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January 19, 2011
December 2007
Edition Date: 
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Books of Note

Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons. By Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, Walker & Co., 2007, 608 pp.

Twilight War: The Folly of U.S. Space Dominance. By Mike Moore, The Independent Institute, 2007, 416 pp.

Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War. By Bob Drogin, Random House, 2007, 343 pp.

Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons
By Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, Walker & Co., 2007, 608 pp.

The authors of Deception, British journalists with experience reporting in South Asia, add to the growing literature on Abdul Qadeer Khan, the self-styled father of the Pakistani bomb and subsequent nuclear black-market magnate. Levy and Scott- Clark present fresh autobiographical insight into Khan’s persona, even drawing on interviews with his former therapist, who diagnoses a “Hitler complex.” Much of the book is dedicated to the impact that Khan’s acquisition and later distribution of nuclear weapons material had outside Pakistan, particularly in precipitating vicious disputes within the U.S. government. Contrary to the theories of some other Khan watchers, the duo’s research leads them to the assumption that the Pakistani military as an institution willingly facilitated Khan’s proliferation activities. The book concludes that, in ignoring Pakistan’s nuclear trade, the United States sowed the seeds of its current rows with North Korea and Iran, both of which were Khan’s customers.

Twilight War: The Folly of U.S. Space Dominance
By Mike Moore, The Independent Institute, 2007, 416 pp.

Mike Moore, former editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, presents a straightforward thesis early in this book: If a cold war develops in space, the United States will have incited it; if the United States refrains from a “policy of space dominance,” a new cold war is less likely. What follows is a wide-ranging history of not only space technology, but the ideas that drive early air-power theorists and “space warriors.” Reaching as far back as Athenian democracy, the author argues that hubristic beliefs in exceptionalism, as he sees in much of the U.S. rationale for space dominance, is ultimately dangerous and risks understandable rejection by others in the international community. Instead, he calls for the United States to engage in efforts to conclude a new space treaty, despite the difficulties of verification and U.S. development of missile defense, which is akin to some antisatellite technology.

Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War
By Bob Drogin, Random House, 2007, 343 pp.

Expanding on his initial reporting for the Los Angeles Times, Bob Drogin describes the story of Rafid Ahmed Alwan (Ahmed Hassan Mohammed), the Iraqi defector whose fabricated stories served as the primary source for intelligence assessments of Iraq’s alleged 2003 biological weapons program and who the CIA ironically nicknamed “Curveball.” Based on interviews and the written record, Drogin describes efforts to collect, verify, or promote Curveball’s information. He reveals how friction between the U.S. and German intelligence services, infighting within the U.S. intelligence community, and the efforts of overzealous intelligence analysts and policymakers led to a breakdown in analytical judgment about Curveball’s claims. The false claims then made their way to President George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address and Secretary of State Colin Powell’s UN speech claiming to provide evidence of Saddam Hussein’s resurgent weapons of mass destruction programs. In the end, Drogin describes how it was not until 2004 that the CIA finally gained access to one of its key sources and learned that Curveball’s claims amounted to a confidence scheme to obtain asylum in Germany, money, and a Mercedes.

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Nuclear Weapons Alert Status Debated

Wade Boese

At an annual United Nations meeting, a nonbinding resolution calling on nuclear-armed states to lessen the alert level of those weapons recently won the support of 124 countries despite British, French, and U.S. opposition. It also prompted further debate inside the United States about how quickly its nuclear weapons are primed for use.

New Zealand conceived of the recent measure and partnered with Chile, Nigeria, Sweden, and Switzerland to introduce the resolution Oct. 17 to the UN First Committee, which is the body where governments debate and vote on international arms control and disarmament proposals. That resolution calls for “further practical steps to decrease the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems, with a view to ensuring that all nuclear weapons are removed from high alert status.”

Two nuclear-weapon possessors, India and Pakistan, joined the majority of countries approving the resolution Nov. 1 over the three no votes of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. China, which has nuclear weapons, and Israel, which is generally suspected of having such arms, abstained from the vote along with 32 other countries. Nuclear-armed Russia and North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test last year, did not vote.

Phil Goff, New Zealand’s disarmament and arms control minister, declared after the vote that it should serve as a “wake-up call” to those with nuclear arsenals. Goff, who doubles as defense minister, warned that, with nuclear weapons ready to fire in minutes, “little time exists for dialogue to avoid” a nuclear war “sparked by accident or technical malfunction as well as by a deliberate act.”

In explaining the U.S. vote, Ambassador Christina Rocca, permanent U.S. representative to the 65-member Conference on Disarmament, delivered a statement contesting the resolution’s premise that current U.S. weapons-alert status magnifies the risk of nuclear weapons use. Notwithstanding a well-publicized August incident of the unauthorized transportation of six nuclear-armed cruise missiles by the Air Force (see ACT, November 2007 ), Rocca noted that for ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) there are “multiple, rigorous procedural and technical safeguards to guard against accidental and unauthorized launch.” She also declared that the United States “does not rely on launch-on-warning” although the resolution did not specifically assert that to be the case.

The United States foreshadowed its no vote the previous month after previewing a draft version of the New Zealand resolution. Rocca delivered an Oct. 9 address criticizing “hair-trigger alert” as a description of the U.S. nuclear force posture. She asserted that U.S. nuclear forces “are not and have never been on ‘hair-trigger alert’” and are “postured to provide the president with maximum decision time and flexibility.” In the final draft, New Zealand substituted the phrase “high alert status.”

In a Nov. 6 paper responding to Rocca’s speech, Bruce Blair, a former U.S. Air Force ICBM launch control officer and current president of the independent World Security Institute, argued in effect that New Zealand was initially correct. He wrote that the “nuclear war machinery has a hair-trigger quality” that stems from U.S. and Soviet Cold War calculations that their nuclear forces had to be ready to fire so they could not be wiped out before possible use. Consequently, Blair argued, the forces were and remain configured to “launch on warning—firing friendly forces en masse before the anticipated arrival of incoming enemy missiles with flight times of 12 to 30 minutes.”

Blair further disputed the claim that procedures and safeguards exist to ensure that nuclear weapons are not employed in haste. He contended U.S. Minuteman III ICBMs can be fired in one to two minutes while SLBMs can be launched out of their tubes in 12 minutes. A dozen minutes or less, Blair calculated, is how much time the president would typically have to decide on using nuclear weapons if a suspected incoming missile attack was detected. All told, Blair concluded, “the U.S. posture is still geared for firing thousands of weapons within a few minutes of pressure-packed, checklist-driven deliberation and a few minutes of intense implementation in the field.”

Lieutenant Denver Applehans, a spokesperson for Strategic Command, which is in charge of deployed U.S. nuclear weapons, stated in a Nov. 28 e-mail to Arms Control Today that it is incorrect to say that “thousands of weapons” are primed to fire on short notice. Instead, he explained that the only forces kept “on day-to-day alert” are 450 Minuteman III ICBMs and “a small number” of nuclear-armed submarines. In 1991, the United States removed all strategic bombers from alert.

As part of the current posture, Applehans noted that the “ICBM force could be launched prior to impact, but only if the president were to direct such an action.” He said maintaining the ICBMs to deliver a “rapid response” is “an important aspect of our deterrent because it complicates an opponent’s pre-emptive strike planning.” All told, he said the U.S. posture “has evolved since the end of the Cold War.”

In a Nov. 13 interview with Arms Control Today, retired General Eugene Habiger, a former head of Strategic Command, said that an accurate characterization of the current U.S. nuclear posture is that it is “a continuation of the Cold War alert status, which was not hair-trigger.” He contended “hair-trigger” conjures up the notion of a system set to go off with just a little pressure, while U.S. forces are subject to a “very deliberate process” before use.

Almost all nuclear arms possessors strictly cloak their postures in secrecy. The United Kingdom has been most open, declaring that, under normal circumstances, its nuclear weapons require “several days’ ‘notice to fire.’” Russia is perceived to keep its weapons on an alert status similar to that of the United States, while French, Indian, and Israeli policy is uncertain. China and Pakistan are generally thought to store nuclear warheads separately from delivery vehicles.

At a once-every-five-years review conference of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2000, the treaty’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) announced that their nuclear weapons were not targeted at any state. They also agreed in that conference’s final document to pursue “concrete agreed measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems.”

Since that conference, there have been other high profile calls on nuclear-armed states to change their nuclear postures. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s 2004 high-level panel on security challenges called for “where appropriate, a progressive schedule for de-alerting,” and another panel of experts led by former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix urged the United States and Russia to “agree on reciprocal steps to take their nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.”

Most recently, two former U.S. secretaries of state, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, joined with former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) to endorse “changing the Cold War posture of deployed nuclear weapons to increase warning time.” The quartet included this as one element of a broader agenda toward nuclear disarmament that they outlined Jan. 4 in The Wall Street Journal.

Prior to them, however, then-Texas Governor George W. Bush said on May 23, 2000, that the United States “should remove as many weapons as possible from high-alert, hair-trigger status—another unnecessary vestige of Cold War confrontation.”

A full copy of Strategic Command’s e-mail response to Arms Control Today’s questions on the alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons is available at www.armscontrol.org/interviews/ .

CWC Conference Boosts Treaty, Exposes Rifts

Oliver Meier

A Nov. 5-9 annual meeting of Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) states-parties approved a number of decisions to strengthen the treaty but also exposed some differing views among the 116 participating states. Those differences on issues related to the future of the 10-year-old global ban on chemical weapons also indicate that next year’s CWC review conference might proceed less than smoothly.

British ambassador Lyn Parker is heading an open-ended working group preparing the review conference, which is charged with drafting the final declaration. He told Arms Control Today in an interview Nov. 20 that there was “a high degree of common purpose” among participating state representatives, but warned that differences persist on some major issues, such as defining the balance between activities related to disarmament and nonproliferation of chemical weapons on the one side and civil cooperation, assistance, and protection on the other. Parker welcomed the positive atmosphere in the working group, but pointed out that only a limited number of states-parties are represented there, and that it remained to be seen how discussions might develop when all states-parties come together at the review conference itself.

No Growth in OPCW Budget

The annual conference, the 12th such conference of CWC states-parties, approved the 2008 budget for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which implements the chemical weapons ban. For the third year in a row, the organization must cope with zero nominal growth in funds and was allocated 75 million euros ($111 million).

OPCW Director-General Rogelio Pfirter in his Nov. 5 statement to the conference talked of consolidating the budget and informed states-parties that the OPCW had so far received only 80 percent of 2007 contributions assessed against the 182 CWC member states. Pfirter warned that “our ability to meet our core objectives in 2007, particularly in light of the fact that the 2007 program and budget was a nominal zero-growth budget, still depends on our receiving states-parties contributions in full and on time.”

National Implementation Urged

The annual conference also decided to continue to press countries to do more to implement the convention through national legislation. U.S. Ambassador Eric M. Javits in his Nov. 5 statement argued that states-parties should focus efforts to improve national implementation in those approximately 20 states “that lack effective implementing measures, but have more activities relevant to the convention within their territories.”

In the end, the conference adopted a decision “on sustaining follow-up to the plan of action” on national implementation, including measures to contact and offer implementation support to those 10 states that have not designated a national authority and the 107 states-parties that had not informed the OPCW that they had enacted the comprehensive implementing legislation required by Article VII of the convention.

Iran Proposes to Establish Victims Fund

Agreement on a report of the meeting was held up by an Iranian demand that states-parties establish a “Chemical Weapons Victim’s International Funding & Assistance Network,” a proposal first mentioned by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at the 2006 conference of states-parties.

An Iranian diplomat argued in a Nov. 20 interview with Arms Control Today that because victims can suffer for a long time from the consequences of a chemical weapons attack, some “emergency measures of assistance as detailed in Article X” of the CWC should not necessarily be limited in time. The diplomat explained that, under its proposal, Iran would like to see improved coordination between the OPCW and relevant nongovernmental organizations regarding victims assistance, the creation of a voluntary fund to support such measures, and the establishment of medical centers in certain regions, so that victims could receive assistance more rapidly.

Others believe that the Iranian proposal is an attempt to divert attention away from its nuclear file and focus attention on an issue where it is a victim rather than a suspect. These observers wonder why the proposal is pushed now, some 20 years after the chemical weapons attacks on Iran. (See ACT, July/August 2007. )

Late on the last day, states agreed to task the OPCW’s executive council to conduct “intensive deliberations to develop measures for emergency assistance to Member States, including with regard to the victims of chemical weapons,” and report to the next conference of states-parties in 2008. Iranian negotiators see this as the beginning of negotiations on their proposal, while others point to the fact that discussions on how to implement Article X have been going on for a long time.

Looking Toward the Review Conference

States-parties left it to the review conference, which will take place April 7-18 of next year, to sort out other contentious issues, such as how to deal with the fact that the United States and Russia are unlikely to meet their 2012 final deadlines for destroying chemical weapons stockpiles. (See ACT, May 2007 .)

The Iranian diplomat told Arms Control Today that the review conference “should send a clear message that chemical weapons possessors should adhere to destruction deadlines and that any failure to meet these deadlines would constitute serious noncompliance.” The diplomat conceded, however, that given that the 2012 deadline is still four years away, 2008 might be “too soon” to discuss possible noncompliance by Russia and the United States.

In a Nov. 6 statement, Paula DeSutter, U.S. assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation, shied away from mentioning U.S. problems in meeting destruction deadlines and instead emphasized the need to destroy chemical weapons stockpiles in a safe, secure, and irreversible manner.

Parker agreed that “we are not at this moment in difficulty” because the United States and Russia are meeting their current destruction targets. He said that the general mood in the working group is that it would be “a little bit premature to try to work out now how [noncompliance with destruction deadlines] may be handled if and when the time comes.”

Parker argued that the real questions for the viability of the CWC lie in the future. He asked, “What kind of organization does this need to become? What are the balances between the traditional destruction and verification activities and some of the other activities such as cooperation, assistance, and protection, which are important to a lot of states-parties who are not themselves directly involved in the processes related to chemical weapons destruction?” He stated that he hopes the 2008 review conference “will come out with a positive balance sheet about the past and a number of…conclusions which will help move the organization forward over the next few years.”

Click here to read a full transcript of Lyn Parker’s Nov. 20 interview.

Cluster Munitions Negotiations Launched

Wade Boese

Despite a process already underway to restrict cluster munitions, a group of states recently agreed to another set of negotiations on those weapons systems. The new talks will commence in January and involve countries, such as Russia and the United States, that defend the military utility of cluster munitions and abstain from the pre-existing process.

Concluding a seven-day meeting in Geneva, states-parties to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) announced Nov. 13 that they had reached the necessary consensus to initiate negotiations on cluster munitions, which are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas. Those grenades or bomblets, sometimes numbering as many as 600 for a single munition, can fail to detonate immediately yet maim or kill if disturbed later.

The states-parties to the CCW, which regulates weapons judged to be indiscriminate or inhumane, declared their new negotiating goal to be a “proposal to address urgently the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions, while striking a balance between military and humanitarian considerations.” They scheduled four rounds of negotiations next year, the first of which runs Jan. 14-18, and called for a progress report next November. All 103 CCW states-parties can send experts to the negotiations.

In a Nov. 13 statement to the Geneva meeting, the head of the U.S. delegation, Ronald Bettauer, said the negotiations would be “challenging,” citing “significant differences” among states-parties. Indeed, CCW members agreed to negotiate a “proposal” instead of an instrument or treaty because the former term was considered more neutral and acceptable to countries, such as China and Russia, that still question the value of holding talks.

China, for example, reiterated its position that adherence to a 2003 CCW protocol on explosive remnants of war would “play an important role in effectively resolving problems concerning cluster munitions.” That existing protocol obligates governments to cordon off and clear areas of unexploded ordnance after conflicts end. (See ACT, January/February 2004. )

Until last June, the United States also had staunchly opposed CCW negotiations on cluster munitions. At that time, Bettauer attributed Washington’s reversal to “the importance of this issue, concerns raised by other countries, and our own concerns about the humanitarian implications of these weapons.” Still, he cautioned that the United States had no preferred outcome for any negotiation except that it help protect civilians from cluster munitions while permitting militaries to use the weapons. (See ACT, July/August 2007. )

The U.S. turnabout, however, followed the February startup of a Norwegian-led effort outside the CCW to negotiate a treaty to ban cluster munitions “that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.” (See ACT, April 2007. ) Known as the Oslo Process, the effort initially attracted some 40 countries, including France and the United Kingdom. Since then, the number of participants has almost doubled. Some CCW members are participants in both processes.

Norway, itself a CCW state-party, launched the Oslo Process after convention members in November 2006 failed again after several years of attempts to approve cluster munitions negotiations. Frustrated by what they deride as the slothful approach of the CCW, Norway and many other Oslo participants aim to conclude a treaty in 2008. Their next meeting is Dec. 4-7 in Vienna.

The United States last year criticized Norway for its initiative and stayed on the attack this year. In his Nov. 13 statement, Bettauer argued that “the CCW is the only framework that brings together the users and producers” and therefore is able to achieve “meaningful” results.

But nongovernmental supporters of the Oslo Process see the combination of a vague CCW mandate and participation of countries averse to negotiating legally-binding constraints as a recipe for failure. Thomas Nash, coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition, stated Nov. 13 that the CCW decision “is a road to nowhere.” The coalition consists of roughly 200 organizations that support action to prevent civilian cluster munitions casualties.

Although some independent experts charge that the major powers’ change of heart on CCW negotiations appears suspiciously timed to steal momentum away from the Oslo Process, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sought to downplay competition between the two, encouraging both. Still, Ban has prodded CCW states-parties, calling on them in a Nov. 7 statement to “address the horrendous humanitarian, human rights and developmental effects of cluster munitions by concluding a legally binding instrument.”

Ban also urged countries to adopt national restraints on cluster munitions. At the Geneva meeting, Bulgaria and Croatia proclaimed their intent to join a growing number of states that have enacted domestic limits.

Meanwhile, the United States urged CCW members to pledge themselves to another voluntary commitment. For several years, the United States had teamed with 30 other governments to promote adoption of a new CCW protocol to restrict deployments of anti-vehicle mines that are undetectable or lack self-destruct or self-deactivation measures. After Belarus, China, Cuba, Pakistan, and Russia refused to drop their opposition to such rules, the United States last year made them part of a nonbinding declaration to which other governments could subscribe. (See ACT, December 2006. )

Speaking Nov. 7, Bettauer said the United States remained ready to negotiate an anti-vehicle mine protocol but that Washington was not interested in a “fruitless repetition of many prior discussions.” Stating that he was under the impression that positions had not changed, Bettauer encouraged other governments to sign up to the U.S.-sponsored declaration, which has been endorsed by two dozen other states.

Bettauer volunteered that the Bush administration, for its part, would work in the coming year to ratify four CCW measures that the United States has yet to bring into force. Those include the explosive remnants of war protocol, two separate protocols restricting the use of incendiary weapons and blinding lasers, and an amendment to apply the convention beyond interstate conflicts to intrastate fighting. Bettauer said the administration is supporting “expeditious Senate action on these treaties.”

U.S., Russia Recast Plutonium-Disposition Pact

After struggling for seven years to move forward with an agreement to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium each, the United States has agreed to recast the accord to reflect Russian preferences...

Miles A. Pomper

After struggling for seven years to move forward with an agreement to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium each, the United States has agreed to recast the accord to reflect Russian preferences on the method of disposition more closely.

Russia has long viewed plutonium as an untapped energy resource and sought to find means to use it as part of the fuel for its planned fast nuclear reactors. These reactors when operating in “breeder” mode are capable of producing more plutonium than they burn. Russia has an estimated stockpile of 120-170 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, including the 34 tons set for disposal.

The United States, on the other hand, has emphasized the arms control benefits of reducing plutonium stockpiles and the proliferation dangers from plutonium, including the threat of theft by terrorists. Since the 1990s, Washington has veered between two disposition methods: the conversion of some of excess weapons-grade plutonium into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for use in dedicated reactors or immobilization of the weapons-grade plutonium with high-level radioactive waste. However, the Bush administration has recently warmed to the idea of using plutonium as a source of energy, making the reprocessing of spent fuel to extract plutonium a centerpiece of its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP).

In a joint statement announced Nov. 19, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Sergei Kiriyenko generally endorsed the Russian approach. Under the plan, the United States will cooperate with Russia to convert the Russian weapons-grade plutonium into MOX fuel, made of plutonium and depleted uranium. Starting in 2012, Russia would irradiate this fuel, eventually employing at least two reactors, a BN-600 fast reactor currently operating at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant and a more advanced BN-800 fast reactor under construction at the same site.

The statement said the two countries also intend to continue working together on development of an advanced gas-cooled, high-temperature reactor, another potential means to dispose of Russia’s plutonium. That reactor is initially intended to burn weapons-grade plutonium at Seversk where the United States is also supporting an effort to replace two plutonium-production reactors that are used to generate electricity. Such reactors are viewed as more proliferation resistant because their fuels have a high burn-up rate and their spent fuel is difficult to reprocess.

Under the plan, Russia agreed to dispose of the surplus weapons-grade plutonium “without creating new stocks of separated weapon[s]-grade plutonium.” Moscow will operate the fast reactors in a “burner” mode rather than a breeder mode, by removing the breeding blanket of depleted uranium around the reactor core. Officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous part of the Department of Energy, said that under such a scheme the reactors will still produce plutonium as part of the reaction but consume far more plutonium fuel, thereby reducing the stockpile. Together the reactors would run through about 1.5 tons of plutonium per year.

The initial 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement prohibited Russia from reprocessing any additional plutonium from the spent fuel used in the fast reactors until all of the original 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium had been irradiated.

The new plan would amend that agreement to state that no fuel from the BN-600 reactor could be reprocessed. But it would permit 30 percent of the spent fuel from the BN-800 reactor to be reprocessed if this were done as part of the kind of advanced reprocessing program that is backed by GNEP. Other details need to be worked out in the coming months by negotiators from the two countries.

The deal is likely to face close scrutiny from Congress. Key House lawmakers such as Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.), chairman of the energy and water appropriations subcommittee, and David Hobson (R-Ohio), the panel’s ranking member, have raised questions about any Russian effort that would lead to the production of new plutonium.

Under the 2000 agreement, the United States pledged to contribute $400 million to the Russian effort. But previously, congressional and administration officials had balked at providing funds for a disposition program that involved the fast reactors rather than conventional light-water reactors. A pending fiscal year 2008 energy and water appropriations bill, which has been approved by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, would not provide funds for such an effort.

Visclosky indicated Nov. 20 that he was in no rush to help the administration and was skeptical of its ability to finalize a deal.

“It would be irresponsible to change Congressional priorities before there is a formal government-to-government agreement with the Russian government. This announcement hasn’t changed anything from my perspective,” Visclosky said in a statement.

Still, the United States has limited leverage in forcing Russia to follow its disposition preferences, given that such funds would only represent around 10-20 percent of the project’s total cost and Russia is benefiting from a massive surge in revenues from oil and natural gas exports.

In the United States, the executive branch and Congress also squared off for years about how to meet the U.S. commitment under the deal, with the administration choosing to dispose of the plutonium in MOX fuel rather than immobilizing it. Construction of a facility to fabricate the fuel recently began at the Energy Department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

In September, Bodman announced that the United States would remove nine metric tons of plutonium in the coming decades from retired, dismantled nuclear warheads, which would likely permit the United States to surpass the goals of the 2000 agreement. (See ACT, October 2007. )

Europe Eager to Preserve CFE Treaty

Wade Boese

Many European governments are increasingly anxious about the future of a treaty limiting conventional arms in Europe, but officials say there should be no cause for immediate alarm if Russia suspends implementation of the accord. The Kremlin maintains support for an updated version of that treaty and, in a related move, recently withdrew some Russian military forces from Georgia.

Completed the year before the Soviet Union’s 1991 disintegration, the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty placed equal caps on the battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that the two superpowers and their allies could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. Aiming to avert massive surprise attacks by either bloc, the treaty limited how many forces could be stationed in central Europe and concentrated in Europe’s northern and southern regions, the so-called flanks.

Referred to as a “cornerstone” of European security, the CFE Treaty is typically hailed for leading to the destruction of more than 60,000 weapons and building confidence and trust among its states-parties through an extensive verification regime. Last May, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice deemed the accord “one of the most important treaties of the 20th century.”

But with the Soviet Union’s collapse and NATO’s expansion to include 10 new members, including former Soviet allies and republics, the treaty’s value has waned in some eyes, most notably in Moscow. Consequently, CFE states-parties in 1999 negotiated an adapted version of the treaty, which among other things replaces the bloc arms limits with national weapons ceilings. (See ACT, November 1999. )

All 30 of the original treaty’s states-parties must ratify the adapted treaty for it to take effect, but only four have done so. The 22 CFE Treaty states-parties that are NATO members have been linking ratification of the adapted treaty to Russia fulfilling military withdrawal commitments regarding Georgia and Moldova. Russia made those pledges at the same summit at which the adapted treaty was completed.

Moscow contends the issues should not be linked and that the adapted treaty must be brought into force as quickly as possible to supplant the original treaty. One of Russia’s many criticisms of the older pact is that four NATO members (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia) are not party to it and therefore do not have any arms limits. The four cannot join the original treaty because it lacks an accession provision, but they will be able to accede to the adapted treaty after it enters into force.

With U.S.-Russian tensions escalating over a Bush administration plan to install strategic anti-missile systems in Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin in July announced Russia would stop implementing the original CFE Treaty in six months unless NATO addresses Russia’s raft of concerns with the accord. In November, the Russian parliament’s two chambers approved the possible Dec. 12 suspension.

Contemplating a Suspension

The United States and its European allies are urging Russia not to carry out its threat. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier co-authored an article published Oct. 29 in the newspapers Le Figaro and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung warning that “an erosion of the CFE Treaty could spark new arms races and create new lines of confrontation.”

Several government officials from different European states told Arms Control Today in November interviews that the two foreign ministers’ concerns were principally of a long-term nature and that NATO members would work to prevent further confrontation even if Russia ceased implementing the CFE Treaty. Almost all of the officials asked not to be named and requested their country not be identified because of the sensitivity of the current situation.

All the officials agreed that the best result would be if Russia opted to “suspend its suspension.” A minority expressed hope that Russia might not act on its threat, but a majority seemed resigned that Moscow would not apply the brakes.

Russia has not been clear on what a suspension might entail. Russian officials have suggested that participation in inspections and data exchanges would cease, but they have not said whether Russia will stop attending meetings of the Joint Consultative Group, the treaty’s Vienna-based forum for implementation discussions. Moreover, Kremlin officials previously stated a suspension would not lead Russia to exceed its limits or redeploy its forces, but more recent media reports have quoted General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the general staff, as saying that such options would be kept open.

All the European government officials interviewed by Arms Control Today said NATO members likely would continue initially to provide data exchanges and notifications if Russia stopped. The purpose of doing so, they said, would be to maintain those channels for Russia to resume cooperation and to signal to other countries that one country’s choice not to abide by the treaty does not provide leeway for other states-parties to eschew their legal obligations. Aside from Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Ukraine are the other seven non-NATO CFE states-parties.

The officials generally downplayed possible Russian force buildups, at least in the short term, but acknowledged that concerns are greater for countries nearer Russian borders, such as the three Baltic countries, Norway, and Turkey. Several of the officials stressed, however, that “security cannot be divided.”

A Norwegian official interviewed Nov. 19 by Arms Control Today said his country has both “political and practical reasons” for preserving the CFE framework. But he noted that if Moscow were to increase its forces anywhere, it would most likely be in southern Russia.

A prolonged Russian suspension, some of the officials said, eventually could compel NATO countries to re-evaluate their defense planning. Michael Wyganowski, a former Polish diplomat who worked on CFE Treaty issues and is now executive director of the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis, told Arms Control Today Nov. 15 that absent data from Russia and arms limits on Russia, other European military planners would have to alter their “assumptions.” He speculated that if Russia walks away from the CFE regime, it could be a sign that Moscow sees military power playing a bigger role in its policy “toolbox.”

Still, the European government officials stressed the importance of not overreacting to a Russian suspension. In such a case, one official stated there would be no need to “panic,” while another official said it would be crucial to keep the “dialogue and doors open” with Russia.

During the past several months, the United States and its NATO allies have sought to persuade Russia to stave off the suspension, but some say the dialogue has been mostly one way. At multilateral meetings near Berlin and in Paris and at U.S.-Russian bilateral meetings in Moscow and Geneva, U.S. and European officials say the West offers proposals while Russia reiterates its problems and adds to its demands. One European official familiar with the talks told Arms Control Today Nov. 15 that there was “no sign that the Russians were seeking solutions to avoid a suspension.”

Georgia and Moldova

NATO members maintain they have insisted on conditioning the ratification of the adapted CFE Treaty in order to avoid having Georgia and Moldova feel abandoned. Both those governments want Russia’s forces to depart their two territories, and a key principle of the adapted treaty is that foreign deployed troops must have host-state consent.

Russia’s withdrawal from Moldova stalled in 2004, leaving approximately 1,200 Russian troops and about 21,000 metric tons of ammunition behind. But the Kremlin has been slowly reducing its forces in Georgia. In mid-November, Russia finished withdrawing its forces from the second of two bases it promised in 2005 to vacate. (See ACT, July/August 2005. ) With that step, only about 200 Russian troops, which Moscow says are peacekeepers, remain in Georgia.

A complicating factor in completing the withdrawals from Georgia and Moldova is that the remaining Russian forces are located in separatist territories. NATO members have volunteered financial assistance to facilitate the withdrawals and proposed that international peacekeepers replace the Russian troops. Moscow has declined these offers, claiming in part that the local ethnic Russian populations would not feel as safe with non-Russian soldiers.

Some NATO members in recent months have suggested starting ratification of the adapted treaty in conjunction with continued Russian withdrawal activities. On Nov. 5, David Kramer, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, testified to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe that the “goal” would be to “send a constructive signal to Moscow that NATO stands by this treaty.”

The Flanks

Despite its discontent with the original treaty, Moscow also is not entirely happy with the adapted treaty. For instance, Russia dislikes provisions that would allow some NATO members to host temporary deployments of foreign forces above their arms limits.

Another top Kremlin complaint is that the adapted treaty maintains modified versions of the original treaty’s flanks limits on Russia. Those caps constrain the amount of forces that Russia can deploy on its own northern and southern territory, including the unstable Caucasus region. Moscow is calling for the abolishment of its flanks limits.

There is no consensus among NATO members about what should be done with the flanks. But many of the officials interviewed by Arms Control Today said it would be impractical to “open up” the adapted treaty to deal with the flanks before the agreement entered into force. One official volunteered that a potential compromise could be a pledge by NATO to review the flanks issue after the adapted treaty’s entry into force.

Kouchner and Steinmeier appeared to hint at this option. Contending that all the current CFE Treaty disputes cannot be resolved in the short term, the two foreign ministers suggested governments should “proceed on the understanding that even after the entry into force of the Adapted CFE Treaty, the door will remain open for further amendments.”

Nuclear Material Consolidation Schedule Lags

Alex Bollfrass

Despite nearly two years of deliberations, the Department of Energy lags in presenting plans for the consolidation and disposal of fissile and other high-risk nuclear material, congressional investigators have concluded.

The Energy Department currently intends to save security costs by halving the number of facilities storing significant quantities of fissile matter, referred to as special nuclear material. However, this objective may change to conform to the as-of-yet-unveiled Complex Transformation program, an effort to refashion the nuclear weapons complex.

In a report released Oct. 4, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) researchers found that the body charged with planning the consolidation and reduction, the Nuclear Materials Disposition and Consolidation Coordination Committee, has only drafted two of eight implementation plans after almost two years of work. All eight plans are not likely to be completed by the Energy Department’s own deadline of December 2008.

Each implementation plan either aims to pool material from various sites or to rid an individual site of a particular material. It consists of a description of the problems created by the status quo and a list of cost-evaluated alternatives with a recommended course of action.

The GAO report cites the committee’s frequent leadership turnover and unresolved issues of bureaucratic authority and decision-making as the chief reasons for the delay.

The current chair of the committee, Charles Anderson, responded to GAO’s criticism in a Sept. 11 letter charging that the report “lack[ed] balance and objectivity” for its failure to sufficiently recognize progress in consolidating material within sites. He did agree in principle with the “recommendations to identify consolidation and disposition plan approval authority(ies), clarify organizational roles and responsibilities, and establish performance measures.”

The report added to congressional impatience with the Energy Department, which in 2005 promised to present finalized plans within a year or two. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a Nov. 4 statement, “We’re just trying to get to the point where [the Energy Department] has a plan. Two years have passed by since we asked about a plan, and still no plan.”

The two implementation plans that have been drafted, for consolidating and disposing of plutonium-239 and for disposing of uranium-233, are judged by the GAO’s investigators as too light on detail to ensure their execution according to schedule and within budget.

The plan for plutonium-239, a fissile material used in nuclear warheads, envisions consolidating material to Savannah River Site in South Carolina from the Hanford Site and the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories. The uranium-233 plan calls for stabilizing the weapons-usable material by blending it with other uranium isotopes and moving it for storage to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee or to radioactive waste sites.

The remaining six implementation plans remove special nuclear material from various sites, in whole or in part, reducing from 10 to five the number of facilities hosting material requiring the highest level of security. Such restructuring would match the now-defunct objective of restricting the use of special nuclear material in large quantities at production and test sites, as well as not employing national laboratories for production of such material. This was envisioned in the Energy Department’s Complex 2030, an initiative to refashion the nuclear weapons complex that has since been derailed by congressional opposition.

The Energy Department’s replacement proposal, Complex Transformation, expected to be released publicly in December, scraps the provision to build a new plutonium pit production facility for nuclear weapons in favor of locating pit manufacturing in an existing facility. According to press reports, the existing facility allegedly favored by the department is Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Bush Nuclear Fuel-Cycle Program Suffers Blows

Miles A. Pomper

After a sharply critical report from a high-level independent panel and amid continued criticism from Congress, the Bush administration appears to be scaling back its ambitions for the domestic leg of its controversial Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). Meanwhile, other international nuclear fuel supply efforts seem to be attracting more attention.

Administration officials have claimed that the initiative, which seeks to develop new nuclear technologies and new international nuclear fuel arrangements, will reduce nuclear waste and decrease the risk that an anticipated growth in the use of nuclear energy worldwide could spur nuclear proliferation. Critics on Capitol Hill and elsewhere assert that the administration’s course would exacerbate the proliferation risks posed by the spread of reprocessing technology, be prohibitively expensive, and fail to significantly ease waste disposal challenges without any certainty that the claimed technologies will ever be developed.

An Oct. 29 report from a National Research Council (NRC) panel, commissioned by the Department of Energy, sided strongly with the critics, concluding that the department should “not move forward” with GNEP, particularly efforts to develop new commercial-scale facilities for reprocessing and for burning a new type of nuclear fuel. Citing a lack of urgency and appropriate technical knowledge, the NRC panel said the department should return to an earlier course in which it conducted a “less aggressive research program.”

The panel’s judgment echoes criticism from most lawmakers on relevant committees on Capitol Hill. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees  have approved legislation that would substantially cut funds for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, which underpins GNEP, and limit spending to research. (See ACT, October 2007. )

Indeed, Dennis Spurgeon, assistant secretary of energy for nuclear energy, told the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee Nov. 14 that rather than annually confront such budget battles, he would personally favor funding GNEP in the future with a portion of a fee on electricity generation that Congress has imposed on nuclear power plant operators to pay for disposing of spent fuel. He said that the U.S. government has accumulated close to $20 billion from this fee, which has yet to be spent because of continued political wrangling over a planned permanent repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

The GNEP program calls for research on new reprocessing technologies that administration officials say will not yield pure separated plutonium but a mixture, including plutonium, that is less applicable to making bombs. GNEP further calls for construction of new advanced burner reactors to make use of the reprocessed fuel. The administration also claims that doing so will reduce the volume of spent nuclear fuel currently stored at nuclear reactors so that the United States will not have to build another permanent repository.

The proposal has drawn criticism, in part because facilities that reprocess spent fuel for plutonium-based fuels might also be used to harvest plutonium for nuclear bombs. By establishing such facilities, critics say, the United States might be encouraging other countries to do so as well, perhaps leading to nuclear weapons proliferation. Because of such concerns, the United States had shied away from spent fuel reprocessing for nearly three decades until GNEP was launched in 2006.

Department officials had indicated that, by the summer of 2008, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman would decide whether to build new commercial-scale fuel facilities and “fast” reactors that could produce and burn such new fuels. By that time, four industry groups are slated to provide studies examining financial, technical, and other issues.

The NRC panel said making such a decision next year would be unnecessarily hasty. “Domestic waste management, security, and fuel supply needs are not adequate to justify early deployment of commercial-scale reprocessing and fast-reactor facilities,” the panel wrote.

In particular, the panel said it was not clear if a second waste repository would be needed. It also argued that the knowledge of appropriate technologies was not sufficient to move to commercial-scale facilities. It said the cost of the program would be far more expensive than proceeding with the current once-through nuclear fuel cycle, a conclusion backed by the Congressional Budget Office in testimony before the Senate panel.

The NRC panel also said that “qualifying” the new fuel—ensuring it could be used appropriately in the reactor—would take many years. Instead the panel advocated returning to a lower-level research program to provide more basic information before choosing any particular path forward.

In his testimony before the Senate committee, Spurgeon acknowledged that the department would not be ready to move forward with commercial deployment of any new reprocessing technologies in the near future.

After the hearing, he told reporters that he did not expect Bodman next summer to call for any immediate construction of commercial-scale facilities using existing technologies employed by France and Japan that separate pure plutonium, an approach championed by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), the panel’s ranking member. Rather, Spurgeon said the department would be charting a “technology path” forward for research, though his remarks did not close out the possibility of using COEX, a process nearly ready for commercial deployment that extracts and precipitates uranium and plutonium (and possibly neptunium) together so that plutonium is never separated on its own.

Still, Spurgeon pointed to some progress in the program’s international dimension when Italy on Nov. 13 became the 17th country to join GNEP. Sixteen countries had signed GNEP’s statement of principles in September, although the list did not include such important nuclear energy consumers and producers as Germany and the United Kingdom. Also, it is not clear how much weight Rome’s participation carries. Italy at one time had five power reactors and two under construction; but it shut down all of its nuclear power plants after a 1987 referendum in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

GNEP received a bigger boost on Nov. 29 when Canada, the world’s largest uranium producer, joined the partnership.

Ottawa had held back from joining the partnership earlier amid political controversy over whether GNEP would require Canada to accept spent fuel from other country or  limit its ability to enrich its own fuel.

Multilateral Fuel-Cycle Alternatives

Nevertheless, countries are putting more emphasis on efforts other than GNEP to control the nuclear fuel cycle, primarily aiming at its “front end.” Such efforts seek to limit the spread of technologies such as uranium enrichment, which can produce low-enriched uranium for fresh nuclear fuel, or highly enriched uranium, which can also be used as fissile material for nuclear weapons. Concerns over uranium enrichment have been at the center of the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program (see page xx). By contrast, GNEP primarily focuses on “back end” technologies that address how to deal with spent fuel from nuclear reactors.

In September, the U.S. administration had indicated that although the program was conceived in the wake of President George W. Bush’s February 2004 call to halt the spread of enrichment or reprocessing facilities to new countries, it would not require such forbearance as a condition of GNEP membership.

“We’re not asking countries to sign a statement that they will never enrich or never reprocess,” Spurgeon elaborated in an October interview with Arms Control Today.

The administration has taken other steps to encourage participation in the partnership. For example, it has said that a multinational steering committee, not the United States, will dictate GNEP’s direction and that the partnership will operate by consensus.

Nonetheless, multinational enrichment efforts seem to be moving more rapidly in the international arena than GNEP’s focus on reprocessing.

Nikolay Spasskiy, the deputy head of Russia’s atomic energy agency, told reporters after the September GNEP meeting that the U.S. initiative was one of only several such efforts and its importance should not be overemphasized.

Russia and Kazakhstan on Sept. 5 announced that they had inaugurated the use of an enrichment facility in Angarsk, Siberia, as an international center with joint ownership. The center is eventually envisaged as a multinational operation that will produce low-enriched uranium fuel under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring.

Armenia took a step toward that goal Nov. 29, announcing that it would participate in the center. Moerover, Spasskiy told Platts Nuclear Fuel in September that he expected Ukraine to join the venture before the end of the year and that Mongolia and South Korea are closely studying participation. Spasskiy’s boss, Sergey Kiriyenko, told Russian reporters in October that Australia and Japan also have indicated interest in participation, although Kiriyenko said that Japan has insisted that the facility first be placed under IAEA safeguards. Kiriyenko said an agreement with the agency could be in place by the middle of 2008.

South Africa is another potential candidate for an enrichment center. In September, South Africa declined to participate in GNEP, dealing a serious blow to U.S. ambitions for the program. Spurgeon claims that South Africa may still participate, saying its representatives “had a lot of questions” and a “misunderstanding” about GNEP’s requirements, particularly whether South Africa would have to forgo enrichment or reprocessing.

But Tseliso Maqubela, chief director for nuclear energy at the South African Department of Minerals and Energy, told Platts NuclearFuel in September that South Africa wished to set up a centrifuge enrichment facility on its territory in which it could utilize the shared technology of foreign partners and that if South Africa was unable to do so, it would develop the technology domestically. Major international enrichment companies have generally balked at providing foreign countries with access to the proliferation-sensitive technology.

In a Sept. 24 Platts NuclearFuel interview, French Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Alain Bugat said that France would open a new centrifuge enrichment plant under construction to “international partnerships” and would provide details within a few months. The French enrichment company Eurodif has involved Belgium, Italy, and Spain (and formerly Iran) as international partners in its gaseous diffusion plant at Tricastin.

NEWS ANALYSIS: The 2008 Presidential Primaries and Arms Control

Zachary Hosford

For more than a year, the 2008 presidential candidates have been traveling the country, giving speeches, writing articles, participating in debates, and shaking hands in anticipation of primaries and caucuses that are set to begin in January. Although health care reform, the state of the national economy, and the Iraq war have dominated the headlines throughout the campaign, the contenders have engaged in heated discussions on a number of arms control and nonproliferation issues.

Continuing a trend that began in the wake of the Cold War, the political discourse has tended to emphasize terrorism and threats involving rogue states more than traditional arms control issues. The discussion of the terrorist threat primarily focuses on the possibility of nuclear or radiological terrorism, with candidates scarcely mentioning the chance that nonstate actors might use chemical or biological weapons.

Still, there has been plenty of conversation on more familiar arms control subjects, including international treaties, ballistic missile defense, and the status of the country’s nuclear arsenal. Throughout the campaign, one noticeable distinction among the candidates has been the amount of emphasis they place on either unilateral or multilateral solutions, with Republicans typically endorsing the former course and Democrats generally expressing greater interest in international cooperation.

This overview does not attempt to describe the position of every candidate on every issue but will provide a sense of the range of views on the most important issues, drawing statements from recent speeches, press releases, debates, and candidate websites.


No arms control issue has received more attention than how the United States should respond to Iran’s nuclear program. Although strategies differ significantly among the candidates, the consensus on both sides of the aisle is that the next administration should not allow Iran to create a nuclear weapon.

Most Democratic candidates favor a strategy of increased engagement to achieve this goal, criticizing the Bush administration’s unwillingness to participate in direct dialogue with Tehran. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) have at times advocated negotiations with Iran’s leaders without any preconditions, although Obama’s campaign has backed off somewhat from that statement. The Bush administration has said it is only willing to negotiate with Iran after it is has suspended its uranium enrichment and heavy-water reactor programs, which can be used either for peaceful or military purposes.

In a June debate, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) emphasized that the United States “always talked” to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, endorsing direct but conditional, mid-level discussions with Iran. Clinton ruled out presidential-level negotiations.

Similarly, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ website notes that he has advocated negotiations with Iranian leaders “who have met a number of criteria,” including a commitment to diplomacy and recognition both of international law and the state of Israel. In a June debate, he indicated a willingness to reward Iran with economic incentives and nuclear fuel supplies controlled by the international community but threatened to punish the country with increased sanctions if it did not cooperate.

Republican candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has endorsed implementing progressively more restrictive economic sanctions against Iran, saying in a February speech that he prefers a policy of “diplomatic isolation” that would treat Ahmadinejad like a “rogue.” Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) has criticized the efficacy of the international community’s past negotiations with Iran, urging the United States to impose sanctions through the UN Security Council, taking unilateral steps only if cooperative measures fail. Among his proposals is the suspension of Tehran’s World Bank funding.

The majority of candidates from each party would not rule out the eventual use of military force, but some have been more willing than others to discuss a potential attack. In a June Republican debate, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, despite predicting that conventional weapons could potentially disable Iranian nuclear facilities, said he would not preclude the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Likewise, Clinton asserted in a Foreign Affairs article that “all options must remain on the table.”

By contrast, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel (D) described such an approach as “immoral” in an April Democratic debate. Similarly, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson promised in an August Democratic debate to implement a no-first-use policy with regard to nuclear weapons and has argued that threats of military force against Iran are counterproductive.


In an October debate, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) admonished his fellow Democrats for paying more attention to Iran than Pakistan, warning that Pakistan could pose a greater threat to the United States. Pakistan, he said, already possesses large quantities of highly enriched uranium, a material used to produce nuclear weapons, while Iran is believed to be at least several years away from being able to construct such a device. The threat is compounded by the recent turmoil within the Pakistani government, prompting fears that the country’s nuclear arsenal could fall into the wrong hands (see pages 11-17 ).

Arkansas Republican Governor Mike Huckabee, unimpressed with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s record on fighting terrorism, implores the United States on his website to “get tough” with the Pakistani leader. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), however, cautioned in an August debate that Musharraf is “the only person that separates us from a jihadist government in Pakistan with nuclear weapons.”

Nuclear Terrorism

Concerns over Iran and Pakistan have renewed focus on how to prevent nuclear terrorism. Although all of the candidates have underscored the importance of this issue, some have concentrated more on the need to support and expand international threat reduction programs, while others tended to focus on governmental restructuring and domestic proposals.

Richardson, who served as secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, has said in answering a survey from the nonprofit Council for a Livable World that there is a need for improved performance by threat reduction programs. He praised the “successful” Global Threat Reduction Initiative, a Department of Energy program to remove and secure “high-risk nuclear and radiological materials and equipment around the world,” although he acknowledged that “huge security gaps still remain.”

Richardson also lauded the Bush administration for the Proliferation Security Initiative, a global program dedicated to interdicting shipments of weapons of mass destruction, but he criticized the administration for not spending the $200 million allotted to the Energy Department’s Material Protection, Control and Accounting program, a security-upgrade initiative to protect Russian nuclear warheads and weapons-grade fissile material. Edwards also joined in the criticism, promising to boost spending on cooperative threat reduction programs, something he says currently amounts to less than 1 percent of the total defense budget. Obama won Senate passage of legislation calling for the President to submit to Congress a comprehensive plan for ensuring that all nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material at vulnerable sites around the world are secure by 2012 from terrorists.

Romney, however, is promoting international cooperation in a different way. In a speech at Yeshiva University, he advocated developing a “new body of international law” that would make nuclear trafficking a crime against humanity, on par with genocide. His plan would allow for “universal jurisdiction” so that “charges can be brought up at any court, to help prevent traffickers from hiding in complicit or weak countries.”

On the domestic front, Clinton and Romney have each proposed plans to create a high-ranking position specifically dedicated to preventing nuclear terrorism. Edwards says he would improve efforts by increasing governmental efficiency, singling out various redundancies within the system.

Taking a slightly different tack, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) proposed in an August debate that the United States attempt to deter an act of nuclear terrorism by threatening to bomb Islam’s holiest sites.

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle and the NPT

There exists widespread rhetorical support for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), but several candidates have said there is a need to revisit it in light of new geopolitical realities. Much of the discussion has involved the proposed creation of an international fuel bank, which would make fuel for peaceful purposes available to non-nuclear-weapon states, thereby perhaps diminishing the need for those states to establish enrichment or spent-fuel reprocessing programs of their own.

Obama has introduced legislation authorizing $50 million to start an international nuclear fuel bank under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Both Clinton and Romney have emphasized low nuclear fuel cost as a critical facet of such a plan. In an article in Foreign Affairs, Clinton proposed a “supplement” to the NPT, designed to constrain the number of countries “that pose proliferation risks,” and would guarantee “secure access” at “reasonable prices.” Romney has called for the United States to “take the lead” in the initiative but to provide fuel only to those countries “willing to abide by very high standards for safety and security.”

Edwards wrote in Foreign Affairs that, within six months of taking office, he would create a Global Nuclear Compact to “bolster” the NPT by closing any “loopholes” through which rogue states might attempt either to misuse nuclear facilities or divert material to illicit weapons programs. Obama supports a provision in the treaty that would automatically trigger “strong international sanctions” against countries found to be in violation of their obligations.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the few Republicans to specifically address the NPT, would make larger changes than those proposed by the Democrats. In particular, he said in Foreign Affairs that he opposes Article IV of the treaty, in which nuclear states agree to assist the “exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information” for peaceful purposes to other states, especially to non-nuclear-weapon ones.

McCain disputes the assumption that nuclear technology can spread without subsequent proliferation of nuclear weapons programs and would revisit the basic concept that non-nuclear-weapon states “have a right to nuclear technology.”

McCain also endorses reversing the “burden of proof” for states suspected to be in violation of the treaty, with “an automatic suspension of nuclear assistance to states that the agency cannot guarantee are in full compliance with safeguard agreements.” In addition, McCain says he would “substantially” increase the IAEA’s annual budget to improve its ability to fulfill its monitoring and safeguarding duties.

National Missile Defense

The candidates generally divide along party lines on the issue of long-range ballistic missile defense. Implicitly or explicitly, the debate involves the concept of deterrence. Some Democrats argue that the Cold War tenet still applies to today’s geopolitical situation, while the leading Republicans are convinced that a nuclear-armed, ballistic missile-capable Iran cannot be deterred as the Soviet Union may have been.

Perhaps the most vocal of the unilateral missile defense supporters has been McCain. Regarding Russian opposition to the proposed interceptor and radar sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, respectively, McCain said in an October debate that he would support implementation “first thing…and I don’t care what [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] objections are to it.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) responded to McCain’s comments by taking a more conciliatory approach. He said that the United States should accept Russia’s offer of collaboration on a sea-based missile defense program. Specifically, Hunter proposed positioning of Aegis missile defense cruisers in the Black Sea to thwart a potential Iranian missile launch.

 Giuliani has urged the United States to “press ahead” with a national missile defense system, saying Iran will pose an even more significant threat once its nascent nuclear weapons program is mated to a ballistic missile program.

He accused Democratic candidates of mischaracterizing the nature of the threat, stating that the country can “no longer rely on Cold War doctrines such as mutual assured destruction in the face of threats from hostile, unstable regimes.”

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has dismissed the notion that Iran requires a new approach, calling the system “unnecessary.”

In a May speech, Edwards pledged to thoroughly review defense spending, including the national missile defense program, which he labeled as “costly” and “unlikely to work.” Richardson, who describes the system as “failing,” promised in a press release to save $8 billion by significantly “scaling back” the program if elected president.

The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

Addressing the size and nature of the U.S. nuclear arsenal does not seem to be high on Republican candidates’ list of priorities. By contrast, many Democrats have aligned themselves with the authors of a January Wall Street Journal opinion article—former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.)—in supporting a reduction in the nuclear stockpile. There is, however, some disagreement among Democrats on how to implement such reductions without jeopardizing national security.

Many Democrats have called for the resumption of bilateral arms control negotiations with Russia, with Richardson in a press release supporting an arsenal reduction to no more than 1,000 missiles and 600 deployed warheads, enough to maintain “an ample nuclear deterrent against any foreseeable threat.” Others avoided proposing specific figures, although Edwards and Obama have not shied away from mentioning disarmament as the ultimate goal. Obama acknowledged in a speech at DePaul University that the process will be a “long road,” and Edwards says that disarmament is the only way to address the international community’s inability to stem nuclear proliferation under the current system.

Discussion of the U.S. arsenal also included debate over the merits of producing a new generation of nuclear weapons, particularly their potential effect on halting the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. Several Democratic candidates have argued that programs such as the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) would have a negative effect, while others maintained that hostile states would continue to pursue nuclear weapons programs regardless of any decision by the United States to construct new warheads.

Clinton, who said that constructing new nuclear weapons would have no effect on states such as North Korea and Iran, vociferously opposes the RRW program. She criticizes the Bush administration in the Council for a Livable World survey for “planning to rush ahead with new nuclear weapons without any considered assessment” of their potential impact on global nonproliferation efforts.

Biden also stated that he would scrap the RRW program, although he left the door open for a new weapons design in the future. Obama takes a softer tone as well, calling the decision to proceed with the RRW program “premature” but declining to reject it completely. Richardson has proposed cutting the RRW and other new nuclear weapons programs, which by his calculations would save a total of $5 billion.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits all nuclear explosions, has drawn little attention from the Republicans but widespread support from the Democratic candidates, who often associate U.S. refusal to ratify the treaty with a perceived decline in global nonproliferation leadership.

Both Richardson and Clinton are strongly critical of the Bush administration’s “unilateralist” stance regarding the treaty, with the latter, in the Council for a Livable World survey, accusing the administration of weakening U.S. national security. Edwards, in the same survey, endorsed the CTBT’s ratification, citing its potential positive effects on the nuclear weapons policies of countries such as India and Pakistan. In a Foreign Affairs article, Obama urged the United States to ratify the treaty given “recent technological advances” in verification and called for the United States to pay its full contribution to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization in the meantime.

Although positions have been taken for the primaries, they may change once the parties have chosen their respective nominees. Moreover, the course of events involving Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan, as well as unpredictable terrorist activities, could play a significant role in shaping the landscape to which all of the candidates will have to adjust.

Revived U.S.-Indian Deal Heads to IAEA

Wade Boese

After appearing close to expiration, the U.S.-Indian civil nuclear cooperation deal was recently resuscitated when some Indian lawmakers relaxed their opposition to government talks with the world’s nuclear monitoring agency. The deal’s recovery, however, could be short lived if the consultations falter or fail to satisfy the lawmakers.

Almost exactly one month after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh informed President George W. Bush that their two-year-old initiative had run into “difficulties,” Singh’s coalition government Nov. 16 announced that the deal had won clearance to move ahead. That approval came when India’s Communist parties and their allies, whose votes help keep the coalition in power, consented to the government holding talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which promotes and monitors civilian nuclear activities worldwide.

Indian officials traveled Nov. 21 to the agency’s Vienna headquarters to begin their discussions on a safeguards arrangement for the nuclear facilities that New Delhi designates as serving civilian rather than military purposes. Safeguards are mechanisms, such as inspections and remote monitoring, that are intended to ensure that civilian nuclear programs are not contributing to the development of nuclear bombs.

India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974 using a device derived in part from U.S. and Canadian exports designated for “peaceful” purposes. Now estimated to have a stockpile of up to 100 warheads, New Delhi has resisted foreign pressure to forswear future nuclear testing and stop producing nuclear material for bombs.

Only Indian facilities with IAEA safeguards would be eligible for any new nuclear commerce opportunities created through the Bush administration’s drive to peel back nearly three decades of various U.S. and multilateral nuclear trade prohibitions on India that grew out of its 1974 blast. To take advantage of Washington’s work, which is the heart of the July 2005 U.S.-Indian deal, New Delhi announced in March 2006 that eight more nuclear power reactors would join six others already under IAEA safeguards. Another eight reactors would be off-limits to international oversight and ineligible for foreign nuclear supplies.

India has said that it wants “India-specific” safeguards to apply to the reactors and other facilities it is classifying as civilian. Indian officials have not publicly explained how these safeguards might differ from India’s existing safeguards, but reports exist that New Delhi, among other things, wants flexibility to withdraw facilities from safeguards in the event that foreign nuclear supplies are cut off, even if it is the result of renewed Indian nuclear testing.

India-specific safeguards that depart dramatically from existing arrangements could face more difficulty winning the approval of the agency’s 35 member-state Board of Governors, which currently includes India’s neighbor and rival, Pakistan. The board, which next meets March 3-7, 2008, typically approves safeguards by consensus.

The Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition also pledged that a committee that includes the leftist parties would review any completed IAEA agreement. Whether that panel has the power to reject the agreement is unclear.

Still, if they are dissatisfied, the leftist parties could again threaten to withdraw their support for the coalition government. The earlier use of this threat helped stall the effort previously and led to creation of the committee because Singh’s Congress Party feared that a leftist withdrawal could trigger early elections that would unseat the government. The leftist parties have condemned the overall U.S.-Indian initiative, charging that Singh is cozying up too much to Washington and compromising Indian sovereignty.

The main Indian opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has vehemently criticized the deal as a covert U.S. attempt to constrain India’s nuclear weapons complex. In a Nov. 7 statement, the party blasted Singh as making a “significant strategic blunder” and called for the deal to be “renegotiated and not hustled through as the UPA government is attempting.”

If Singh can navigate the deal through India’s turbulent politics and the IAEA, future nuclear cooperation will still depend on the Bush administration winning final approval for expanding nuclear trade with India from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and Congress, which gave its preliminary and qualified approval last December. (See ACT, January/February 2007. ) Before Congress reconsiders the proposed U.S.-Indian bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement, U.S. law requires that the NSG, which operates by consensus, adjust current guidelines that restrict trade with states, such as India, that do not subject their entire nuclear enterprise to IAEA safeguards. The next plenary meeting of the NSG is scheduled for May 2008, but a special session could be convened if the IAEA Board of Governors approves a new safeguards agreement with India.

The Bush administration has indicated it wants the deal finalized in 2008, but with U.S. elections scheduled for next November, the time for congressional action could be short.


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