contribution to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) by nearly $5 million in fiscal year 2006. The Senate had tried to restore the funding over the summer, but after opposition from the House a final appropriations bill passed with the cuts included.

For fiscal year 2005, the U.S. contribution to the CTBTO was $19 million, which is more than that of any other state and a significant portion of the organization’s $105 million budget. The United States, which signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in September 1996, has continued to support the organization—despite the Senate’s 1999 51-48 vote to reject the treaty and the Bush administration’s stated opposition to it. Much of the U.S. contribution goes toward the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System (IMS), a worldwide network of sensors that, when completed, will be able to detect a nuclear test anywhere in the world. Notably, the United States has not contributed financially to CTBTO on-site inspection preparations since 2001.

In his February budget request for the fiscal year that began in October, President George W. Bush called for a cut in the U.S. contribution to $14.4 million. The CTBTO had estimated that Washington’s appropriate share would be about $22 million. At the time, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained that the cuts were a matter of tight budgets, not opposition to the CTBTO’s mission. U.S. contributions have regularly fallen short of CTBTO assessments since the 2001 Bush administration decision not to fund CTBTO’s on-site inspection activities.

In a Nov. 23 written response to questions from Arms Control Today, Tibor Tóth, executive secretary of the CTBTO’s Provisional Technical Secretariat, said the cuts would hamper some operations although he was not specific about the impact.

“Each dollar in our budget corresponds to some program element or to fixed costs like salaries. Shortfalls in contributions therefore have a direct impact on the program we are able to execute,” Tóth wrote.

He added that “We hope that the shortfall we will face next year is only a temporary problem that will be rectified in the following year. That is our understanding of the explanations given on the political level.”


British Debate Replacement for Nuclear Force

Ron Gurantz

Activists and politicians in the United Kingdom have begun debating whether and how to replace its nuclear weapons system, known as Trident. Parliament is expected to make a decision on the matter before the current parliament ends in 2010.

The United Kingdom’s nuclear arsenal consists of four Vanguard submarines, each carrying 16 U.S.-supplied Trident long-range ballistic missiles equipped with up to three warheads. The Royal Navy deploys one submarine at a time, maintains its missiles on a reduced state of alert, and keeps them untargeted. This posture has been in place since 1998, when the United Kingdom reduced its number of deployed nuclear warheads by one-third and removed nuclear-armed aircraft from service. The United Kingdom, which became the third nuclear-weapon state in 1952, has one of the smallest nuclear arsenals among such states, with fewer weapons than France, Russia, or the United States.

The first Trident submarine entered service in 1994 and is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2024. Using as a benchmark the 14-year timetable that was necessary to construct and deploy the current system, the government has decided that it must make a decision on replacement before the next parliamentary elections in 2010. Defense Secretary John Reid has said that, although it is desirable that a decision be made this year, it is not “absolutely necessary.”

The discussion over Trident is in its early stages, but a July parliamentary briefing suggested three options for replacing the system. The first option is a service-life extension to upgrade the current submarines and warheads, which would enable the Trident system to remain operational for up to 20 more years. The second would be to replace the current system with an identical system, which would cost $26-$34 billion. The third plan is to create a new system, one which would potentially couple conventional and nuclear submarine capabilities.

Activists and some British parliamentarians are advocating nuclear disarmament as a fourth option. Prominent members of the Labour Party, including former Labour government cabinet minister Clare Short, have vocally opposed the Trident replacement.

Blair said Oct. 19 that his government is “committed to retaining the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent.” The government is already recruiting nuclear scientists and investing $8.6 billion in new equipment at its Atomic Weapons Establishment, and Reid has begun talks with the United States and defense contractors about options for replacing the system. Nevertheless, Reid has denied allegations that the decision to replace the system has already been made, promising a “full and open debate” first.

Labour backbenchers have been pushing for a vote on replacing Trident, which the party’s leadership has resisted. Observers believe the issue will be divisive for the ruling Labour Party. Labour supported the policy of unilateral disarmament during the 1980s, but its manifesto in the last election declared that the party is committed to maintaining the country’s nuclear weapons.

Opponents of replacement argue that maintaining a nuclear-armed strategic missile force runs counter to the country’s disarmament obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and that it serves no practical military mission. Article VI of the treaty calls for states to make good-faith efforts toward nuclear disarmament.

Critics also question whether the United Kingdom still needs a nuclear deterrent, given the end of the Cold War. Reid has argued that London should maintain its nuclear deterrent because of future uncertainty, citing India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programs and the controversy over Iran’s nuclear activities as examples of a proliferating and unpredictable global environment. The Ministry of Defense, however, has refused to release its assessment of against which threats the nuclear weapons are deployed, citing national security concerns.

The United Kingdom has always cooperated closely with United States on nuclear-weapon development and deployment. British scientists participated in the Manhattan Project, and the United Kingdom has been granted access to U.S. weapons designs through the 1958 U.S.-British Mutual Defense Agreement. The United Kingdom currently leases its 58 Trident missiles from the U.S. Navy and is believed to base its warhead design on the U.S. W-76 warhead.


December 2005 Bibliography


D’Amato, C. Richard, et al., 2005 Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, November 2005, 271 pages.

Drogin, Bob, and John Goetz, “How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of ‘Curveball,’ ” The Los Angeles Times, November 20, 2005.

Gelb, Leslie, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, “Declare War,” The Atlantic Monthly, November 2005.

Graham, Bob, “What I Knew Before the Invasion,” The Washington Post, November 20, 2005, p. B07.

Sciolino, Elaine, and Elisabetta Povoledo, “ Italy’s Top Spy Names Freelance Agent as Source of Forged Niger-Iraq Uranium Documents,” The New York Times, November 4, 2005, p. A1.

Von Drehle, David, “Wrestling With History,” The Washington Post Magazine, November 13, 2005, pp. 12-30.



Bagchi, Indrani, “ U.S. Reiterates: Separate Nuke Facilities,” The Times of India, November 16, 2005.

Giacomo, Carol, “ India Envoy Warns on Changes to U.S. Nuclear Deal,” Reuters, November 22, 2005.

Larkin, John, “ India Bets on Nuclear Future,” The Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2005, p. A12.

Mishra, Raja, “2 Sentenced in Case Tied to India’s Nuclear Missiles,” The Boston Globe, November 22, 2005.


Agence-France Presse, “ Iran Hands Over Suspected Atom Bomb Blueprint: IAEA,” November 18, 2005.

Agence-France Presse, “ Iran Takes Tough Stance Ahead of UN Nuclear Meeting,” November 20, 2005.

Agence-France Presse, “ Britain Certain Iran Developing Long-Range Weapons,” November 29, 2005.

Agence-France Presse, “Iranian FM Denounces Nuclear Apartheid,” November 30, 2005.

Broad, William, and David Sanger, “The Laptop: Relying on Computer, U.S. Seeks to Prove Iran’s Nuclear Aims,” The New York Times, November 13, 2005, p. A1.

Broad, William, and David Sanger, “Bush and Putin Want Iran to Treat Uranium in Russia,” The New York Times, November 18, 2005, p. A5.

Der Spiegel, “ Tehran Lends Pyongyang a Helping Hand,” November 28, 2005.

Fiorill, Joe, “ Iran is Test of IAEA Relevance, Gingrich Says,” Global Security Newswire, November 16, 2005.

Henry, Terrence, “The Covert Option,” The Atlantic Monthly, December 2005.

Sanger, David, “ U.S. and Europe to Give Iranians New Atom Offer,” The New York Times, November 10, 2005, p. 1.


Chi-dong, Lee, “North Korea Nuke Talks End With Limited Success,” Yonhap News Agency, November 11, 2005.

China Daily, “Sense of Urgency Defines Latest Talks,” November 10, 2005.

Faiola, Anthony, “N. Korea Gains Aid Despite Arms Standoff,” The Washington Post, November 16, 2005, p. A15.

Joo-hee, Lee, “Forum Kicks Off Amid New Round of Six-Party Talks,” The Korea Herald, November 12, 2005.

Kahn, Joseph, “ North Korea and U.S. Spar, Causing Talks to Stall,” The New York Times, November 12, 2005, p. A6.

Kessler, Glenn, “ North Korea Rushes to Finish Reactor,” The Washington Post, November 9, 2005, p. A24.

Koch, Andrew, “US Moves to Step Up Pressure on North Korea,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, November 2, 2005, p. 5.

Kyodo News Agency, “ North Korea Says U.S. Has ‘No Intention to Negotiate,’ – Talks Sources,” November 10, 2005.

Kyodo News Agency, “ North Korea Again Complains about U.S. Sanctions on Firms,” November 11, 2005.

Kyodo News Agency, “ U.S. Negotiator Urges North Korea to Shut Down Reactor ‘Now,’ ” November 10, 2005.

Kyodo News Agency, “ Japan’s Envoy at Six-Party Talks Says North Korea’s Demands ‘Not Constructive,’ ” November 10, 2005.

Lies, Elaine, “ U.S. Wants China to Clean Up North Korea Nuclear ‘Mess,’” Reuters, November 19, 2005.

Sanger, David E., “ U.S. and Seoul Share a Goal but Not a Strategy on North Korea,” The New York Times, p. A8.

Yonhap News Agency, “South Korean Negotiator Admits North Raised ‘Unwanted Issues’ at Six-Way Talks,” November 10, 2005.

Yonhap News Agency, “Japan-North Korea Talks on Ties Likely Early Next Year – Spokesman,” November 15, 2005.

Yonhap News Agency, “ South Korea, China Call for ‘Flexibility’ to Continue North Talks,” November 16, 2005.


Nolin, Pierre Claude, The Security of WMD Related Material in Russia, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, 2005, 9 pages.


Agence-France Presse, “ Britain Still Needs Nuclear Arms, Defence Minister Says,” November 1, 2005.

Chuter, Andrew, “ Britain Debates Future of its Nuclear Deterrent,” Defense News, November 7, 2005, p. 3.

Norton-Taylor, Richard, “ Britain Still Needs Nuclear Weapons,” The Guardian, November 2, 2005.


Forero, Juan, and Larry Rohter, “Venezuela’s Leader Covets a Nuclear Energy Program,” The New York Times, November 27, 2005, p. A14.


Bishnoi, Rati, “Air Force Mulls Revamping SBIRS High Program Once Again, Officials Say,” Inside Missile Defense, November 23, 2005, p. 1.

Bishnoi, Rati, and John Liang, “ U.S., Japan to Build New Missile Defense Radar for East Asia,” Inside Missile Defense, November 9, 2005, p. 1.

Gertz, Bill, “Russian Warhead Alters Course Midflight in Tests,” The Washington Times, November 21, 2005.

Liang, John, “Decision on Europe-Based GMD Interceptor Site Could Come by April,” Inside Missile Defense, November 23, 2005, p. 2.

Mannion, Jim, “ U.S. Discussing Missile Defense Site in Europe with Poland,” Agence-France Presse, November 16, 2005.

Mecheam, Michael, “X Marks the Spot,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 7, 2005, p. 39.

Wolf, Jim, “ U.S. Said Mulling Ending Airborne Laser Project,” Reuters, November 30, 2005.


Hoehn, William, Status Report on Fiscal Year 2006 Congressional Appropriations for International WMD Threat Reduction Programs and Activities, The Russian-American Nuclear Security Council, November 2005, 11 pages.

Hanley, Charles, J., “Nightmare of ‘Loose Nukes,’ Still Haunts,” Associated Press, November 1, 2005.


Agence-France Presse, “ Spain Defies U.S., Seals Arms Deal with Venezuela,” November 28, 2005.

Agence-France Presse, “ India Successfully Test Fires Supersonic Cruise Missile,” November 30, 2005.

Masood, Salman, “Focusing on Quake Aid, Pakistan Delays F-16 Purchase,” The New York Times, November 5, 2005, p. A3.

Raghuvanshi, Vivek, “ India Boosts Aircraft Buy, Widens Supplier Options,” Defense News, November 21, 2005, p. 34.

Sprenger, Sebastian, “Lugar, Obama Aim to Expand CTR for Conventional Weapons Destruction,” Inside Missile Defense, November 9, 2005, p. 2.

Zelany, Jeff, “Obama-Lugar Proposal Targets Stockpiles of Conventional Weapons,” The Chicago Tribune, November 2, 2005.


Aldhous, Peter, “The Bioweapon is in the Post,” New Scientist, November 9, 2005.

Schneidmiller, Chris, “OPCW Extends National Implementation Deadline,” Global Security Newswire, November 16, 2005.


Curry, Tom, “Obama Builds Foreign Policy Credentials,” MSNBC.com, November 3, 2005.

Merle, Renae, “A Nervous Eye on Defense Firms,” The Washington Post, November 11, 2005, p. D01.

Ruppe, David, “Nuclear Bunker-Buster Cut, Not Necessarily Killed,” Global Security Newswire, November 4, 2005.

Scott, William B., “Nuclear Course Correction,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 7, 2005, pp. 82-86.

Shane, Scott, “Defense of Phosphorous Use Turns Into Damage Control,” The New York Times, November 21, 2005, p. A14.

Sterngold, James, “ U.S. Alters Nuclear Weapons Policy, Congress Rejects ‘Bunker Busters’ for More Reliable Arms,” The San Fransisco Chronicle, November 28, 2005.


Bishnoi, Rati, “DOD Opposes Creating Advisory Committee to Oversee Space Control,” Inside Missile Defense, November 9, 2005, p. 3.

John, Libby, “Air Force Space Command Working on Improving Space Cadre,” Inside Missile Defense, November 9, 2005, p. 5.


Chernyak, Igor, and Yuri Gavrilov, “Baluyevsky: We Do Not Plan to Attack NATO,” Rossiiskaya Gazeta, November 1, 2005.



Books of Note

Eliminating Weapons of Mass Destruction: Prospects for Effective International Verification
By Berhanykun Andemicael and John Mathiason, Palgrave Macmillan, June 2005, 224 pp.

In this extensive survey, former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and UN officials Berhanykun Andemicael and John Mathiason explore a compelling question: Can verification of international nonproliferation agreements actually work? Although their answer is an emphatic “yes,” they are careful to address the many limitations of existing verification bodies, such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the IAEA, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. These limits include the failure to win universal membership and budgetary and personnel problems. The authors lay out a plan that can be followed to tackle these issues.

The Search for Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: Inspection, Verification and Non-Proliferation
By Graham S. Pearson, Palgrave Macmillan, October 2005, 352 pp.

Graham S. Pearson examines the international community’s efforts to investigate Iraq’s possession of chemical and biological weapons and efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Pearson focuses on how inspection and verification measures evolved over a 10-year period in Iraq, basing most of his findings on reports produced by the various teams of U.S. and UN inspectors who were in Iraq between 1991 and 2003. Given the success of these efforts, he argues that the latest group of UN inspectors, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee (UNMOVIC), should be preserved and given a mandate beyond Iraq. He also provides a framework for strengthening the regimes for the inspection, verification, and nonproliferation of chemical and biological weapons.

Beyond Hiroshima
By Douglas Roche, Novalis, October 2005, 280 pp.

The recent failure of the 2005 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference to agree on any substantive nuclear nonproliferation or disarmament item revealed an increasing divide between states that possess nuclear weapons and states that do not. Douglas Roche, Canada’s former ambassador for disarmament, addresses this divide and offers some suggestions as to how concerns of nuclear-weapon states can be met while eventually achieving nuclear disarmament. He supports following the example set by the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention: a nuclear weapons convention would prohibit the production and use of all nuclear weapons in all circumstances. Roche acknowledges, however, that this is not possible without addressing the key legal, political, and technical issues that are of particular concern to nuclear-weapon states. He argues that an incremental-comprehensive approach to disarmament would enable the world both to avoid a future Hiroshima and at the same time achieve increased security against terrorists and breakout states.

Are you interested in purchasing these books? You can help support the Arms Control Association by visiting one of our partners.




Eliminating Weapons of Mass Destruction: Prospects for Effective International Verification. By Berhanykun Andemicael and John Mathiason, Palgrave Macmillan, June 2005, 224 pp.

The Search for Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: Inspection, Verification and Non-Proliferation. By Graham S. Pearson, Palgrave Macmillan, October 2005, 352 pp.

Beyond Hiroshima. By Douglas Roche, Novalis, October 2005, 280 pp.

Treaty Amended to Outlaw WMD at Sea

Wade Boese

States will be able to subscribe to new international instruments early next year making it a crime to use nonmilitary ships to intentionally transport or launch attacks with biological, chemical, or nuclear arms. Employing these types of weapons in attacks against or from a fixed platform at sea, such as an oil rig, will also be illegal.

These new prohibitions are part of two protocols concluded Oct. 14 to amend the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, also known as the SUA Convention. The protocols will be opened for signature Feb. 14, 2006, after official texts are completed in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

The protocol pertaining to ships will enter into force 90 days after 12 countries sign it without reservations. The fixed-platform protocol only requires the signature of three countries without reservations to trigger its 90-day countdown to entry into force. As with all treaties, only those countries signing the protocols will be legally bound by them.

An Oct. 21 Department of State fact sheet hailed the protocols as providing “the first international treaty framework for combating and prosecuting individuals who use a ship as a weapon or means of committing a terrorist attack, or transport by ship terrorists or cargo intended for use in connection with weapons of mass destruction programs.”

In addition to prohibiting shipments of unconventional weapons, the first protocol outlaws the transport of “any equipment, materials or software or related technology that significantly contributes to the design, manufacture or delivery of a [biological, chemical, or nuclear weapon], with the intention that it will be used for such purpose.” Many items used in producing unconventional weapons are dual-use, meaning they have both civilian and military applications, so proving intent could be challenging.

In a Nov. 17 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a State Department official downplayed the issue, asserting, “The intent provisions of [the] SUA [Convention] do not complicate prosecution any more than the intent provisions of most other criminal activity.” The official added that the protocol’s dual-use provisions are a valuable supplement to UN Security Council Resolution 1540’s legal obligations that all states adopt measures to deny nonstate actors unconventional weapons. (See ACT, May 2004.)

Although Russia said it supports the protocol, it argued Oct. 14 that the dual-use provision “is excessively wide and may open possibilities for subjective interpretation.” Moscow also added that the protocol could not be used to justify interdiction of ships carrying cargo to and from Russia.

Under international law, a vessel cannot be stopped and boarded in international waters without the consent of the government whose flag the ship is flying, except if the ship is suspected of piracy, slavery, or illegal broadcasting. The new protocol does not change this rule, but it does outline a voluntary expedited interdiction procedure. Through the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a government may grant prior authority for its flagged ships to be stopped and searched if a boarding request by another state goes unanswered for four hours. The IMO is a 166-member specialized UN agency responsible for international shipping matters.

The United States has negotiated similar bilateral shipboarding agreements as part of the May 2003 Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to interdict unconventional weapons transfers in transit. (See ACT, July/August 2003.) PSI is voluntary and does not provide any legal authority for participating states to carry out interdictions at sea. The State Department official stated the new protocol’s provisions facilitating shipboarding and criminalizing the transport of unconventional weapons at sea “lend additional legal strength to the objectives of PSI.”

India and Pakistan criticized as discriminatory the new protocol’s provisions that only states-parties to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) can legally transport nuclear material. The protocol also holds that it is illegal to transfer equipment or material that can be used to produce fissile material—plutonium or highly enriched uranium—to destinations without comprehensive international safeguards for deterring or detecting the use of such material to build nuclear weapons. Neither India nor Pakistan is an NPT member, and neither has a comprehensive safeguards agreement in place.

New Delhi said Oct. 14 that it could not accept what it said was the protocol’s implication that India does not have a right to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear energy and expressed its “disappointment about the review process” leading to the adoption of the protocols. Similarly, Islamabad declared the same day that it “cannot accept NPT-related obligations which are reflected in the amendments to the Convention.” It further alleged the review process “was conducted in an arbitrary manner.”

Negotiation of the protocols stemmed from a November 2001 IMO Assembly decision to launch a review of the SUA Convention in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Actual talks got underway in April 2002 and were wrapped up at a five-day October conference involving 74 SUA Convention states-parties, including India and Pakistan.


Editor's Note

Miles A. Pomper

It is an old lesson but one that many states seem to forget: rather than become more secure when they develop new weapons systems, countries may make themselves less so. After all, other countries are likely to counter any new weapons development, and the resultant arms race may leave everyone worse off.

Two articles in this month’s issue examine the hidden dangers of U.S. plans to develop space-based defenses, especially space-based missile defenses. Such defenses are intended to counter the potential threat of an ICBM attack from a country such as North Korea or Iran, neither of which has flight-tested even an intermediate-range missile.

Hui Zhang points out in our cover story that U.S. space plans could prompt China to react with several steps that could in turn endanger U.S. security. Rather than moving toward space weaponization, he argues that the United States should sign on to a Russian and Chinese proposal for a treaty banning the weaponization of space.

Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr. warns that U.S. space weaponization plans may have another hidden cost: increasing the likelihood of an accidental nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia, which still retain thousands of long-range nuclear weapons. He too urges the negotiation of a treaty banning weapons in outer space.

One international institution that the United States and other countries have relied on to deter arms proliferation is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), charged with deterring and detecting the illicit use of nuclear materials and technologies for weapons purposes. The United States and other countries, however, have expressed concerns that states such as Iran and North Korea have been able to evade or violate IAEA safeguards without consequence. To deal with this problem, President George W. Bush pushed to establish a special IAEA committee to improve the agency’s monitoring and inspection activities. Jack Boureston and Charles D. Ferguson lay out a number of suggestions for what this committee might accomplish

To many Westerners, there is no region of the world that looks more like a living demonstration of the folly of arms competition than South Asia. Robert M. Hathaway reviews three books that examine the history, roots, and significance of the nuclear rivalry between India and Pakistan and questions whether the forces and fortune that have prevented a nuclear war there will continue to prevail.

In November, Congress acted to cut back on one arms program: research into development of a “bunker-busting” nuclear bomb. Among other issues, our news section looks at this development and the latest international talks and deliberations to rein in the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.



Congress Boosts Threat Reduction Funding

William Huntington

In approving fiscal year 2006 budget legislation, Congress increased funding for programs at the Departments of Energy and State aimed at securing and destroying weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related materials worldwide. Congress has yet to give final approval to legislation funding similar Department of Defense programs, but those too are expected to score an increase.

Department of Energy

Threat reduction programs at the Energy Department and its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) received particularly significant funding increases above the Bush administration request. Funding for the NNSA’s International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program received a substantial boost to $427 million, an increase of more than $83 million from the president’s budget request. The 2005 funding for the program’s work of securing nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials was $295 million. According to lawmakers, the large increase was due to new opportunities for warhead storage site upgrades. They said that a February summit between President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had encouraged further cooperation on safeguarding nuclear materials and facilities. (See ACT, March 2005.)

Congress also added funds to the Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production program, which is working to shut down the last three operational Russian weapons-grade plutonium producing reactors and replace them with fossil-fuel plants. (See ACT, April 2005.) Congress appropriated more than $176 million for the program, up from the administration request of $132 million. According to the NNSA, two reactors at Seversk will be shut down by 2008, and a reactor in Zheleznogorsk will be shuttered by 2011.

Funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative program was granted at the administration’s requested level of about $98 million. The May 2004 initiative seeks to repatriate Russian- and U.S.-origin nuclear fuel from sites abroad, shut down highly enriched uranium (HEU)-fueled reactors or convert them to the use of low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel, and secure radioactive materials worldwide. The energy appropriations bill provides up to $7 million dollars to convert as many as four HEU-fueled research reactors in the United States to LEU fuel. The targeted reactors are operated by Purdue University, Oregon State University, the University of Wisconsin, and Washington State University.

Previously known as Russian Transition Initiatives, the Global Initiative for Proliferation Prevention program received $40 million from Congress. Although its focus remains on redirecting former Soviet weapons scientists into peaceful pursuits, the program’s new name reflects the expansion of its mandate into other high-risk proliferation regions, such as Iraq and Libya. The administration had sought $38 million for the program.

NNSA programs for fissile materials disposition, which work to decrease Russian and U.S. stockpiles of fissile materials, took a significant funding cut to $473 million, down from the administration request of about $653 million. Included in the final bill are $195 million for U.S. materials disposition and $35 million for Russian materials disposition, considerably below the administration requests of $227 million and $64 million, respectively. Congress appropriated below the requested level because of snags in the negotiation of a liability agreement for U.S. nuclear security contractors in Russia, which has slowed the spending of funds allocated to the disposal of 34 metric tons of fissile material in Russia and the United States. U.S. and Russian officials have recently indicated that the long-awaited liability agreement will soon be completed.

Department of State

In passing the 2006 foreign operations appropriations bill, Congress approved the administration’s funding request for State Department threat reduction programs with one minor reduction. The combined funding for these programs increased by 12 percent over 2005 levels.

Formerly known as Science Centers/Bio Redirection, the Nonproliferation of WMD Expertise program received its requested $52.6 million, an increase of about $2.5 million over 2005 levels. This program seeks to redirect former weapons scientists into peaceful endeavors around the globe.

The administration’s request of $37.5 million also was granted to the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund, a unique pool of funds that allows for ad hoc and rapid response to unanticipated nonproliferation projects. This allocation represents an increase of $5.8 million over the previous year.

The only State Department threat reduction program not to receive the full requested appropriations was the Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance program. It was allocated $43.4 million, which is $1 million below the request but still $5.7 million above the 2005 funding level. The program helps strengthen export control legislation in countries at risk of WMD proliferation.

Department of Defense

Although the defense appropriations bills from the House and Senate have not yet been reconciled, both recommended fully funding the administration’s request for $416 million for the Pentagon’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, making such funding highly likely.

Although only a very modest increase over the 2005 CTR appropriation of $409 million, this amount is higher than the original Defense Department recommendation to the White House, which called for cutting $46 million from the program, according to a Jan. 12 letter from nine House Democrats. (See ACT, March 2005.)

The fiscal 2006 defense authorization bill, which sets policy parameters for the Pentagon, has also not yet been finalized. One outstanding issue to be reconciled in conference concerns an amendment in the Senate version authored by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). It would permanently waive certain restrictions on the use of threat reduction funds in the former Soviet Union. (See ACT, December 2004.) The House version of the bill provides instead a temporary waiver of the same restrictions that would expire at the end of 2007.


Letters to the Editor

Reprocessing Is Less Risky

Steve Fetter and Frank von Hippel notwithstanding (“Is U.S. Reprocessing Worth the Risk?,” ACT, September 2005), new reprocessing technologies can increasingly make plutonium inaccessible for diversion by terrorist groups and by governments and can reinforce the ability of the United States to oppose the spread of current pluto­nium-separation tech­nology to additional countries.

Like it or not, nuclear reactors are destined to play a much larger role in the world’s energy mix. Those among us who are serious about international stability and controlling nuclear weapons must get to understand what modern nuclear technology can and cannot do.

Fetter and von Hippel make a convincing case against cycling plutonium back into today’s reactors. We fully agree, and in fact one of us [George S. Stanford] has published a technical analysis making that very point.

Nonetheless, we have to flag a serious problem. Fetter and von Hippel equate reprocessing with plutonium separation, a blanket association that is no longer valid. Their narrow focus on the drawbacks of current recycling technology—PUREX reprocessing and mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in thermal reactors—could be taken to mean that all recycling of reactor fuel is to be deplored. This is definitely not the case.

The expansion of nuclear power will necessitate the processing of reactor fuel. The important point is that the recycling must be into new-generation fast reactors. Current thermal reactors, with or without recycle, can extract no more than a hundredth of the energy in the original ore.

Metal-fueled fast reactors, which Fetter and von Hippel dismiss without serious consideration, are the key.

  • Their fuel cycle is proliferation-resistant since the nature, amount, and disposition of plutonium are limited as outlined below.
  • They can consume plutonium and other long-lived actinides (such as uranium, neptunium, and americium), reducing to less than 500 years the required isolation time for waste in a repository, and postponing, perhaps indefinitely, the need for more repositories.
  • Their fuel can be recycled pyrometallurgically, a procedure that is inherently incapable of separating pure plutonium from used reactor fuel. To make it chemically pure enough to be used for weapons, a proliferator must process it further in a PUREX-type facility.
  • They can extract all the energy, making uranium a power source that can last indefinitely.

The world is already awash in reactor- and weapons-grade plutonium, and the supply is increasing daily in spent fuel from current reactors. Fast reactors with pyroprocessing will increasingly make that plutonium inaccessible for diversion.

  • Fast reactors can be set up to be net consumers of plutonium or to breed plutonium, but that does not give them any special proliferation potential because any reactor can be subverted for the production of weapons-grade plutonium and a fast reactor is no worse than any other. All reactors need safeguards to prevent diversion.
  • They take plutonium out of storage and out of commerce. Once plutonium has entered an integrated fast-reactor/pyroprocessing facility (IFR), none ever needs to come out unless more is wanted to prime new reactors.
  • Diversion by terrorists would be essentially impossible from an IFR system. A Livermore National Laboratory study has shown that, even given successful diversion, the heat generation alone from pyroprocessed fuel would be so intense that a bomb’s high explosive (not the plutonium) would self-detonate or melt. Not even a nation seeking nuclear weapons would waste any time on it.

The key to preventing proliferation during the inevitable worldwide expansion of nuclear power is a concerted effort to amend the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to eliminate the right of each nation to develop its own full-scale fuel cycle. In return, the “nuclear club” needs formally to guarantee fuel supplies and waste disposal at reasonable prices through an international entity such as the International Energy Agency or the International Atomic Energy Agency. The negotiations will not be easy, but because preventing proliferation is in everyone’s interest, they may succeed.

Fetter and von Hippel say that reprocessing would be too expensive, a claim that is true of PUREX and thermal reactors but has two serious problems in the context of pyroprocessing and fast reactors. First, it neglects external costs. The overall cost of energy from a given source depends not only on direct costs, but also on “externalities,” the hard-to-quantify costs of outside effects. Economic comparisons that ignore such costs are unrealistic and misleading. For example, burning coal causes thousands of excess deaths per year in the United States alone. Fissioning uranium in nuclear reactors causes none, nor does it release carbon dioxide. By absorbing such external costs, society subsidizes fossil-fueled power.

The second error is the assumption that, even neglecting externalities, costs are well established. They’re not. At least one external analysis concludes that an IFR-type system would be competitive. By contrast, Fetter and von Hippel quote from a 1996 study by the National Academy of Sciences to the effect that “the excess cost for an S&T [separation and transmutation] disposal system...easily could be more than $100 billion.” But the report included an important caveat right before the passage they quoted: “Assuming the feasibility of pyroprocessing of spent LWR [light-water reactor] fuel, the design information for a commercial-scale reprocessing facility needed to make cost estimates is not available.” Apparently the committee was estimating the cost of a separation and transmutation disposal system other than one involving pyroprocessing, so a higher cost for such a system cannot be assumed at this time.

The energy and dollars needed to implement large-scale deployment of MOX recycle technology would be better spent on wrapping up the development of fast reactors and their fuel cycle, thus achieving ultimate closure of the fuel cycle, an assured energy supply in perpetuity, removal of plutonium from commerce, proliferation-resistant nuclear energy, and optimal utilization of the Yucca Mountain repository.


Gerald E. Marsh is a physicist, retired from Argonne National Laboratory. He was a consultant to the Department of Defense on strategic nuclear technology and policy in the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations and served with the U.S. START delegation in Geneva. George S. Stanford is a physicist, retired from Argonne National Laboratory. He is co-author of Nuclear Shadowboxing: Contemporary Threats From Cold-War Weaponry (2004).

Steve Fetter and Frank von Hippel Respond:

We are gratified that Gerald Marsh and George Stanford agree that it makes no sense to use existing commercialized reprocessing technologies to separate plutonium for recycle in light-water reactors. This would be more expensive, present much greater proliferation risks, and have no waste-disposal advantages over the direct disposal of spent fuel. This is an important conclusion because this is the only approach to reprocessing and recycling that could be deployed in the near term.

The technologies that Marsh and Stanford advocate—fast reactors with pyrometallurgical separation and recycling of the minor transuranic isotopes in addition to plutonium—are not commercially proven. Past failed attempts, in which tens of billions of dollars have been spent in efforts to commercialize fast reactors in France, Germany, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, produced reactors with high costs, questionable safety, and poor reliability.

The technical barriers to full transuranic recycle in fast reactors may be overcome in time, but the economic barriers to their adoption are likely to remain for the foreseeable future. Marsh and Stanford are wrong when they say “[t]he expansion of nuclear power will necessitate the processing of reactor fuel.” Fast reactors can indeed make far more efficient use of uranium, but even with inefficient light-water reactors, the cost of uranium currently constitutes less than 2 percent of the price of nuclear-generated electricity. In a recent article in Nuclear Technology, one of us [Steve Fetter] has estimated that the price of uranium would have to grow by a factor of five to 10 in order to make full transuranic recycling in fast reactors cost effective. There is enough lower-cost uranium to sustain a substantial expansion of nuclear power using current once-through technologies for at least 50 years and probably much longer. By that time, we should have a much better sense of the longer-term role of fission power among our energy options. There is no urgency to develop and deploy fast reactors.

The waste-disposal advantages of full transuranic recycle cited by Marsh and Stanford are overstated. The direct disposal of spent fuel is inexpensive: $0.001 per kilowatt-hour, or less than 2 percent of the cost of electricity. Fast reactors would greatly reduce (but not eliminate) required repository space only if all transuranics are separated and recycled until they are fissioned and if the long-lived fission products were also separated and stored on the surface for several centuries, thereby defeating the main safety advantages of storing spent fuel underground. Admittedly, there are political barriers to expanding geologic waste disposal, but it is by no means obvious that the political barriers to the widespread deployment of fast reactors and associated reprocessing and surface waste-storage facilities would be substantially smaller.

They also exaggerate the potential nonproliferation benefits. One of us [Frank von Hippel] has completed a technical analysis of the nonproliferation aspects of the pyroprocessing technology that has been developed at Argonne National Laboratory. The analysis, soon to be published in Science and Global Security, indicates that the proliferation benefits claimed by Marsh and Stanford are quite short-lived. Unless spent fuel is pyroprocessed and recycled within two years after discharge from the reactor, the penetrating radiation emitted by the minor transuranics and those fission products that remain with the plutonium would not make it so dangerous to handle that it would be self-protecting by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s standards. This exception is irrelevant to the current debate over the reprocessing of U.S. spent fuel, which is on average already about 20 years old.

Moreover, Marsh and Stanford are wrong when they argue that the heat generated by the minor transuranics that remain mixed with plutonium make it unusable in a nuclear weapon. Indeed, the same analysis indicates that this mixture could even be used in a nuclear weapon like that dropped on Nagasaki. In any case, because the radiation dose rate from the mixture is relatively low, the plutonium could easily be chemically separated from the minor transuranics in a glove box.

In summary, despite the continuing enthusiasm of Marsh, Stanford, and some of their Argonne colleagues for the long-term possibilities of fast-neutron reactors and pyroprocessing, the promotion of those technologies is a diversion from the nearer-term issue we analyzed. Our article focused on the proposal recently agreed to in the November 2005 House-Senate conference on the energy and water appropriations bill that calls for the secretary of energy to submit a detailed plan for recycling by March 31, 2006, with “construction of one or more integrated spent fuel recycling facilities” to begin in fiscal year 2010.

As explained in our article, interim spent-fuel storage would be much less costly and less undermining of U.S. nonproliferation policy. With interim storage, any potential future energy value of the spent fuel will be preserved. There is much more time available to debate the long-term future of nuclear power than there is to strengthen the nonproliferation regime and dispose of the huge quantities of already separated nuclear weapons materials.

Steve Fetter is a professor and dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. Frank N. von Hippel is a professor of public and international affairs at Princeton University.

Space Weapons and the Risk of Accidental Nuclear War

Thomas Graham, Jr.

The United States and Russia maintain thousands of nuclear warheads on long-range ballistic missiles on 15-minute alert. Once launched, they cannot be recalled, and they will strike their targets in roughly 30 minutes. Fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, the chance of an accidental nuclear exchange has far from decreased. Yet, the United States may be contemplating further exacerbating this threat by deploying missile interceptors in space.

Both the United States and Russia rely on space-based systems to provide early warning of a nuclear attack. If deployed, however, U.S. space-based missile defense interceptors could eliminate the Russian early warning satellites quickly and without warning. So, just the existence of U.S. space weapons could make Russia’s strategic trigger fingers itchy.

The potential protection space-based defenses might offer the United States is swamped therefore by their potential cost: a failure of or false signal from a component of the Russian early warning system could lead to a disastrous reaction and accidental nuclear war. There is no conceivable missile defense, space-based or not, that would offer protection in the event that the Russian nuclear arsenal was launched at the United States.

Nor are the Russians or other countries likely to stand still and watch the United States construct space-based defenses. These states are likely to respond by developing advanced anti-satellite weapon systems.[1] These weapons, in turn, would endanger U.S. early warning systems, impair valuable U.S. weapons intelligence efforts, and increase the jitteriness of U.S. officials.

The Dangers of Failed Early Warning Systems

The Russian early warning system is in serious disrepair. This system consists of older radar systems nearing the end of their operational life and just three functioning satellites, although the Russian military has plans to deploy more. The United States has 15 such satellites. Ten years ago, on January 25, 1995, this aging early warning network picked up a rocket launch from Norway. The Russian military could not determine the nature of the missile or its destination. Fearing that it might be a submarine-launched missile aimed at Moscow with the purpose of decapitating the Russian command and control structure, the Russian military alerted President Boris Yeltsin, his defense minister, and the chief of the general staff. They immediately opened an emergency teleconference to determine whether they needed to order Russia’s strategic forces to launch a counterattack.

The rocket that had been launched was actually an atmospheric sounding rocket conducting scientific observations of the aurora borealis. Norway had notified Russia of this launch several weeks earlier, but the message had not reached the relevant sections of the military. In little more than two minutes before the deadline to order nuclear retaliation, the Russians realized their mistake and stood down their strategic forces.

Thus, 10 years ago, when the declining Russian early warning system was stronger than today, it read this single small missile test launch as a U.S. nuclear missile attack on Russia. The alarm went up the Russian chain of command all the way to the top. The briefcase containing the nuclear missile launch codes was brought to Yeltsin as he was told of the attack. Fortunately, Yeltsin and the Russian leadership made the correct decision that day and directed the Russian strategic nuclear forces to stand down.

Obviously, nothing should be done in any way further to diminish the reliability of the space-based components of U.S. and Russian ballistic missile early warning systems. A decline in confidence in such early warning systems caused by the deployment of weapons in space would enhance the risk of an accidental nuclear weapons attack. Yet, as part of its plans for missile defense, the Pentagon is calling for the development of a test bed for space-based interceptors as well as examining a number of other exotic space weapons. In an interview published in Arms Control Today, Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency, touted what he said was “a very modest and moderate test-bed approach to launch some experiments.” Obering said the Pentagon would only deploy a handful of interceptors: “We are talking about onesies, twosies in terms of experimentation.”[2]

Despite Obering’s claims, however, establishing a test bed for missile defense in space, as opposed to current preliminary research, would be a long step toward space weaponization. Once space-based missile defenses are tested, they are likely to be deployed, and in significant numbers, no matter if the tests are successful.

To see the path that a space test bed is likely to follow, one need only look at the present ground-based program: the Pentagon claims there is little true difference between a test bed and an operational deployment. Moreover, in space the deployment could be more dramatic. Although the current ground-based configuration envisions a few dozen interceptors, continuous space coverage over a few countries of concern would likely require a very large number of interceptors because a particular interceptor will be above a particular target for only a few minutes a day. Today’s missile defenses provide very little real protection as the United States currently faces no realistic threat of deliberate attack by nuclear-armed long-range missiles. But space weapons could actually be detrimental to U.S. national security. They would increase the perceived vulnerability of early warning systems to attack and cause Russia and perhaps other countries such as China to pursue potentially destabilizing countermeasures, such as advanced anti-satellite weapons.

These dangers would be particularly worrisome for those components that are placed in geosynchronous orbits (GEO). Space objects in GEO are sufficiently far from the Earth (about 36,000 kilometers) so that their speed roughly matches the rotational speed of the Earth and they remain “stationary” above one location. To be sure, any country that can place a satellite in these farther orbits—and there are several—could potentially threaten another country’s satellites there. Yet, it would be easier to do so, and perhaps more importantly, the threat perception would be greater with weapons based in space than with existing ground-based technology. The 15 U.S. early warning satellites are almost entirely in GEO. The three functioning Russian early warning satellites utilize two different orbits. Two of the satellites use a highly elliptical orbit, which ranges from low-Earth orbit (LEO)—100 to 2,000 kilometers above the Earth where space objects travel at about 8 kilometers per second—out to GEO. The other satellite is permanently stationed in GEO.

Moreover, a space arms competition could hinder the flow of satellite imagery that can be used to track activities that might reveal programs to develop weapons of mass destruction in countries of concern. For example, activities detected through space-based collection systems can be used to trigger requests for inspections pursuant to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) (implicitly) or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (explicitly), should that treaty be brought into force. It is important in this respect to recall that the suspicions that Israel and South Africa may have conducted an atmospheric nuclear test in 1979 were driven by readout from a U.S. VELA satellite.

Similarly, the United States has benefited from the revolution in national intelligence that began with and is based on photographic reconnaissance satellites and related systems, which has helped bring to an end the worst-case analysis and close calls with nuclear war that existed throughout the Cold War. If a truly peaceful and stable world order is ever achieved, the advent of this technology beginning in the late 1950s will be regarded by future generations as a major historical turning point.

These are crucial efforts that must never be allowed to be disrupted, either by space-based weapons or with the relatively simplistic ground-based anti-satellite weapon systems that could today be deployed. The United States has considerable anti-satellite weapons capability. An F-15-based homing vehicle system was successfully tested in the 1980s, and the anti-ballistic missile system currently being deployed in Alaska and California has an inherent anti-satellite capability. Right now, no other country is developing a counterspace system, although the Soviet Union successfully tested a co-orbital anti-satellite system in the 1970s and 1980s and Russia and China are believed to be capable of doing so. Notably, 28 countries have ballistic missiles that can reach LEO satellites, and all have the technical capability to develop a LEO anti-satellite system by modifying these missiles.

Active defenses—the deployment of devices intended to deflect, destroy, or render unworkable offensive systems—cannot by themselves be expected to provide adequate protection of space assets either now or in the long term. These technologies, as well as hardening and other passive means of defense, may provide some means of defending against the current generation of anti-satellite technology. Eventually, however, our would-be attackers would find ways to counter those defenses. Thus, it would appear that an agreed legal regime, predicated on mutually beneficial and, of course, verifiable restraint, should at least be considered.

Protecting Early Warning Systems

Rather than building space weapons, it may be best to put space off-limits for arms. Domestic law in major spacefaring countries around the world could prohibit programs for developing space-based weapons. To reinforce this effort, there could be a worldwide understanding that placing weapons in space or further developing existing anti-satellite weapons capability is contrary to international law and thereby a basis for economic and political pressure and punitive sanctions by a united world community. The best way to accomplish these twin objectives is by the development and negotiation of an international treaty on space weapons and anti-satellite weapons. Treaties become domestic law when ratified, and they can establish worldwide norms of behavior.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 is included in a unique class of arms control agreements sometimes referred to as nonarmament treaties. These agreements were intended to prevent and have been successful in preventing the deployment of weapons in areas where they have not previously been present. Today, after more than three decades, space remains free of weapons of mass destruction thanks to the Outer Space Treaty. Pursuant to the initiative of President Dwight Eisenhower, who at the time of his establishment of NASA made it clear that it was U.S. policy to keep space weapons-free, space remains free of weapons of all kinds. Space has long been militarized—early warning systems are military systems—but it has never been weaponized. This policy has served us well for decades, and there is a strong burden of persuasion on any who argue that it should be changed.

It was asserted during the administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton that there was no need for limitations beyond the existing Outer Space Treaty as no arms race or threat of an arms race in space existed. The Eisenhower policy held in the United States and was supported everywhere else. Consistent with the Bush-Clinton position, over the years, the United States routinely opposed the creation of a negotiating mandate for outer space at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. A number of years ago, a more formal effort began in Geneva and New York called Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS). The United States did not support this, abstaining from voting on the resolution in the UN General Assembly each year. And this year it voted no. Moreover, the standard argument for continuance of the Bush-Clinton position is no longer valid in the wake of the January 2001 report of the Rumsfeld space commission, which declared that a serious risk existed of a “ Pearl Harbor in space.”

It has been suggested that a legal regime to prevent the weaponization of space could be crafted simply by expanding or building on the Outer Space Treaty. There may be some merit to this notion, especially considering that the treaty has more than 90 states-parties. However, the subject is complicated, and there are many important interests to protect in addition to space assets for early warning and for intelligence and verification such as remote sensing, telecommunications, navigation, and the enhancement of ground-based military capabilities.

An expanded Outer Space Treaty could include first and foremost a prohibition on all weapons in space, both offensive and defensive, as they are not distinguishable. “Weapon” would have to be defined for the purposes of this treaty so as to exclude space objects with a peaceful purpose and items that are not relevant to the objective of preventing space weaponization. Also, space objects designed to support terrestrial military operations such as the Global Positioning System maintained by the U.S. Air Force should be explicitly permitted. Some kind of inspection of payloads of space launches would be necessary, perhaps modified by the principle of “managed access” as found in the CWC. Provisions on transparency of space activities and on information sharing would be required. These amendatory provisions could be negotiated in a separate stand-alone protocol to reduce somewhat the risk of reopening other provisions of the Outer Space Treaty.

Some have argued that it is premature to consider additional legal obligations in space, that informal “rules of the road” would get far more support. Others argue that the United States must resist the call for any new international legal obligations inhibiting the deployment of weapons in space. It is asserted that any such agreement or arrangement would be unenforceable and unverifiable and that “the ignominious record of enforcing and verifying treaties prohibiting activities on Earth is proof enough to give pause to any conversation about a treaty governing activities in space.”[3]

Yet, where would we be without the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty? Likely, more than 40 states would be armed with nuclear weapons, meaning that every conflict would run the risk of going nuclear, and nuclear weapons would be so widespread it would be impossible to keep them out of the hands of terrorist organizations. Where would we be without the strategic arms limitation and reduction agreements of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s? Likely, the United States and Russia would have so many nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, they could never be controlled. Where would we be without the Outer Space Treaty? Nuclear weapons could be orbiting the Earth with the capability to strike anywhere, anytime without warning. Where are we now in the wake of the dissolution of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty? We possibly could be on the verge of actively considering the development and deployment of space-based ABM systems that would address no current or foreseeable threat but could unhinge strategic stability.

The history of the last 50 years teaches us that, if dangerous weapons and technologies are to be controlled to the safety and security of all, it must be done early, before the programs become entrenched. That time may well be now with respect to weapons in space. The United States does not have a secure future in space without broad and sustained international cooperation. The deployment of weapons in space, whether offensive or defensive, would make this necessary cooperation difficult if not impossible. There would likely be retaliation, which would seriously degrade the progress that has been made over the last five or six decades toward multilateral international cooperation in space.

The groundwork for a comprehensive treaty-based regime has been laid, and the importance of this objective is clear. Much work remains, but the creation of a space regime, under which the international community decisively enshrines space as a peaceful environment, ultimately is the only thoroughgoing alternative to a weaponized space free-for-all. The United States and the rest of the world risk being rendered forever vulnerable to the vagaries and fluctuations of technology development. In this age of a worldwide struggle against international terrorism, this is the last thing we should want.

Preventing the weaponization of space is of paramount importance to world stability. Any deployment of weapons of a significant nature in space, particularly highly capable weapons systems such as a space-based missile defense, could provoke countermeasures. There are many important assets in space, and it is highly likely that they will only continue to flourish in the current sanctuary environment in place since the days of Eisenhower. Above all, we should never take the slightest chance of impairing early warning systems on which the long nuclear peace between the United States and Russia may continue to depend.

Thomas Graham, Jr. is a former special representative of the president for arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament. In this and other senior capacities, he participated in every major arms control and nonproliferation negotiation in which the United States took part from 1970 to 1997. Graham is the author of Disarmament Sketches (2002), Cornerstones of Security with Damien LaVera (2003), and Common Sense on Weapons of Mass Destruction (2004).


1. Michael Krepon, “Space Weapons and Proliferation,” Nonproliferation Review, September 2005.

2. “Defending Missile Defense: An Interview With Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering,” Arms Control Today, November 2005, pp. 6-11.

3. Jeff Kueter and Andrew Plieninger, “Saving Space: Securing Our Space Assets,” Marshall Institute Policy Outlook, July 2005.



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