Login/Logout

*
*  

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
March 2006
Edition Date: 
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Cover Image: 

Missile Defense Funding Soars to New Heights

Wade Boese

President George W. Bush’s fiscal year 2007 budget re quest reaffirms his administration’s commitment to deploying an array of anti-missile systems, including to Europe , despite continuing uncertainty about whether they work. Submitted to Congress Feb. 6, the roughly $11.2 billion request for missile defenses is the largest ever by the Bush administration.

The proposed anti-missile funding is part of a total Pentagon bud get request of $439 billion, although this does not include military spending for Afghanistan and Iraq.

The largest portion of the missile defense funding request, $9.3 billion, is slated for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). Another $899 million would go for perfecting and procuring the Patriot, the Army’s short- and medium-range missile interceptor. Nearly $669 million is tapped for the Air Force’s Space-Based Infrared System- high, which is a satellite constellation that is supposed to spot missile launches worldwide. The troubled system is years behind schedule, and cost estimates have more than doubled. Most of the rest of the funds are spread out among the Air Force, Army, and Navy for integrating and operating various systems as they are fielded. If approved by Congress, this funding would cover activities between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30, 2007.

Pentagon officials count three systems as deployed or ready for emergency use: Patriot, which had mixed results during the 2003 U.S.-led Iraq invasion (see ACT, November 2003); the fledgling Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) against long-range ballistic missiles; and the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System for countering short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. These systems, as well as the nascent Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to intercept ballistic missiles near the end of their flights, are singled out for the largest slices of funding. The GMD is earmarked for almost $2.9 billion of the MDA funds, while Aegis and THAAD will get roughly $1 billion apiece.

GMD funding plans call for adding an unspecified number of long-range interceptors to the eight already deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska. MDA stated last December that it would no longer announce when new interceptors are deployed “in the interest of operational security.” (See ACT, January/February 2006.)

Still, in a recent budget document, MDA projects that in 2007 there will be up to 20 ground-based interceptors stationed in Alaska, along with the two already emplaced in California. It further predicts that 24 Aegis system interceptors will be deployed, as well as 534 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors.

By that time, MDA also is envisioning a fuller complement of radars to help interceptors get a better fix on enemy ballistic missiles. Currently, two upgraded early-warning radars are operating in Alaska and California. The additional radars will include a sea- based X-band radar, two mobile land-based radars (one in Japan and another in an undisclosed location), and upgraded early-warning radars based in the United Kingdom and Greenland.

As early as 2010, MDA is also aiming to deploy long-range missile interceptors in Europe. The recent budget proposal includes $56 million to begin exploring interceptor sites on the continent, agency spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today Feb. 16. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have all held discussions with the U.S. government about hosting missile defenses. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

Although generally taking an expansive approach to its various systems, MDA did scale back plans but not funds for two programs: the Airborne Laser (ABL) and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI). These boost-phase systems are geared toward destroying ballistic missiles during the first few minutes of their flight.

The ABL, which involves arming a modified Boeing 747 with a powerful laser, was supposed to attempt to shoot down its first target in 2003, but that plan has slipped until 2008. Given this delay and the technical challenges still facing the system, MDA has demoted the program to a demonstration project and will postpone plans on producing additional ABL aircraft until after the scheduled 2008 experiment is completed.

Similarly, the deployment schedule for the KEI, a fast-accelerating land-based interceptor, has been pushed back another year to 2014. MDA is aiming to conduct the inaugural KEI flight test in 2008 but has no firm date for when such a system might be tested against a target.

Another longer-term MDA goal is to deploy up to five space-based interceptors for testing purposes by about 2012. MDA Director Lieutenant General Henry Obering told Arms Control Today in September 2005 that funding for this effort would begin in 2008 (see ACT, November 2005). And Lehner confirmed that the recent budget request contains no money toward that end.

Performance Doubts Persist

In its Feb. 3 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon listed the deployment of missile defenses as one of its accomplishments since 2001. It stated that this action provided a “nascent defensive capability.”

Yet, the Pentagon’s own testing office and the Congressional Research Service (CRS) both published less sanguine assessments in January.

Evaluating the overarching complex of anti-missile systems, the Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation found “there is insufficient evidence to support a confident assessment of Limited Defensive Operations.” However, the office noted, “[t]here is developmental test data that suggests the system may have some inherent defensive capability.”

In 2005, MDA conducted one THAAD flight test, two Aegis intercept tests, and two GMD interceptor flight tests. The Aegis tests were successful intercepts of targets, while the other three tests did not involve targets.

The GMD system last intercepted a target in October 2002, and at that time it employed a prototype interceptor that is not the same as the current model deployed in Alaska and California. The Pentagon testing office stated GMD testing was “limited by the immaturity of some components” and lacked “operational realism.”

CRS national defense specialist Steven Hildreth similarly found GMD testing data to be “insufficient” for drawing a conclusion about whether the system could destroy a long-range ballistic missile fired at the United States. In general, Hildreth described missile defense testing as producing “mixed and ambiguous results,” although he reported that testing for systems against short- and medium-range missiles “appears more promising.”

 

President George W. Bush’s fiscal year 2007 budget re quest reaffirms his administration’s commitment to deploying an array of anti-missile systems, including to Europe , despite continuing uncertainty about whether they work. Submitted to Congress Feb. 6, the roughly $11.2 billion request for missile defenses is the largest ever by the Bush administration. (Continue)

Pentagon Seeks Strategic Arms Shifts

Wade Boese

In a much-anticipated strategy document released Feb. 3, the Department of Defense disclosed plans to trim the number of land-based nuclear missiles and nuclear-capable bombers and convert some submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) to carry conventional munitions instead of nuclear warheads.

The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) maps out the Pentagon leadership’s views on how U.S. military forces should be con figured to best address potential threats of the future. The last such review was released Sept. 30, 2001, and was soon followed by the December 2001 Nuclear Posture Review.

Both of these earlier documents called for moving the United States away from what was described as a deterrent strategy predicated on a peer adversary, such as the former Soviet Union, toward a posture that could deal with a more diverse range of threats, including nonstate actors. This concept was essentially distilled as reducing U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons while enhancing the Pentagon’s global strike capabilities, which pertain to attacking targets anywhere in the world on very short notice.

The most recent QDR claims that this shift “from a ‘one size fits all’ notion of deterrence toward more tailorable approaches” is taking place. As proof, it points to the retirement of the 10-warhead MX ICBM (see ACT, October 2005), the conversion of four ballistic missile submarines from nuclear duty to conventional missions, and the removal of hundreds of warheads from Minuteman III ICBMs. Although all of these moves originated in commitments made by earlier administrations, the Bush administration carried them out.

But in the latest QDR, the Bush adminis tration does set out some new strategic reductions. One initiative calls for lowering the number of deployed Minuteman III ICBMs from 500 to 450. This process is sched uled to start in fiscal year 2007, which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2007. An expected completion date has not yet been disclosed.

Minuteman III missiles are dispersed across three bases in Montana, North Dakota , and Wyoming. Lawmakers from these states reacted negatively to the plan and vowed to resist it, albeit with an air of resignation. Last fall, several Western lawmakers wrote letters and introduced legislation opposing the rumored move. (See ACT, November 2005.)

Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) described the reductions Feb. 3 as “troubling,” while Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-Mont.) labeled them “disconcerting.” Senator Conrad Burns (R- Mont.) stated the same day that the 50 missiles likely will be removed from his state’s Malmstrom Air Force Base, which is home to 200 of the ICBMs.

Rehberg suggested that perhaps the missiles would not be removed but would have their nuclear warheads replaced by con ventional ones. Although Air Force Space Command initiated a one-year study last October to look at the possibility of arm ing ICBMs with conventional warheads for “prompt global strike” missions, there has been no specific mention of equipping Minuteman IIIs in this fashion. Instead, a Defense Science Board task force recommended in February 2004 arming retired MX missiles in this manner.

Although the possibility of arming ICBMs with conventional warheads re mains unsettled, the QDR calls within two years for replacing some Trident D-5 SLBM nuclear warheads with precision-guided conventional warheads. Citing defense sources, Inside Missile Defense reported Feb. 1 that the plan involves 96 total conventional warheads spread out among 24 separate missiles aboard 12 different submarines. This would mean that these submarines would be carrying both conventional- and nuclear-armed missiles side by side.

Some critics worry that this approach could be dangerous to U.S. security. Steve Andreasen, who served as director for defense policy and arms control on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton, wrote Feb. 14 in The San Francisco Chronicle that Russia might misinterpret a conventional missile attack against another entity as a nuclear attack against itself and launch a “mistaken nuclear retaliatory” strike on the United States.

Chief of Naval Operations Michael Mul len told reporters Feb. 7 that confusion by others about what was being launched was “one of the challenges” facing this initiative. But he defended the concept as necessary for enhancing the U.S. global strike capability.

In addition, the QDR calls for cutting the force of 94 nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to 56 planes for cost savings that would be used toward outfitting “B-52s, B-1s, and B-2s to support global strike operations.” An Air Force spokesperson told Arms Control Today Feb. 24 that the remaining B-52s would retain their nuclear role.

The review envisions fielding a new “penetrating long-range strike capability” by 2018. Another Air Force spokesperson told Arms Control Today Feb. 21 that officials had not yet determined whether the new platform will be “manned, unmanned, or optional” but said that it is intended to be capable of carrying conventional and nuclear weapons.

 

 

Small Arms Talks Hamstrung

Chris Affolter

As the United Nations prepares to host a review conference on curbing trade in small arms and light weapons, disputes over the extent of such measures and whether they should be legally binding are hampering progress. The disputes have helped block participants from even agreeing on an agenda, raising the possibility of a repeat of a 2001 conference that ended without an agreement on binding measures.

More than 50 countries met at a Jan. 9-21 New York preparatory meeting for the June 26-July 7 UN review conference. At the conclusion of the preparatory meeting, Chairman Sylvester Rowe of Sierra Leone compiled a document of possible policy options for the conference, including consideration of legally binding measures. But the lack of consensus on the document brought the meeting to a close without an agreed agenda.

A number of countries, including the United States, resisted any attempt to discuss legally binding measures and also rebuffed efforts to address limits on civilian ownership, legal trade and manufacture, and transfers to nonstate entities.

These views track those the United States put forward in July 2001 when UN members gathered in New York for the first global conference on the illicit international trade of small arms and light weapons. The 2001 conference was unable to agree on le gally binding measures, instead producing the voluntary Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. This document outlined a series of voluntary measures to stem the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, which range from grenades, pistols, and rifles to machine guns and man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS.

However, in his opening statement to the January gathering, Steven Costner, deputy director for the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, expressed support for some measures advanced in the intervening years. Along with other foreign diplomats, Costner called for the implementation of a new international instrument, adopted in 2005, for the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons. In addition, he voiced support for the goals of the British-proposed Transfer Control Initiative, an effort to forge an international consensus on guidelines for the transfer of small arms and light weapons. (See ACT, September 2005.) It is unclear how participants will deal with these two issues at the upcoming conference.

Some U.S. lawmakers are pressing the Bush administration to pursue a new approach at the 2006 conference. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), along with a dozen colleagues, sent a Jan. 12 letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to “push for strong, specific arms export criteria in or [that would] supplement” the UN Program of Action in June. Such criteria, the letter volunteers, could include the prevention of arms transfers that could result in human rights abuses or terrorism, violations of international treaties and embargoes, or disruptions to regional peace and security.

Similarly, the European Union has called for the creation of international guidelines for the transfer of small arms and light weapons, supporting, for example, the adoption of a legally binding international instrument on the tracing and marking of small arms and light weapons and ammunition. The December 2005 instrument supported by the United States is not legally binding. European countries are particularly concerned about the detrimental effects of illegal small arms and light weapons transfers to sub-Saharan Africa.

In hopes of preparing a formal agenda in time for the conference, countries are planning informal consultations in the interim. Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam of Sri Lanka, president of the review conference, is leading this dialogue. If the effort is not successful, approving an agenda will be the first order of business at the summer conference.

 

CTBTO Funds Rebound in Bush Budget

Daryl G. Kimball

The Bush administration’s fiscal year 2007 budget re quest, unveiled Feb. 6, calls for a $19.8 million U.S. contribution to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). That is short of the $23 million assessment that the Vienna-based organization has ascribed to the United States, but significantly higher than the current-year U.S. contribution.

Last year, the administration succeeded in overcoming Senate opposition and pushing through Congress sharp cuts in funds to the CTBTO. Lawmakers provided only $14.4 million out of $22 million requested by the CTBTO for fiscal year 2006. The administration said the cuts were a matter of tight budgets, not opposition to the CTBTO’s mission. (See ACT, December 2005.)

U.S. contributions have regularly fallen short of CTBTO assessments since the Bush administration decided in 2001 not to fund the CTBTO’s on-site inspection activities. Still, fiscal year 2005 U.S. contributions were $19 million, with most of the funds going toward the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System, a worldwide network of sensors that, when completed, will be able to detect with high confidence a nuclear test anywhere in the world. U.S. contributions amount to nearly a quarter of the CTBTO budget.

The cumulative effect of these cuts is likely to take a toll in the future if not addressed, according to sources in Vienna. These sources say the cuts will not affect the CTBTO’s work this year. But they say that if the United States does not compensate for the reduction and for past arrears in the fiscal year 2007 funding cycle, the cumulative shortfall will have a “direct impact on the ability of the organization to conduct future programs.”

 

 

Latin American Arms Sales Moving Forward

Wade Boese

Spain plans to proceed with arms sales to Venezuela despite U.S. claims that the exports might upset Latin American security. Meanwhile, the United States recently delivered advanced combat aircraft to Chile, marking the first such transfer to the region in more than two decades.

Spain agreed in March 2005 to sell a dozen military transport aircraft and eight naval patrol vessels to Venezuela. (See ACT, May 2005.) Washington quickly protested Madrid’s action and in Janu ary announced that it would not allow Spain to export the planes because they contain U.S. components. U.S. law requires foreign governments to obtain permission from Washington to export arms incorporating U.S. technology or parts. The patrol boats do not contain U.S. parts and are not subject to a veto.

Department of State spokesperson Sean McCormack criticized the Spanish arms package Jan. 13 as “not consistent with U.S. foreign policy interests.” The United States brands Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as an undemocratic and volatile leader and charges that recent Venezuelan arms buys exceed the country’s defense needs.

Still, a Spanish diplomatic source told Arms Control Today Feb. 17 that Spain will replace the U.S. technology on the planes to complete the deal. EADS-CASA, the aircraft manufacturer, will “present the Venezuelan government a new proposal in a month’s time,” according to the source.

Playing down U.S. worries, Spain contends the weapons will not destabilize the region. Instead, they “should help Venezuela to control its borders and territorial sea and fight against drug trafficking and other threats,” the Spanish official explained.

The United States is also working to stop Brazil from supplying its Super Tucano, a light-combat/trainer aircraft, to Venezuela. Brazil has not publicly stated what it plans to do with the planes, which contain some U.S. components.

Although actively seeking to deny Venezuela arms, the United States delivered two F-16C/D fighters to Chile Jan. 31. The final eight fighters of the estimated $636 million order are also to be delivered this year. At a Santiago ceremony marking the transfer, U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs Bruce Lemkin declared the F-16 “an instrument of peace.”

In August 1997, President Bill Clinton paved the way for the Chil ean F-16 deal by reversing a 20-year-old restriction on advanced U.S. arms sales to Latin America. (See ACT, August 1997.) Prior to Clinton ’s move, the only exception to the de facto ban had been the 1982 sale of 24 F-16A jets to Venezuela.

 

 

Editor's Note

Miles A. Pomper

For more than two years, the United States has been pressing for the UN Security Council to confront Iran’s nuclear program. As our news section details this month, it looks like the Bush administration will finally get its wish. Still, that has left open the pressing question of what the Security Council should now do about the issue. In our cover story, Charles D. Ferguson and Ray Takeyh analyze the dynamics within Iran and offer some concrete suggestions for ending this crisis.

With Iran, the international community has been mobilized to action in part by the increasingly provocative behavior of Tehran. By contrast, with India, the United States may potentially be fomenting new problems, as Richard Speier recounts in another feature article. Pointing to a recent agreement between the United States and India to deepen space-related ties, Speier says such cooperation may inadvertently contribute to India developing an ICBM, shaking up international relations, and even potentially endangering the United States.

Similarly, Sonia Ben Ourgrham-Gormley says that U.S. officials have not paid sufficient attention or correctly structured assistance programs to confront the proliferation danger posed by the former Soviet anti-plague system. She illuminates how deeply this ostensibly peaceful program was involved in making biological weapons for the former Soviet Union. She also discusses the dangers that materials and expertise from anti-plague facilities still pose to international security.

The Soviet Union, as well as a few other countries, also had a substantial chemical weapons arsenal. In our book review this month, Michael Moodie examines Jonathan Tucker’s War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare From World War I to Al Qaeda, which chronicles these and other chapters in the history of these dangerous arms.

In addition to detailing the drivers of the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program, our news section in this month’s expanded issue includes coverage ranging from the new nuclear policy recently outlined by French President Jacques Chirac to an in-depth look at President George W. Bush’s fiscal year 2007 budget request to Congress.

 

Letters to the Editor

Ending Brazil’s Nuclear Weapons Program

In recent months, several reports have appeared in the media—in this magazine and elsewhere—discussing Brazil’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons and when and how they came about (“Brazilian Regulator Denies Uranium Claims,” ACT, November 2005; “Brazil’s Nuclear History,” ACT, October 2005). As a leading participant in the Collor de Mello administration that brought about an end to the program, I thought it was important for the public record to set forth my views on the subject.

Brazil ’s military government, which took power in 1964, made clear its intention to have an independent nuclear program, including indigenous production of enriched uranium. This desire reflected the nationalist aspirations of the military regime and was enhanced by the oil crises of the 1970s, which made clear Brazil’s dependence on foreign sources of energy.

In the mid-1970s, the military government sought to obtain from Germany eight nuclear power plants and the equipment to run the full nuclear fuel cycle. But the deal was severely cur tailed by U.S. pressure. Hedging its bets, the military soon decided to initiate a secret “parallel” program centered in Brazil’s National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN), so that civilian scientists could be involved. It also included members of all three branches of the armed forces and their facilities.

At about the same time, neighboring Argentina also had a military government and wanted to be considered a power player. The climate for a regional arms race between the two countries was established with both countries pumping substantial sums into their military industrial complexes. In Brazil, a small group of high-ranking military and civilian hard-liners came to the conclusion that Brazil needed to develop nuclear weapons in order to establish itself as a regional and international power and to defend itself from a potentially nuclear-armed Argentina.

These officials also believed that if Brazil developed nuclear weapons, developed countries such as the United States would have to deal with Brazil in a completely different manner. And these states would have to abandon the sanctions that they had imposed as a way of pressuring Brazil to sign the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and other regional treaties.

Under these sanctions, Brazil was black listed from buying “dual-use” equipment that could be used either for civilian purposes or nuclear weapons production. So, Brazilian companies could not purchase supercomputers (to be used in oil exploration, for example), high-speed industrial water pumps, or even a pen if it was deemed to be of “special material.” The pressure extended further to international loans in the Interna tional Monetary Fund and the World Bank, where the United States was less inclined to support Brazil’s applications for such funds, and to several restrictions in multilateral commercial trade. Rather than dissuade Brazil from the path of nuclear weapons development, however, the reaction from the military government was to stiffen its resolve to pursue such arms.

In 1982 a new head of the CNEN took office and secretly agreed to align himself with the hard-liners’ objectives. From that day on, the nuclear program mushroomed in financial and human terms, and eventually even Brazilian companies involved in the fizzling commercial agreement with Germany came under the same leadership. More than 3,000 technicians and scientists were hired and trained, and the Nuclear Commission became the research institution with the highest percentage of PhDs in the country.

Things began to change in the late 1980s. In 1985 a civilian presi dent, José Sarney, took control, and Brazil’s Congress approved a new democratic constitution in 1988. Article 21 of the constitution stated that “all nuclear activity in national territory will only be admitted for peaceful purposes and under the approval of the National Congress.” Sarney then ordered the termination of the weapons program and the opening of all nuclear facilities to Argentinian inspection.

But that was not the end of the effort. The hard-liners decided to continue on with the weapons program by convincing the army leadership to sponsor it without Sarney’s authorization or knowledge. They tried to hide their real intentions in verbal subterfuges, saying that a nuclear “device” could be developed and tested for peaceful purposes (as India claimed to have done in 1974) while telling Sarney that all nonpeaceful research had stopped. And they stalled for a year and a half in fulfilling Sarney’s promise to open the facilities to the Argentinians. Indeed, the diplomatic maneveuring only truly stopped in March 1990 with the election of Fernando Collor de Mello as Brazil’s new president.

Immediately after taking office, Collor nominated me to head the nuclear program, with a direct order to dismantle the weapons program, follow strictly the 1988 Constitution, and open all nuclear installations to the Argentinians. But even before then, the president’s election had made clear to the hard-liners that their control of the nuclear program was in danger. All sensitive documentation about the weapons program suddenly disappeared from the files of the Nuclear Commission the night before I took charge of that organization. Only a few documents were apprehended when people were trying to smuggle them out of the Nuclear Commission and are now guarded by the civilian intelligence agency under the “Ultra Secret” classification. My predecessor distributed the bulk of the documents through the armed forces’ intelligence services in order to shield those involved in the program and the nature of Brazil’s plans from public disclosure.

Despite the intense resistance from civilian, military, and intelligence quarters, the president’s political determination triumphed. In the following six months, all research groups, equipment, and materi als were either dismantled, destroyed, or put under very tight civilian safeguards. The Brazilian government also cancelled several secret contracts or protocols with certain key countries that year, for example, terminating Brazilian participation in Iraq’s nuclear program in July 1990. Another contract referred to purchasing highly sensitive enriched uranium bought from a nuclear-weapon state—press reports at the time said the country was China—in enough quantity and enrichment to build and test a nuclear “device.” Physical tests showed that the material, while including uranium enriched to weapons-grade level, was not chemically pure. Eventually, this material was chemically purified and down-blended to low-enriched uranium and used as fuel in research reactors.

The most important event of the secret “parallel” program was supposed to be the first nuclear “device” test during the second se mester of 1990. The dismantling of the nuclear-weapon portion of the “parallel” program produced a strong reaction from the hard-liners. But the president stuck to his directive. In late September 1990, he officially ended the “parallel” nuclear weapons program by visiting the proposed test site and closing it himself.

One of the most difficult actions implemented in 1990 was to begin placing all 44 nuclear facilities (civilian and military) under CNEN control and nuclear safeguards. Their most important task was to account for all enriched uranium in civilian and military facilities. The Nuclear Commission started with its own facilities in April 1990, then went on to the commercial facilities and ended with the military facilities. The most sensitive facility, the Ipero Enrichment Laboratory controlled by the navy, was safeguarded late in October 1990 over the strong opposition of the admiral in charge of the site.

Brazilian military and diplomatic officials also resisted granting access to the Argentinians. But my Argentinian counterpart, Manoel Mondino, and I decided to begin a series of “technical” visits without the knowledge of either country’s diplomats. By mid-July 1990, the “technical” visits had gathered so much momentum that my president decided to establish a formal negotiating group with the incorporation of the Ministries of Foreign Relations and Science and Technology, encompassing both political and technical aspects. Eventually, these talks led to the formation of the Brazilian-Argentinian Agency for the Control and Accountability of Nuclear Materials.

Soon thereafter, Brazil and Argentina began negotiating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to expand their bilateral agreement to a multilateral one. The IAEA negotiating team was led by Mohamed ElBaradei, who was then legal adviser to IAEA Director-General Hans Blix. The talks came down to one sensitive point: detailed international inspection at the Ipero uranium-enrichment facility. At every meeting, ElBaradei raised the pressure one degree. In November 1991, nerves and tensions were at a critical boil. ElBaradei conveyed the position of the international community: Brazil had to open up the enrichment facility completely. The Brazilian team insisted on retaining what it described as “industrial secrets.”

During one break, ElBaredei pressed me to explain why Brazil would not accept the international demands, and I told him that I had to retain that provision because of military pressure. “Mohamed, you are Egyptian so you know the importance of a military political position. I negotiated with the military this far and anything else more will signify that Brazil will leave the negotiations for good.” So, ElBaradei relented on this point, and the agreement was concluded.

Behind all this maneuvering, however, lay one critical truth. Brazil was subject to political pressure from the international community for several decades. But that pressure did not push the Brazilian government to participate in the nonproliferation regime. The attempted economic, financial, and political blockade did not succeed, and Brazilians learned how to cope with it. What truly made a difference to Brazil’s nuclear ambitions were changes in domestic politics. The shift to a democratic government led officials to defer to public opposition to nuclear weapons and adhere to the Constitution’s provisions prohibiting such weapons.

 


José Luiz de Santana Carvalho served as president of Brazil’s Nuclear Energy Commission from 1990 to 1993. He is currently a professor of chemistry at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.


 

 

Seismic Sensors for Improved Early Warning

In his recent article (“Space Weapons and the Risk of Accidental Nuclear War,” December 2005), Thomas Graham Jr.

notes correctly that Russia’s deteriorating early-warning system increases the risk of accidental nuclear war. For example, he points to a 1995 episode that illustrated how a deficient system is more likely to “detect” false signals of a nuclear attack.

But there is the possibility of creating an additional means of ensuring that no attack is underway at least for land-based ICBMs, which are the most problematic in terms of first-strike fears: cooperatively deploying sensors near U.S. and Russian ICBM silos. Such sensors could reliably detect a genuine launch or signal that none has occurred. While the general idea is not new, I have recently completed a detailed study, published in Science and Global Security, of how such a system would work.

Under my proposal, the countries would bury three seismic sensors and a processing box 200-500 meters from each silo. Above ground at each site, a satellite antenna and perhaps a solar panel for power would be set up. When a missile is launched, the hot exhaust gas creates extremely loud noise—so loud that it can cause ear pain as far as 2 kilometers away. The noise is roughly similar to that of a jet aircraft taking off, but far stronger.

The noise shakes the ground, setting it into motion at amplitudes far above those from traffic or distant earthquakes. It can thus easily be sensed by so-called accelerometers, which are normally used to measure the strong motion of close earthquakes. And by placing three of them 20-40 meters apart, the direction of the source can be estimated. This can help to differentiate noise vibrations from a launch from other strong signals that might be somewhat similar, in particular from low-flying subsonic aircraft.

Buried seismic sensors are recommended because, different from open-air-qualified microphones, they are not exposed to rain, snow, and dust, avoiding the need for regular maintenance and minimizing above-ground construction. At least as important, it would be extremely hard to fool them: setting the ground into motion to simulate a launch or to compensate for the soil motion caused by an actual one is extremely difficult. Insulating microphones from incoming sound or creating compensating sound by a loudspeaker close by is relatively easy, on the other hand.

As a means of verifying that the seismic sensing system was continu ing to function, special authentication codes could be transmitted as frequently as once per minute. In practice, these would operate in a manner similar to schemes developed in the U.S.-Russian Cooperative Threat Reduction programs on materials protection, control, and accounting. In addition, the very low ground-vibration amplitude stemming from other sources such as traffic, weather aircraft, and distant earthquakes could also be transmitted and continuously checked for consistency to ensure that the system works.

Such a system would be inexpensive—far lower, for example, than just the launch cost of even a few early-warning satellites. Installation costs at each silo would be below $50,000; the total cost for approxi mately 500 U.S. and 300 Russian silos would be about $40 million.

Cooperative acoustic-seismic monitoring of ballistic-missile launches is not a surrogate for unilateral early-warning satellites, but it would provide important additional information, namely an independent channel for confirming in the event of an erroneous indication from one system that in fact no launch has occurred. The cooperation involved would contribute to stability and increase mutual confidence. And if such a system were established, it could eventually be expanded to account for mobile ICBMs or nuclear missiles from countries other than the United States or Russia.

 


Jürgen Altmann is an experimental physicist and disarmament researcher at Universität Dortmund in Dortmund, Germany.

Arms Control in Print

Of Special Interest

Civiak, Robert, The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program: A Slippery Slope to New Nuclear Weapons, Tri-Valley CARES, January 2006, 30 pp.

Einhorn, Robert, “Limiting the Damage: The U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal,” The National Interest, Winter 2005/2006, p. 112.

International Atomic Energy Agency, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran, February 27, 2006, 11 pp.

International Crisis Group, Iran : Is There a Way Out of the Nuclear Impasse, February 23, 2006, 37 pp.

Meier, Oliver, “Tied in Nuclear Knots,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January/February, 2006, p. 14.

Tucker, Jonathan B., War of Nerves, Chemical Warfare from World War I to al-Qaeda, Random House Inc., February 2006, 608 pp.

Woolf, Amy F., Conventional Warheads for Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, February 13, 2006, 26 pp.

 

I. Strategic Arms

Albuquerque Journal, “ LANL May Begin Building Nuke Pits,” February 7, 2006.

Arnold, John, “NNSA Disappoints Domenici,” Albuquerque Journal, January 13, 2006.

Cochran, Thomas B., Matthew G. McKinzie, Robert S. Norris, Laura S. Harrison, and Hans M. Kristensen, “ China’s Nuclear Forces: The World’s First Look at China’s Underground Facilities for Nuclear Warheads,” Imaging Notes, Winter Issue, 2006.

Gertz, Bill, “Commercial Photos Show Chinese Nuke Buildup,” The Washington Times, February 16, 2006.

Government Accountability Office, Nuclear Weapons: NNSA Needs to Refine and More Effectively Manage Its New Approach for Assessing and Certifying Nuclear Weapons, February, 2006, 51 pp.

Hoffman, Ian, “Lab Officials Excited by New H-bomb Project,” The Oakland Tribune, February 6, 2006.

Isachenkov, Vladimir, “Putin Touts Russia’s Missile Capabilities,” Associated
Press, January 31, 2006.

Kucera, Joshua, and Sweetman, Bill, “USAF Initiates Search for Future Heavy Bomber,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, February 8, 2006, p. 5.

Matthews, Owen, “Russian Nukes Redux: Looking to Recapture Lost Glory, Moscow is Building a New Nuclear Warhead Designed to Evade U.S. Defenses,” Newsweek, February 13, 2006.

Medalia, Jonathan, Nuclear Weapons Complex Reconfiguration: Analysis of an Energy Department Task Force Report, Congressional Research Service, February 1, 2006, 39 pp.

Merchet, Jean-Dominique, “Davantage de Souplesse Dans la Dissuasion Nucléaire,” Libération, February 9, 2006.

Moore, Molly, “Chirac: Nuclear Response to Terrorism Is Possible,” The Washington Post, January 20, 2006, p. A12.

Munchau, Wolfgang, “Chirac’s Vain Threat is a Strategic Mess,” The Financial Times, January 23, 2006.

Schwarz, Benjamin, “The Perils of Primacy, When Too Much Power Means Not Enough Security,” The Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2006, p. 33.

Sterngold, James, “Upgrades Planned for U.S. Nuclear Stockpile, Agency Leader Expects Significant Warhead Redesigns,” TheSan Francisco Chronicle, January 15, 2006, p. A16.

Thornhill, John and Spiegel, Peter, “France Defends Right to Nuclear Reply to Terrorism,” The Financial Times, January 19, 2006.

II. Nuclear Proliferation

Chang, Jack, “ Brazil Poised to Join the World’s Nuclear Elite,” Knight Ridder, February 10, 2006.

Cobain, Ian, and Traynor, Ian, “Clandestine Nuclear Deals Traced to Sudan,” The Guardian, January 5, 2006.

Cobain, Ian, and Traynor, Ian, “Intelligence Report Claims Nuclear Market Thriving,” The Guardian, January 4, 2006.


Coll, Steve, “The Stand-Off: How Jihadi Groups Helped Provoke the Twenty-First Century’s First Nuclear Crisis,” The New Yorker, February 13 and 20, 2006, p 126.


Deutsche Presse-Agentur, “ Germany May Need Nuclear Weapons, Ex-Defence Minister Says,” January 26, 2006.

Frost, Robin M., Nuclear Terrorism after 9/11, International Institute for Strategic Studies, December 2005, 88 pp.

Zarifehl, Ramsey, “UN Disarmament Conference ‘In Crisis’,” Swissinfo, January 24, 2006.

India

Denyer, Simon, “India-US Nuclear Deal Runs into Troubled Waters,” Reuters, February 8, 2006.

Giacomo, Carol, “ U.S. Aims to Set Aside India Reactor Controversy,” Reuters, January 18, 2006.

Indian Express Newspapers, “The Fast Breeder Programme Just Cannot Be Put on the Civilian List,” February 8, 2006.

King, Neil Jr., “ U.S. Firms See Nuclear Pact as Door to India,” The Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2006, p. A4.

Krepon, Michael, “In Pursuit of a Nuclear Deal with India,” Henry L. Stimson Center, February 21, 2006.

Linzer, Dafna, “Bush Seeks India’s Cooperation, U.S. Calls for Split in Civilian, Military Nuclear Programs,” The Washington Post, February 23, 2006, p. A12.

George, Melloan, “A Passage to India, With Critics, Of Course,” The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2006.

Press Trust of India, “ India, Japan to Launch Annual Talks on Nuclear Issue,”
January 5, 2006.


Robbins, Carla Anne, and Larkin, John, “Bush’s India Visit Spotlights Hurdles in Nuclear Deal,” The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2006, p. A1.

Sokolski, Henry, “Fissile Isn’t Facile,” The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2006, p. A18.

Somini, Sengupta, “Nuclear Deal and Iran Complicate Efforts by U.S. and India to Improve Ties,” The New York Times, January 23, 2006, p. A10.

Subrahmanyam, K, and Parthasarathy, G, “ India Deserves a Nuclear Partnership,” The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2006, p. A14.

Iran

Beals, Gregory, “A Missed Opportunity with Iran,” Newsday, February 19, 2006.

Buckley, Neil, and McGregor, Richard, “ Russia and China Caught on the Iranian Issue,” The Financial Times, January 15, 2006.

Cirincione, Joseph, “No Military Options,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 19, 2006.

Cobain, Ian, and Traynor, Ian, “Secret Services Say Iran is Trying to Assemble a Nuclear Missile,” The Guardian, January 4, 2006.

Dempsey, Judy, “ Germany’s Chancellor Emphasizes Urgent Need for Action to Quash Nuclear Program in Iran,” The New York Times, February 5, 2006.

Dombey, Daniel, and Khalaf, Roula, “ElBaradei Rejects EU’s Request to Condemn Iran,” The Financial Times, January 19, 2006.


Du Preez, Jean, Defusing The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Carrot and Stick Approach, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, February 17, 2006.

Ebadi, Shirin, and Sahimi, Muhammad, “Link the Nuclear Program to Human Rights,” International Herald Tribune, January 19, 2006.

Erlanger, Steven, “ Israel Wants West to Deal More Urgently With Iran,” The New York Times, January 13, 2006, p. A8.

Fitzpatrick, Mark, “Time is Running Out to Halt Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions,” The Financial Times, January 10, 2006.

Giacomo, Carol, “Use of Force Debated Amid Diplomacy on Iran,” Reuters, February 10, 2006.

Grier, Peter, “Why Iran’s Enrichment Rattles the West,” The Christian Science Monitor, February 15, 2006.

Grier, Peter, “Why US Doesn’t Trust Iran on Nukes,” The Christian Science Monitor, January 24, 2006.

Harrison, Selig, “It is Time to Put Security Issues on the Table with Iran,” The Financial Times, January 18, 2006.

Heinrich, Mark, “ Iran’s No-Show at IAEA Fuels Tension in Atomic Row,” Reuters, January 6, 2006.

Ignatius, David, “Containing Tehran,” The Washington Post, January 20, 2006, p. A17.

Kempe, Frederick, “Iran’s Defiant Nuclear Ambitions Test Alliances,” The Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2006, p. A15.

Khaleej Times, “Former Nuclear Chief Warns Ahmadinejad over Iran’s Isolation,” February 9, 2006.

Kupchan, Charles and Takeyh, Ray, “American and Iranian Interests Meet in Iraq,” International Herald Tribune, January 30, 2006.

LaFranchi, Howard, “On Iran, West looks for a Plan B,” The Christian ScienceMonitor, January 18, 2006.

Lincy, Valerie and Milhollin, Gary, “ Russia’s Sweetheart Deal for Iran,” The New York Times, February 1, 2006, p. A25.

Linzer, Dafna, “Strong Leads and Dead Ends in Nuclear Case Against Iran,” The Washington Post, February 8, 2006, p. A1.

MacAskill, Ewen, and Tisdall, Simon, “ Iran’s Message to the West: Back Off or We Retaliate,” The Guardian, February 2, 2006.

McFaul, Michael, and Milani, Abbas, “To Tame Tehran,” The Washington Post, January 28, 2006, p. A21.

Melloan, George, “Getting Serious About Iran,” The Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2006, p. A17.

Meyer, Josh, “CIA Gave Iran Bomb Plans, Book Says,” The Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2006.

Myers Lee, Amanda, “Saudi Ambassador Decries Iran Nuke Program,” Associated Press, February 8, 2006.

Oster, Shai, and Jones, Sally, “China-Iran Energy Talks Complicate Nuclear Standoff,” The Wall Street Journal, February 17, 2006 p. A6.

Perkovich, George, “The Security Council Must Curb Iran’s Nukes,” International Herald Tribune,” January 11, 2006.

Porter, Gareth, “Fear of U.S. Drove Iran’s Nuclear Policy,” Inter Press Service News Agency, February 7, 2006.

Press Trust of India, “Left Demands Gov’t Statement on Iran Issue,” January 26, 2006.

Rubin, Alissa J., “Case Against Iran Differs From Iraq,” The Los Angeles Times, February 27, 2006.

Rubin, Michael, “The Radioactive Republic of Iran,” TheWall Street Journal, January 16, 2006, p. A14.

Ruppe, David, “ Iran Should Receive Security Guarantee, Blix Says,” Global Security Newswire, January 26, 2006.

Samii, Abbas William, “The Iranian Nuclear Issue and Informal Networks,” Naval War College Review, Winter 2006, p. 63.

Samii, Bill, “Analysis: Iran’s Government Spins Nuclear Crisis as Elites Question Tehran’s Efforts,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 10, 2006.

Sciolino, Elaine and Slackman, Michael, “Nuclear Regulators’ Meeting, Iran Allows Inspectors Access to One Site,” The New York Times, January 30, 2006, A10.

Shannon, Elaine, “ Iran’s Green-Salt Blues,” Time, February 5, 2006.

Slavin, Barbara, “Interview with Ali Larijani,” USA Today, February 6, 2006.

Slavin Barbara, “ Iran Wants Nuclear Independence,” USA Today, February 2, 2006.

Sokov, Nikolai, The Prospects of Russian Mediation of the Iranian Nuclear Crisis, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, February 17, 2006.

Sterngold, James, “Allies Seek to Punish Iran’s Nuclear Breach,” TheSan Francisco Chronicle, January 13, 2006, p. A3.

Strokan, Sergey, “ Iran Willing to Consider Russia’s Proposal,” Kommersant, January 23, 2006.

The Economist, “Playing Soft or Hard Cop,” January 21, 2006, p. 52.

Vick, Karl, “In Iran, Power Written in Stone,” The Washington Post, January 23, 2006, p. A9.

Weisman, Steven R., “ U.S. and Allies Court Russia and China to Help Curb Iran,” The New York Times, January 7, 2006, p. A5.

Weisman, Steven R., “ U.S. and Europeans Tell Russia They Won’t Seek to Penalize Iran Now,” The New York Times, January 19, 2006, p. A8.

Weisman, Steven R., and Fathi, Nazila, “A Test of Wills Between Iran and the West,” The New York Times,” January 12, 2006, p. A6.

Zimmerman, Peter D., “Creative Sanctions Could Work on Iran,” St. Petersburg Times, February 12, 2006.

Israel

Cohen, Avner, “Time to Come Clean on the Bomb,” Haaretz, February 7, 2006.

Normark, Magnus, Anders Lindblad, Anders Norqvist, Björn Sandström, and Louise Waldenström, Israel and WMD: Incentives and Capabilities, Swedish Defence Research Agency, December 2005, 58 pp.

North Korea

Clemens, Jr., Walter C., “Negotiating to Control Weapons of Mass Destruction in North Korea,” International Negotiation, Vol. 10, No. 3, 2005, p. 453.

Fackler, Martin, “North Korean Counterfeiting Complicates Nuclear Crisis,” The New York Times, January 29, 2006.

Fairclough, Gordon, “Banks Cut Ties to North Korea,” The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2006, p. A7.

Kessler, Glenn, “Diplomats Labor to Renew Talks With N. Korea,” The Washington Post, February 5, 2006, p. A18.

Seo Dong-shin, “US Will Maintain Hardline Stance on NK,” The Korea Times, January 10, 2006.

Slavin, Barbara, “U.S.-North Korea Ties All but Severed,” USA Today, January 15, 2006.

Pakistan

Associated Press, “ Pakistan Says Nuclear Network Dismantled,” January 5, 2006.

Brunnstrom, David, “Kerry Signals Change Needed for Pakistan Nuclear Deal,” Reuters, January 14, 2006.

Langewiesche, William, “The Point of No Return,” The Atlantic Monthly, January/February, 2006, p. 96.

The Financial Times, “ Pakistan in Talks to Buy Chinese Reactors,” January 2, 2006.

III. Nonproliferation

Afrasiabi, Kaveh L., “The IAEA and the New World Order,” Asia Times, February 3, 2006.

Agence France-Presse, “Annan Warns Against Use of Nuclear Weapons,” January 25, 2006.

Alterman, Jon B., “The Unique Libyan Case,” Middle East Quarterly, January 2006, p. 21.

Baker, Peter, and Linzer, Dafna, “Nuclear Energy Plan Would Use Spent Fuel,” The Washington Post, January 26, 2006, p. A1.

Carlson, John, “The Role of Bilateral Nuclear Safeguards Agreements,” Trust & Verify, October 2005-February 2006.

Carter, Ashton B., and Lamontage, Stephen A., “A Fuel- Cycle Fix,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January/February, 2006, p. 24.

Deutch, John and Moniz, Ernest J., “A Plan for Nuclear Waste,” The Washington Post, January 30, 2006, p. A17.

Duarte, Sergio de Queiroz, “A President’s Assessment of the 2005 NPT Review Conference,” Disarmament Diplomacy, Winter 2005, p. 3.

Ferguson, Charles D., and Soeyland, Svend, “A Dangerous Solution,” The Baltimore Sun, February 20, 2006.

Hoehn, William, Final Report of Congressional Activity Affecting U.S. Global Threat Reduction Programs in 2005, RANSAC, February 2006, 51 pp.

Kimball, Daryl, “Keeping Test Ban Hopes Alive: The 2005 CTBT Entry-into-force Conference,” Disarmament Diplomacy, Winter 2005, p. 41.

Kyodo News, “ Japan Offers to Cooperate with U.S. Nuclear Fuel Program,” February 8, 2006.

Liang, John, “Blix Doubts U.S.-Led Proliferation Security Initiative’s Effectiveness,” Inside Missile Defense, February 1, 2006, p. 1.

Rydell, Randy, “Disarmament without Agreements?,” International Negotiation, Vol. 10, No. 3, 2005, p. 363.

Sprenger, Sebastian, “Lugar Urges Rumsfeld to Request Lifting Restrictions on CTR Programs,” Inside Missile Defense, February 1, 2006, p. 2.

Weitz, Richard, Revitalizing U.S.-Russian Security Cooperation: Practical Measures, Adelphi Paper 377, November 2005, 104 pp.

IV. Missiles and Missile Defense

Agence France-Presse, “ Russia Upgrading Missile Warning Radar System,” February 15, 2006.

Agence France-Presse, “ Taiwan Says it Needs More US Missiles to Counter China Threat,” February 7, 2006.

Andreasen, Steve, “The Ramifications of Making Ballistic Missiles More Usable,” The San Francisco Chronicle, February 14, 2006, p. B9.

Bishop, Sam, “Bush’s Budget Would Up Missile Defense Spending,” FairbanksDaily News-Miner, February 15, 2006.

Bishop, Sam, “More Work Set for Greely,” FairbanksDaily News-Miner, February 5, 2006.

Capaccio Tony, “Boeing Docked $107 Mln for Poor Missile Defense Work,” Bloomberg News, January 31, 2006.

Capaccio, Tony, “Feds’ Missile-Defense Confidence Falls,” Bloomberg News, January 20, 2006.

Center for Defense Information, Missile Defense: Unless the Pentagon Drastically Changes Missile Defense Priorities, Investment Will Double by 2013, January 17, 2006, 5 pp.

Duffy, Thomas, “Troubled ABL Program Lowered to ‘Demonstrator’ Status,” Inside Missile Defense, February 14, 2006, p. 1.

Fabey, Michael, “SBIRS, ABL, Pose Challenges for U.S. Defense,” Defense News, February 6, 2006, p.18.

Grossman, Elaine M., “Pentagon Wants Early Start on Conventional Missiles for Subs,” Inside Missile Defense, February 1, 2006, p. 16.

Hildreth, Steven A., Kinetic Energy Kill for Ballistic Missile Defense: A Status Overview, Congressional Research Service, January 18, 2005, 7 pp.

Interfax, “Tests of New Early-Warning Radar Underway,” January 18, 2006.

Kislyakov, Andrei, “Outside View: Russia’s Super ICBM,” United Press International, February 21, 2006.

McLaughlin, Tim, “Boeing Test-Fires Anti-Ballistic-Missile Laser,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 29, 2005, p. B1.

Mistry, Dinshaw and Smith, Mark, “Negotiating Multilateral Instruments Against Missile Proliferation,” International Negotiation, Vol. 10, No. 3, 2005, p. 425.

Munger, Frank, “Missile Defense More Than Just Rocket Science,” Knoxville News Sentinel, January 3, 2006.

Sieff, Martin, “Interview: Missile Defense Achievements,” United Press International, January 2, 2006.

V. Chemical and Biological Weapons

Finn, Peter, “Russians Wary of Chemical Arms Plan,” The Washington Post, February 15, 2006, p. A16.

Kaplan, David E., “National Security Watch: A Deadly Nerve Agent’s History,” U.S. News, January 31, 2005.

Leitenberg, Milton, Assessing the Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism Threat, Strategic Studies Institute, December 2005, 115 pp.

Moodie, Michael, “Negotiating Measures to Manage Biological Risks: The Need for New Thinking and New Approaches,” International Negotiation, Vol. 10, No. 3, 2005, p. 405.

Schneidmiller, Chris, “Scientific Codes of Conduct Inevitable, Experts Say,” Global Security Newswire, February 22, 2006.

Wheelis, Mark, Rózsa Lajos and Malcolm Dando, Deadly Cultures: Biological Weapons since 1945, Harvard University Press, 2006, 479 pp.

VI. Conventional Arms

Agence France-Presse, “25,000 Weapons Turned In During Sierra Leone Disarmament,” January 26, 2006.

Agence France-Presse, “ U.S. Bars Humvee Sales to Ethiopia,” January 5, 2006.

Bondì, Loretta “ U.S. Policy on Small Arms and Light Weapons,” Naval War College Review, Winter 2006, p. 63.

Bryce, Robert, “Man Versus Mine,” The Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2006, p. 44.

Cloud, David S., “Rumsfeld, In Algeria, Discusses Arms Sales,” The New York Times, February 13, 2006, p. A10.

Ivanov, Henry, “India Finalises Smerch Purchase,” Jane’s Defence Weekly,” February 8, 2006, p.15.

Jones, Seth G., and Larrabee, Stephen F., “Arming Europe,” The National Interest, Winter 2005/2006, p. 62.

Lynch, Colum, “Report: U.S. Arms Helped Indonesia Attack East Timor,” The Washington Post, January 25, 2006, p. A15.

RIA Novosti, “Russian Arms Exports in 2005 Reached $6.1 Billion,” February 9, 2006.

 

VII. U.S. Policy

Broad, William J., “New Team Plans to Identify Nuclear Attackers,” TheNew York Times, February 2, 2006.

Daalder, Ivo, and Gordon, Philip, “We Should Strike Iran, but Not With Bombs,” The Washington Post, January 22, 2006, p. B3.

Drogin, Bob, and Tom, Hamburger, “ Niger Uranium Rumors Wouldn’t Die,” TheLos Angeles Times, February 17, 2006.

Kessler, Glenn, “Administration Critics Chafe at State Dept. Shuffle,” The Washington Post, February 21, 2006, p. A4.

Lichtblau, Eric, “2002 Memo Doubted Uranium Sale Claim,” The New York Times, January 18, 2006, p. A8.

Pillar, Paul, “Intelligence, Policy and the War in Iraq,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2006, p. 15.

Pincus, Walter, “Ex-CIA Official Faults Use of Data on Iraq,” The Washington Post, February 10, 2006, p. A1.

Strobel, Warren P., “State Department Sees Exodus of Weapons Experts,” Knight Ridder, February 7, 2006.

United States Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report, February 6, 2006, 113 pp.

 

VIII. Space

Bennett, John T., “NNSO Chief: QDR to Urge Increased Protection of Space-Based Systems,” Inside Missile Defense, February 1, 2006, p. 15.

Hitchens, Theresa, “Safeguarding Space: Building Cooperative Norms to Dampen Negative Trends,” Disarmament Diplomacy, Winter 2005, p 57.

 

IV. Other

Asmus, Ronald D., “Contain Iran: Admit Israel to NATO,” The Washington Post, February 21, 2006, p. A15.

Hulsman, John, and Gardiner, Nile, “Confounding the Mullahs of Iran: It’s Time for Israel to Join NATO,” The Heritage Foundation, January 24, 2006.

International Crisis Group, China and North Korea: Comrades Forever?, February 1, 2006, 42 pp.

Kempe, Frederick, “NATO, Israel Draw Closer,” The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2006, p. A6.

Reuters, “Ambassador to Germany: Israel Wants to Boost NATO Ties, May One Day Join,” February 10, 2006.

Rogers, Paul, Iran:Consequences of a War, Oxford Research Group, February 2006, 16 pp.

Steinberg, Gerald M., “Realism, Politics and Culture in Middle East Arms Control Negotiations,” International Negotiation, Vol. 10, No. 3, 2005, p. 486.

 

 

Bush Plans Changes in Threat Programs

William Huntington

Continuing the shift in emphasis of U.S. threat reduction efforts toward programs with global reach, the Bush administration’s fiscal year 2007 budget request includes cuts to a number of traditional threat reduction programs in the former Soviet Union and modest increases to those with broader regional scope.

The flagship Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program within the Department of Defense is marked for a 10.6 percent cut, while similar Department of State programs received slight across-the-board increases. Nonproliferation projects within the Department of Energy received mixed support in the request, with a large increase for disposition of U.S. fissile material and cuts slated for several programs operating in the former Soviet Union.

Department of Defense

The president’s fiscal year 2007 budget request for the Defense Department includes $372 million for the CTR pro gram, a $44 million cut from current spending. The Pentagon has not yet released a programmatic breakdown for the proposed funding. The CTR program works to secure, dismantle, and dispose of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their fabrication facilities in the former Soviet Union.

In an e-mail to Arms Control Today, Andy Fisher, a spokesperson for CTR champion and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), played down the significance of the cut to the CTR program, noting that additional funds are included in a pending fiscal year 2006 sup plementary budget request for the Defense Department. The added $44 million for warhead storage security in Russia would bring total CTR funding up to current levels.

But an aide to Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and ranking member on the House Budget Committee, told Arms Control Today Feb. 16 that “cutting the funding for CTR in the base budget is the wrong way to go.” Con cerning the inclusion of funds for warhead storage security in the budget supplemental, the aide said, “[P]articularly given that this is for urgent security upgrades, it does beg the question, why is the funding in the supplemental and not the base budget?”

Fisher also noted that the reduced request for CTR programs reflects that the administration has yet to spend funds Congress has already allocated for delayed construction projects, such as a chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuchye in Russia, slated to come on line in 2008. In addition, several other costly weapons destruction programs are winding down, Fisher said.

Department of Energy

The president’s request for the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would increase funds for disposition of U.S. surplus fissile materials and cut a number of Russia-oriented programs.

The budget request includes $28.5 million for the Global Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program, which seeks to redirect the expertise of former weapons scientists in Iraq, Libya, and the former Soviet Union toward civilian pursuits. The request is 29 percent below current spending of $39.6 mil lion. NNSA says the lower total reflects diminished program activity in the Russian cities of Sarov and Snezhinsk.

The budget request for the Interna tional Nuclear Materials Protection, Control and Accounting (MPC&A) program, which seeks to secure vulnerable nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials, is $413.2 million, a 3.3 percent reduction from the 2006 appropriation of $427 million. Within the MPC&A request, a significant increase is slated for the Second Line of Defense program in order to accelerate the installation of radiation detectors in the Caucasus region. Mean while, cuts are proposed for programs providing physical protection upgrades at Russian weapons fabrication sites as well as civilian nuclear sites.

The request calls for $206.7 million for the Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production program, an increase of 17 percent from the previous year’s appropriation of $176.2 million. The program aims to shut down the last three Russian weapons-grade plutonium-producing power reactors and replace them with fossil fuel-burning plants.

A 9 percent increase to $106.8 million is requested for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which seeks to repatriate Russian- and U.S.-supplied weapons-grade reactor fuel from around the globe, convert reactors fueled by highly enriched uranium to the use of less vulnerable fuel, and secure radioactive sources worldwide.

A large increase of $169 million is requested for the Fissile Materials Dispo sition program, which works to dispose of U.S. and Russian bomb material. How ever, the vast majority of the $638 million requested for the program, including virtually the entire increase, is allocated to programs within the United States. Furthermore, the $34.7 million request for plutonium disposition efforts in Russia is to be paid out of prior year balances and appropriations, with no additional appropriations requested.

The parallel fissile materials disposition efforts in Russia and the United States have been delayed because of outstanding issues regarding liability protections for foreign contractors in Russia. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told the House Armed Services Committee Feb. 16 that the long-running disagreement over liability will soon be resolved. Calling the negotiations of a liability protocol “successfully completed,” Bodman told committee members that “senior Russian government officials have assured the United States that this protocol will be signed in the near future.”

The NNSA, in an email to Arms Control Today , said that a total of $283 million within their budget request will support implementation of the Bratislava Nuclear Security Initiatives, a February 2005 agreement between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to enhance and accelerate cooperation on nuclear weapons security.

Department of State

The administration requested $139 mil lion for the threat reduction activities of the State Department, a 4.3 percent increase from the previous year’s $133.5 million appropriation within the Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining and Related Programs budget line.

The Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund, a unique pool of funds designed to allow for quick responses to unforeseen nonproliferation contingencies, received $38 million in the request, a 1.3 percent increase from the previous year.

The budget request calls for $45 mil lion for the Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance (EXBS) pro gram, a 3.8 percent increase from the 2006 level of $43.4 million. In 2007 the State Department seeks to make the EXBS program “increasingly global,” working with 47 countries to improve border security.

The largest increase for the State Department’s threat reduction programs goes to the Nonproliferation of WMD Expertise program, which is slated to receive $56.2 million, up 6.4 percent from the 2006 appropriation of $52.6 million. This program aims to redirect former weapons scientists into peaceful pursuits.

 

 

Plagued by Errors: New Approach Needed to Tackle Proliferation Threats from Anti-Plague System

Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley

The former Soviet anti-plague system stands today as a little-known but profoundly important proliferation challenge facing the international community. The Soviet Union managed this unique system, consisting of more than 80 facilities, to control deadly endemic diseases and to prevent the spread of exotic pathogens. Until recently, however, the anti-plague system’s other role—contributing to the Soviet biological weapons program—has been overlooked.

Today, the anti-plague system retains the raw material and knowledge highly sought after by bioterrorists. What’s more, more than a decade of fragmentation has resulted in lax security, severely underpaid staff, and virtually no accounting system for highly lethal strains of viruses and bacteria. While international donors have taken some steps to contain the system’s physical security threats, existing and prospective nonproliferation efforts are not substantial enough and somewhat off the mark. Such efforts will not be truly effective until they rein force the important public health benefits these facilities offer.

Historical Roots

Created by the tsars in the 1890s to respond to numerous outbreaks of plague, the anti-plague system, then composed of 11 laboratories, experienced a dramatic expansion under Soviet rule. By the late 1970s, the system was composed of 87 facilities engaged in disease surveillance, research, production and testing of vaccines and laboratory equipment, and training of civilian and military personnel. The system employed a staff of 14,000, includ ing 7,000 scientists whose expertise broad ened beyond plague to other endemic zoonotic[1] diseases, such as anthrax, bru cellosis, tularemia, and Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever. Most importantly, the anti-plague system stretched beyond Rus sian borders into Central Asia, the Caucasus, Ukraine , and Moldova, with facilities strategically located in 11 republics.

In the early 1960s, the system, until then primarily engaged in defending the coun try against endemic and exotic diseases, experienced a profound turning point: it was enlisted to support the Soviet biologi cal weapons program. Initially, anti-plague facilities contributed to the defensive biological weapons program by providing the military with samples of dangerous pathogens, conducting research, training military scientists, and producing vaccines for mobilization purposes. Rapid response teams were also created at anti-plague facili ties and were trained to deploy rapidly to an outbreak location in order to determine whether the disease occurred naturally or was the result of a biological attack. In the 1970s, the anti-plague system’s involve ment in the Soviet biological weapons program went a step further, when selected facilities started contributing to the offen sive biological weapons program. This also led to the system’s rapid militarization, with military officers appointed to head key anti-plague facilities.

Three degrees of involvement in the Soviet biological weapons program ex isted within the anti-plague system. The first, and probably the largest, consisted of a “blind” contribution, where scientists’ research was used for the biological weapons program unbeknownst to the researchers. This happened through military monitoring of the work of anti- plague facilities. This process was facili tated by the centralization of research and disease surveillance findings in a central database, and the review of their research findings at two anti-plague institutes in Saratov and Rostov headed by military officers.

The second level of involvement consisted of small teams of researchers work ing on secret programs in various anti-plague facilities, with only the research team leaders aware of the work’s purpose.

A third type of research, concentrated at major anti-plague institutes such as at Saratov, Rostov, and Volgograd, consisted of a more active role in the offensive and defensive programs.

In spite of their biological weapons work, anti-plague facilities preserved their original public health mission of protecting against endemic and imported dangerous diseases. Even at sites that were actively involved in the biological weapons program, civilian and biological weapons work was conducted in parallel but separately. In most cases, biological weapons activities did not adversely affect public health activities.[2]

Post-Soviet Fragmentation

On the eve of the Soviet Union’s dis solution, the anti-plague system had 89 facilities, including six central institutes, 29 regional anti-plague stations, and 53 field stations located in 11 republics of the former Soviet Union. The system employed about 10,000 personnel, including 2,000 scientists. After the Soviet Union’s dissolu tion, anti-plague facilities were reorganized as independent national networks in each newly independent state, with one facility taking the role of the new network’s center.[3]

Yet, the anti-plague system lost its organizational cohesion. Soon after 1992, most ethnic-Russian personnel working at anti-plague facilities in non-Russian former Soviet republics returned to Russia to work at Russian anti-plague facilities or other research institutes. The loss of personnel continued steadily as economic circumstances worsened in the newly independent states.

To make matters worse, conflicts arose in several of these states over the control of the anti-plague system. Some officials favored preserving anti-plague facilities because of their unique experience and knowledge while others sought to integrate anti-plague facilities into the Sanitary Epidemiological System (SES), a network of facilities with more traditional public health responsi bilities such as vaccination and sanitation. These conflicts subsided after a 1999 plague outbreak in Kazakhstan made clear the value of the anti-plague facilities. Plans to integrate the anti-plague and SES systems were shelved.

Nevertheless, this tumultuous period exacerbated the anti-plague facilities’ already precarious financial situation. On average, they lost about 50 percent of their budgets and 40 percent of their staff. The scientists that remained received low salaries and irregular payments, which in 2004 ranged from $20 to $100 per month for senior scientists with 25-30 years of experience. With salaries often lower than the regional average, anti-plague facilities have been unable to replace lost personnel with a new generation of specialists.

Proliferation Threats

The resulting proliferation danger is palpable. Foremost is the high risk of brain drain. Considering the undocumented outflow of personnel that began soon after 1992, it is quite possible that some leak age has already occurred. According to anti-plague system directors and veterans, most of the “lost” personnel were technicians and support staff. Fortunately, facili ties have generally been able to preserve their scientific personnel, many of whom have passed retirement age. None theless, even personnel still employed by the anti-plague facilities may continue to pose a proliferation threat. These include scientists and technicians with biologi cal weapons knowledge, as well as other scientific personnel who may not have, at least knowingly, worked on the biological weapons program but who possess experience and knowledge of biological weapons relevance. More particularly, anti-plague scientists are accustomed to working with low-technology equipment and are trained to isolate pathogens in harsh field conditions, often finding their way to natural foci of dangerous diseases just using their memory. These qualities would be of great interest to criminal or terrorist groups who wish to preserve the secrecy of their activities.

The Soviet Union’s dissolution also gravely affected the implementation of security measures at anti-plague facili ties. In Soviet times, the sophistication of the anti-plague facilities’ security systems depended on their degree of involvement in the biological weapons program. The systems ranged from on-site KGB officers, Ministry of Interior troops guarding facil ity perimeters, and fences topped with barbed wire to police communication lines and alarm systems with motion detectors on doors and windows, particularly in the pathogen collection rooms.

There were also strict regulations on the storage and transportation of dangerous pathogens. For instance, pathogens were either transported by a special service with armed guards or transferred by at least two members of the scientific staff by car, train, or plane. Strict safety regulations were also imposed for labora tory work with dangerous pathogens. Even though the governments of the newly independent states adopted Soviet-era regulations on safety and security, funding and personnel shortfalls severely affected their implementation. The security systems have collapsed in most facilities. Ministry of Interior and police protection are no longer available; barbed wire on fences are often stolen and sold as scrap metal; alarm systems no longer work due to frequent power cuts and lack of maintenance; and fences have collapsed due to lack of repairs, leaving the territory of these facilities essentially open to intruders.

The low level of physical security together with an inadequate accounting system also put at risk anti-plague facilities’ collections of pathogens. These constitute a unique historical database of hundreds of strains from various regions of the former Soviet Union assembled over several decades. Although most strains have been isolated from nature, some possess features making them ideal raw materials for biological weapons: high virulence and inherent antibiotic resistance. Yet, pathogens are typically stored in kitchen refrigerators secured with simple locks or wax seals, making them highly vulnerable to diversion or theft. Moreover, vials con taining the pathogens are typically labeled, facilitating their identification by intruders. In addition, accounting of pathogens is done on paper logs that are generally stored on bookshelves and could become acces sible to intruders.

Another security risk is the absence of background security checks. Without the support of police or security services, most anti-plague facilities abstain from conduct ing such checks. Many facility directors admit that the only job requirements today for new applicants are “scientific qualifica tions and good health.”

Diversion of pathogens could also occur during pathogen transfers from the natural foci where they are isolated to a field or regional station or during later transfers to central institutes for long-term storage. Neither reliable communications nor any position-location technology exists should emergencies arise. For instance, in the late 1990s an epidemiological team monitoring a plague focus in Kazakhstan’s desert got lost and had a serious car accident. Out of radio contact range and without any bear ing, several team members succumbed to injuries before their extended absence led to rescue operations. Should incidents oc cur during transfers, whether they are acciden tal or malevolent, there is a high probability that the chain of pathogen custody will be broken.

Geography Matters

Roughly 60 anti-plague facilities are lo cated in Central Asia and the Caucasus, which concentrate the largest and most active natural disease foci. This area, however, is the meeting point of all the proliferation chain components: suppliers, established trafficking networks, and potential buyers. It is also a region where borders remain largely unprotected. [4]

Many anti-plague facilities are located on or near the trafficking routes for drugs, small arms, and weapons of mass destruc tion-related material that cross Central Asia and the Caucasus and proceed northwest through Turkey into Europe.

Several terrorist groups are also active in the region, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which seeks to overthrow the Uzbek president and install an Islamic regime. The wars in neighboring Afghani stan and Iraq have only exacerbated the problem. Moreover, since the Soviet Union’s dissolution, political unrest and civil wars have fostered regional instability, as demonstrated by the recent revolutions in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan and public protests in Uzbekistan. This potentially explosive mixture puts anti-plague facilities at greater risk of being caught in factional entanglements and makes them more susceptible to intrusion or theft, with unpredictable proliferation consequences.

To be sure, there have been no indica tions to date that local terrorist groups have demonstrated an interest in or the capability to use biological weapons. Although there have been numerous outsider facility intrusions over the years, most often they involved intoxicated individuals or people interested in stealing scrap metal. Anecdotal accounts about the theft or attempted insider diversion of pathogens have not led to any known arrests because facility management preferred solving these problems without local police.

Nevertheless, more effective security measures at anti-plague facilities are im perative. In present conditions, dangerous biomaterials, as well as the knowledge and skills of system personnel, are at risk. More particularly, anti-plague specialists’ ability to work in a low-technology environment and in field conditions makes them attrac tive to terrorist groups or states with limited access to high-technology bioequipment. Revelations about Iraq’s use of calutrons for electromagnetic separation of uranium isotopes in the 1980s, a technology declassified by the United States in 1949, should serve as a reminder that technologies regarded as obsolete may still pose threats.

International Assistance Wanting

At present, the anti-plague system receives little assistance from the international community. Perhaps the most significant contribution, however, has come from the United States through its Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program.

The CTR program currently supports security upgrades at three facilities in Ka zakhstan , Uzbekistan, and Georgia. Security upgrades at the anti-plague institute in Almaty, Kazakhstan, transformed a facility with no security features into a secured area with a high fence topped with barbed wires, armed guards, motion detectors, and rein forced doors, among other things. Similar upgrades are planned or are under way at the anti-plague institutes in Tashkent, Uz bekistan , and Tbilisi, Georgia. With the recent signature of agreements with Ukraineand Azerbaijan, similar programs will be implemented at two anti-plague facilities in these countries.

To prevent brain drain, CTR has funded five scientific cooperative projects at the same facilities thus far: three at the Almaty institute, which also involves personnel at regional stations, and one each at the Tashkent and Tbilisi institutes. Together, these projects employ 52 scientific personnel and deal with dangerous pathogens of public health and security relevance.

Long-standing CTR intentions to implement a Threat Agent Detection and Response (TADR) system also appear to be making some progress. The TADR sys tem aims to create a disease surveillance network composed of central strain re posi tories and several sentinel laboratories in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia to furnish early detection of a possible malevolent release of pathogens causing human or animal diseases. State govern ments, in cooperation with the Depart ment of Defense, will decide which facilities to include in the TADR network. To date, the anti-plague institutes in Almaty, Tashkent, and Tbilisi have been chosen to be central strain repositories in each country, and one anti-plague station in Georgia was selected as a sentinel station. It is not clear yet how many other facilities will be chosen as sentinel laboratories.

CTR Program Effectiveness

Despite its positive results, the CTR program remains insufficiently comprehensive to address the system’s proliferation threat. CTR-funded biosecurity upgrades, as well as cooperative research projects, reach only three anti-plague facilities while dozens of facilities still require support.

Although the TADR system is a model project because it addresses both security and public health concerns of national and international importance, it only superfi cially benefits the anti-plague system. Anti-plague facilities account for only a small number of TADR facilities, which include veterinary institutes, the SES, and epide miological hospitals. It is at once surprising and mystifying that a program resting on disease surveillance to detect and prevent the malevolent use of dangerous pathogens does not exploit the very system with the best skills and experience in the field. The fault, however, does not necessarily lie with the CTR program. In some countries, revived conflicts between supporters of the anti-plague system and the SES have thwarted the inclusion of anti-plague facilities in the project.

Even assuming that the CTR program will eventually expand to include a greater number of anti-plague facilities, it may still fail to address the system’s proliferation threats because of a conceptual flaw in the U.S. approach. In the biological weapons area, the CTR program aims to consolidate dangerous material at a small number of sites to facilitate their protection. This approach makes sense with former biological weapons facilities that were, in Soviet times, primarily en gaged in military work because many have struggled unsuccessfully to find a new civilian or commercial mission.

When applied to the anti-plague sys tem, however, this approach negatively impacts the system’s public health mis sion because it ignores the nature of the anti-plague system’s work. The prevention of outbreaks necessitates the constant monitoring of natural foci and the isola tion of natural strains. Funding limits and the loss of qualified personnel have already decreased anti-plague facilities’ disease surveillance activities by 60 percent since 1992. As a result, whole areas endemic for plague, anthrax, and other dangerous diseases have remained un monitored, some for more than a decade. In this context, consolidating facilities or closing them will only exacerbate the public health threat, and ignoring them will increase the proliferation threat.

A More Comprehensive and Nuanced Approach

Addressing threats associated with the anti-plague system requires a more comprehensive and nuanced policy composed of measures that simultaneously grapple with security and public health chal lenges. CTR-funded projects, because they concentrate on a narrow set of security threats, constitute only a small part of this approach. Other agencies in Canada, Europe, the United States, and other Group of Eight members must become engaged to deal with the other security and public health challenges posed by the system. Newly independent state governments must also be involved to ensure that pro grams funded by the international com munity will be useful and sustainable in the long term.

Given the current state of the anti- plague system, priority should go to improving security to prohibit unau thorized access to dangerous pathogens. Unlike the traditional one-size-fits-all approach used thus far in the CTR program, tailored security solutions should be implemented depending on a facility’s location and size, the character of its pathogen collection, and the activity level of the natural foci it monitors.[5]

All anti-plague facilities have collec tions of pathogens, but some house temporary collections while others retain permanent ones. Central anti-plague facilities in each country serve as national repositories, housing large and permanent collections. These require a complex security system, involving fences, alarm system, guards, video cameras, outside lights, and secured refrigerators to store the pathogens. Ac counting system modernization is also essential; a computerized system would provide fewer opportunities to conceal the movement of pathogens. The use of bar codes to replace the existing labels on vials would reinforce the system by making it more difficult for intruders to identify the pathogens.

Regional anti-plague stations, which store pathogens for six months to a year before transferring them to an anti-plague institute, require a lower level of security, primarily composed of secured refrigerators and alarm systems. A computerized accounting system might be useful but not necessary. If the facility is not located in an area that presents specific security concerns, introducing an access-restrict ing system such as magnetic card access and secure storage for accounting logs will be sufficient.

An even lower security level may be envisioned for stations located at driv ing distance from the central institutes by providing vehicles and allowing more frequent transfers. Field stations, which store pathogens from a few days to a few weeks, primarily need equipment to secure the pathogens for short periods and during transfers. Local governments may also find innovative solutions to reduce the threat associated with pathogen collections.

In Kazakhstan, for instance, all danger ous pathogens will be consolidated at the central institute. Regional stations will receive simulants instead to conduct their research work. Such an approach, however, means more frequent transfers of pathogens from regional sites, making secure transfer imperative.

The location of a facility will also affect the type and level of security upgrades. One located in an area where major illicit trafficking occurs regularly, such as in the south of Kazakhstan, or with terrorist activity nearby obviously requires a higher level of security. Similarly, facilities monitoring particularly active natural foci also require a higher degree of security, as they isolate and store a larger number of strains each year.

Reinforcing the chain of pathogen cus tody during field work and transfers is also an essential task. This can be achieved by providing Global Positioning System receivers, satellite phones, and all-terrain vehicles to enhance secure transportation and foster continuous communications be tween teams in the field and their facilities.

A second priority is the prevention of brain drain. In this regard, it is important to involve anti-plague specialists in inter national cooperation projects that will not only support them financially but also use their knowledge to benefit the international community. It is important to engage scientists and technicians who have contributed to the Soviet biological weapons program as well as other anti-plague specialists who, without working on biological weapons programs, still have years of unique knowledge and experience working with dangerous pathogens.

Disease surveillance is also vital. Euro pean countries in particular should contribute to such efforts since an epidemic in these states would most likely spread to Europe, as shown by the avian flu and SARS out breaks recently. In addition, European countries could strengthen the alert and response system by establishing telephone lines to reach local hospitals and doctors in isolated areas. Supporting information campaigns for the local population living on natural foci and training local doctors to recognize the symptoms of endemic dangerous diseases would also improve disease surveillance. These activities were in Soviet times part of the anti-plague system’s duties. Today, however, very few facilities have maintained such activities because of the lack of funding.

Using the experience of Soviet-era rapid response teams would also help in the fight against bioterrorism. Their training in identifying the source of an outbreak quickly and deploying an appropriate response would certainly improve the level of preparedness for such events whether in the United States, Europe, or the former Soviet states.

Besides security upgrades and brain drain prevention, improving laborato ry equipment is essential in order to miti gate the consequences of laboratory incidents. Ventilation systems at anti-plague facilities conducting research on danger ous pathogens—regional stations and anti-plague institutes—are desperately needed, especially those located in resi dential or urban centers. Today, researchers sometimes work with open windows due to the absence of ventilation or air con ditioning systems. Upgrades, however, should not lead to excessive reliance on technology. Soviet-era methods, empha sizing rigorous and technique-driven training, should be maintained and encouraged to ensure biosafety.

In these three priority areas, the defini tion of each anti-plague facility’s needs should be the result of discussions among anti-plague representatives; their supervising agency, usually the Ministry of Health; and donor countries. The involvement of health organizations from donor countries in the process is critical to inject a dose of realism in host government expectations, by discussing sustainable options that address both security and public health concerns. Particular national requirements should also be taken into account while identifying present and future needs.

To reinforce security, steps should be tak en to establish systems for managing back ground security checks. anti-plague spe cial ists should also be educated on proliferation issues and ethics. The Department of State Bio Industry Initiative sponsors such training programs for scientists employed at facilities with Bio Industry Initiative-funded projects; these programs could be extended to anti-plague specialists.

Finally, it is essential to engage Russian anti-plague facilities that still remain closed to international cooperation. Europe and Canada may be better suited to do this because the Defense Department sharply decreased its biological weapons nonproliferation programs in Russia due primarily to failure to sign an implementing agreement with Moscow.

In the end, implementing cooperative threat reduction measures to deal with the former Soviet anti-plague system is necessary but not sufficient to cope with the system’s complex dual-use nature. From the outset, the U.S. CTR program has acted in a fireman capacity by trying to put out the most urgent proliferation fires. To be sure, the system merits the CTR program’s attention with respect to securing and consolidating dangerous pathogens, preventing their diversion, and forestalling brain drain. Yet, the anti-plague system differs fundamentally from other threat reduction challenges in that it has had and still assumes a critically important public health role. This capac ity desperately needs to be sharpened if the international community is effectively to cope with the prospects of future and perhaps global epidemics.

 


Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley is a senior researcher at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Between 2002 and 2004, she and her colleagues conducted a study of the Soviet anti-plague system, which will be published in two reports; the first, “History of the Soviet Anti-Plague System,” is forthcoming.


ENDNOTES

1. Animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans.

2. The exception being the Volgograd Institute, which worked exclusively on the biological weapons program.

3. In many cases, the facilities were given new names and sometimes merged with other public health organizations. For simplicity’s sake, we will refer to them here as anti-plague facilities.

4. Sonia Ben Ouagrham, “Proliferation Threat From Former Biological Weapons Facilities in the FSU,” The Liechtenstein Institute for Self-Determination, Princeton University, 2003.

5. A natural focus is considered “active” when strains have been isolated during the previous monitoring campaigns. The activity of a natural focus is cyclical; the bacteria or virus may appear as dormant for several years and then become active again. It is therefore important to consider the data for a number of years to determine the activity level of a focus.

 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - March 2006