"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
July/August 2006
Edition Date: 
Saturday, July 1, 2006
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Potential North Korean Missile Test Raises Tension

Paul Kerr and Wade Boese

Reports in June that North Korea was on the verge of testing its first longer-range ballistic missile since 1998 set countries around the region on edge. Meanwhile, six-party talks concerning the North Korean nuclear crisis remain stalled.

National security adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters June 22 that preparations for a North Korean missile launch were “very far along,” although he had cautioned two days earlier that “the intelligence is not conclusive at this point.”

Hadley and other U.S. officials, including President George W. Bush, cautioned North Korea against going ahead with the test. The other countries involved in the six-party talks, which include China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, similarly attempted to dissuade North Korea from such an action. The six countries have not met since November 2005.

John Bolton, U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, told FOX News June 22 that Washington’s reaction to a North Korean missile test would be “overwhelmingly negative.” Bolton has been engaged in “preliminary discussions” with other countries regarding possible multilateral responses to such a test, Department of State spokesperson Adam Ereli said June 20.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said June 19 that Tokyo would take “stern action if North Korea fires the missile,” Kyodo News Service reported. These actions could include economic sanctions, Abe said.

Further, the head of South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, Lee Jong-seok, stated that Seoul had “made it clear that a missile launch would have an impact on the South’s assistance to the North,” the country’s semi-official Yonhap News Agency reported June 23. South Korea is a major source of economic aid to its northern neighbor.

Ambassador Han Song Ryol, North Korea deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency June 21 that Pyongyang is “aware of the U.S. concerns,” adding that the two sides “should resolve the issue through negotiations.” But Ereli told reporters the same day that such a meeting is “not in the cards” and that North Korea should discuss the matter in the six-party talks.

Han also said that his government “has the right to test-fire missiles.” Another North Korean Foreign Ministry official, Ri Pyong Dok, told reporters June 20 that North Korea is not bound by a voluntary moratorium on flight-testing longer-range missiles, which Pyongyang has observed since September 1999.

In September 2002, North Korea agreed to extend the moratorium indefinitely as part of a bilateral agreement with Japan, known as the Pyongyang Declaration. Although North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in March 2005 that the moratorium was no longer “valid,” Pyongyang implicitly reaffirmed it in the six-parties’ September 2005 joint statement. (See ACT, April 2005.) North Korea and Japan pledged to “take steps to normalize their relations in accordance with the Pyongyang Declaration,” the statement says.

Vice President Dick Cheney told CNN June 22 that the missile is a Taepo Dong-2, a longer-range version of North Korea’s 2,000-kilometer-range Taepo Dong-1. (See ACT, June 2005.) The Taepo Dong-1, the longest-range missile Pyongyang has flight-tested, cannot reach the United States.

Because North Korea has not flight-tested the Taepo Dong-2, the missile’s capabilities are uncertain. The range of a ballistic missile depends on such factors as its payload and number of stages. Estimates of the Taepo Dong-2 range from 5,000 kilometers to 15,000 kilometers.

Cheney said the United States believes the missile has three stages, adding that Washington does not know the missile’s payload.

Japan’s senior vice minister for foreign affairs, Yaguhisa Shiozaki, told a parliamentary committee June 22 that North Korea does not appear to be able to mate a nuclear warhead to its longer-range missiles, the Yonhap News Agency reported. Publicly available U.S. intelligence estimates also tend to support that assessment.

The longest-range missile Pyongyang has deployed is the 1,300-kilometer-range Nodong, according to a December 2001 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate.

Missile Defense Activated?

The administration also responded to the North Korean missile launch preparations by readying its nascent long-range ballistic missile defense system to fire, according to a June 20 Washington Times article. But spokespersons from the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Strategic Command declined to confirm this report in interviews with Arms Control Today, saying they would not discuss the anti-missile system’s capabilities or operational status. MDA has responsibility for researching and developing U.S. missile defense systems, while Strategic Command is charged with overseeing their operation.

Bush vowed in December 2002 to deploy the initial elements of a long-range missile defense system in 2004. The fielded components now comprise nine missile interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska; two additional interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; and several ship- and land-based radars linked up with satellites and a battle-management command and control center.

But the rudimentary system has not been publicly declared operational and has undergone limited testing. Indeed, the interceptors currently deployed have not been tested against a target in flight. The last successful intercept experiment of an earlier model of the deployed interceptor occurred in October 2002.

In March congressional testimony, the Pentagon’s top independent weapons-tester, David Duma, told lawmakers that the system’s testing record did not indicate that it could be counted on to destroy a hostile missile warhead in flight. (See ACT, April 2006.) Still, General James Cartwright, the commander of Strategic Command, told Arms Control Today May 12 that he would “bring [the system] online in a heartbeat” if a threat emerged. (See ACT, June 2006.)

Meanwhile, MDA successfully conducted a previously scheduled test of a short- to medium-range ship-based missile interceptor June 22. This experiment marked the seventh hit in eight tries for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, which is not built to counter long-range ballistic missiles.

Japan, whose territory North Korea’s Taepo Dong-1 overflew during an August 1998 test, has been working with the United States since 1999 to develop and procure elements of the Aegis ship-based anti-missile system. (See ACT, April 2006.)

On June 23, Tokyo and Washington signed an agreement to proceed with the further development of one of those elements, a new 60-centimeter rocket motor for the Aegis system’s Standard Missile-3 interceptor. This new motor, which might be ready for flight testing as early as 2014, is intended to enable the interceptor to target long-range missiles. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow explained to reporters June 26 that the latest cooperation agreement “was not in response to any specific threat, although it is part of a program designed to meet the long-standing North Korean threat.”


Off Target? The Bush Administration's Plan to Arm Long-Range Ballistic Missiles with Conventional Warheads

Steve Andreasen

Early this year, the Pentagon formally unveiled a plan to equip some of the Navy’s submarine-launched Trident D-5 nuclear missiles with conventional warheads. These conventionally armed, long-range ballistic missiles would be deployed under the rubric of the Pentagon’s Prompt Global Strike program, which seeks to give the president the capability to attack terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, or other urgent targets worldwide within 60 minutes using conventional weapons.

Three months after the plan was unveiled, both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have signaled their unease with the conventional Trident program, raising serious questions about the program’s justification and cost as well as its potential to fuel the proliferation of ballistic missiles capable of carrying either nuclear or conventional warheads. The conventional Trident also has not flown unnoticed across the radarscope of Vladimir Putin. The Russian president stated in his May state of the nation address that the launch of conventional ballistic missiles could provoke a full-scale nuclear counterattack. Given these congressional and Russian concerns, along with a longer list of practical, policy, political, and diplomatic issues, do the conventional Trident program’s perceived benefits for U.S. and global security outweigh its potential costs?

Motive and Means

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rationale for deploying thousands of nuclear weapons on long-range ballistic missiles ready to fire within minutes has evaporated. Moreover, nuclear weapons have little if any relevance to the “global war on terrorism.” Terrorists are unlikely to be deterred by fear of a U.S. nuclear attack, and the president is unlikely to order one.

Yet, although the motives for maintaining our current nuclear posture continue to decline, the rationale for enhancing the United States’ capability to conduct precision conventional strikes in near real time appears increasingly compelling in an age where pre-emption of rogue states or terrorists armed with nuclear, biological, or chemical arms remains the declared centerpiece of the national security strategy of the United States.

Today, Washington has the means to deliver precision conventional strikes with a variety of delivery platforms and munitions, including precision-guided bombs and cruise missiles carried on unmanned aerial vehicles, submarines, and strategic and tactical aircraft. These systems are limited by where they are based or can patrol, the range of the delivery platforms and the munitions, and the time it would take to strike a given target, which could be hours or even days.

The limitations of these existing platforms and munitions to execute a prompt, precise, conventional strike against mobile, terrorist-related targets, particularly if one assumes little warning with no U.S. forward-deployed forces, has fueled the demand for a new conventional capability. Today, the only weapons system with the ability to execute a strike within 60 minutes anywhere on the globe is an ICBM deployed at sea or on land. Hence, the Pentagon’s proposal to replace the nuclear warheads on two of the Trident D-5 missiles on every deployed strategic submarine with a new type of conventional warhead, i.e., a metal slug or flechette bomb designed to be effective against “soft” targets (e.g., exposed personnel, vehicles, buildings, missiles, ships, and aircraft). In addition, the administration has previously expressed interest in placing conventional warheads on land-based long-range ballistic missiles, although the Pentagon is not requesting funds for land-based systems in the fiscal year 2007 defense budget.

Finally, although the Pentagon has been careful up to this point not to state or imply any policy linkage between the deployment of conventional long-range ballistic missiles and reductions in deployed nuclear forces (indeed, some outside advocates have argued that additional nuclear warheads would be added to keep the number of deployed nuclear warheads constant),[1] the addition of precise, prompt conventional warheads deployed on long-range ballistic missiles might obviate the need to use nuclear weapons against some subset of targets contained in the U.S. plan for conducting nuclear strike missions. In theory, this could clear the way for further cuts in deployed nuclear forces.

On the surface, the motive for and means of developing a new strategic conventional weapons capability appear relatively straightforward. At its core, the argument rests on the requirement for providing the president with as many options as possible for striking terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction and the presumed advantage of using long-range ballistic missiles—their unique speed and stealth and their independence from foreign bases and airspace—to get the job done. Lurking just beneath the surface, however, are a series of practical, policy, political, and diplomatic issues that must be carefully weighed in deciding whether making long-range ballistic missiles more “usable” weapons in the global war on terrorism will increase or diminish U.S. and global security.

Practical Issues

There are a number of practical challenges involved in developing the capability to employ long-range ballistic missiles as strategic conventional weapons. Some are on the road to resolution, and none may prove insurmountable alone. Yet, together they may inhibit if not preclude the effective use of sea- and land-based ballistic missiles as strategic conventional strike platforms.

Missile Accuracy

In order for long-range ballistic missiles to be able to destroy targets with a conventional warhead, missile accuracy must be improved. This will require adapting for long-range missiles and warheads advanced guidance and targeting technologies that over the past decade have given tactical munitions great improvements in accuracy.

Intelligence Record

The use of long-range ballistic missiles as strategic conventional weapons requires the intelligence community to promptly and precisely identify time-urgent, high-value targets with high confidence to the National Command Authority. Just looking back over the past decade or so, although there have been some successes in gathering blue-chip intelligence of this sort—most recently, the success in tracking down a leading al Qaeda terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—there are a number of public examples of just how difficult this is.

For instance, the United States and many other states were confident there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the U.S.-led March 2003 invasion, but there were not. The United States tried unsuccessfully to locate Saddam Hussein at the outset of the war, but even after U.S. troops occupied the country, it took eight months to find Hussein (and three years to find al-Zarqawi). Since 2001, the most intense manhunt in international history has failed to locate Osama bin Laden. In 1999 the United States insisted on inspecting a suspected North Korean nuclear site at Kumchang-ni and found nothing. In 1993 the United States identified a Chinese freighter, the Yin He, for inspection, believing it was carrying precursors for chemical weapons. Again, nothing was found.

Target Mobility

The kinds of targets that have been identified for conventional long-range ballistic missiles are, in most cases, extremely mobile (e.g., personnel, trucks, etc.). Even within the flight time of a long-range ballistic missile, they might move outside the very limited lethal radius of a conventional missile warhead before it arrives. This places an even heavier burden on missile accuracy and intelligence.

Command and Control

Executing prompt strategic conventional strikes will also require a nimble system of command and control, able to support a decision to launch a ballistic missile within minutes, similar to that now in place for the use of nuclear arms, that is, assuming that the policy and political issues discussed later in this article preclude delegating this authority.

Such a system already exists for nuclear use, but it is extremely demanding both for the military and civilians in the chain of command. Moreover, both conventional and nuclear variants of the Trident missile will be loaded on the same submarine, placing an additional burden on the system to ensure that an order to launch a conventional missile does not result in a mistaken nuclear launch.

Launch Debris

Land- and sea-based long-range ballistic missiles will drop missile stages on their flight paths, and there is the possibility of a missile going off course. Although this problem may be more manageable for sea-based missiles because much of their flight path will take place over water, at a minimum the possibility of falling debris or a wayward missile could generate public concern. It might also present a real threat to public safety and property in the United States and other states depending on the missile’s launch point and trajectory.

Program Cost

Relative to other weapon systems, long-range ballistic missiles are expensive assets for delivering small conventional payloads. The Pentagon has said it plans to spend $503 million over the next five years on the conventional Trident program. This figure does not include the cost of buying new missiles, which could add substantially to the cost.

Policy Issues

Since their initial deployment by the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1950s, land- and sea-based long-range (greater than 5,500 kilometers) ballistic missiles have been uniquely associated with nuclear weapons. Over the past 50 years, a long-range ballistic missile has never been used in combat by any of the five states that now possess them: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Moreover, the United States has led an international campaign opposing the development, testing, and deployment of ballistic missiles by other states in every region of the globe, arguing that ballistic missiles, because of their short time to target and destructive force, provide a first-strike capability and are thus inherently destabilizing. In this context, the development, deployment, and potential use of long-range ballistic missiles as strategic conventional weapons raises a number of policy-related concerns and questions.

Reciprocal Deployments

Other states that now have long-range ballistic missiles, in particular Russia and China, could adopt our rationale and follow our lead. They could seek to develop the capability to strike with conventional long-range ballistic missiles their own set of “urgent targets,” adapting the notion of Prompt Global Strike to fit their own perceived national interest. Whether and how this might threaten U.S. security interests is somewhat of a question mark, although one can certainly envision scenarios where the risk of conflict involving long-range ballistic missiles would increase.

New Deployments by States

U.S. moves might also affect other states, which over the next decade or so may have the capability to develop, test, and deploy long-range ballistic missiles (e.g., India, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan). They could publicly adopt our rationale for proceeding with “conventional” long-range ballistic missiles to fend off international pressure to restrict their own long-range missile programs. Yet, these missiles could and likely would, at least in the near term, serve as delivery platforms for nuclear weapons, given the challenge of developing an effective conventional capability. Thus, we could substantially undercut both our missile and nuclear nonproliferation policies by proceeding with the deployment of conventional long-range ballistic missiles.

Lowering the Threshold for Use

Deployment of conventional warheads on U.S. long-range ballistic missiles would be perceived by many as lowering the threshold for use of these weapons. Indeed, the public rationale for proceeding with conventional Trident missiles is to enhance the Pentagon’s ability to “pre-empt conventionally” and provide the president with an option to “respond quickly” with conventional arms.[2]

Moreover, the deployment of conventional long-range ballistic missiles in Russia, China, and perhaps other states could happen soon after these states developed the necessary technology. It is difficult not to conclude that the probability of these weapons being used would increase, introducing a new and potentially destabilizing factor into the security calculations of a number of countries spread out over volatile regions of the globe.

Risk of Accidental, Mistaken, or Unauthorized Launch

A country with an early-warning system—currently only Russia—that detected the launch of a long-range ballistic missile might fear it was the target of a missile strike, particularly if the missile appeared headed toward or over it. Moreover, it could not know if the missile was armed with a nuclear or conventional warhead. In the absence of or even with advance warning, this could increase the risk of an accidental, mistaken, or unauthorized retaliatory launch.

To reduce the risks that a country might mistakenly perceive itself the target of a strategic conventional missile strike, a system of advance notification, perhaps aided by programmatic and operational transparency and confidence building, might be devised. This system could also be used to warn countries that might be at risk of falling missile debris. Such a system would need to provide immediate, assured, and credible warning to be effective, possibly a difficult standard to meet in a scenario involving an operational missile launch during a crisis.

The concept of establishing a joint warning center between the United States and Russia to exchange information on ballistic missile launches and early warning in real time is not new. Indeed, it was agreed to in principle by Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in September 1998, and an agreement establishing a Joint Data Exchange Center in Moscow was signed at the June 2000 Moscow summit by Clinton and President Vladimir Putin. Six years after this agreement, the center has yet to become operational, in large part due to issues associated with taxes and liabilities that have bedeviled other joint U.S.-Russian cooperative endeavors.[3]

The challenge of assuring another state that a conventional long-range ballistic missile detected by their early-warning systems or notified through a joint warning center was not a nuclear missile aimed at them differs depending on whether the conventional missile is launched from land or sea. A U.S. conventional land-based missile could be deployed at a new base used exclusively for conventional missiles and separated geographically from existing nuclear missile bases. In this scenario, Russian early-warning systems, assuming they had reliable coverage of the United States or they believed U.S. data provided via a joint warning center, could distinguish between a nuclear and conventional ballistic missile launch. In the case of a ballistic missile launched at sea, however, there does not appear to be any easy or easily believable way to distinguish between a nuclear or conventional missile launch because any missile originating from a U.S. submarine could be armed with a conventional or nuclear warhead.

Political/Diplomatic Issues

Strongly linked to the practical and policy issues are a set of domestic and international political hurdles in the path of any decision to proceed with the development and deployment of conventional long-range ballistic missiles.

Congress Hits “Pause”

So far, Congress has reacted with caution to the Bush administration’s proposal to proceed with the conventional Trident missile. In their markup of the fiscal year 2007 defense authorization bill, both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees took action that would at least slow down the program while providing members with more information to base a decision next year on whether to proceed.[4]

The House Armed Services Committee took the first step, reducing the Pentagon’s $127 million fiscal year 2007 request for conventional Trident missiles by $97 million. The House cut the entire $50 million requested for procurement and left only $30 million of the $77 million requested for research and development. In its report, the House panel noted its concern that “the development of this conventional missile capability for a submarine that has historically carried nuclear-armed ballistic missiles could cause a missile launch misinterpretation regarding which type of warhead a ballistic missile was carrying.”[5]

The committee also noted its concern with the costs associated with a conventional Trident warhead, stating it was not clear what scenarios would call for its employment. To address these concerns, the committee requested a report from the secretary of defense on the status of discussions with other countries on the concern of misinterpretation of a conventional Trident missile strike for a nuclear attack, the proposed concept of operations detailing the sequence of events for employing this weapon, and an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of using this weapon against selected targets. The House passed the bill in May.

Although the Senate Armed Services Committee fully authorized the Bush administration’s $127 million request, it included a provision that would prohibit $95 million of the funds from being used until the secretary of defense, in consultation with the secretary of state, submits a report addressing a wide range of issues associated with the proposal. The provision would also require an analysis of international and treaty concerns, as well as a joint statement from the two departments “on how to ensure that the use of a conventional sea-launched ballistic missile will not result in an intentional, inadvertent, mistaken or accidental reciprocal or responsive launch of a nuclear strike by another country.”[6] The remaining $32 million authorized in the bill can only be spent for research and development of technologies related to the conventional Trident program but not to support procurement or deployment. The full Senate passed the bill in June.

Separate from the defense authorization bill, actual spending for the conventional Trident program in fiscal year 2007 will be addressed in a must-pass defense appropriations bill later this year. To date, the appropriations bill passed by the House in June recommends only $30 million for the conventional Trident program in fiscal year 2007, consistent with the House-passed authorization bill. In committee, House appropriators also underscored their concerns that “the proposed schedule for this program is unrealistic and prejudges the outcome of internal planning and programming reviews, including the analysis of alternatives and the vetting and documentation of operational requirements,” and that “important strategic, international and operational considerations have not been fully addressed.[7]

There is still the possibility of further action in Congress that could affect overall funding levels for fiscal year 2007, but it appears that the Bush administration’s request for conventional Trident missiles will not survive without a significant funding cut. Perhaps more certain is that Congress will insist on receiving significantly more information from the administration before it will release funds for fiscal year 2007 and that the information provided will be crucial in determining whether lawmakers ultimately agree to go forward with deployment.

Reaction From China, Russia, and Other States

Dating back to the Clinton administration, the Russian military has expressed concern that the United States would deploy conventional warheads on long-range ballistic missiles in concert with a national missile defense to enhance U.S. ability to conduct a disarming first strike of Russian strategic nuclear forces. Whether the Russian military still harbors this concern is not clear, but it may help to explain why Putin highlighted his concerns over conventional long-range ballistic missiles in his yearly address. Putin focused his remarks on the risk of a reciprocal or responsive launch to a U.S. conventional ballistic missile strike, noting that “the launch of such a missile…could provoke a full-scale counterattack using strategic nuclear forces.” In a meeting the next day with reporters in Moscow, Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Sobyanin drove home Putin’s point, stating, “Imagine a rocket that can be fired from a submarine. A nuclear state might not be able to react adequately to the firing of such a rocket. There is nothing written on it to say what sort of warhead it is—whether conventional or nuclear. It seems to me to be an irresponsible decision.”

China may have even greater concerns than Russia over the strategic implications of U.S. conventional long-range ballistic missiles. It would take a relatively small number of precision conventional strike weapons to render ineffective China’s existing strategic nuclear deterrent of roughly two dozen ICBMs capable of reaching the United States, although the vulnerability of China’s strategic nuclear forces should decline with the deployment of road-mobile missiles over the next five years.

The administration will argue the conventional Trident program is not intended for nor would it be capable of countering the deterrent capability of Russian or Chinese nuclear forces. Nevertheless, both states may well oppose and react to what they may well perceive as the beginning of a far-reaching change in the strategic landscape.

Russia and China may be joined by many other states who would view a U.S. decision to deploy conventional long-range ballistic missiles, anchored in the controversial doctrine of pre-emption and preventive war, as another unilateral, destabilizing, and dangerous initiative where the United States adopts a posture of “do as we say, not as we do.”

The View From STRATCOM

The Bush administration has delegated the responsibility for convincing Congress to General James E. Cartwright, commander of the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM). Cartwright has embraced the concept of Prompt Global Strike, and STRATCOM would play a central role in any strike involving long-range ballistic missiles, conventional or nuclear.

In an interview published in last month’s issue of Arms Control Today, Cartwright was asked to respond to some of the major issues raised so far in the debate over conventional Trident missiles. His answers were illuminating, both in terms of what was said and not said.

The concern that the launch of a conventional ballistic missile could trigger a nuclear response.

Cartwright indicated his hope that transparency and the Joint Data Exchange Center “are actually starting to work,” although he did not address whether any system of transparency and data exchange could provide reassurance that an operational missile launched from a submarine at sea heading for a terrorist target was conventional versus nuclear. He also sought to put the problem of “misinterpretation” of a ballistic missile launch in a less alarming context: “You always have to worry in war that your actions might be interpreted incorrectly. It does not matter whether you are dealing with an ICBM or an M-16 rifle,” noting that the problem of dual-purpose (nuclear and conventional) delivery systems had been managed in other contexts (e.g., artillery, cruise missiles, and bombers). Cartwright also indicated a certain degree of acquiescence to the problem of missile proliferation in other states, seeking to focus instead on ensuring that other countries that are starting to develop ballistic missiles enter into agreements with us to help build confidence. “If they are not going for mutual assured destruction, but limited action, make sure it is interpreted as limited action.”

The concern that conventional Trident might imbue ballistic missiles with more strategic value and undercut missile nonproliferation efforts.

Cartwright sought to dismiss any linkage between U.S. action and actions by other states, noting the United States had not built any new ballistic missiles for years. “Yet, what you see in the world is the proliferation of ballistic missiles,” he said. He also stated there was no intent to “increase the number” of ballistic missiles but rather to “create a diversity of effects that is more appropriate for the world that we are in and more controlling of escalation,” simply put, to make U.S. ballistic missiles more usable weapons.

According to Cartwright, “You have got to start to move to delivery vehicles that have global reach inside of the timelines of the regret factors that someone would deliver to you with a ballistic missile. [Prompt Global Strike] is really about if we have to reach globally quickly—and that is the new world we live in—then let’s have a more responsible effect at the other end.” He did not address whether making U.S. missiles more usable through a “diversity of effects” might prompt others to do the same.

Whether Prompt Global Strike represents a growing transition away from nuclear warheads for strategic missions.

Cartwright stated, “It certainly offers an alternative. Today, [our method of] prompt global strike is nuclear and that is where I am trying to change.” Yet, Cartwright made no mention of any existing or new commitment by the administration to proceed with further reductions in strategic nuclear forces beyond the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty or to adopt a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, which might at least in theory help reassure states that an operational launch of a long-range ballistic missile was conventional, not nuclear.

U.S. Security Interests

After the conclusion of World War II, U.S. leaders had to decide whether to build more and more powerful nuclear weapons and whether to seek international controls on nuclear materials and arms. The choices made then—some without a great deal of deliberation—have shaped our security environment for the past 60 years. With the end of the Cold War, Congress and the American people have the opportunity to carefully consider U.S. security interests and how our actions might influence those interests and our future.

Although prioritizing U.S. interests is an ongoing task—one that is rightly subject to differing analysis, opinions, and values—most would agree on two core points. First, we must do everything possible to prevent the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical arms and their means of delivery, including ballistic missiles. Second, we must protect the United States from terrorists.

It is against this backdrop that the issue of conventional long-range ballistic missiles must be viewed. To begin, unless one accepts Cartwright’s contention that what the United States does in the area of ballistic missiles has no impact on what others do, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that if the United States goes forward with the development and deployment of long-range conventional ballistic missiles, other countries will have an even greater rationale, rhetorical and real, to build more missiles and make them more usable. Moreover, these missiles deployed by other states could easily be used to carry nuclear weapons, even if they were claimed to be strictly conventional. Thus, the development and deployment of conventional long-range ballistic missiles in the United States may undercut the first of our core security interests: preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

Second, although the use of lethal force against a terrorist threat involving weapons of mass destruction is a capability that the United States must have and use if necessary to prevent an attack, the notion that conventional long-range ballistic missiles are an indispensable silver bullet for our military deserves close scrutiny. In short, we know where rogue regimes are located, we know where “ungoverned” areas provide terrorist havens, and we are improving our existing and planned conventional capabilities to deal with these threats. Moreover, it is far from clear that using a conventional long-range ballistic missile would in practice be “quicker” than using other conventional assets, given challenges associated with identifying and locating targets, receiving authority to fire, and having submarines in position to shoot.

There may be other scenarios, for example, using U.S. long-range conventional ballistic missiles to pre-emptively strike North Korean ballistic missiles or China’s nuclear forces during a conflict over Taiwan. If North Korea were about to launch a nuclear missile at the United States, however, there would be more—much more—than conventional Trident missiles heading toward North Korea. A U.S. conventional ballistic missile attack against China’s nuclear forces would run a big risk of nuclear retaliation by Beijing.

We also need to look closely at the opportunity cost of the development, deployment, and potential use of long-range conventional ballistic missiles. The achievement of our core security interests, including preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and protecting against terrorists, requires the judicious expenditure of U.S. resources. This is particularly true in the context of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the Congressional Budget Office now estimates will cost $811 billion. Simply put, is it a wise investment to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on conventional long-range ballistic missiles compared with other urgent defense priorities such as global port security, military personnel, and threat reduction programs?

What of the risks? Is the niche capability that conventional Trident missiles might provide worth it if it leads to more countries with more ballistic missiles more willing to use them in their own pursuit of their security interests? Moreover, would any president take the risk of launching a conventional long-range ballistic missile against a terrorist target if there was even the smallest chance of a mistaken retaliatory launch directed at the United States, perhaps with a nuclear-tipped missile?

Up to this point, the answers and assurances that have been provided by U.S. officials with respect to a mistaken retaliatory launch have not been reassuring. For example, transparency relating to missile test launches or exercises would provide no reassurance regarding an operational launch of a Trident missile. Moreover, it is difficult to conclude that transparency and Joint Data Exchange are “starting to work,” as Cartwright claims, when there is no system of shared early warning of operational missile launches in place among the United States, Russia, and other states. Even if there was, it may not work or be credible. Moreover, the argument that we have years of experience with nuclear and conventional “dual-capable” systems as a palliative ignores the uniquely destabilizing and destructive characteristics of long-range ballistic missiles, in particular their ability to deliver nuclear payloads globally in near real time.

Finally, the issue of conventional Trident missiles embedded in the concept of Prompt Global Strike provides another opportunity to examine whether we are pursuing the right balance in defending the United States, in particular whether we are effectively utilizing all elements of U.S. power or relying too heavily on our military to win the global war on terrorism. Our strategy against terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction must be more than just reducing the time to target our enemies. Indeed, the use of long-range conventional ballistic missiles in volatile regions of the globe might easily lead to greater instability rather than fewer terrorists, especially when factoring in the political fallout overseas from employing long-range ballistic missiles for the first time in combat. In this context, our continuing search for another first-use weapon to deal with the security challenges of the 21st century may in fact be a symptom of a much larger problem: the failure to better use other aspects of U.S. power—economic, political, diplomatic, and cultural—in our national security policy.

Congress has to its credit recognized that the development, deployment, and possible use of conventional long-range ballistic missiles raises serious issues that require more than just a cursory review. The debate over conventional Trident missiles looks as if it will continue into next year and perhaps beyond, and given the stakes, it is imperative that it should. With more information, analysis, and discussion, Congress and the American people will be better positioned to decide whether making long-range ballistic missiles more usable weapons makes strategic sense or represents strategic folly.


Steve Andreasen is a national security consultant and teaches at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. From 1993 to 2001, he was director for defense policy and arms control on the National Security Council.


1. Harold Brown and James Schlesinger, “A Missile Strike Option We Need,” The Washington Post, May 22, 2006.

2. Michael R. Gordon, “Pentagon Seeks Nonnuclear Tip for Sub Missiles,” The New York Times, May 29, 2006.

3. Wade Boese, “Joint Data Exchange Center on Hold,” Arms Control Today, June 2006, p. 8.

4. Miles A. Pomper, “Congress Challenges Global Strike Plan,” Arms Control Today, June 2006, pp. 41-42.

5. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, Report of the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, p. 60

6. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, S. 2766, Sec. 214. (b)(2)(N), p. 43 (“Trident Sea-Launched Ballistic Missiles”).

7. Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, 2007, Report of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives.


Nuclear Suppliers Still Split on U.S.-Indian Deal

Wade Boese

The world’s leading nuclear supplier states remain divided on a U.S. initiative to exempt India from international rules restricting civilian nuclear trade with New Delhi. The 45 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) also are at odds on two proposals for adding regulations governing their nuclear exports.

Group members convened June 1-2 in Brasilia for an annual decision-making meeting, but no major policy decisions were adopted because of differences among the participants. The voluntary group operates by consensus to coordinate nuclear export controls among its members, which range from nuclear-armed powers such as the United States and Russia to the small, non-nuclear island nation of Malta.

India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan are countries with significant nuclear programs that are outside the group. These four countries are barred from importing key nuclear materials and technologies from NSG members because, in part, they fail to meet a 1992 NSG requirement that importers submit their entire nuclear complexes to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Such measures are intended to deter and detect the diversion of civilian nuclear technologies to building bombs.

President George W. Bush committed last July to clearing away barriers restricting full civilian nuclear trade with India. (See ACT, September 2005.) Now, U.S. officials, backed by their British, French, and Russian counterparts, are urging the NSG to exempt India from the 1992 rule, which was originally conceived and promoted by the United States.

Aside from the four main proponents and some strong critics, such as Sweden and Ireland, most NSG members seem to be on the fence, albeit leaning one way or the other. Before taking a final position, these members, for the most part, want to wait for Congress to act on the initiative, for Washington and New Delhi to complete negotiations on a bilateral cooperation agreement, and for India and the IAEA to conclude a new safeguards arrangement.

Several government officials of NSG members interviewed in June by Arms Control Today said that the Brasilia event saw no notable shifts in members’ positions. A few of these officials attributed the lack of movement to insufficient information provided by India and the United States in response to concerns and questions raised about the deal by NSG members at previous group meetings. Because NSG meetings are supposed to be confidential, the officials declined to be identified for this article.

The officials noted that China, for the first time, declared it would prefer establishing a criteria-based approach for determining whether countries not meeting the 1992 condition should be allowed to engage in nuclear trade, rather than singling out India for special exemption. China has nuclear projects underway with Pakistan, which has told the NSG that the U.S.-Indian initiative might destabilize South Asia. China can fulfill nuclear contracts with Pakistan that predate Beijing joining the NSG in 2004, but it is now restricted in pursuing new deals with Islamabad.

India declined to attend the Brasilia meeting despite being urged to do so by Washington. Although not a NSG member, India has pledged to abide by NSG rules for nuclear commerce.

U.S., British, and French officials reportedly sought to include a positive reference to the U.S.-Indian deal in the group’s closing public statement, but other members were not in favor of doing so. As a result, a June 2 statement by the group simply reported that members had examined and discussed the deal and “agreed to return to this matter.”

The group also will continue talks on two other major proposals on which the Brasilia meeting was unable to reach consensus. Both are outgrowths from a February 2004 Bush speech outlining proposals to stem the spread of unconventional weapons. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The first aims to establish as an NSG trade rule that importers must adhere to an IAEA additional protocol. Such protocols give the agency greater authority to investigate whether illicit nuclear activities are taking place inside a particular country.

Argentina and Brazil, which have not negotiated additional protocols, oppose such a move. So does South Africa, which pointed out that other group members— Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and the United States—have yet to bring their additional protocols into force. France and Russia, major nuclear suppliers, oppose this criterion too, presumably for commercial reasons.

The second U.S. proposal called for barring uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies to countries currently lacking operational facilities for those activities, which can produce both nuclear fuel and the explosive material for nuclear weapons. Last year, after some NSG members objected to an outright ban, the group agreed to devise criteria for judging whether importers should be permitted to receive enrichment and reprocessing capabilities. (See ACT, September 2005.) But members failed to concur on criteria in Brasilia.

Members did agree to exercise stricter control over some nuclear exports, including valves designed for uranium enrichment. Halting Iran’s uranium-enrichment program is a top priority for the United States and some other group members. The group reported that its talks on “current proliferation challenges focused principally on [ Iran].”

Nuclear experts of the group will meet next in October. The date and site of the next annual plenary are not fixed yet because the group has not selected who will serve as its next rotating chairman.


U.S.-Indian Deal Clears Congressional Hurdles

Wade Boese

Key lawmakers gave their initial blessing at the end of June to a Bush administration initiative to expand civilian nuclear commerce with India, but reserved final judgment pending completion of detailed terms governing such trade. U.S. and Indian negotiators recently held their first round of negotiations toward this end, while New Delhi has yet to begin talks on granting international inspectors greater access to its civilian nuclear sector.

President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged in July 2005 to overhaul three decades of acrimonious U.S.-Indian nuclear relations, which stem in large part from India’s 1974 nuclear test that made use of U.S. and Canadian imports intended for peaceful purposes. Bush committed to changing U.S. law and international rules restricting full civilian nuclear trade with India, while Singh vowed to make India’s nuclear establishment more open. (See ACT, September 2005.)

Nearly a year later, neither side has fulfilled its pledges despite the Bush administration’s early hopes that the entire process would move quickly. Winning twin votes in the House International Relations and Senate Foreign Relations Committees giving the president authority to waive certain aspects of U.S. law to pursue nuclear trade with India marked the first concrete White House step to hold up its end of the bargain. The June 27 House vote was 37-5, while the June 29 Senate vote was 16-2.

The bills approved by the committees, however, were not exactly what the administration wanted.

The White House originally asked lawmakers to back legislation that would have made it easier for a detailed U.S.-Indian bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement to sail through Congress once it is negotiated. (See ACT, April 2006.) Such agreements are required by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which also establishes specific standards of behavior for U.S. nuclear trade partners. Instead of requiring a majority of both congressional chambers to approve a bilateral cooperation agreement for it to take effect, the administration advocated a process by which the agreement would essentially enter into force unless two-thirds of both chambers voted against it.

The House and Senate committees rejected the administration’s approach. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the House panel, derided the administration-backed legislation June 27 as “profoundly unsatisfactory” because it had asked Congress “to remove itself” from having a final say on the future bilateral cooperation agreement. The chairman of the Senate panel, Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), said June 29 that requiring the agreement to receive a “positive vote…fully protects Congress’ role in the process.”

Hyde warned the administration against assuming that the agreement’s future passage is assured. He recommended U.S. negotiators “pay close attention to Congressional concerns” when working out the details of the agreement with their Indian counterparts.

Nonetheless, the process endorsed by the House panel mandates that any House floor debate on the agreement will be limited to six hours and lawmakers will not be permitted to offer amendments. The Senate bill does not contain similar procedures.

The full Senate and House still need to approve their respective versions of the legislation passed by the committees and then reconcile their differences before a measure can be sent to the president to sign into law.

The chief concern of lawmakers that emerged during the committee’s deliberations was preventing India’s use of any U.S. nuclear exports to help produce more nuclear weapons. The House and Senate panels adopted provisions explicitly stating that U.S. nuclear trade should not directly or indirectly assist India’s strategic program. But the Senate panel defeated a proposal by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) that would have required the president to certify that U.S. nuclear trade was not contributing to India’s military nuclear activities. The 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) prohibits the United States from aiding other countries’ nuclear weapons programs.

The Senate panel barred, except for a few specific scenarios, the export of any uranium enrichment, plutonium reprocessing, or heavy water production technologies to India. These technologies have direct applications to building nuclear bombs.

Some legislators sought and failed to condition U.S. nuclear exports on New Delhi ending or capping its production of fissile material, highly enriched uranium and plutonium, for nuclear weapons. California Democratic Representatives Howard Berman and Brad Sherman contended that without such a move U.S. nuclear trade could aid or contribute to a growth in India’s nuclear arms stockpile. House International Relations Committee ranking member Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) argued that an Indian fissile material production halt would be “desirable” but Congress could not demand it because it would be a “quintessential deal breaker.”

Both committees, however, passed language that could upset New Delhi. In particular, the committees adopted language to prohibit Washington from working with other capitals to supply India with nuclear transfers in the event that U.S.-Indian cooperation is terminated. The Singh government had been trumpeting the fact that a March U.S.-Indian agreement commits the United States to develop measures and join with other countries to ensure that India’s nuclear fuel supply will never be disrupted.

If India were to walk away from the deal, not all members of Congress would shed tears. Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) said the U.S.-Indian deal amounted to a knife in the NPT, which he described as “the most serious arms control treaty perhaps ever negotiated.” The treaty codifies the right of civilian nuclear trade for countries forswearing nuclear weapons. Nuclear-armed India, Israel, and Pakistan never joined the accord.

Most of Leach’s fellow House panel members welcomed the prospect of engaging in nuclear trade with India. Yet, the House and Senate legislation both say that the 44 other countries in the voluntary Nuclear Suppliers Group must first also agree “by consensus” to full civilian nuclear commerce with India. The measures also conditioned approval on congressional satisfaction with the contents of the future bilateral cooperation agreement and the outcome of New Delhi’s effort to grant international inspectors greater ability to oversee and inspect India’s civilian nuclear apparatus.

Status of Negotiations

U.S. and Indian officials conducted their first round of negotiations on a bilateral cooperation agreement June 12-14 in New Delhi. The two sides have been tightlipped about the talks. One U.S. official told Arms Control Today June 23 that there had been “progress” but that both negotiating teams had issues and questions to take back to their capitals.

India reportedly had several concerns about a March U.S. draft of the agreement and submitted a version of its own to the United States in May. The substantive differences between the two drafts have largely remained secret, but India has publicly objected to a U.S. proposal to include a provision terminating the agreement if India conducts a nuclear test.

The next round of negotiations has yet to be scheduled. The U.S. official said that the two sides are “trying to go at the fastest pace possible.”

Meanwhile, it is unclear when New Delhi will begin negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on what safeguards will be applied to India’s civilian nuclear sector. The IAEA administers safeguards to deter and detect the misuse of civilian nuclear materials and technologies for military purposes.

In a March 2 agreement with Bush, Singh said India would submit 14 out of 22 current and planned thermal nuclear power reactors to “India-specific” IAEA safeguards by 2014. Six of the 14 already have safeguards or were previously slated for them. (See ACT, April 2006.)

Still, India has not defined what it means by India-specific. The IAEA only has one type of safeguards, known as INFCIRC/66, for countries outside the NPT. Any different formulation would need to be approved by the IAEA Board of Governors.


Plans for Missile Defenses in Europe Unsettled

Wade Boese

U.S. plans for establishing a strategic ballistic missile defense base in Europe remain unsettled, but Russian officials are sharpening their criticism of the proposal. Meanwhile, leaders of the 26-member NATO alliance will soon begin weighing options for proceeding with missile defenses in Europe.

The Bush administration has installed nine long-range missile interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and another two at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. A version of the deployed interceptors, which are to hone in on and collide with an enemy warhead in space, has yet to be tested against a target in flight. The first test of this type might occur as early as August.

The Pentagon revealed in 2004 its intentions to expand long-range interceptor deployments to Europe to defend against possible ballistic missile launches from the Middle East. (See ACT, July/August 2004.) Although Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Lieutenant General Henry Obering told reporters March 20 that the United States would like to begin work on the project in 2007, no plans have yet been finalized.

MDA spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today June 14 that the possible hosts for a base of 10 interceptors have been narrowed to the Czech Republic or Poland because of their location and expressed interest. “Consultations are continuing” with the prospective hosts, according to Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Karen Finn in a June 16 interview with Arms Control Today, but she declined to elaborate. The Pentagon’s office of international security policy is heading the talks on the U.S. side.

Marek Purowski, a spokesperson for the Polish embassy in Washington, also told Arms Control Today June 14 that the talks were ongoing but that no decisions had been made. He said many technical details, such as who will control the interceptor’s operation, still needed to be worked out.

Some U.S. lawmakers are also balking at funding the site. As part of its fiscal year 2007 budget request submitted to Congress in February, the administration asked for almost $56 million to begin construction of the European site and for an additional $63 million to begin manufacturing the proposed base’s 10 interceptors. In a defense appropriations bill passed June 20, the House of Representatives zeroed out the base construction and interceptor funds.

The Senate has yet to approve a defense appropriations bill, so the ultimate status of the funding request remains uncertain. Both chambers each pass an appropriations bill, and then they work out the differences between the two before sending a final version to the president.

Russian leaders, however, are not waiting on the U.S. budget process to register their opposition to the proposed missile defense base. Speaking June 7 to the Duma, the lower house of Russia’s legislature, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the base as one that over time might be used to intercept Russian missiles or secretly house offensive ballistic missiles. “The danger also arises of the use of the planned anti-missile defense silo launchers for clandestine deployment of ballistic missiles,” Lavrov stated.

Lehner dismissed such a possibility. He said the base would have “no offensive capability whatsoever” and interceptors and ballistic missiles have “entirely different configurations for silos.”

Moscow is not alone in presuming that a European-based U.S. missile defense site, in some form, will one day be a reality. A 10,000-page study recently completed by NATO postulates that the most efficient way for building a missile defense architecture in Europe is to use the proposed U.S. site as one of the initial building blocks, according to a NATO official familiar with the study interviewed June 14 by Arms Control Today.

Initially requested in 2002 and officially completed May 10, the “NATO Missile Defense Feasibility Study” concluded that building an anti-missile system to protect all members’ territories was technically feasible and outlined various options for achieving that goal. The NATO official said alliance military planners must now “await political guidance” on which options, if any, to pursue.

The study will be presented to NATO leaders at the alliance’s heads of state summit November 28-29 in Riga, Latvia. If the leaders determine that proceeding with missile defenses is “desirable,” the official said the next step for the alliance will be to define the specific architecture.


News Analysis: An End to U.S. Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe?

Oliver Meier

NATO’s policy of basing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in several European countries has lasted long after the end of the Cold War, despite increasing pressure from parliamentarians, disarmament advocates, and public opinion. Now, a more mundane yet more tangible force may now tip the balance against the status quo: money. Public statements from and interviews with government officials and experts in Europe indicate that European governments may not be willing to make the investments in a new generation of nuclear-capable aircraft or participate in relevant technology sharing that would be needed to sustain the policy.

Nuclear sharing was developed during the Cold War to deepen U.S.-European military ties and to create a forum where Europe could have a say in Washington’s nuclear policies. As the Cold War ended, about 4,000 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons remained on European soil, intended to offset Soviet conventional and nuclear forces. In a series of bilateral understandings with the Soviet Union and then with Russia in the early 1990s, President George H. W. Bush sharply reduced that number. Today, an estimated 480 B-61 gravity bombs remain deployed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, which also possesses its own nuclear arsenal. Of these weapons, 180 are assigned for use by the five non-nuclear-weapon states. These weapons remain under U.S. custody during peacetime but can be released to U.S. allies for delivery in times of war.

U.S. and European officials readily acknowledge that they have held on to the weapons for predominantly political rather than military reasons. In its 1999 Strategic Concept, NATO implied that improved relations with Russia meant that the weapons’ military purpose had largely ended, but called for retaining the weapons as a means of shoring up the political solidarity of the alliance. U.S. and European officials have also seen the weapons as a potential bargaining chip to encourage Russia to part with its own much larger arsenal of such weapons, variously estimated at about 3,000 deployed operational warheads.

But the status quo is imperiled by the aging of NATO’s nuclear-capable fighter fleet. Over the next several years, a number of European NATO members involved in nuclear sharing arrangements have to decide whether to replace aging fighter aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons, commonly known as “dual-capable aircraft.” Amid budget pressures and growing public concern, some key groups are beginning to balk. These concerns come as NATO is expected to update the 1999 Strategic Concept, including a possible revision of its nuclear doctrine.

German Disagreements

Discussion of the issue is the most highly charged in Germany, which hosts an estimated 150 U.S. nuclear weapons. Germany relies exclusively on Tornado PA-200 aircraft to deliver U.S. nuclear weapons. The Tornado entered service in the early 1980s and had been expected to be phased out over the next 15 years. Nuclear-capable Tornados are deployed at Büchel Air Base, along with an estimated 20 B-61 bombs. Germany had been expected to begin retiring them as early as 2012.

The Tornados are to be replaced by the Eurofighter (Typhoon), a multinational aircraft built jointly by Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. But the German government in July 2004 told parliament—the Bundestag—that it does not intend to certify the Eurofighter to carry nuclear weapons. Such certification would require Germany and its partners to grant the United States access to Eurofighter technology, which Europeans are reluctant to do because they fear the loss of commercial proprietary information.

Berlin is looking for a way to delay making a decision. In February, the government stated that it might keep some Tornados beyond the expected end of their service life in 2020. The only clear purpose for such a move would be to preserve the ability of the German air force to deploy U.S. nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, there is concern within NATO about Germany’s long-term commitment to nuclear sharing. A senior NATO official told Arms Control Today June 2 that a decision by the German government to “extend the life of the Tornado would only delay and not solve the issue.”

Such fears are heightened by growing pressure from the Bundestag. Since April 2005, all three opposition parties in the Bundestag—the liberal Free Democrats, the left-of-center Green Party and the socialist Left Party—have introduced resolutions calling for a complete end to Germany’s involvement in nuclear sharing and a withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from German territory.

This year, the debate also is taking place within the government. When the draft of a new Defense White Paper was released to the Bundestag this spring, an unprecedented dispute about German support for NATO’s nuclear doctrine erupted between center-left Social Democrats and conservative Christian Democrats, which together form the governing “Grand Coalition.”

The draft, which was leaked to a German internet site (www.geopowers.com), states that nuclear deterrence will remain necessary to deter hostile states possessing nuclear weapons, including states with a fundamentalist ideology. Echoing earlier NATO language, the draft goes on to argue that “the common commitment of Alliance partners to war prevention, the credible demonstration of Alliance solidarity and nuclear posture require also in the future German participation in nuclear tasks.” The text specifies that this includes “the deployment of allied nuclear forces on German soil, participation in consultations, planning and providing means of delivery.”

This language was immediately and publicly rejected by the Social Democrats and, along with a subsequent position paper, made clear that for the first time that a governing party in Germany was calling for withdrawing from NATO nuclear sharing. The position paper, written by Social Democratic members of the Bundestag’s Defense Committee, categorically states that Social Democrats are “not willing to provide new means of delivery” once the Tornado has reached the end of its service life “in a few years.” Then, Germany’s participation in “tactical nuclear sharing” should end, the Social Democrats demand.

Rolf Mützenich, the Social Democrats’ spokesperson for arms control, told Arms Control Today June 13 that this means that Germany would no longer provide aircraft or personnel to participate in NATO nuclear sharing. Mützenich cautioned that “as long as these weapons exist,” Germany should stay involved in the “strategic operative” aspects of nuclear sharing, namely, it should continue to participate in alliance consultations and decision-making on nuclear doctrine. As a NATO member state, Germany is eligible to participate in nuclear deliberations—in the Nuclear Planning Group for example—even if it does not host nuclear weapons. Mützenich emphasized that as far as he is concerned, Germany’s participation in nuclear sharing should end “as early as possible” before 2012. He called on the German government to closely consult with partners and allies in order to initiate an open debate within NATO on the role of nuclear weapons in today’s world. “In the long-term, nuclear weapons should be abolished altogether. As long as that is not achievable, NATO should renounce the first use of nuclear weapons,” Mützenich said.

Christian Democrats are now the only party in the Bundestag that supports the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Germany and NATO’s nuclear posture. Responding June 9 to questions from Arms Control Today, Christian Democrats defense spokesperson Bernd Siebert rejected the idea of basing a decision on Germany’s future involvement in nuclear sharing on the phasing out of the Tornado. “Instead, it should be a political judgment whether nuclear sharing is still up to date or not.” According to Siebert, the Christian Democrats support Germany’s involvement in nuclear sharing as an insurance against unforeseeable risks and because it “guarantees political influence on the use or nonuse of nuclear weapons.” Siebert said he sees no necessity “to fundamentally call into question NATO’s current strategy.”

The white paper draft was prepared by the Defense Ministry, which is headed by Christian Democrat Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, and is currently being reviewed by the Foreign Ministry, which is headed by Social Democrat Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier. Discussions on Germany’s future involvement in nuclear sharing are expected to continue when the next draft is debated in the Bundestag.

Italian Uncertainties

Germany is not the only one of the nuclear-sharing participants to have doubts. A new government in Italy is also raising concerns.

Italy’s past Conservative government of Silvio Berlusconi had committed Rome to purchasing both the Eurofighter as well as its competitor, the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), with the JSF taking over the Tornado’s nuclear missions. The JSF, also known as the F-35, is a $35 billion multinational program led by the United States. Partners include the nuclear-sharing countries of Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

But the new center-left government of Prime Minister Romani Prodi, elected in April, has called into question Italy’s commitment to the JSF. Should Italy decide to opt out of the program, the country would be left only with the non-nuclear Eurofighter.

According to a April 17 Defense News report, Giovanni Urbani, aerospace spokesperson for the Democratic Left, which is part of Italy’s governing coalition, proposed on April 11 that Italy “pull out of acquiring the JSF and look at the third-tranche Eurofighter instead, thus boosting a European production line.” New Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema told Reuters on May 21 that “a politics of disarmament must be relaunched, one that invites reflection on part of the great powers, starting with the United States.” Further, Francesco Martone, head of the Rifondazione Comunista-European Left in the Foreign Affairs committee of the Italian Senate, told Arms Control Today June 12 that the new government “should cancel Italian participation in the JSF.” Martone, says that Italy should initiate discussions on nuclear sharing “with a view to free our country from nuclear weapons.” Martone, whose party is part of Italy’s governing coalition, is preparing a bill that proposes to reinvest Italy’s share in the JSF in development aid.

Some in NATO, however, believe that the new Italian government will eventually support the JSF, if only to avoid hefty financial penalties for opting out.

The Bomber Gap

Italy is not the only country to raise questions about whether and how it might go forward with the U.S. fighter. Delays, cost overruns, and disagreements between the United States and its allies about access to JSF technology continue to plague the program. Unless these are resolved soon, Turkey and the Netherlands might not have nuclear-capable aircraft when their current fleet of F-16s starts reaching the end of its service life as early as 2009.

Under current plans, a nuclear-capable variant of the JSF is slated to enter into service in 2012 or later when a fourth version of the fighter could start to roll off production lines. But no JSF partner country has yet committed to buying this series of JSFs. Thus, there is a real possibility that Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey might not be able to deploy dual-capable aircraft for several years, removing these countries’ ability to participate in nuclear sharing.

Some in NATO fear that politicians in member states might put off deciding whether to buy nuclear-capable aircraft until NATO is forced to alter its nuclear posture to accommodate technological and financial realities. “I think politicians will delay making a decision as long as possible. I don’t anticipate any serious discussions on this issue until the 2008-09 time frame,” the senior NATO official said. By that time, it might be too late for some countries to have a smooth transition from nuclear-capable Tornados or F-16s to a follow-on aircraft.

Parliamentarians in the Netherlands and Turkey as well as Belgium have called for debates about their governments’ support for NATO’s nuclear weapons policy. This raises further questions about the ability of governments to make the financial pledges necessary to secure long-term involvement of their countries in nuclear sharing.

For the time being, the Netherlands remains committed to the JSF. However, the Dutch government resigned June 30 and the largest Dutch opposition party opposes involvement in the program. It has vowed to cancel agreements should it become part of a new government after parliamentary elections expected in October. The NIS News Bulletin May 3 quoted Labour Party (PvdA) member of parliament Luuk Blom as predicting that “not a single JSF will be bought under [a] PvdA government. It is to be a firm issue in our election program.” The Dutch Defense Ministry is expected to sign an agreement with the United States at the end of this year governing the production, maintenance, and continued development of the JSF.

Turkey has not committed firmly to buying either the Eurofighter or the JSF. Ankara may decide by the end of 2006 how it will spend $10 billion it has earmarked to buy 100 new-generation combat aircraft. Turkey is already a member of the JSF consortium but may end up buying some Eurofighters as well. According to a June 19 report in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, the Turkish Parliament on June 12 discussed the presence of an estimated 90 U.S. nuclear weapons at the U.S. air force base in Incirlik. Sukru Elekdag, a member of parliament and a former ambassador to the United States, who initiated the debate, noted that the United States had already withdrawn nuclear weapons formerly deployed in Turkey’s rival, Greece. Moreover, Elekdag stated that it would be difficult to explain the continued presence of U.S. nuclear weapons on Turkish territory to its Muslim and Arab neighbors.

Belgium has sidestepped the issue by investing in a life-extension program for its F-16s, which is expected to keep its fleet flying for another 15 years. But Brussels has rejected an invitation to join the JSF program as a partner, and there appears to be no rush to take a decision on a follow-on model for Belgian F-16s before 2008-2010, in particular with general elections taking place next year. In April 2005, the Belgian Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Belgian government to take an initiative in NATO to review its nuclear doctrine and to initiate the gradual withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear from Belgian territory. (See ACT, May 2005.)

A New Nuclear Policy for NATO?

This November’s NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, is also likely to duck the issue of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. The senior NATO official complained that “there are currently no discussions on NATO nuclear policy within NATO” and that “this is not on anybody’s plate.” At most, NATO heads of state and governments are expected to launch a review of the Strategic Concept.

That there is currently no movement to adapt NATO’s nuclear posture was confirmed June 8 when NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels reaffirmed that NATO continues “to place great value on the nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO, which provide an essential political and military link between European and North American members of the Alliance.”

NATO leaders this fall are unlikely to consider changing their 1999 Strategic Concept, which states that “solidarity and common commitment to war prevention continue to require widespread participation by European Allies involved in collective defence planning in nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces on their territory and in command, control and consultation arrangements.” Instead, they are likely to approve a so-called Comprehensive Political Guidance. This document, which was agreed on last year but has not yet been published, apparently confirms NATO’s current nuclear posture.

There is, however, much talk in NATO about a new Strategic Concept to be agreed at a possible NATO summit in 2009, which marks NATO’s 60th birthday and the 10th anniversary of NATO’s current Strategic Concept. Robert Bell, who was NATO’s assistant secretary-general from 1999 to 2003 and previously served as a senior arms control official on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, told Arms Control Today June 13 that it is not clear that NATO will decide to update the Strategic Concept. If it does, “there is no guarantee” that the issue of dual-capable aircraft will be debated, he added.

Bell detects little willingness within NATO or among member states to change the alliance’s current nuclear doctrine and believes that the responsibility for taking the initiative on nuclear sharing rests with Washington. “Were this or were a new administration to decide to end the program, I do not believe the participating NATO allies would seriously try to stop it,” Bell said.

Indeed, some in the Pentagon favor ending nuclear sharing. A February 2004 report by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board recommended that the secretary of defense “consider eliminating the nuclear role for Tomahawk cruise missiles and for forward-based, tactical, dual-capable aircraft” because “there is no obvious need for these systems, and eliminating the nuclear role would free resources that could be used to fund strategic strike programs of higher priority.”

In an October 2005 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had indicated a willingness to leave the future of NATO nuclear deployments up to Europeans. Rumsfeld noted that it is up “to the Germans and to NATO” to pass judgment on the purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons on German soil. “Some countries in Europe made the decision to allow them to be on the continent. It was seen to be in their interest and is still seen that way today as it persists. So one would assume it continues being in their interest,” Rumsfeld said.

Nevertheless, the current timetable means member states participating in nuclear sharing may need to make a decision on whether to purchase dual-capable aircraft before a new nuclear doctrine is in place. Thus, they could end up buying aircraft with a nuclear capability that in the long run may not be needed.

One means under consideration of guarding against this possibility and also deflecting public criticism of NATO’s nuclear posture would be to withdraw U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe but leave the technical and physical infrastructure associated with nuclear sharing in place so that the weapons could be redeployed swiftly if and when NATO considers such a move necessary. A withdrawal of all deployed B-61 bombs would not affect readiness because NATO has already slowed response times of U.S. nuclear forces deployed in Europe from days to months. Member states participating in nuclear sharing would still need to provide dual-capable aircraft, although perhaps in reduced numbers. The air forces of these countries would continue to train for nuclear missions by using a “Realistic Weapons Trainer” and dummy weapons. Fifty-four new trainers were delivered to Europe as recently as February 2004.

From NATO’s perspective, such an arrangement of “virtual” nuclear sharing might have a number of technical and political disadvantages. NATO member states may be reluctant to redeploy nuclear weapons in times of crisis for fear of sending a wrong, escalatory signal. The United States currently deploys specially trained Munitions Support Squadrons of approximately 125-150 soldiers each at every base where U.S. nuclear weapons are stored. These units would either have to remain stationed at bases where nuclear weapons could be redeployed or kept on standby in the United States for possible relocation in Europe. Both are expensive options and may be difficult to justify, given how unlikely it is that NATO nuclear weapons would ever actually be used. There is also a fear at NATO headquarters in Brussels and national defense ministries that NATO’s nuclear policy may over time fade into irrelevance if the real weapons are withdrawn.

Further, advocates of a denuclearized NATO are likely to criticize virtual nuclear sharing as half-hearted and insufficient from a disarmament perspective. Such a move would not enable NATO to reap the arms control benefits associated with a complete termination of nuclear sharing. Thus, Russia may continue to argue that NATO’s nuclear policy continues to stand in the way of a broader agreement on tactical nuclear weapons.

Bell does not believe that there are realistic alternatives to current sharing arrangements and predicts that the current “model will remain until the NATO [tactical nuclear force] comes out altogether and for good.”

Public Opinion

Ultimately, European publics may have the last word. Public pressure on NATO to revise its nuclear policy is growing. A May survey commissioned by Greenpeace on the question of nuclear weapons deployments revealed that almost two-thirds of the populations in those countries (aside from Turkey) that host U.S. B-61 bombs want Europe to be free of nuclear weapons. Anti-nuclear sentiments were strongest in Italy and Germany (71.5 percent and 70.5 percent, respectively) and weakest in the United Kingdom (55.7 percent). The survey also made clear that more, than 15 years after the end of the Cold War, about 60 percent of the people in Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands are unaware that U.S. nuclear weapons continue to be deployed in their countries.


Brown Supports Continuing UK Nuclear Weapons Program

Gordon Brown, the heir apparent to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, announced his support for developing a successor to the United Kingdom’s strategic submarine fleet June 21. Brown’s support for the program, which could cost as much as $45 billion (see ACT, April 2006), came despite significant public and parliamentary opposition—including within the governing Labour party—to the move.

“In an insecure world we must and always will have the strength to take all necessary measures fro stability and security,” Brown said. The United Kingdom currently deploys 58 U.S.-supplied Trident D5 missiles with up to 200 warheads.



European Conventional Arms Treaty in Limbo

Wade Boese

Nearly seven years ago, 30 countries agreed on a revised set of European conventional arms limits to replace caps originally negotiated when the Soviet Union existed and Europe was divided into two hostile military blocs. Yet, the outdated limits remain in effect as NATO and Russia continue to quarrel over the necessary actions for bringing the new limits into force.

The latest NATO-Russian clash occurred May 30-June 2 in Vienna at the third review conference of the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. This accord establishes equal caps, as well as deployment zone limits, on the battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the now-defunct Warsaw Pact could station between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. In November 1999, the 30 CFE states-parties concluded an adapted CFE Treaty that essentially replaced the bloc and zone limits with weapons ceilings for each country. (See ACT, November 1999.)

But the original agreement will remain in force until all 30 CFE states-parties ratify the adapted version. To date, only Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine have done so. Led by the United States, NATO countries are postponing ratification until Russia fulfills 1999 commitments to withdraw its armed forces from Georgia and Moldova.

At the recent review conference, Russia complained bitterly about NATO’s inaction and offered a plan for bringing the adapted treaty into force before the end of 2007. It also suggested that the states-parties provisionally apply the revised agreement’s terms starting Oct. 1.

Moscow is eager for the adapted agreement to enter into force because it provides Russia with greater flexibility on where it stations its armed forces within its territory and contains a provision for adding countries to the regime and having them be bound by arms limits. Russia charges that NATO might deploy large amounts of weaponry in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—three NATO members that share borders with Russia and are not parties to the original CFE Treaty, which contains no accession option.

Joined by Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, NATO members rejected Russia’s proposals, insisting that Moscow must first end its military deployments in Georgia and Moldova. The conference ended in acrimony and without consensus agreement on a final document.

In a June 5 statement after the conference, the Kremlin denounced NATO’s position on Georgia and Moldova as “false and unfounded.” It further declared that the current CFE limits “had largely become obsolete and lost contact with reality” and stated Russia would conduct a “thorough analysis” of the conference outcome for drawing “conclusions concerning…implementation of the present treaty and dialogue with the Western countries on CFE Treaty problems.”

In a speech to the lower house of Russia’s legislature, the Duma, two days later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s unhappiness. “We do not intend to make it look [like] the 1990 treaty has functioned normally and that we are satisfied with it,” Lavrov said. He also asserted Russia has “done everything” to bring the adapted treaty into force.

Moscow’s record on meeting its past pledges, however, is mixed. On March 31, Russia finally concluded an agreement on closing two Soviet-era military bases in Georgia, at Batumi and Akhalkalaki, by the end of 2008. In the November 1999 CFE Final Act, which was a political document adopted in conjunction with the adapted CFE Treaty, Moscow had committed to completing these negotiations in 2000.

In 1999, Russia had also pledged to vacate another former Soviet military base at Gudauta by the end of 2000. But use of the base, located in the separatist region of Abkhazia, is still being disputed by Georgia and Russia. Tbilisi charges that Russian military forces still occupy the base, but Moscow contends the remaining contingent of some 300 troops are peacekeepers. The two governments have been trying unsuccessfully to agree on terms for an outside inspection of the base to assess its status.

Moscow has made much less progress in departing from Moldova. An estimated 1,400 Russian troops and an ammunition dump totaling almost 21,000 metric tons remain in the separatist Transdniestria region. Russia last removed military equipment from this area in March 2004. Russia had pledged in 1999 to withdraw from Moldova completely by the end of 2002.

Russia’s recent blustering is reportedly making some NATO members, such as Germany and Turkey, nervous about how Moscow might respond to NATO members maintaining their firm stand on Russia withdrawing from Georgia and Moldova. But a U.S. government official interviewed June 8 by Arms Control Today said the alliance is “hanging together.” The official added that the general view of CFE Treaty states-parties, despite Russia’s rhetoric, is that the accord is “working well.”


BWC 2006: Building Transparency Through Confidence Building Measures

Nicolas Isla and Iris Hunger

Transparency is an integral component of arms control. It can dispel concerns of noncompliance by reassuring actors that others are not misusing technologies or goods for hostile purposes. It can also deter actors from engaging in banned activities for fear that their activities will be exposed. In biological arms control, transparency is of pronounced importance because dual-use material, equipment, and knowledge are extensively embedded in contemporary biotechnology.

The potential for the abuse of these technologies increases each year as they become more advanced and diffuse. As the Department of State recently reported, “[T]he fact that biotechnology equipment and materials can be used interchangeably for peaceful or nefarious purposes, and the ease and speed by which illegal activities can be concealed make verification of compliance with the [Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)] an especially difficult challenge.”[1]

Although identifying illicit biological activities is difficult, a good starting point for building confidence in compliance is to increase transparency. Biological activities in a country must be open to other states-parties, particularly those activities that have a higher potential for misuse such as those conducted as part of a national biodefense program. This is an issue that has been promoted most recently by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.[2]

Currently, the only instrument under the BWC intended to enhance transparency is the confidence-building measure regime. This takes the form of an information exchange system covering themes relevant to biological arms control. Unfortunately, these confidence-building measures (CBMs) have done little to increase transparency since their inception 19 years ago. Few states have consistently participated, and many of those that have participated sporadically have also provided inadequate information.

Given the unsuccessful end of the Ad Hoc Group negotiations in 2001, which would have led, among other things, to a mandatory declaration system as part of the BWC, it is critically important to bolster the current mechanism. When states-parties gather for the BWC’s sixth review conference at the end of this year, they need to take steps to enhance these measures and thus provide genuine support for the biological weapons ban itself.

CBMs: Past Performance

The purpose of the CBM regime is “to prevent or reduce the occurrence of ambiguities, doubts and suspicions.”[3] These declarations are intended to serve the same purpose as those successfully implemented into other international treaties such as the Chemical Weapons Convention. As part of the BWC, CBMs were first agreed on at the second review conference in 1986[4] and were further expanded at the third review conference in 1991. This expansion provided the current form: seven declarations to be submitted annually before April 15. Annual CBM submission is a political obligation, and failing to do so brings a country into technical noncompliance with the BWC.

A truly transparent environment can emerge only when there is universal participation by all actors. More than 40 percent of the member states, however, have never submitted a declaration, and the majority that have submitted did so on an irregular basis. Submissions between 1987 to 2005 were provided by only eight countries: Canada, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, and the United States. The highest degree of participation occurred in 1996 when 53 countries submitted. This was followed by a downward trend to a low of 33 participating countries in 2003. To name just a few surprising examples: India participated only in 1997; Iran provided CBMs only in 1998, 1999 and 2002; Sweden failed to submit CBMs in 2002 and 2003; and the United Kingdom did not submit in 2001.

The mechanism is further weakened by the low quality of data, which is often incomplete, inaccurate, and at times misleading. Even those countries that have long been active proponents of the BWC are not putting much effort in submitting high-quality CBMs. For example, Italy declared a number of vaccine production sites but failed to name the diseases against which the vaccines were made, a requirement of the CBM. Spain’s CBMs failed to mention the budget allocated to biodefense facilities.[5] And submissions on past bio weapons programs have often been lacking in critical detail, negligent of information requested, inconsistent at times with information presented in open sources, and often submitted only once with no effort at an update in subsequent years.

Improvements Needed

Clearly, improvements need to be discussed at the sixth review conference or later during a focused meeting on the future of CBMs. The declarations need to be altered to make their topics more relevant and to provide better data for analysis. Other steps should include ensuring CBMs are submitted on time; improving the accessability, verifiability, and the ease of use of submitted data; and ensuring that the CBMs remain relevant in a changing technological and political environment.

Some states-parties have argued that before revising the CBMs, more efforts should be made to increase participation in the current CBM system. Clearly, however, a vicious cycle is currently in place in which limited participation diminishes confidence in the CBM mechanism and impairs the quality of submissions. Therefore, participation in the CBM process and the quality of submissions are only likely to improve in unison.

Form Reform

The relevance of individual CBM topics has always been a matter of discussion. The addition of new topics was last discussed at the fifth review conference[6] in 2001, although broader political problems prevented any modifications from being adopted. Nevertheless, several new topics were proposed, including requesting information on plant inoculants and biocontrol-agent production sites, more information on research with animal pathogens, details on animal and plant disease outbreaks of concern, and lists of animal vaccine production sites.

Furthermore, there are a number of activities, such as aerosol generation and aerosol particle behavior studies, that are extremely relevant to biological arms control and not accommodated by the current CBM topics. More comprehensive reporting on biotechnologies with a high potential for misuse is needed, regardless of whether they are undertaken as part of a national biodefense program. Other additions could include the incorporation of questions pertaining to codes of conduct for scientists and the future implementation of any export/import monitoring.

To focus the declarations on the most relevant issues, the elimination of particular topics also needs to be considered. During interviews conducted in December 2005, one Western European and Other Group (WEOG) country suggested that declarations of past offensive or defensive biological research and development programs are superfluous given that all of the activities declared should have been discontinued by now and will not help build current transparency.

Another WEOG government suggested ending the declaration of civilian vaccine production facilities because there are a number of other equally relevant processes that could indicate biological weapons capacity, including animal vaccine facilities and military vaccination programs. Most other states-parties, however, indicated that they would not favor the elimination of any topics because they are all relevant in building a comprehensive image of biological weapons potential in a country. Deletion of a particular topic should only be considered if this does not lead to a loss in comprehensiveness of the declared data. One possibility for deletion would be the declaration of annual case numbers of reportable diseases. Disease outbreak data is collected by the World Health Organization and need not also be requested in the CBMs.

For each form, the ability of the requested data to provide a comprehensive view of the topic in question should be assessed. This would highlight where superfluous information could be removed and where gaps in information need to be filled. In Form F, for example, details on organisms and facilities involved in the past biological weapons programs are not explicitly requested. Form structure and wording should be easily interpretable and serve as a guide for compiling the CBMs. Any confusion or ambiguities must be eliminated to facilitate submissions. For example, in one form the total number of staff workers at a biodefense facility is requested. The form subsequently asks for the number of contractor staff. It is not clear whether the total number of staff should be inclusive of contractor staff or not. States have interpreted these two questions differently in the past.

In terms of format, states-parties have suggested that it would be beneficial to simplify the forms in order for them to be more easily compiled. Such an attempt was already made with the addition of Form 0, which allows states to simply tick a box indicating for each of the other forms whether there is either “nothing to report” or “nothing new to report.” Further use of tick boxes could allow greater detail to be provided without adding undue burdens and would facilitate any consolidation of data for analytical purposes. Although the replacement of narratives with tick boxes risks “sterilizing” the CBMs and removing any incentive to put thought into the answer or volunteer information, forms should be reviewed with an effort to make them more logical and easier to compile, facilitating comparison and analysis.

CBM Process Reform: International Level

At the moment, the United Nations is mandated only to collect the CBM declarations, copy them, bind them, and return them to member states. No further processing, analyzing, or translation occurs. A number of reforms to this process could improve the usability, verifiability, and accessibility of the CBMs, thereby enhancing participation. The first reform is to bring CBM submission and distribution into the digital age. Currently, all CBM data is still handled in paper form, including distribution, with more than 1,000 pages per year. Digitizing this process from start to finish would reduce costs and facilitate compilation, submission, and distribution. It may be an assumption that all government ministries and staff have access to computers. Most nations, however, would likely find digitizing the CBMs a welcome change. Ultimately, not every country needs to submit and receive digitally, but countries should be given the option to do so. The United Nations might shoulder the modest cost of scanning submissions that are made in paper form.

A next step from digitizing CBM submissions would be to create a central database where CBMs could be posted on the internet, thus maximizing their accessibility and making them available to a much wider audience. This would also allow studies by independent research organizations. Three countries have already posted this information, including the United States in 2004.[7] Yet, although much of the information contained in the CBMs is already publicly available through open sources, many states seem reluctant to publish their CBMs so widely. Several states-parties have expressed concern that this step would make the CBMs available to nonmember states and potentially terrorists. Furthermore, the knowledge that the CBMs could be scrutinized by many readers might have negative repercussions and discourage countries from participating. One possible compromise would be to provide a password-protected secure website with access limited to member states.

Translating CBMs would also make them more accessible to states-parties, allowing them to make use of all CBMs regardless of their origin. The main concern is naturally the cost. To make this a politically justifiable act, the CBMs would have to be translated into all six official UN languages, thus carrying a heavy price tag. States should at least be encouraged, where possible, to submit their CBMs in multiple UN languages. China submitted CBMs in Chinese and English at the beginning of the CBM process but has since stopped.

The most demanding CBM reform and therefore the one with the least consensus among states-parties is analysis. As a principle, there is no agreement among member states on a possible mandate of the United Nations for analyzing the CBMs. Several states-parties favored a neutral role for the United Nations and preferred that it refrain from engaging in any analysis that might reflect badly on any particular state. Furthermore, countries should be undertaking their own analysis and are most likely interested in different aspects of the CBMs, making a UN examination costly while providing little benefit. On the other hand, a significant number of states-parties favored a preliminary analysis by the United Nations. This could make the CBMs more accessible, identify misleading information, and demonstrate the usefulness of building transparency in countries that rarely participate and often do not even look at the CBMs.

Greater transparency in the system would be achieved if an analysis took place. Naturally, different degrees of analysis are possible. The simplest could take the form of an annual participation list, in contrast to the current five-year interval. These could be further developed to include information on submission dates and participation over years as well as details on which topics the CBMs provided answers. A medium-level analysis could involve a summary of the submitted data such as the number of facilities with maximum containment (BSL4) laboratories per country or types of vaccines produced. A high-level analysis could take the form of a comparison of submitted information with other sources. The most exhaustive form of analysis could be on-site visits for verifying submitted data. Any analysis would, naturally, be cost dependent and subject to debate on the BWC floor. Nevertheless, implementing yearly participation lists to be included in the compendium should be less difficult to achieve and would bolster interest in the CBMs. Furthermore, such a list, highlighting countries whose submissions have been consistent and timely, would provide an incentive to participate as it identifies “good performers.” This is particularly relevant for countries that have been accused of having had biological weapons programs in the past and want to demonstrate compliance with the biological weapons prohibition.

In providing the United Nations with a mandate to evaluate the CBMs, such as suggested above, a small task force consisting of three to four staff members would be sufficient initially. It could collect, process, assemble, and disseminate the CBMs as well as ensure timely submissions by sending annual reminders. It could also be given the authority to inquire about technical omissions such as missing pages. With a mandate to promote technical compliance to the BWC, this task force could also identify non-norm behavior and issue lists of “good performers.”

In an effort to clarify any ambiguities or inconsistencies in a submitted CBM, a low-level discussion forum should be established. Several states-parties, however, have warned that any formal or informal discussion on the accuracy of the CBMs would invariably result in finger-pointing and accusations. A solution could be to hold these talks over the internet, on a UN discussion board, so to speak.

CBM Process Reform: National Level

Clearly, there are disincentives and obstacles to participation in the CBM process; otherwise, more states would take part. There are three classes of states that do not participate: those who do not know how or have trouble compiling data, those who do not care, and those who do not want to report. Persuading the first two types of states to participate is a matter of removing obstacles and raising awareness.

First, states need to provide assistance to countries struggling with data collection. For countries with financial or organizational hardships, compiling data can be a substantial barrier; even some EU states indicated that they had difficulties with data collection. This help could take the form of a guide, such as that recently put out by Canada; international workshops; or an e-mail hotline. International partnerships could also be created to provide data collection tutoring in the struggling country or to host a team from the struggling country to observe data collection techniques in another country. This help could be based on historic alliances or regional groupings. Such technical cooperation should be a part of any country’s action plan to improve the implementation of the BWC by the states-parties. The EU’s recently adopted joint action is a good example where this type of assistance could be offered.

Second, some states have obviously lost faith in the CBM mechanism and do not feel the need to participate. Another possibility is that the country has never had a biological weapons program and feels its participation is unimportant. To ensure that such states participate, the issue needs to be reframed in terms of the importance of transparency in biological arms control and the need for universal participation. Although a reform of the CBMs will make them easier to compile and be of use for analytical purposes, it is also important that the states feel ownership over issues of biological weapons nonproliferation. The importance of all countries’ participation must be consistently and frequently emphasized in order to enhance confidence in the regime itself.

Third, the small number of countries that do not want to report because they have something to hide will not be persuaded to participate by the suggested reforms. With greater participation and higher quality submissions, however, these countries will stand out more clearly, allowing the international community to focus on other nonproliferation efforts.


In the late 1990s, most states regarded the CBM mechanism as a dying instrument because they expected a verification protocol to be concluded and implemented, complete with mandatory declarations. Given that the protocol was not agreed on, however, CBMs remain the only multilaterally agreed mechanism to increase transparency in the area of biological arms control.

As the only source of relevant information exchange, it is vital that the CBMs work as efficiently as possible. Their importance needs to be reaffirmed at this year’s review conference, and the necessary reforms have to be agreed on and implemented. Only then can CBMs play a more efficient role as part of a larger system for preventing the proliferation, development, and use of biological weapons.


Nicolas Isla is a researcher at the Hamburg Center for Biological Arms Control at Hamburg University and Iris Hunger is the head of the Hamburg Center and the author of Bioweapons Control in a Multipolar World (2005) (in German).


1. Bureau for Verification, Compliance and Implementation, Department of State, “Verification and Compliance With International Prohibitions Relating to Biological Weapons,” November 1, 2005.

2. “In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All: Report of the Secretary-General,” A/59/2005, March 21, 2005.

3. “Second Review Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction: Final Document, Part II, Final Declaration,” BWC/CONF.II/13/II, 1986, p. 6.

4. Ibid.

5. Data is drawn from two studies conducted by the authors. See Iris Hunger, Confidence Building Needs Transparency: A Summary of Data Submitted Under the Bioweapons Convention‘s Confidence Building Measures 1987-2003 (Austin and Hamburg: The Sunshine Project, 2005). Nicolas Isla, “Transparency in Past Offensive Biological Programmes. An Analysis of Confidence Building Measures Form F. 1992-2003,” Occasional Paper No. 1, Hamburg Centre for Biological Arms Control, June 2006.

6. “Fifth Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, Report of the Committee of the Whole,” BWC/CONF.V/COW/1 and Annex 1.

7. In addition, Australia has made available CBMs from 2002, 2004, and 2005. The United Kingdom provided CBMs from 2003 and 2004.


Iraq Strives to Join Chemical Weapons Pact

Paul Kerr

More than three years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Baghdad is apparently making progress in its efforts to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). But the fate of the UN organization charged with dismantling Iraq’s chemical weapons program has yet to be determined.

On May 30, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) provided Iraq with documentation about the country’s past chemical weapons programs in order to help the country accede to the CWC. Countries who wish to accede to the convention are required to provide documentation of any past chemical weapons programs within 30 days after the convention enters into force for that country. Iraq had chemical weapons prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War but later destroyed them and did not revive the program. (See ACT, November 2004.)

Iraq has not yet signed the convention, but in 2004 it declared its intention to do so and accede once a permanent government was in place. The convention prohibits the production and stockpiling of chemical weapons. To advance their efforts, Iraqi officials have been working with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), participating in two implementation training workshops during the past year. The OPCW verifies compliance with the CWC.

After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the UN Security Council tasked the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), which UNMOVIC later succeeded, with verifying and supervising the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles exceeding UN-permitted ranges. As part of its disarmament requirements, Iraq was required to provide the inspectors with complete disclosures of its illicit weapons programs. The United Nations withdrew the inspectors in December 1998, but they returned in November 2002 with Iraq’s consent. (See ACT, December 2002.)

According to a May 30 UNMOVIC report, Samir Al-Sumaida’ie, Iraq’s permanent representative to the Security Council, requested UNMOVIC’s assistance in an April 7 letter to acting Executive Chairman Demetrius Perricos. Al-Sumaida’ie asked the commission to provide Baghdad with the “full, final and complete disclosure” of its chemical weapons program. UNMOVIC did so based on an “updated” version of the declaration, which Iraq had submitted to the United Nations in December 2002.

UNMOVIC Sits Tight

As Iraq seeks to accede to the CWC, it is trying to persuade the Security Council to end UNMOVIC’s role in Iraq. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari stated during a June 15 Security Council meeting that the United Nations should “review” UNMOVIC’s mandate.

Radio Free Europe reported in May that, according to a statement from Iraq’s Foreign Ministry, Baghdad is willing to allow UNMOVIC to “confirm” that Iraq does not have illicit weapons or related programs. Yet, Iraq would not allow the inspectors to work indefinitely, the statement said.

The Security Council, however, appears no closer to determining the commission’s fate.

A UNMOVIC official told Arms Control Today June 20 that some council members have still not resolved their differences over what, if any, role UNMOVIC should play in the future. (See ACT, April 2006.)

The inspectors left Iraq just before the U.S.-led March 2003 invasion and have not since been able to conduct in-country inspections.

Although the council adopted a resolution shortly after the invasion stating its intention to “revisit” UNMOVIC’s mandate, it has not yet done so.

Lingering Uncertainties

The May 30 UNMOVIC report also contains a detailed description of Iraq’s previous chemical weapons program and observes that “a number of issues…remain unresolved.” The report states that although “there is a high degree of confidence” that Iraq’s chemical weapons were destroyed, it is possible that some weapons remain in the country.

The inspectors successfully dismantled the program, but they were not able to account fully for the chemical weapons agents and munitions that Iraq claimed to have produced. This uncertainty resulted from several factors, including the insufficient records provided by the Iraqi regime, the regime’s decision to destroy some of its weapons without the presence of UN inspectors, and the Iraqi military’s inadvertent mixing of chemical munitions with conventional munitions during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. (See ACT, April 2004.)

Charles Duelfer, the special adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), reported in 2005 that Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition forces will likely continue to discover chemical weapons left over from Iraq’s pre-1991 stocks. Such weapons, however, “do not pose a militarily significant threat” because the chemical agents and munitions have degraded, he added. The ISG was the task force charged with coordinating the U.S.-led search for prohibited Iraqi weapons. (See ACT, June 2005.)

A National Ground Intelligence Center report made public June 21 states that coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 munitions containing degraded chemical weapons agents. The report cautions that chemical weapons agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal.

A recently released CIA report notes that terrorists and insurgents had been attempting to acquire or develop chemical weapons agents for use against coalition troops in Iraq. None of these attempts were successful, says the report, which analyzed 2004 data.

Duelfer’s report said that since 2003, coalition forces in Iraq have been attacked twice with chemical weapons. But the report generally downplayed the risk of such attacks.


More than three years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Baghdad is apparently making progress in its efforts to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). But the fate of the UN organization charged with dismantling Iraq’s chemical weapons program has yet to be determined. (Continue)

Unmasking a Culture of Death

Deadly Cultures: Biological Weapons Since 1945. Edited by Mark Wheelis, Lajos Rózsa, and Malcolm Dando, Harvard University Press, 2006, 496 pp.

Jean Pascal Zanders

Deadly Cultures: Biological Weapons Since 1945 is a significant contribution to the understanding of the historic dynamics of biological armament. As such, it complements a 1999 volume involving several of the same authors, which was published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).[1] Taken together, these books sketch human interest in deliberate disease from the Middle Ages until the present. Although the SIPRI volume covered almost a 1,000-year period marked by ignorance about diseases, their causes, and ways of propagation, Deadly Cultures describes the interest in pathogens for hostile purposes after World War II.

Together, the historical perspective of these books shines a new light on current worries over biological weapons. It shows that current concerns are only the latest in a pattern of ebbs and flows in global perceptions about biological weapons. These have often had less to do with scientific or technological advances than changed political perceptions or developments affecting the alternative unconventional weapons: nuclear and chemical arms.

The post-World War II period began with policymakers, scientists, and, to a certain extent, the military ascribing to pathogens a potential for destructiveness on par with the atomic bomb. By the 1970s, however, views about the relative military utility of biological weapons had changed dramatically, enabling the international community to conclude the world’s first disarmament treaty, the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The few strategic or tactical advantages these weapons might have had over other arms, particularly nuclear weapons, evaporated in the light of the persistent scientific, technical, and logistical problems related to the development, production, stockpiling, and use of biological weapons.

A similar process occurred with regard to threat perceptions. After the BWC entered into force in 1975, chemical weapons were increasingly perceived as a greater threat. The situation was reversed following the successful negotiation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in the 1990s. The CWC’s elaborate reporting and inspection system highlighted the BWC’s weak verification and compliance enforcement mechanisms.

Suddenly, biological weapons returned as a major security issue. As with their chemical counterparts two decades earlier, new allegations of treaty violations appeared in the Soviet Union (and later Russia) as well as in Iraq and elsewhere. The threat perceptions were further magnified by a number of mass casualty terrorist incidents, some of which involved attempts at indiscriminate use of chemical and biological agents. The number of victims from bioterrorism and crime was limited, but projections of attacks with smallpox or bioengineered agents justified a major expansion of biodefense programs and nurtured a global biodefense industry. One victim of the process was the BWC. The threat inflation and the resulting institutional interests raised the demands on the verification protocol then being considered in Geneva and ultimately contributed to the collapse of the negotiations. The result is the belief that the treaty can no longer meet growing and increasingly diverse security expectations.

Another major theme evolves around the limitations of intelligence in judging whether a rival is pursuing a biological weapons program and formulating adequate policies to counter the threat. One of the conclusions in the SIPRI volume was that intelligence errors contributed to the setting up of offensive biological weapons programs in several western European countries before World War II. More recently, such judgments have become even more complicated as advanced knowledge, expertise, and application of peaceful biology and biotechnology is spreading to a rapidly growing number of states. The dual-use potential of these technologies raises questions about intent, which is extremely difficult to assess objectively.

Structurally, the book breaks down into three major sections. The first part focuses on national weapons programs of selected states: Canada, France, Iraq, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The second section describes weapon programs involving specific types of agents against crops and animals or those that are supposed to incapacitate rather than kill opponents, as well as assessments of past allegations of use and the terrorist threat. Two chapters on efforts to strengthen the norm against the weaponization of disease make up the final section.

These two final chapters are particularly welcome. A chapter by Marie Isabelle Chevrier on the politics of biological disarmament offers a most useful overview of the genesis of the BWC and the subsequent efforts to strengthen it. Having this historical overview available today is most relevant as the states-parties to the convention prepare to meet for the treaty’s sixth review conference November 20-December 8. Few diplomats and experts today know the origins and factors that have helped to shape today’s diplomatic agenda.

Nicholas Sims next expands on the development of the different types of legal constraints on biological weapons and concludes the chapter with a menu of outstanding issues, including the withdrawal of reservations to the 1925 Geneva protocol prohibiting the use in armed conflict of chemical and biological weapons, the need to strengthen the BWC, and the intriguing question of whether deliberate infestation by insect pests should be considered a use of biological weapons.[2]

The chapters on national armament programs reveal some subthemes. One of them relates to the ethical considerations by the scientists involved in the program, an issue that has assumed a more prominent position in the light of current discussions on codes of conduct for scientists and professionals among academics and BWC states- parties. Scientists appear to balance concerns about working on such weapons with other considerations, such as the notion that war as a whole is far more unethical than work on any particular biological weapons program. They also maintain an intellectual interest in being able to investigate certain questions that otherwise would not have been possible, perhaps because a weapons program would mean more generous funding or the permission to conduct certain types of experimentation.

Given the identity of some the states whose past programs are being analyzed—Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States—it appears that offensive biological weapons research, development, and deployment has not only been the preserve of some “rogue” regimes. Additionally, although Deadly Cultures is essentially a historical volume, it would be equally erroneous to conclude that such values are merely from some distant past.

Another interesting subtheme is the apparent correlation between the start-up of nuclear weapons programs in the 1950s in some NATO countries and the reduced priority placed on biological weapons. With the increasing importance of nuclear weapons in the 1950s, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, formerly three of the players with major, offensive biological armament efforts, abandoned their programs. The United States did likewise in the late 1960s following a major review. Yet, with the exception of the chapter on France, where budget limitations came into play, there is limited discussion of the process in and motivations of these countries.

The period of the mid-1950s, however, also corresponds with the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons. This broke the monopoly of the air forces on the use of nuclear weapons and enabled the armies to assimilate a much more prestigious weapon, which moreover carried a lower ethical and logistical burden at the time. Understanding the dynamics of armament and the processes by which weapons become assimilated into military doctrine has an important bearing on understanding the future threat posed by biological weapons.

What role can they play, which types of constituencies would support their development and operational deployment and why, and under which circumstances would they offer a tangible benefit over other weapon categories? Disarmament, after all, is about the suppression of any function a particular weapon category may have in a nation’s military doctrine. I do not offer this point as criticism of Deadly Cultures but rather as a pointer to possible fresh research areas that will deepen our understanding of the processes that still seem to keep pathogens and toxins as a viable military option in the minds of some people.

Readers familiar with the history of biological warfare will recognize the gist of other accounts of the biological armament programs and the efforts to prohibit the possession and use of these weapons. The chapters, however, move beyond merely adding another little detail to a story already written. The authors have gone to great lengths to base their accounts on primary documents. In some instances, they add new information or insights, in other instances they confirm decisions and developments that had been narrated through informal or secondary sources. All the chapters have been edited to an excellent consistency and are organized in a way that makes its easy for the reader to compare relevant aspects of weapons programs or policies.

Through its balanced approach, Deadly Cultures is more than a welcome contribution to the understanding of biological armament dynamics and politics at a time when too many people have developed a vested interest in inflating the biological threat.

Jean Pascal Zanders is director of the BioWeapons Prevention Project in Geneva, Switzerland. He has published extensively on chemical and biological weapon issues and has edited two books Chemical Weapons Proliferation (1991 - with Eric Remacle) and The 2nd Gulf War and the CBW Threat (1995).

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1. Erhard Geissler and John Ellis van Courtland Moon, eds., “Biological and Toxin Weapons Research, Development and Use From the Middle Ages to 1945,” SIPRI Chemical & Biological Warfare Studies, No. 18 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

2. In the late 1990s, the states-parties to the BWC took up a Cuban allegation that the United States had released Thrips Palmi to destroy crops.


A Review of Deadly Cultures: Biological Weapons Since 1945 edited by Mark Wheelis, Lajos Rózsa, and Malcolm Dando


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