"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
October 2007
Edition Date: 
Monday, October 1, 2007
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Books of Note

Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible
By Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun, John Wiley & Sons, 2007, 308 pp.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times correspondent Stephen Braun and former Washington Post bureau chief Douglas Farah write for a broad audience in this book. Progressing in a roughly chronological manner, they describe the success and methods of Victor Bout, whose arms trafficking network has supplied warlords and rebels in Africa, pro- and anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan, U.S. operations in Iraq, and most recently Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and radical militias in Somalia. The authors suggest that the best chance to capture Bout, using an early form of rendition, passed when a U.S. team assembled toward the end of the Clinton administration began collapsing after the September 11 terrorist attacks and after a British operation failed to find Bout on an airplane landing in Athens in February 2002. In the epilogue, they conclude that “Bout’s empire endures, now an implacable fact of life on the world stage.”

Bioviolence: Preventing Biological Terror and Crime
By Barry Kellman, Cambridge University Press, 2007, 392 pp.

In addressing the threat of a bioweapons attack in the future, Barry Kellman, professor of international law and director of the International Weapons Control Center at DePaul University College of Law, assesses and offers recommendations on a danger he views to be potentially cataclysmic yet largely ignored. Globalization, aided by rapid progress in the biological sciences, has left the world woefully unprepared for such an attack, the consequences of which could extend beyond immediate casualties to include widespread panic and substantial economic damage. To confront the situation, Kellman argues for wide-scale reform in the areas of attack prevention, detection and response, and threat assessment, as well as communications among organizations operating throughout the global system. Despite the considerable tasks ahead, Kellman posits that, by fundamentally altering our perspective on the role of international law in addressing the threat, comprehensive legal reforms can drastically improve our ability to mitigate a significant global danger.

The Creation of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons: A Case Study in the Birth of an Intergovernmental Organization
Edited by Ian R. Kenyon and Daniel Feakes, T.M.C. Asser Press, July 2007, 342 pp.

Written and edited by the Chemical Weapons Convention’s (CWC) diplomatic midwives, this reference work follows the convention’s negotiation and the Preparatory Commission’s work in establishing the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The book illustrates the complexities that arose in turning the CWC’s often vague mandate, constructed out of compromises, into a functioning organization with a staff that is simultaneously competent and geographically diverse. Drawing on the OPCW’s archives and the authors’ personal experiences, the study neglects no detail. It will surely serve as a rich primary source for research on the OPCW in particular and on intergovernmental organizations in the broader sense, as well as offering “lessons learned” to diplomatic practitioners.

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Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible. By Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun, John Wiley & Sons, 2007, 308 pp.

Bioviolence: Preventing Biological Terror and Crime. By Barry Kellman, Cambridge University Press, 2007, 392 pp.

The Creation of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons: A Case Study in the Birth of an Intergovernmental Organization. Edited by Ian R. Kenyon and Daniel Feakes, T.M.C. Asser Press, July 2007, 342 pp.

Congress, Pentagon Probe Nuke Overflight

Zachary Hosford

The transfer of six nuclear warheads aboard a strategic U.S. bomber Aug. 30 has prompted a Pentagon internal investigation and congressional legislation requiring a review of U.S. nuclear custody policies.

Citing Department of Defense policy, Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell declined to reveal whether or not the situation did in fact involve nuclear weapons, stating only that there was an “incident” regarding the routine transfer of munitions. He confirmed, however, that the event was significant enough to warrant the notification of President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the latter of whom requested that he be kept apprised of the matter.

The transport of nuclear weapons on combat aircraft does not violate any international treaties to which the United States is party, but safety concerns following a series of accidents during the Cold War involving nuclear weapon-equipped bombers did prompt the government to prohibit such flights in 1968. The United States continues to transfer nuclear weapons aboard military cargo aircraft as well as on ground transportation using public routes.

News reports indicate that a B-52 Stratofortress flew from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, after having been loaded with the nuclear air-launched cruise missiles. Apparently, military personnel inadvertently attached the nuclear version of the AGM-129A Advanced Cruise Missile to the bomber before it departed on its approximately 2,500-kilometer cross-country journey.

According to the Air Force, airmen discovered the error during internal checks, although not until hours after the warheads had been removed from their storage bunker. Consequently, a munitions squadron commander was relieved of his duties, and additional airmen were “temporarily decertified to perform their duties involving munitions,” according to Lt. Col. Edward Thomas, an Air Force spokesperson.

The Air Force also announced that it had launched an investigation into the incident, in part “to identify any appropriate corrective actions” beyond the aforementioned personnel changes. Additionally, Air Combat Command, the Air Force authority in control of the two involved bomb wings, directed a “command-wide stand down” to review its processes at all of its bases to protect against a repeat occurrence.

Lawmakers responded to the incident as well. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) won approval for an amendment to the fiscal year 2008 Senate defense appropriations bill requiring a “top to bottom review of policies and procedures for controlling custody of, and securing, U.S. nuclear weapons.”

The amendment calls for an evaluation of Defense Department and Department of Energy practices to “monitor and control all aspects of the nation’s nuclear weapons.” It further stipulates that the review, which would culminate with the submission to Congress of a classified report on its findings, be completed within 90 days.

The Senate defense appropriations committee approved the bill Sept. 12, and it has since moved to the full Senate for consideration. The House passed its appropriations bill Aug. 5 without a provision on nuclear custody policies. For the legislation to become law, differences between the Senate bill and the House-passed version must be reconciled in a conference committee.

U.S. Pledges Cuts in Plutonium Stockpile

Miles A. Pomper

Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman announced Sept. 17 that the United States would remove an amount of plutonium from its nuclear weapons stockpile sufficient to make at least 1,000 nuclear weapons, likely surpassing a 2000 U.S.-Russian agreement that called for the two Cold War superpowers to shrink the military stocks of this fissile material. A day before, U.S. officials won the support of 11 additional countries for a controversial program that they claim will both reduce nuclear waste and decrease nuclear weapons proliferation.

Excess Plutonium To Become Fuel

Speaking Sept. 17 in Vienna before the International Atomic Energy Agency general conference, Bodman announced that the United States would remove nine metric tons of plutonium in the coming decades from retired, dismantled nuclear warheads. The material would be combined with depleted uranium to form mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for nuclear reactors in a plant under construction at Savannah River, South Carolina.

The plutonium would be added to a 52.5-metric-ton stockpile of weapons plutonium that the United States declared as excess in 1994. Not all of the existing stockpile comes from the pits of nuclear weapons, nor is all of it sufficiently pure to be made into MOX fuel.

With the announcement, the United States would still retain 38 metric tons of military plutonium, potentially enough for nearly 10,000 nuclear weapons, about the current size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The Bush administration has pledged that this arsenal would be cut almost in half by 2012. (See ACT, July/August 2002. ) It takes between four and eight kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium to make a modern nuclear weapon.

Depending on the purity of the new and previously declared material, Department of Energy officials said, the United States is likely to be able to have ready for disposal sufficient plutonium to well surpass the terms of the 2000 agreement under which the United States and Russia each agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium.

“The 9 tons will be likely be in addition to the 34 metric tons,” William Tobey, deputy administrator for nuclear nonproliferation at the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, told Global Security Newswire Sept. 19.

The Bush administration had pushed construction of the Savannah River facility as its means of meeting that goal. Yet, funding has only trickled out for years as some lawmakers, particularly in the House of Representatives, have said other strategies should be employed because of the project’s costs, safety concerns, potential proliferation risks, and the failure of Russia to move forward on its end of the deal. (See ACT, April 2007. )

Moreover, much of the plutonium to be turned into MOX fuel at Savannah River is likely to come from the pits of the nuclear weapons, but the United States does not yet have a large-scale capability to dismantle plutonium pits (see above article).

GNEP Grows, but Direction Unclear

The day before his announcement, Bodman shepherded a Vienna meeting of the U.S.-led Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). U.S. officials won additional support for the program, but the outcome raised questions about whether GNEP was conforming to one of its stated rationales.

The Bush administration launched GNEP in February 2006, portraying it in part as a practical means of reinforcing President George W. Bush’s call two years earlier to halt the spread of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing facilities to new countries. Such facilities can provide fuel for nuclear power or fissile material (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) for nuclear weapons.

The effort has been gaining new adherents abroad. Ministers from the initial members of the partnership—China, France, Japan, Russia, and the United States—met Sept. 16 in Vienna for their second high-level meeting. They were joined by representatives from 11 other countries who signed the partnership’s nonbinding statement of principles that day. The new partnership states are Australia, Bulgaria, Ghana, Hungary, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine. The ministers also established two lower-level working groups for implementing the partnership. 

Yet, the signature of principles signed by the members says that participating states “would not give up any rights,” implicitly referring to rights under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty for peaceful cooperation in nuclear energy. Many countries say such rights include the right for all countries to have enrichment and reprocessing capabilities. Australia, which has the world’s largest reserves of uranium, has indicated its interest in developing enrichment facilities. So have several other states that sent observers to the meeting, including Argentina and Canada.

South Africa, however, announced Sept. 18 that it would not participate in GNEP, saying that, despite the new language in the statement of principles, it feared that the partnership’s push to renounce fuel capabilities would dash its hopes of enriching its own fuel for nuclear reactors from domestically mined uranium. South Africa had previously developed an enrichment capability as part of its nuclear weapons program but shuttered it when the weapons program ended in 1994.

“We were concerned that some aspects of the GNEP declaration would conflict with our national policy,” Buyelwa Sonjica, the country’s minerals and energy minister, told reporters in Vienna Sept. 18.

“It is a sovereignty issue, to deal with our own nuclear fuel reserves and fuel supply,” Tseliso Maqubela, the ministry’s nuclear program director, told reporters the same day. Nonetheless, Maqubela said that South Africa is seeking foreign partners for its enrichment efforts. “We would prefer to do it with partners,” Maqubela said. “The timeline that we have is going to depend on how much progress we have in attracting partners.”

In Washington, Congress is poised to slash the administration’s funding request for GNEP for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, and lawmakers are raising fundamental questions about the program’s direction. Both the House of Representatives and a Senate committee have slashed funding for the program and hampered the administration’s goal of advancing it beyond the research and development stage.

The administration had requested $395 million for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, which underpins the GNEP program, and an additional $10 million to fund GNEP as a nonproliferation effort. But the House would only provide $120 million in its version of spending legislation for fiscal year 2008, while the Senate would provide $242 million.

The House has been particularly critical of the program. In its June report, the House Appropriations Committee said it “does not support the Department’s rushed, poorly-defined, expansive, and expensive [GNEP] proposal, particularly the administration’s intention to move quickly to commercial-scale reprocessing facilities.” Both the House and the Senate reports called for the administration to focus instead on research. The House panel also said that the nonproliferation aspects of GNEP are “unpersuasive and largely contradictory.”

U.S. Nuke Dismantlement: Modest Uptick

Wade Boese

The United States this June slightly lifted the shroud of secrecy covering its nuclear warhead dismantlement activities, claiming at least a 50 percent increase over its 2006 rate. Although the announcement elicited general praise, the amount of warheads dismantled annually remains unknown and is apparently significantly less than a decade ago, leading some lawmakers to press the Bush administration to do more such work.

Thomas D’Agostino, then-acting administrator of the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), told the House appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development last March that the United States has dismantled “more than 13,000 warheads since 1988.” On Aug. 30, D’Agostino was sworn in as the administrator of the NNSA, which manages the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

The Energy Department provided dismantlement details up until 1999 when the government decided that such information might give U.S. foes too much insight into the composition and size of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. That data reveals that the United States dismantled approximately 13,500 warheads between 1988 and 1999.

Citing anonymous congressional and administration sources, The Washington Post reported in May 2006 that “in recent years” the United States had annually disassembled “fewer than 100 warheads.” In a Sept. 19 interview with Arms Control Today, an NNSA spokesperson declined to comment on that article’s accuracy, citing the fact that dismantlement information is classified. Commenting on the NNSA’s recent announcement, however, a congressional staff member familiar with the issue told Arms Control Today Sept. 12 that “a 50 percent [increase] for a number that is already small is not a great claim to fame.”

Still, two other informed congressional aides interviewed in September by Arms Control Today commended the NNSA for recently making dismantlement a higher priority. Earlier this year, the NNSA declared it would accelerate the dismantlement of all currently retired warheads and those slated for future retirement in order to complete the elimination process by 2023 instead of 2034, as it had projected earlier.

The revamped dismantlement schedule includes the warheads that the Bush administration intends to retire under a June 2004 plan to cut the approximately 10,000-warhead stockpile almost in half by 2012. (See ACT, July/August 2004. ) Decisions by future administrations to cut or retain additional warheads from the stockpile—warheads that are classified as active or inactive but not those that are retired—could alter the schedule.

The congressional staffers say warhead dismantlement is important because it signals to the world that the United States is committed to reducing its nuclear weapons while it seeks to limit the global spread of nuclear arms. An advisory board to the secretary of energy also emphasized in a July 2005 report that dismantlement reduces the risk of nuclear accidents and terrorist theft.

Ambassador Linton Brooks, who was D’Agostino’s predecessor as head of the NNSA between July 2002 and January 2007, cautioned in a Sept. 17 interview with Arms Control Today that although safety is one motivation for dismantlement, that does not suggest that retired warheads are “unsafe.” He said that taking apart retired warheads is the “most sensible thing to do” because they are no longer needed.

Brooks’ tenure overlapped with the reduced dismantlement rate of the past several years. Brooks attributed the slower pace in part to more stringent security and safety procedures at Pantex, the sole U.S. facility that carries out dismantlement work. “Striking the right line between safety and paralysis is very hard,” he said.

The warhead type being disassembled can also affect the speed of dismantlement. Pantex, located near Amarillo, Texas, reports that it may need “a few days to a few weeks” to take apart a warhead. Brooks noted, “[E]ase of disassembly was not an important design consideration during the Cold War.” The United States last assembled a new warhead in 1990.

Pantex also is where the United States conducts its surveillance and life-extension programs for stockpile warheads. At a Jan. 25, 2006, Washington event, Brooks stated that given the limited capacity of Pantex, he prioritized stockpile program activities and used dismantlement to “fill in the peaks and valleys…in order to keep a steady workload there.” Ultimately, Brooks contended in September, “within constrained resources, we did it right.”

Not everyone, including Brooks’ former boss, shares that assessment. Testifying March 6 to the House panel on energy and water development, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said that management of warhead dismantlement had been “very weak” and that the pace of disassembly had “fallen down.” The three congressional staffers also said the priority previously assigned dismantlement had been insufficient but that it is now improving.

The NNSA spokesperson asserted that the “primary reason” behind the announced 50 percent dismantlement jump was “increased attention and focus…since 2004.” That effort, according to a June 7 NNSA press release, involved “dramatic improvements in procedures, tools, and policies.”

The congressional staffers contend that pressure from U.S. lawmakers played a critical role in compelling the NNSA to devote more attention and resources to dismantlement. Since 2000, the NNSA reports that $387.5 million has been spent on dismantlement, but some of that total resulted from Congress increasing funding beyond the administration’s original budget requests.

Some lawmakers are again seeking to remedy what they perceive as the administration’s shortchanging of dismantlement in the latest budget request for fiscal year 2008, which begins Oct. 1. In February, the administration asked Congress for $6.5 billion in total nuclear weapons spending, of which $52 million is allocated for dismantlement. (See ACT, March 2007. )

The House in July passed an energy and water appropriations bill that included a $30 million net increase for dismantlement activities. Some legislators have suggested that the additional funds could be used to expand disassembly work to the Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada nuclear test site. That facility previously has not been used for dismantlement.

The Senate has yet to pass its version of the energy and water bill, but the committee with initial responsibility for the measure did not augment dismantlement funding. Legislators from the two chambers will need to reconcile any differences between their separate bills before sending a final act to the president.

Both bills currently match the administration’s requested $91 million for building a pit disassembly and conversion facility at Savannah River, South Carolina. A pit is the core component of a nuclear warhead that contains the plutonium that powers the nuclear explosion. The United States has no large-scale capability to disassemble the pits themselves, so they are stored in underground bunkers at Pantex. The Clinton administration envisioned the pit facility, which would turn plutonium metal into oxide for use as reactor fuel or for long-term waste storage, to be operating by 2006, but construction has not started.

Meanwhile, the NNSA “plans to maintain a robust pace of dismantlements,” its spokesperson said. Pantex is currently taking apart W62 warheads that previously armed Minuteman III ICBMs and two models of the B61 gravity bomb. Next in line, according to the spokesperson, will be B83 gravity bombs and W80 warheads that used to outfit submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Reported Incidents of Trafficking Up in 2006

Peter Crail

In 2006, 150 incidents of unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radiological materials were reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Of these incidents, 14 involved unauthorized possession and related criminal activities, including attempts to sell such materials on the black market. Other incidents entailed thefts, losses, misrouted material, and other unauthorized activities.

The reported incidents were included in the 2007 update of the IAEA’s Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB), which was released Sept. 11. The ITDB is a collection of information regarding incidents of illicit trafficking and unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials provided or confirmed by states. There are currently 96 states participating in the ITDB program.

The ITDB notes that the number of reported incidents of theft or loss “increased significantly” in 2006. It explains, however, that this increase “reflects improvements in reporting procedures rather than an actual increase in reported incidents.” The majority of the reported incidents involved sealed industrial radioactive sources, but there were some reported incidents involving small quantities of nuclear materials, including natural uranium, depleted uranium, and thorium. Two incidents involved highly enriched uranium (HEU), which at sufficient enrichment levels can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons. German authorities reported in March 2006 that trace amounts of HEU were detected on scrap metal entering a steel mill. A more alarming incident was reported by Georgia in February 2006 in which individuals were arrested attempting to sell nearly 80 grams of 89 percent-enriched HEU. Uranium enriched to 90 percent and higher is considered weapons-grade. The IAEA says that 25 kilograms of HEU is sufficient for a nuclear weapon, while others estimate that as little as half that amount is needed.

Since 2000, no incidents have been reported involving plutonium, the other fissile material commonly used in nuclear weapons.

The report also indicated that about 27 percent of the 275 reported incidents to date involving unauthorized possession and related criminal activities occurred in 1993-1994 and thereafter reported incidents averaged about 16 each year. The 14 reported for 2006 falls just below this average. A total of 1,080 incidents have been reported to the agency between 1993 and 2006.

Experts Seek Measures to Control Bioweapons

Oliver Meier

The first of a series of meetings in preparation for the 2011 review conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) produced no concrete results but was hailed by participants for its positive atmosphere. Experts and diplomats from 90 BWC states-parties as well as representatives from a range of international organizations met in Geneva Aug. 20-24 to discuss ways and means to enhance national implementation of the biological weapons prohibition, including law enforcement, and measures to improve regional and subregional cooperation on BWC implementation.

The meeting was the first in a series of intersessional gatherings agreed to at the last review conference in 2006. (See ACT, January/February 2007. ) It took place against the background of lingering differences about how much attention to spend on the threat from bioterrorism. It also remains unclear whether a follow-up meeting of BWC states-parties in December will be able to decide on specific measures to improve implementation of the biological weapons ban.

Differences on Bioterrorism

National implementation measures, which include laws, administrative procedures, and regulations to bring domestic laws into conformity with BWC obligations, had already been discussed at a similar conference in 2003, and many delegations effectively rehashed their statements.

In the background, however, divisions between participants about the relative importance of discussions on the threat from bioterrorism lingered. Some states-parties are concerned that bioterrorism, an issue high on the U.S. agenda, receives too much consideration. They emphasize that other issues could be neglected, such as state-sponsored biological weapons activities and scientific developments that could lead to the development of novel biological warfare agents.

German expert and delegation member Volker Beck told Arms Control Today Sept. 13 that “states-parties should take care that discussions on bioterrorism do not gain too much weight” at the December 2007 meeting nor during the general intersessional process. Beck argued that tackling the threat from bioterrorism is only one element of BWC implementation and that state-sponsored biological weapons activities must also receive adequate attention, especially considering rapid developments in the life sciences that might be misused for hostile purposes. “The balance must be right,” he cautioned. Beck pointed out as an example that although improving the enforcement of national legislation, an issue highlighted by the U.S. delegation, is an important goal, a number of states do not even have appropriate legislation in place.

Others disagree. “Bioterrorism is an important subject but that doesn’t mean that, in the context of national implementation, people are losing sight of other issues, particularly scientific developments of relevance to the BWC,” Pakistani ambassador Masood Khan, who chaired the meeting, told Arms Control Today in an interview Sept. 17.

Fears that the danger from bioterrorism is being exaggerated also lingered when experts discussed a proposal from the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (ODA) to create a bioincident database under its auspices. Some experts questioned the ODA’s intention to include biological weapons hoaxes in the database, apparently suspecting a ploy to increase resources devoted to the effort. It also remains unclear how the ODA intends to deal with a 2006 UN General Assembly resolution requiring that the database complement a similar effort by Interpol that is designed to compile a list of “biocrimes.”

Launch of the Implementation Support Unit

On Aug. 20, BWC states-parties celebrated the official launch of the Implementation Support Unit (ISU), a BWC mini-secretariat with a staff of three agreed on at the sixth review conference. Its administrative tasks include serving as a clearinghouse on a range of BWC-related activities.

Of particular relevance to the 2007 BWC meetings is the ISU’s responsibility to coordinate efforts to assist states-parties in meeting national implementation obligations. It has already compiled a database of laws and regulations passed by member states. ISU head Richard Lennane told Arms Control Today Sept. 14 that he has received several offers, but only a few preliminary inquiries of governments about such help.

In a Sept. 17 interview with Arms Control Today, Khan appealed for patience. “The issue needs to be sorted out through dialogue,” he stated. “Concerned states-parties should have a clear idea what kind of assistance they require. Diplomats and experts are sensitized to the idea, but now we have to take the next steps to negotiate a transition from the realization of the desirability of assistance to spelling out practical steps.”

Confidence-Building Measures Lack Transparency

The ISU is now the central repository for the so-called confidence-building measures (CBMs), an annual information exchange on biological weapons-relevant activities agreed on by states-parties in 1986. During the meeting of experts, the ISU announced that, in 2007, 58 states-parties had fulfilled their political obligation to submit a declaration. This rate of participation marks an all-time high.

All declarations received are supposed to be posted on a secure section of the ISU website accessible only to governments. However, four states have not yet given permission to have their CBMs distributed via the ISU site. Lennane hopes that the situation is “only temporary” and will be resolved when states’ concerns about the security of the ISU site have been addressed. The ISU also intends to post all declarations that states have made public on its open website but has decided to delay publication of the latest CBMs until problems with the secure website have been sorted out.

Progress on Universality

At the sixth review conference, states-parties had agreed that the chair of meetings of experts would also be in charge of coordinating activities to foster universalization. On the last day of the August meeting, Khan reported that four states-parties (Gabon, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, and Trinidad and Tobago) had acceded to BWC in 2007, bringing the number of states-parties to 159. Khan also told the meeting that, in responses to letters to non-states-parties, Mozambique had informed him its accession is advanced. An Israeli official had replied that Israel shared the view that “the threat of biological warfare is indeed an ominous one” but that “regional circumstances…cannot be overlooked by Israel upon any consideration of the issue of possible accession to the BWC.”

The ISU is also supporting universalization efforts, for example, by encouraging non-states-parties to provide information about national points of contact for biological weapons control. Such information, including the state of affairs regarding accession, is posted on the secure section of the ISU website so that BWC states-parties can get in touch with non-states-parties and lobby for accession to the biological weapons ban.

States-Parties Meet in December

The report from the meeting of experts includes a compilation of proposals, and Khan may also issue a separate synthesis of discussions in preparation for the Dec. 10-14 meeting of states-parties. It will be up to that conference to take concrete action on issues discussed at the meeting of experts. Khan, who will also chair the December meeting, is cautiously optimistic that it might be possible to move beyond what was possible during the intersessional process preceding the previous BWC review conference.

“States-parties are their own masters, and if they decide to do so, we can see what we can achieve,” Khan said. “Can we make the whole exercise more focused? And if states-parties produce a paper, would it have any operative part? That we have to look into. But at the meeting of experts, there was a realization that we can move forward and that while the last intersessional process [was] a good model, we need not be constrained by it.”

One idea that might be developed in December is an implementation checklist for national legislation. Such a checklist is already used by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and was seen by many delegations as having advantages when compared to the development of one-size-fits-all model legislation. Khan tends to agree. “Most states-parties showed interest in this area, and I think it will be taken up again in December. This is a good idea. If we have a clear-cut implementation checklist, we will be able to measure our progress; and successes in one country can be replicated in another country, of course after tailoring them to the specific requirements of that country,” he told Arms Control Today.

The ISU’s Lennane concurs. He hopes that even though past meetings of states-parties during the 2003-2005 intersessional process were not able to draft specific recommendations, the next meeting of states-parties “may be prepared to take the next step.” One of Lennane’s suggestions is that the meeting could call on regional organizations to incorporate recommendations related to national implementation into their work.

Khan points out that, “in the past, such cooperation on regional and subregional cooperation has been focused on such issues as universalization. At the meeting of experts, there was a realization that now you also need to use these mechanisms as building blocks for more cooperation, for an understanding of different phenomena, and for widening the networks, which can help states-parties to implement the BWC in a more effective manner.”

Negotiations Elude Disarmament Body Again

Wade Boese

Despite its claim to be the “single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community,” the 65-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) recently concluded its ninth consecutive year without any treaty negotiations. A majority of members failed to persuade China, Iran, and Pakistan to support the latest proposal to revive work at the moribund conference, but many pledged to continue their efforts next year.

Since completing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, conference members, particularly the United States and China, have clashed over negotiating priorities. Washington, Tokyo, and European capitals back the conclusion of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) to end the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons purposes. The Geneva-based conference briefly held FMCT negotiations in 1998, but they did not produce any results, and the talks did not carry over to the following year.

Beijing and Moscow, in contrast, support negotiating a new agreement on restricting future weapons deployments in outer space, while non-nuclear-weapon states lobby for action on nuclear disarmament and assurances that they will not be attacked with nuclear arms.

After 1998, members have debated various compromises to satisfy all of the competing demands. None has won the consensus required to officially start work.

Members this year focused on a March 23 initiative as the best hope to end the negotiating dry spell. That proposal calls for FMCT negotiations and less formal talks on outer space, nuclear disarmament, and assurances for states without nuclear weapons. (See ACT, April 2007. )

Many countries quickly threw their support to the package or, like France and the United States, signaled they would not block it. Russia postponed until next year submission of a draft treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, reportedly to avoid bogging down deliberations over the March initiative.

Still, some states raised reservations or objections to the March proposal. A few of those countries, such as India, eventually and grudgingly accepted the package; but China, Iran, and Pakistan could not be swayed before the 2007 conference’s Sept. 14 close.

China, as well as Iran, contends the package does not ensure enough “substantive” work on issues other than an FMCT. Although Beijing in August 2003 dropped its insistence on outer space negotiations, it apparently wants reassurance that consenting to outer space discussions under the current proposal would not foreclose the possibility of future negotiations.

Some Western officials familiar with the conference speculate that Beijing is using the outer space issue to avoid FMCT negotiations. China is the only recognized nuclear-weapon state—the other four are France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—that has not publicly declared a moratorium on fissile material production for weapons. A senior U.S. official Sept. 20 told Arms Control Today that “if China decides negotiations on an FMCT are in its interests, Iran and Pakistan may reevaluate their position.”

Several CD diplomats interviewed in September by Arms Control Today, however, suggested that Pakistan presents the biggest hurdle to future adoption of the March package. Masood Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to the conference, said in a Sept. 13 speech that the four core issues should receive “equal and balanced treatment.” That position is unacceptable to several countries, particularly France and the United States.

Islamabad also charges that the fissile material treaty part of the package is inadequate. The proposal states that FMCT negotiations should be conducted “without any preconditions.”

Pakistan maintains that a prescribed goal of any fissile material treaty negotiations should be an accord that is verifiable, an objective initially endorsed by the entire conference in 1995 but rejected by the Bush administration in 2004. (See ACT, September 2004. ) Administration officials say governments would waste money and time on creating verification measures that ultimately would burden lawful states and fail to deter cheaters.

The U.S. position has little support, yet most CD members, unlike Pakistan, have relented on proclaiming “verifiability” as a fixed goal of negotiations to accommodate the United States. The senior U.S. official said that Washington understands that not all governments accept the U.S. position at “face value” and therefore it is “prepared to make [its] case in the course of negotiations if others should propose a [verification] regime.” 

Pakistan also wants a fissile material treaty negotiation mandate to explicitly note that countries may explore measures on existing stockpiles of fissile material instead of focusing narrowly on halting fissile material production for weapons. Pakistan has long favored such an approach because it does not want a future FMCT to have the effect of freezing existing fissile material imbalances between it and India.

Indeed, Islamabad is pointing to a two-year-old Bush administration initiative to increase U.S. and global civilian nuclear trade with New Delhi as jeopardizing Pakistani security and justifying its hard-lines on a fissile material treaty. Pakistan’s National Command Authority, which includes President General Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan’s foreign affairs and defense ministers, warned in an Aug. 2 press release that the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation deal would “enable India to produce significant quantities of fissile material and nuclear weapons.”

Washington contends the deal is solely about aiding India’s nuclear energy growth, while critics charge it also will benefit India’s military complex by enabling New Delhi to devote more of its limited domestic resources to building nuclear bombs. (See ACT, September 2007. ) Islamabad argues that it should have been offered a similar arrangement.

Despite the stiff resistance of Pakistan to the March proposal, the CD diplomats interviewed by Arms Control Today see it as the likely starting point for discussions when the conference reconvenes Jan. 21, 2008. Sergio Duarte, the UN high representative for disarmament affairs, exhorted the conference Aug. 21 that it “stands tantalizingly one short step away from resolving its long-standing impasse.”

Some ambassadors ending their tenures at the conference used farewell speeches to express their frustration with the conference’s failure to move sooner. Speaking Aug. 16, departing Canadian Ambassador Paul Meyer argued that “[i]f the CD was a business, it would have been declared insolvent long ago and shut down,” while Italian Ambassador Carlo Trezza lamented Sept. 13 that conference diplomacy amounted to “negotiation on negotiations.”

Swedish Ambassador Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier complained sharply Aug. 30 of witnessing “an anemic stalemate with delegations resorting to recitals of ceremonious mantras, covering up the traces of their own passivity by useless finger-pointing and blame games, hiding behind the commas of the rules of procedure and shamelessly abusing the consensus rule to abort any attempt to seriously tackle difficult or sensitive issues.” Nonetheless, she concluded by saying that she left the conference “with hope and expectations.”

Then-Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Stephen Rademaker implied last year to the conference that if it did not initiate FMCT negotiations soon, the United States would reconsider its CD participation. The senior U.S. official declined to say if the United States would scale back its presence next year, simply saying that “Americans believe in results, not endless process games.” The United States is scheduled to be one of six countries to occupy the body’s rotating presidency next year.

Russia Offers to Jump-Start IAEA Fuel Bank

Miles A. Pomper

A senior Russian official made an offer Sept. 18 that could help establish an international fuel bank under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s nuclear agency, also announced several other initiatives in September aimed at furthering Russia’s nuclear industry.

Kiriyenko told the IAEA General Conference that Russia planned to put under IAEA control a reserve of $300 million worth of low enriched uranium (LEU). Such a reserve would be sufficient for two reactor loads of LEU, the fuel for most modern power reactors. The fuel would be stored at a multinational uranium-enrichment facility Russia is establishing in the Siberian city of Angarsk.

“We should carry out the preparatory work required for the IAEA Director-General to propose to the IAEA Board of Governors that they consider Russia’s plans for establishing guaranteed nuclear fuel reserves in the first half of 2008,” Kiriyenko said.

Such a donation would jump-start an effort by IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei and the private Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) to establish a fuel bank that could guarantee that states without fuel-making facilities can turn to the international body if their supplies are cut off for reasons other than commercial disputes or nonproliferation violations. Last year, U.S. billionaire Warren Buffet offered to donate $50 million through the NTI to establish an LEU stockpile owned and managed by the IAEA under two conditions: that, within two years, one or several IAEA member states contributed an additional $100 million and that the agency took the necessary steps to establish it. (See ACT, November 2006. )

ElBaradei, the United States, and other nuclear fuel producers have urged the creation of such a facility because many of the facilities used to produce nuclear fuel can also provide the fissile material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) used in nuclear weapons. ElBaradei issued a report to the IAEA board on the subject in June proposing several options. Meanwhile, Congress is considering appropriating $50 million dollars for the establishment of such a fuel bank. (See ACT, July/August 2007. )

In another step that should make it easier for the Angarsk project to advance, the Russian Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, Sept. 14 approved an additional protocol to Russia’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA. Once ratified by President Vladimir Putin, the protocol would grant the agency wider powers in Russia. With nuclear-weapon states such as Russia, however, such protocols are largely symbolic because safeguards are primarily intended to guard against the misuse of nuclear fuel and technology for weapons.

Russia also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Australia Sept. 7 that could provide it with additional uranium for nuclear power programs. Australia has the world’s largest reserves of uranium and has already signed a controversial supply deal last year with China. Moreover, Canberra indicated earlier this year that it would be willing to conclude such a negotiation with India if certain conditions were met. (See ACT, May 2006 and September 2007 .)

Kiriyenko said Russia is ready to process 4,000 tons of Australian uranium a year. Putin said Russia has “a sufficient” and even “excessive supply of weapons-grade uranium, but plans to build 30 nuclear power stations in the next 15 years and needs…Australian uranium to ensure their operation.”

Report: No Progress on Missile Defense, Nukes

Wade Boese

Russian and U.S. officials in September meetings failed to resolve disputes over measures to succeed an expiring nuclear arms reduction treaty or U.S. plans to base anti-missile systems in Europe. The two sides vowed to continue meeting.

Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, led a U.S. team to Rome Sept. 10-11 to meet with Russian experts headed by Anatoly Antonov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Security and Disarmament. The two sides continued discussions over their earlier proposals on follow-on arrangements to the 1991 START agreement, which is scheduled to expire Dec. 5, 2009.

START required the two countries to cut their deployed strategic nuclear forces of more than 10,000 warheads apiece to 6,000 or less each. It also established an extensive verification regime that the two governments still employ to conduct inspections and exchange data on each other’s nuclear forces.

Without that regime, the U.S. intelligence community warns it would not be able to confidently assess Russia’s future compliance with the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which obligates each country to reduce its operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to less than 2,200 warheads by the end of 2012. In a July 2007 report to Congress, DeSutter’s office noted that the U.S. total as of Dec. 31, 2006, was 3,696 warheads. That unclassified report also stated that a secret version had an “estimated” tally for Russian holdings.

The Bush administration has maintained that intrusive verification measures or arms limits are unnecessary for what it claims is an improving relationship with Russia. In Rome, Antonov and his delegation did not persuade the U.S. side to agree to the Russian alternative: negotiating a post-START accord that mandates new warhead and delivery vehicle caps.

Russian experts headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak similarly failed Sept. 10 in Paris to convince U.S. experts to shelve plans to deploy 10 missile interceptors and an associated radar to Europe. John Rood, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, led the U.S. delegation.

Moscow contends Washington is exaggerating the Iranian missile threat and has volunteered to share data from the Russian-leased Gabala radar in Azerbaijan to jointly assess the threat. The Kremlin, which asserts the proposed U.S. anti-missile systems are actually directed against it, says its offer is off the table if the United States proceeds with its current plans.

On Sept. 18, Brigadier General Patrick O’Reilly, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), visited the Gabala radar to assess its capabilities. MDA spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today Sept. 24 that the MDA is still putting together a report on the visit but, from a U.S. technical standpoint, the Gabala radar “cannot replace an X-band radar, but it could be an adjunct radar.”

An X-band radar is what the United States is proposing to deploy in the Czech Republic to provide tracking details to missile interceptors so they can seek out the correct target in space. The Gabala radar would not be able to provide such precise tracking, but it could help cue the Czech Republic-based X-band radar by directing where it should look for the target. Russia does not support cooperating in such a fashion.

U.S. and Russian experts are expected to meet again on missile defense before an Oct. 12 Moscow meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and their Russian counterparts. The quartet is expected to delve into missile defense and post-START arrangements.

Russian and U.S. officials in September meetings failed to resolve disputes over measures to succeed an expiring nuclear arms reduction treaty or U.S. plans to base anti-missile systems in Europe. The two sides vowed to continue meeting. (Continue)

U.S., Australia Reach Defense Trade Pact

Daniel Arnaudo

President George W. Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard signed a defense trade cooperation treaty (DTCT) Sept. 5. Although the text of the treaty is still being negotiated, it shares the same name as the treaty Bush signed in July with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and submitted to the Senate on Sept. 20. (See ACT, September 2007.)

Like its British counterpart, the DTCT will create an “approved community” of defense contractors that will be preapproved by the U.S. and Australian governments and thereafter not required to obtain export licenses. In a Sept. 5 press conference in Sydney, Dan Price, U.S. deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, said, “Under the implementing arrangements that are contemplated by the treaty, our industries will move from the licensing regime under the U.S. International Traffic in Arms regulations to the more streamlined procedures that will be set forth in these implementing arrangements…. The bottom line of this treaty: better cooperation between our militaries and opportunities for our defense industries to work more closely together.”

The treaty would exempt nearly all “defense articles, including equipment, spare parts, services and related technical data” from licensing, according to a Sept. 5 Australian government press release. Retransfer of articles within the community would not require further approval, but transferring articles to third parties will require a license either from the U.S. or Australian government.

U.S. and Australian officials say the treaty would reduce wait times for licenses and improve communications between the two countries. At a Sept. 4 joint press conference with Bush, Howard said the treaty would “remove layers of bureaucracy for defense industries in Australia acquiring American technology, and we’ll enter that market on the same basis as do companies coming from the United Kingdom.” According to the Department of State, the United States approved 2,361 export licenses to Australia in 2006.

The Bush administration expects the Senate to ratify the British DTCT first, but a State Department official said that the goal was to have the Australian DTCT ratified by the end of the year as well. The Australian administration will have to submit the treaty to its parliament for approval, which would then make the document public under Australian law.

The treaty was announced with little consultation with the Senate, which has sole responsibility in Congress for ratifying treaties. One aide said that the Senate was only informed of the Australian-U.S. pact and the earlier British-U.S. trade cooperation treaty from the press and received no prior notification from the administration. In public comments, senators and their staff have said they will not pass judgment until the treaties are formally submitted, but past attempts to amend the Arms Control Export Act failed in 2004.


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