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April 15, 2019
April 2008
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Reshaping the U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal to Lessen the Nonproliferation Losses

Charles D. Ferguson

For decades, India’s nuclear programs have been defined by two contradictory forces: the country’s vast ambitions and its limited uranium reserves. Its ambitions have led New Delhi to establish a significant civilian nuclear enterprise, to refuse to sign the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and to develop and test nuclear weapons. Its limited uranium reserves, on the other hand, have clearly slowed India’s nuclear energy development, most likely hampered its nuclear weapons program, and intertwined the two efforts to a high degree.

The tension between India’s goals and resources has grown much stronger in the past decade. By bringing India’s nuclear weapons programs into the open, the country’s 1998 nuclear tests fueled calls to develop the full panoply of nuclear capabilities, including a nuclear triad. India’s recent impressive economic growth has strained the country’s energy system, increasing interest in nuclear energy. In particular, India would like to quintuple the production of electricity through nuclear energy by 2020.

To the Indian government, the civil nuclear cooperation agreement it signed with the United States last year looks like a way for New Delhi to escape this dilemma, giving it access to global uranium reserves without imposing limits on its nuclear weapons program. India’s right and left wings may claim the Congress-led government has somehow shortchanged their country. The truth is that, without the deal, New Delhi will be forced to confront painful trade-offs between its energy and national security goals, as a series of January interviews I conducted in India of nuclear scientists, policy experts, and energy and defense analysts made clear.

For the deal to go forward, the 45 members of the voluntary Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) must first agree to carve out an exception for India to its guidelines. These currently require a non-nuclear-weapon state, as India is legally defined under the NPT, to have comprehensive safeguards on all nuclear facilities before receiving civilian nuclear assistance from NSG countries.

The U.S. Congress too must sign off on the final nuclear cooperation agreement, meaning that it and the NSG will retain considerable leverage over India. They should use this power to condition the agreement in a way that does less damage to the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

The NSG has an opportunity to condition this exception on India’s behaviors, including continuing to refrain from testing nuclear explosives and placing permanent safeguards on any foreign technologies and fuel, as well as designated indigenous facilities. Moreover, the NSG should hold back on transferring enrichment and reprocessing technologies, which could further enhance India’s weapons production capabilities, and only supply as much reserve fuel as needed for reasonable power plant requirements. U.S. leadership could also influence India to become a more responsible nuclear-armed state through signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and committing to a cutoff of weapons-usable fissile material in addition to adhering to conditions on civilian nuclear commerce.

Two Intertwined Visions

The roots of the current controversy over the nuclear deal go back to India’s emergence as an independent nation in the late 1940s. At that time, Dr. Homi Bhabha, widely viewed as a father of India’s nuclear programs, sought to develop these efforts in a way that exploited indigenous resources. He was well aware that India’s uranium resources were only sufficient to power a modest nuclear energy program of about 10,000 megawatts per year and even less would be available if some were used for weapons. To compensate, Bhabha laid out a three-stage plan for India to hoard these limited indigenous uranium deposits and to leverage its abundant thorium deposits to bootstrap itself to a massive production of electricity through nuclear energy and to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

This vision of self-sufficiency, which arose in part from India’s desire to escape its colonial heritage, has remained a guiding vision for India’s nuclear establishment even as its practical fulfillment has receded further into the future. India’s positions in the discussions on a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States in many ways reflect a compromise between those who want to be self-reliant and stick almost exclusively with Bhabha’s three-stage plan, which one interviewee called “a sacred cow,” and those who are willing to bring in outside foreign suppliers. India’s preference for autarky was reinforced by its isolation from international nuclear trade after a 1974 nuclear test, which relied on U.S. and Canadian technology and nuclear materials. This is also reflected in India’s current negotiating posture, which seeks to ensure that foreign suppliers cannot shut off access to fuel and reactors if New Delhi tests nuclear explosives or commits some other proliferation transgression, such as transferring nuclear technologies to states of concern.

Moreover, while Bhabha sought to ensure that fissile materials would be available for a nuclear weapons program, India in recent years has fleshed out what it means when it says that it seeks a “credible minimal deterrent.” In its draft nuclear doctrine published soon after the 1998 tests, New Delhi explicitly stated its objective was to deploy a triad of nuclear forces. The triad would consist of land-based ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable aircraft, and nuclear-armed submarines. As with the U.S.-Soviet experience during the Cold War, such a triad is designed to provide India with survivable nuclear forces and a second-strike capability. It would also mean that India’s arsenal would increase from an estimated few dozen operational warheads today to as many as 200 or more, a level akin to China and the United Kingdom. The nuclear deal would not prevent India from building up to these projected operational and reserve capacities within several years.[1]

The Deal and India’s Fissile Material

To produce enough weapons-usable fissile material (highly enriched uranium or plutonium), India needs sufficient uranium. This uranium would have to come from the country’s limited indigenous sources because foreign suppliers would not give permission to have their uranium used to make weapons. Currently, the military has to share these scarce uranium resources with the civilian sector as nearly all of India’s thermal reactors, are fueled with indigenous uranium. All told, the current total annual uranium demand is about 475 tons. The military reactors require about 45 metric tons of uranium annually:  The CIRUS and Dhruva weapons-grade plutonium-production reactors require about 35 metric tons and another military program to make fuel for nuclear-powered submarines, the uranium-enrichment facility at Mysore, uses an estimated 10 metric tons of uranium annually. By contrast,  the civilian thermal reactor fleet currently requires about 430 metric tons of uranium per year to be fully fueled.[2] The uranium demands of the civilian sector have grown since the late 1990s more reactors came online in the late 1990s and the India was able to operate its reactors at a higher pitch.

Indigenous supplies have not kept up with this rising demand. Estimated uranium mining has fallen to around 300 tons per year because of poor planning in the uranium mining and milling sectors and opposition from an emerging environmental movement. Notably, New Delhi has kept its two weapons-grade plutonium-production reactors fully fueled during the last several years while curtailing electricity production.

This energy crunch could not have come at a worse time. Indian electricity demand is soaring to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding economy. According to the Indian government and the International Energy Agency, India’s electricity demand will increase at a rate of 6 to 8 percent annually at least through 2020.

India’s nuclear energy boosters, such as Subhinder Thakur, the head strategist for the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), an enterprise of the government of India, claim “the mismatch is temporary.” Thakur said the Uranium Corporation of India, the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research, and the Nuclear Fuel Complex are working together to resolve the uranium shortage within the next few years.

Despite this optimistic assessment from the NPCIL, India confronts continued resistance from environmentalists about opening new mines or expanding old ones, especially in the northeastern part of the country. Also, India’s plans to increase its thermal reactor power production within the next five to six years would drive up the demand for domestically mined uranium in the near term. In particular, to keep the newest indigenous reactors fully fueled would require about 140 tons of uranium per year. Adding this to the current uranium demands means that if the plants were run at full capacity, India annually would consume an estimated 600 tons of uranium.

Therefore, if the political conflicts surrounding mining were not resolved by the time these plants were built and if the nuclear deal were to fall through, India would be forced to stop running about half of its indigenously fueled reactors or only operate this fleet at approximately 50 percent capacity. With the deal, India has plans to place enough reactors under safeguards to reduce the demand for domestically mined uranium to just more than 300 tons for the unsafeguarded power production reactors by 2014—the amount that it is mining today. Assuming that India could import the uranium for the safeguarded reactors, the deal could reduce pressure on India to open up new or expand existing uranium mines. From the perspectives of the NSG and the United States, this significant difference between the deal and no deal scenarios offers tremendous leverage.

Still, the United States and the other NSG countries have not yet taken advantage of this opportunity to extract crucial concessions that would reduce the deal’s damage to the nonproliferation system. Instead, the deal would permit India to reach its goal of 20,000 megawatts of nuclear-generated electricity by 2020, if foreign suppliers could build enough reactors, and to fulfill its nuclear weapons aspirations. If the deal goes through, about one-half of India’s nuclear-generated electricity would come from indigenously produced and currently operating foreign-supplied reactors and the other half would come from additional foreign-supplied reactors, including the two 1,000-megawatt reactors Russia is completing at Kudankulam. Therefore, the Indian government has asked foreign suppliers to bid on building up to eight large reactors by 2020.[3] Current and former government officials, however, admitted to me that this planning scenario is ambitious and faces significant financial and construction hurdles.

Plutonium Production

To be sure, Indian officials I interviewed, as well as some deal supporters in the United States, contend that whether or not the deal goes through will not significantly affect India’s weapons-grade plutonium production.[4] Given New Delhi’s dedication to maintaining such production at full capacity, the deal’s potential impact in this regard is indeed murky.

New Delhi has neither published its weapons-usable fissile material holdings nor indicated how large a nuclear arsenal it intends to make. Unofficial estimates by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) indicate that India may have amassed 575 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium as of the end of 2004.[5] ISIS has also estimated that India may have consumed about 131 kilograms of this plutonium in nuclear weapons tests, as reactor fuel, and in processing losses. The CIRUS reactor could produce about 9 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium annually, and Dhruva could make about 23 kilograms annually. If these estimates are accurate, India may have had available 540 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium as of the end of 2007. Using the conservative International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimates that 8 kilograms of plutonium are needed to make a nuclear bomb, the stockpiled Indian plutonium could fuel a minimum of 67 first-generation fission bombs. Some analysts have argued that more advanced designs could use as little as a few kilograms of plutonium.[6] Therefore, the upper bound estimate for India’s current warhead capacity is somewhat more than 100 nuclear weapons.

It does appear that, in at least one respect, the deal could stimulate near-term growth in weapons-grade plutonium production. Under the deal, India has pledged to shut down the aging CIRUS reactor by 2010. CIRUS is contentious because India obtained it from Canada in the late 1950s and gave assurances “that the reactor would be used only for peaceful uses.” The United States had provided the heavy water for the reactor. This reactor, however, produced plutonium for India’s 1974 “peaceful” nuclear test, which spurred the United States and other countries to form the NSG. India has considered replacing this 40-megawatt thermal (MWth) reactor with a larger capacity 100 MWth reactor.[7] This replacement reactor could produce about two-and-a-half times the amount of plutonium produced annually by CIRUS, or about 23 kilograms compared to 9 kilograms.

In addition to its weapons-grade plutonium stockpile, with or without the deal, India can make hundreds of nuclear weapons from several tons of unsafeguarded reactor-grade plutonium in spent nuclear fuel it has already accumulated, although the deal could somewhat affect future production. It is unknown how much reactor-grade plutonium India has separated from spent fuel, but the unsafeguarded reactors have produced more than 20 times the amount of plutonium that India has obtained from the two weapons-plutonium-production reactors. The deal did not place any of this past production under safeguards.

The most direct and immediate means of using this material would be as fissile material in nuclear weapons. Although weapons-grade plutonium is ideal for weapons use, reactor-grade plutonium can also serve this purpose.[8] Reportedly, India may have used reactor-grade plutonium in one of its May 1998 tests.[9]

Moreover, this feedstock of unsafeguarded plutonium could fuel India’s planned breeder reactor program (the second stage of Bhabha’s three-stage plan), which will remain outside of safeguards. The five planned breeder reactors by 2020 would require two initial cores of plutonium before recycling of plutonium would make the breeders more than self-sufficient. If only the first 500-megawatt electric Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor were dedicated to weapons production, it could produce up to 140 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium each year, more than four times the current rate of production from CIRUS and Dhruva.[10]

It should be noted that, in a few years, the deal might lower the future rate of production of reactor-grade plutonium. Without the deal, India would have only six reactors under safeguards: the U.S.-built Tarapur 1 and 2, the Canadian-built Rajasthan 1 and 2, and the two Russian reactors under construction at Kudankulam. With the deal, India has agreed to place eight additional indigenously made reactors under safeguards, meaning that eight pressurized heavy-water reactors and their produced plutonium would remain outside of safeguards. Over the course of the next seven years, the net result would be that the annual production rate of unsafeguarded plutonium would be set to peak at about 2,000 kilograms per year in the next two years and fall to about 1,250 kilograms per year by 2015, when safeguards would be applied to all of the reactors subject to the deal.

Therefore, the deal would serve to lower India’s future unsafeguarded plutonium production rate by about one-third.[11] In that respect, the deal is arguably positive for nonproliferation as long as permanent safeguards are applied. Nonetheless, existing and future stocks of spent fuel would be more than sufficient to fuel the breeder program or to provide direct fissile material for nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the deal as structured has given implicit U.S. approval to India’s nuclear weapons program under the guise of bringing India into “the nonproliferation mainstream.”

Directing India Onto a More Responsible Path

To truly bring India into the nonproliferation mainstream, the NSG and Congress must insist on certain conditions. These conditions are minimal in the sense that they would not roll back India’s nuclear weapons program and would not significantly curtail India’s weapons-usable fissile material production capabilities. In that sense, India will have won what it has most sought, recognition of its nuclear weapons program. Even if the deal dies, the United States in effect has already bestowed that recognition. Nonetheless, as a price for that acknowledgement, India should be willing to accept more responsible behavior that would lessen the damage to the nonproliferation regime.

Nuclear trade should be contingent on India refraining from nuclear testing. Also, such commerce should depend on maintenance of permanent safeguards on all designated nuclear facilities. Moreover, the NSG should hold back on transferring enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy-water technologies that could further enhance India’s weapons production capabilities. In addition, the United States should press for India to sign the CTBT and adhere to a weapons-usable fissile material cap. Fully implementing these measures, however, will depend on Chinese and Pakistani actions.

Although most Indian policymakers and analysts have supported the country’s unilateral testing moratorium since 1998, all interviewees agreed that India’s accession to the CTBT has become increasingly tied to the U.S. position on the treaty. India will not ratify the treaty unless the United States does so. Although there is no direct nuclear threat between India and the United States, Indian analysts have made a direct connection between U.S. nuclear actions and India’s place in the world. Summing up this view, Professor Pratap Mehta, the executive director of the Center for Policy Research, based in New Delhi, said India “cannot support a world order that gives into the U.S. maintaining its nuclear primacy.” Moreover, he said that “as long as the U.S. holds out on modernizing its arsenal, India will not sign the FMCT [fissile material cutoff treaty] or the CTBT.”

Acknowledging U.S. influence, top defense expert K. Santhanam, who had a leadership role during the 1998 tests, drew a more direct connection to China and Pakistan. He expressed willingness for India to continue indefinitely the testing moratorium as long as China and Pakistan refrain from testing.

All of the five original nuclear-weapon states, including China, have signed the CTBT. Even if ratification by the United States remains out of reach for the time being, India should be encouraged in tandem with Pakistan to take a step beyond the moratorium and sign the treaty.

Similarly, fissile material production depends crucially on Chinese and Pakistani production. All of the five legally recognized nuclear-weapon states but China have committed to stop making fissile material for weapons. China is believed to have stopped weapons-usable fissile material production, but Beijing has never officially said so. If China would make a public pledge not to make fissile material for weapons, it would put added pressure on India to specify when it would stop stockpiling nuclear weapons material. To bring Pakistan into this arrangement, India could offer a series of alternating unilateral moves. For example, India could verifiably shut down one of its plutonium-production reactors for a period of time. Pakistan could take a similar step with one of its production reactors. Verification could be achieved through third-party commercial satellite monitoring of the status of the reactors.

Although turning back the growth in India’s nuclear arsenal appears unlikely for the foreseeable future, the NSG and the United States have opportunities to shape the future direction of India’s strategic weapons program. They should take it.

India’s Nuclear Energy Program: Ambitious Dreams, Sober Realities

Charles D. Ferguson

New Delhi’s nuclear planners can never be accused of thinking small. Even at the very beginning of India’s nuclear efforts, Homi Bhabha proposed an ambitious three-stage plan for Indian nuclear development that sought to develop original technology that would allow the country to compensate for its insufficient uranium reserves.

Thermal reactors—today’s typical power reactors—represented the first part of Bhabha’s vision. Thermal reactors use slow or thermal energy neutrons to fission uranium-235, a naturally occurring fissile isotope of uranium.

Bhabha envisioned that, in a second stage, spent fuel from these thermal reactors would be reprocessed to separate plutonium for fueling breeder reactors, which would “breed” more plutonium.

In the third and final stage, this plutonium would fuel reactors that would irradiate thorium to make uranium-233. India has about one-third of the world’s known supply of thorium, which is not useful by itself but can transform into the fissile material U-233. U-233 can power nuclear reactors and provide the fissile material for nuclear weapons. This material could therefore provide additional fuel for India’s electrical power production reactors and additional material for nuclear weapons.

If India were able to develop the thorium fuel cycle, it could have available as much as 155,502 gigawatt-years of electrical energy (GWe-yr), in comparison to the potential for 328 GWe-yr from indigenously fueled thermal reactors; 10,660 GWe-yr from indigenous coal (which now provides 69 percent of Indian electricity); and 42,231 GWe-yr from plutonium breeder reactors.[1] Currently, India has an installed electrical generating capacity of about 140 GWe, and the rate of electricity demand is expected to increase by 6 to 8 percent per year through 2020 during this period of projected ambitious economic growth.[2] Thus, the thorium cycle holds out the potential to provide a huge portion of India’s projected electricity needs for several hundred years.

Indian engineers have recognized, however, that significant hurdles block the way toward commercializing the thorium fuel cycle. High costs and major technical problems are likely to delay full commercialization of the thorium cycle until at least 2050, according to Indian energy experts.

To fully realize the thorium cycle, Indian engineers first face the mainly financial challenge of proving the commercial viability of the plutonium breeder program. India has operated a small 40-megawatt pilot-scale breeder reactor since 1985.Although India is building a commercial-scale breeder reactor, which is projected to be completed in 2011, and is planning to build four more of these reactors by 2020, ramping up to a fleet of breeder reactors will likely take decades, and it is uncertain if this program will succeed commercially. Thus, full realization of India’s civilian nuclear energy vision appears blurry, and this program could remain stuck at a low level for the next few decades.

Indeed, after nearly half a century of investment, nuclear energy provides only about 4,000 megawatts of electricity, or 3 percent of India’s electricity needs. That compares to about 20 percent in the United States. Even if the nuclear deal were to go through and India were to meet all of its goals for nuclear power generation, nuclear-generated electricity would only account for about 5 percent of India’s projected electricity demands in 2020. —CHARLES D. FERGUSON


1. Subhinder Thakur, Interview with author, Mumbai, January 4, 2008. Similar estimates appear in R. B. Grover and Subhash Chandra, “Scenario for Growth of Electricity in India,” Energy Policy, November 2006, pp. 2834-2847. For data on coal use, see World Coal Institute, www.worldcoal.org/pages/content/index.asp?PageID=402.

2. John Stephenson and Peter Tynan, “Will the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative Light India?” in Gauging U.S. Indian Strategic Cooperation, Henry Sokolski, editor (Strategic Studies Institute, 2007), p. 24.

India’s Planned Nuclear Triad: Seeking a “Credible Deterrent”

Charles D. Ferguson

If the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal were to move forward without any conditions, it would allow India to achieve its goal of deploying a triad of land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear weapons without hampering its nuclear energy ambitions.

India’s desire for a nuclear triad arises out of its stated need for a “credible minimal deterrent.” Exactly what that means is still being debated within the country, although the emphasis is clearly on “credibility” not minimalism. “Minimal” has been dropped at times from government pronouncements, but Indian analysts have consistently underscored the notion of credibility.[1] Even those who are strong supporters of eventual nuclear disarmament generally agree that credibility requires a second-strike capability.

Second-strike capability demands survivable nuclear forces. To achieve this, Indian analysts have borrowed from the U.S.-Soviet experience during the Cold War and have sought to acquire nuclear-armed submarines. In late February, India took a decisive step toward a sea-based nuclear capability by conducting a test of the K-15 ballistic missile from a submerged pontoon. The K-15 has a reported top range of 700 kilometers, allowing it to strike many targets in Pakistan. Deployed K-15 missiles on submarines could also target high-value sites in China.

The Indian military has been less successful in building nuclear submarines from which to launch such missiles. India’s nuclear-powered submarine program has limped along since 1985, although the Indian navy is trying to ready its first nuclear submarine for sea trials next year. India also received some experience in nuclear submarine operations from 1988 to 1991 when it leased a nuclear-powered attack submarine from the Soviet Union. A Russian crew manned this submarine while training Indian sailors. Presently, Russia is building an Akula-class nuclear submarine for lease to India.

Despite the substantial delays in deploying nuclear-powered submarines, these types of warships are not essential for deploying nuclear-armed forces at sea. India could use conventionally powered submarines as missile carriers, surface ships carrying nuclear-armed cruise missiles, or aircraft carriers with nuclear-capable bombers. Russia is refitting an aircraft carrier for India. Having fallen behind schedule, Moscow will likely complete the refit by late 2010. India has renamed the Admiral Gorshkov carrier as the Vikramaditya, which would be capable of helping protect India’s submarine fleet as well as launching fighter-bomber aircraft.[2] Of these platforms, Indian defense planners prefer the submarine force, whether nuclear or conventionally powered, to optimize survivability of this leg of the envisioned triad.

At this stage, India has not indicated how large its nuclear-armed submarine force could become. Submarines are least vulnerable to a pre-emptive attack when deployed; in port, a submarine is more exposed to attack. Even when deployed, a small submarine force could be vulnerable to anti-submarine warfare. If Pakistan develops effective anti-submarine capabilities, Indian defense planners would feel pressure to build a larger fleet of submarines, thereby increasing the perceived need for more weapons-usable fissile material and more nuclear weapons.

The other two legs of the triad would also require ready-to-deploy nuclear weapons. In the absence of clarifying information from the Indian government, there has been considerable debate about the deployment status of India’s nuclear weapons. Estimates of weapons that are fully assembled or can be fully assembled within days to weeks vary from a few to up to 100 with many analysts settling on about 30 to 50.[3]

There is even more certainty about the numbers of aircraft India has. India has more than 300 nuclear-capable planes, but it is uncertain how many are devoted to the nuclear mission. The most likely nuclear delivery systems are the Jaguar IS and Mirage 2000H fighter-bombers. Russian-acquired older MiG-27 and newer Su-30MKI fighter-bombers might also have a nuclear role.[4] India plans to upgrade its military aircraft within the next few years by purchasing 126 multipurpose planes for up to $12 billion. During a late February 2008 official visit to India, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reportedly promoted sales of U.S.-made aircraft.[5] It is uncertain how many aircraft India has armed or would consider arming with nuclear weapons.

Although the number of nuclear-armed land-based missiles is also uncertain, tests of these missiles are easier to track. The Prithvi I, with a range of 150 kilometers and a payload of 1,000 kilograms, has been approved for the Indian army. The Dhanush is the naval version of the Prithvi II, which is under development and has a range of approximately 350 kilometers. In addition, India has been developing longer-range Agni missiles. Although the Agni I with a 700-kilometer range and the Agni II with a range greater than 2,000 kilometers have reportedly been “inducted” into the army’s missile groups, their operational status is uncertain. In addition, the Agni III with a range greater than 3,000 kilometers is still under development and was test-launched on April 12, 2007. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that the Agni I and II will become fully operational in the next two years. Both can be deployed on road or rail launchers.[6] Once operational, these missile systems would significantly enhance India’s nuclear strike capabilities and could strike parts of China. India is estimated to have up to 100 ballistic missiles with more than half of those in the longer-range Agni class, but it is uncertain how many of these could be armed with nuclear warheads.[7]

Perceived pressures to deter China as well as Pakistan could increase the numbers of deployed and reserve Indian nuclear weapons. Although the actual size of the Indian arsenal is unknown, accounting for even modestly sized bomber, land-based missile, and submarine legs in a triad can give a rough estimate of the potential future size. For aircraft, India may choose to have a few dozen nuclear bombs. Presently, for example, India has about 48 Mirage 2000H planes and about 70 Jaguar ISs, but probably only a portion would have nuclear bombs devoted to them. In the missile leg, a few dozen Prithvi and Agni missiles could be devoted to nuclear missions. In the submarine leg, to ensure survivable forces, India would likely plan at a minimum for one submarine in the shipyard, one in port readying for deployment, and one or two at sea. Assuming up to a dozen missiles per submarine, India may have at least a few dozen warheads for the submarine force. If multiple warheads are placed on the missiles, the warhead numbers could expand by three or more times.

In sum, India’s triad including a single-warhead missile force based on land and underwater and a bomber fleet could exceed more than 100 operational weapons in the coming years. In addition, this warhead amount could increase by a factor of two or more depending on the size of a reserve fissile material stockpile. —CHARLES D. FERGUSON


1. For an extensive, recent Indian report on this issue, see “India’s Credible Minimum Deterrence: A Report,” IPCS Special Report, No. 13, February 2006.

2. Viktor Litovkin, “India to Get Renamed Aircraft Carrier From Russia,” RIA Novosti, June 11, 2007.

3. Arms Control Association, “Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: India,” Fact Sheet, November 2007; Sharon Squassoni, “Indian and Pakistani Nuclear Weapons,” CRS Report for Congress, RS21237, February 17, 2005.

4. Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, “India’s Nuclear Forces, 2007,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2007, pp. 74-78.

5. Ken Fireman, “Gates Says U.S.-India Ties to Expand Regardless of Nuclear Deal,” Bloomberg, February 26, 2008.

6. Norris and Kristensen, “India’s Nuclear Forces, 2007,” p. 76.

7. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Nuclear Forces: India 2005,” www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=19273&prog=zgp&proj=znpp; Natural Resources Defense Council, “Nuclear Notebook,” July/August 2007.

Charles D. Ferguson is a fellow for science and technology at the Council on Foreign Relations. He co-authored The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism (Monterey Institute of International Studies and the Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2004).


1. For a different analysis that reaches similar conclusions, see Raja Menon, “Nuclear Stability, Deterrence and Separation of India’s Civil and Weapon Facilities,” Strategic Analysis, Vol. 29, No. 4 (October-December 2005).

2. Zia Mian et al.,“Plutonium Production in India and the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal,” in Gauging U.S.-Indian Strategic Cooperation, ed. Henry Sokolski (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2007), p. 109.

3. Note that there is a discrepancy between NPCIL and Government of India Planning Commission estimates of the number of foreign-supplied reactors by 2020. The NPCIL cites up to eight 1,000-megawatt reactors from foreign suppliers while the commission cites six of these reactors. The difference is accounted for by the NPCIL’s more ambitious projections of 23,180 megawatts of electricity (including contributions from a few breeder reactors); the commission calls for 20,000 megawatts, which it characterizes as “optimistic.” Government of India Planning Commission, “Integrated Energy Policy: Report of the Expert Committee,” August 2006, p. 47.

4. Ashley J. Tellis, “Atoms for War?: U.S.-Indian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation and India’s Nuclear Arsenal,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2006.

5. David Albright, “India’s Military Plutonium Inventory, End-2004,” Institute for Science and International Security, May 7, 2005.

6. Thomas B. Cochran and Christopher E. Paine, “The Amount of Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium Needed for Pure Fission Nuclear Weapons,” Natural Resources Defense Council, April 13, 1995.

7. The thermal power rating (MWth) specifies the power that is produced by the reactor core. Knowing this number, one can estimate the plutonium production capacity. By contrast, the electric power rating (MWe) tells the electrical power production capacity. Because of energy conversion loses, MWe is always less than MWth.

8. U.S. Department of Energy, “Nonproliferation and Arms Control Assessment of Weapons-Usable Fissile Material Storage and Excess Plutonium Disposition Alternatives,” 1997.

9. George Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb: The Impact on Global Proliferation (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 428-430.

10. Alexander Glaser and M. V. Ramana, “Weapon-Grade Plutonium Production Potential in the Indian Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 15, No. 2 (2007), pp. 85-105.

11. Mian et al., “Plutonium Production in India and the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal,” p. 115.

Indian Politics Stymie U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal

Wade Boese

With U.S. officials warning that time is running out on an initiative to rollback restrictions on global nuclear trade with India, that country’s coalition government failed March 17 to persuade its leftist allies to drop their opposition to the U.S.-Indian effort. Another meeting to sway the holdouts is supposed to take place sometime in April.

The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is trying to win over the leftist parties because they have threatened to withdraw support for the ruling coalition if it takes certain steps toward implementing what the leftists charge is a deal that will erode India’s sovereignty and security. Such a split could trigger early elections that risk unseating Singh’s government.

The key issue at the March conclave was whether Singh’s government should finalize a safeguards agreement it negotiated over the past several months with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Safeguards are measures that the agency applies to a country’s declared civilian nuclear materials, technologies, and facilities to guard against their use for nuclear weapons purposes.

As part of a March 2006 agreement with President George W. Bush, Singh pledged to put eight additional Indian thermal nuclear reactors under IAEA safeguards, leaving another eight outside of safeguards and free to contribute to India’s nuclear weapons sector. New Delhi also plans to keep its two fast breeder reactors, which can produce large quantities of the nuclear bomb material plutonium, outside of safeguards. It further retains the option to designate any future reactors of any type that it builds off-limits to the IAEA.

Singh’s government is seeking the leftist parties’ endorsement of the new safeguards arrangement so it can be completed and presented for approval by the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors. The leftist parties have warned that they will break with the government if it proceeds with the safeguards agreement without their consent.

The text of the India-specific safeguards agreement remains secret and unfinished. A source familiar with the IAEA-Indian talks told Arms Control Today March 19 that “the sides are close to a final text, but India has to confirm the text” before it can be presented to the board, which typically has agreed to safeguards arrangements by consensus. It can, however, approve them with a simple majority vote.

At the March meeting, Singh’s government did not share the safeguards text with the representatives of the leftist parties, opting to brief them instead. The Hindu, one of India’s largest daily newspapers, reported afterward that leftist leaders said they need more details and that deliberations might take another three to four months.

That prospect conflicts with recent statements by U.S. government officials and legislators that the IAEA Board of Governors and the voluntary Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) must act rapidly on the U.S.-Indian initiative so U.S. lawmakers can take it up before this summer when Congress will recess and then turn its attention to the November elections. (See ACT, March 2008 .) The 45 members of the NSG, including the United States, seek to coordinate their nuclear export rules, one of which restricts trade with countries, such as India, that do not subject their entire nuclear enterprise to IAEA safeguards and remain outside the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. India largely has been ostracized from the international nuclear market since conducting a 1974 nuclear blast that used material derived from Canadian and U.S. exports designated for peaceful purposes.

U.S. lawmakers in December 2006 approved legislation with a provision that the NSG must clear India for expanded nuclear trade before Congress will vote on a U.S.-Indian nuclear trade agreement negotiated last summer. (See ACT, September 2007 .) Meanwhile, the NSG is waiting on IAEA board approval of the Indian safeguards agreement.

The next NSG meeting is scheduled to occur May 19-22, which is prior to the next regular IAEA board meeting June 2-6. A special meeting of the board, however, can be convened at the request of the IAEA director-general or any board member, including the United States or India. The source familiar with the IAEA-Indian talks said that there are “no plans for a special session of the board” but noted that could change quickly if the Indian government gives final approval to the negotiated safeguards text.

Still, the window might already be closed. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, told the Hindustan Times Feb. 29 that the “Indian government needs to move in the month of March on the IAEA Board of Governors” in order to give the NSG and Congress time to act. Noting that “it’s not going to happen overnight,” he warned that the NSG process will be “complicated” and “require many meetings.” Burns further cautioned that if Congress did not get around to passing the agreement this year, he thought “it’s very likely that we will not see it continued by a new administration.”

India Test-Launches Submarine Missile

Wade Boese

India took a recent step toward its longtime goal of deploying nuclear weapons at sea by test-firing a missile from beneath the ocean’s surface. The submarine that this missile type is supposed to arm is scheduled to be put to sea for the first time next year.

 Official details about the Feb. 26 missile test are scant, and the Indian government did not respond to Arms Control Today inquiries requesting information. India’s media, however, reported on the event at length, albeit with some conflicting data.

In addition, the Pakistani government confirmed March 5 that it had been “duly informed” of the test in advance by India. The two rivals agreed in October 2005 to give each other prior notice of their surface-to-surface ballistic missile flight tests. (See ACT, November 2005. ) That notification suggests that the missile tested was a ballistic missile and not a cruise missile as some reports stated. A cruise missile is powered through its entire flight and can maneuver, unlike a ballistic missile, which is only powered during the early stages of its flight and then follows a trajectory dictated by gravity to its target.

The missile India fired from a submersible platform about 50 meters deep in the Bay of Bengal waters was most frequently cited as the K-15. Some reports also called it the Sagarika, which is a missile that two years ago India’s defense minister told lawmakers did not exist.

All reports generally agree that the tested missile can fly approximately 700 kilometers and carry a nuclear warhead. Most reports also declare the experiment was the missile’s inaugural undersea launch. Agence France-Presse Feb. 18 quoted S. Prahlada, a top official of India’s Defence Research and Development Organization, as telling reporters, “[W]e have completed all preparations for the first-ever launch of the missile.” But some reports indicated the missile may have been previously tested secretly, perhaps several times.

Rajesh Basrur, author of the book Minimum Deterrence and India’s Nuclear Security, told Arms Control Today in a March 20 e-mail that the previously reported tests were “component tests” and “the recent one was the first ‘undersea’ trial.” He added, “[T]hat would partly explain the publicity given to it.”

Another expert on Indian nuclear weapons, Bharat Karnad, also e-mailed Arms Control Today March 23 that the February launch was a “full-system test.” Formerly a member of India’s National Security Advisory Board and a participant in crafting India’s 1999 draft nuclear doctrine (see ACT, July/August 1999 ), Karnad contended the launch was a success but “some kinks appeared thereafter in [the missile’s] flight which need ironing out.”

India has at least a few years to try and perfect the missile. Sureesh Mehta, India’s top naval official, disclosed last December that the first Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) would be ready for sea trials in 2009. If the trials go well, it could be inducted into service two or three years later.

Largely kept secret, the ATV would be India’s first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine and India’s first submarine able to fire nuclear-armed missiles. India reportedly is building three of the boats. It began developing nuclear power submarines in the 1970s, but their development was delayed by troubles in building a power reactor small enough to fit onboard.

India’s interest in nuclear-armed submarines has been no secret. The 1999 draft nuclear doctrine endorsed a sea-based nuclear delivery capability. In its May 2006 “vision document,” the Indian navy stated its intent to conduct operations from “conventional war fighting to nuclear deterrence.”

Basrur and Karnad stated that India wants nuclear-armed submarines due to the notion that they are more “invulnerable” than air or ground systems. The thinking is that such arms more persuasively dissuade an adversary that, in a first strike, it will be able to minimize or eliminate the possibility of retaliation. India claims it particularly needs survivable forces because it has forsworn the first use of nuclear weapons. Basrur disagrees, contending that submarine-delivered nuclear weapons invite instability by increasing “risk precisely because they are hard to detect…thereby reducing reaction time and encouraging early warning and launch.” 

Admiral Muhammad Afzal Tahir, chief of Pakistan’s naval staff, reacted to the Indian test by reportedly calling it a “very serious issue” and warning it could provoke “a new arms race in the region.” In a lengthy interview several months ago with Asian Defence Journal, however, Tahir discounted the possibility that Pakistan would pursue a sea-based nuclear force, stating, “[P]resently, we do not have [the] technological capability and we cannot afford it.”

Other countries with nuclear-armed submarine missiles are China, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France, which recently commissioned its latest nuclear-armed submarine (see page 35 ). Israel, which neither confirms nor denies its widely believed nuclear arms possession, also allegedly has equipped submarine-based cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. (See ACT, November 2003 .)

France Upgrades, Trims Nuclear Arsenal

Wade Boese

Showcasing France’s newest nuclear-armed submarine March 21, French President Nicolas Sarkozy extolled the enduring value of nuclear weapons to his country’s security while he also vowed to reduce their numbers. The French president further called on other states to dismantle their nuclear weapons testing facilities and forswear certain missiles.

Sarkozy, elected last May, delivered his first major speech on France’s nuclear weapons and nuclear policy at the Cherbourg shipyard where the country’s newest ballistic missile submarine, Le Terrible, was on display. That vessel is the fourth of the Le Triomphant-class and is scheduled to be commissioned in 2010 and armed with France’s newest ballistic missile, the M51.1. The submarine will carry 16 of the missiles, which have an estimated range of at least 6,000 kilometers and are capable of carrying six nuclear warheads.

Sarkozy noted that the addition of Le Terrible and the M51.1 ballistic missile, which will be retrofitted on the other three Le Triomphant­-class submarines, is only part of France’s effort to modernize its nuclear forces. He also said that the Rafale combat aircraft this year will start carrying the upgraded, nuclear-armed ASMP-A cruise missile. The Rafale is replacing the Mirage 2000N and Super Étendard as France’s nuclear delivery aircraft. France previously eliminated all of its ground-launched nuclear-weapon systems.

Nonetheless, Sarkozy announced that France would reduce its force of air-delivered nuclear warheads by one-third. He said the move would lower the overall French stockpile to less than 300 warheads, a total that Sarkozy said was “half of the maximum number of warheads we had during the Cold War.” Although nuclear-armed states jealously guard details about their arsenals, public estimates suggest France would still field the third-largest nuclear arsenal behind Russia and the United States, which both possess several thousand nuclear warheads.

Although declining in numbers, Sarkozy emphasized that French nuclear weapons were not diminishing in importance. He described the weapons as the “ultimate guarantee” of France’s independence and “decision-making autonomy.”

After singling out Iran as a growing threat, Sarkozy warned that “all those who would threaten our vital interests would expose themselves to severe retaliation.” He also claimed a European role for France’s nuclear weapons, declaring, “By their very existence, French nuclear forces are a key element in Europe’s security. Any aggressor who might consider challenging it must be mindful of this.” Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, in a similar 2006 address had invited other European states to discuss a “common [European] defense that would take into account…existing deterrent forces.” (See ACT, March 2006 .) There was little response.

Sarkozy indicated a decision to use nuclear weapons would not be taken lightly. He argued French nuclear weapons were “strictly defensive” and that their use “would clearly be conceivable only in extreme circumstances of legitimate defense.”

Turning to other nuclear-armed powers, Sarkozy urged them to follow France’s lead by dismantling their nuclear weapons testing facilities. He also specifically called on China and the United States to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the two countries have signed. France in April 1998 ratified that accord, which outlaws nuclear explosions, and three months later completed dismantlement of its nuclear testing center.

Sarkozy also asked China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to join France in “transparency measures.” He did not specify what those measures were, but he invited foreign experts to verify the dismantlement of France’s two military fissile material production plants, Pierrelatte and Marcoule. In 1996, France announced it had ceased producing fissile material, plutonium and highly enriched uranium, for weapons purposes. In his Cherbourg speech, Sarkozy reiterated French support for starting long-stalled talks on a global fissile material production ban for arms.

In addition, Sarkozy endorsed negotiations to ban short- and intermediate-range surface-to-surface missiles. Such a prohibition would not affect the M51.1, which is a long-range missile, or the air-launched ASMP-A cruise missile. Sarkozy’s call follows a February Russian proposal to institute a global ban on ground-launched short- to intermediate-range missiles, which the United States and Russia have already forsworn through the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. (See ACT, March 2008 .)

Sarkozy’s nuclear agenda resembles that enunciated over the past year by the United Kingdom. The British government decided early last year to explore developing a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines while it touted a decision to cut its operational nuclear forces to fewer than 160 warheads. (See ACT, January/February 2007 .) Des Browne, the British defense minister, also recently invited American, Chinese, French, and Russian nuclear weapons scientists to participate in a future conference on verifying nuclear disarmament. (See ACT, March 2008 .)

Hotline to Link U.S.-Chinese Militaries

Jeremy Patterson

The Department of Defense has negotiated a landmark new communications hotline between the U.S. military and the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, while it continues to keep a watchful eye on China’s growing military capabilities.

Defense Department officials announced Feb. 29 that they had formally agreed to implement the long-discussed Defense Telephone Link (DTL) with China. The agreement comes after years of talks between the two sides. Hotline talks were given a boost last September when President George W. Bush raised the issue directly with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The link was discussed again when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited China in November and at an annual bilateral meeting of undersecretary-level defense representatives in Washington in December.

The formal agreement was reached in Shanghai during a meeting of representatives at the deputy assistant secretary level. In a statement to Arms Control Today March 17, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder said that “the agreement will allow us to move forward on installing the actual equipment in the next few weeks. We anticipate the DTL will become operational this month.” A Chinese spokesperson refused to commit to a specific date when asked at a March 4 press conference, although he did express hopes that the new connection would “enhance political mutual trust, exchanges, and cooperation.”

At the Shanghai talks, the United States and China also agreed to move forward with their nuclear strategy and policy dialogue. In March 3 remarks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Sedney, who negotiated the final hotline agreement, said “we do have a process in place now. This process was proposed by the PLA [Chinese military], and the first part of that will be a discussion between Chinese military officers and Chinese military academics and counterparts here in the U.S. And we expect that to happen in the next month or so… maybe two months.”

The hotline and nuclear strategy talks are part of a multiyear effort to enhance openness in the troubled relationship between the two military establishments. The Defense Department is eager to learn more about the Chinese military, including better understanding Beijing’s military philosophy, and command and control structures.

Report on Chinese Military Power

The Defense Department’s 2008 Military Power of China report, released March 3, also underscores Washington’s continuing uncertainty about Chinese procedures and intentions. The annual report asserts that the “lack of transparency in China’s military and security affairs poses risks to stability by increasing the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation.”

This year’s report notes several new developments in China’s nuclear capabilities, including the deployment of fewer than 10 each of the new solid-fueled, road-mobile DF-31 and DF-31A ICBMs. These missiles’ enhanced mobility and quicker launch times make them less vulnerable than the older, liquid-fueled CSS-3 and CSS-4 missiles that are being phased out. The liquid-fueled missiles must be held in position and fueled before they can be launched, a process that takes several hours during which they are vulnerable to disarming strikes. The report asserts that the enhanced mobility enabled by the new missiles will create new command and control challenges for the Chinese leadership.

The report says that China continues to deploy 20 CSS-4 ICBMs. The DF-31A and CSS-4 are the only Chinese ICBMs capable of targeting the continental United States. In contrast, the United States maintains approximately 450 ICBMs and 430 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) that can strike the Chinese mainland.

The Pentagon also reports a substantial increase in CSS-5 deployments. The CSS-5 is a shorter-range, solid-fueled, road-mobile missile for regional use and is expected to fully replace the aging CSS-2 by 2010. CSS-5 deployment has increased from 40-50 missiles with 34-38 launchers last year to 60-80 missiles with 60 launchers this year. Because the report notes that China is preparing a conventionally armed version of the CSS-5, however, it is possible that some of these do not have nuclear missions.

The report also indicates that China is researching technologies for its ballistic missile forces that would counter potential ballistic missile defenses, such as those being developed by the United States. (See ACT, November 2007 .) These include maneuverable re-entry vehicles, multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles, decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and anti-satellite weapons.

China also appears to be improving its nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) capabilities. The report indicated that one JIN-class (Type 094) SSBN may soon enter service, although publicly available satellite imagery suggests the existence of at least two of the new submarines.

The report estimates that up to five JIN-class submarines may be deployed by 2010, reflecting for the first time a December 2006 estimate by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence. The JIN-class submarine will carry the JL-2 SLBM, which the Pentagon expects will reach initial operational capability by 2010.

China has built only one of its previous-generation XIA-class SSBNs equipped with JL-1 SLBMs. The 2008 report now lists the operational status of that submarine as “questionable.”

The report indicates that China has also acquired an uncertain number of cruise missiles. It estimates that China now has 50 to 250 indigenously produced DH-10s. By 2010 the report says new air- and ground-launched cruise missiles “could perform nuclear missions.”

Although new Chinese budgetary figures were not available at the time of the report’s publication, the Pentagon’s report continues to criticize China’s alleged underreporting of its military spending. Historically, the Defense Department has estimated that China’s actual military spending is roughly two to three times the official number reported by the Chinese. China released its claimed 2008 military spending March 4, the day after the Pentagon released its report. China said it would spend $59 billion on its military in 2008, a 17.6 percent increase over the 2007 figure. In contrast, the U.S. military budget in fiscal year 2008, which ends Sept. 30, is $481.4 billion, not including funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense has negotiated a landmark new communications hotline between the U.S. military and the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, while it continues to keep a watchful eye on China’s growing military capabilities.

Defense Department officials announced Feb. 29 that they had formally agreed to implement the long-discussed Defense Telephone Link (DTL) with China. The agreement comes after years of talks between the two sides. Hotline talks were given a boost last September when President George W. Bush raised the issue directly with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The link was discussed again when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited China in November and at an annual bilateral meeting of undersecretary-level defense representatives in Washington in December. (Continue)

U.S. Edges Closer to Europe Anti-Missile Deals

Wade Boese

The Bush administration is making progress in negotiating with the Czech Republic and Poland to host controversial U.S. strategic anti-ballistic missile systems. A final deal, however, seems much closer with the Czech Republic than Poland, which is making greater demands on the United States.

U.S. talks with the two governments to station missile defense components on their territories date back at least four years (see ACT, July/August 2004), but official negotiations began early last year. At that time, Bush administration officials predicted the talks might only take months and U.S. site construction could start as early as this year. Now, early next year is the soonest construction may start, pending agreements with the two countries and funding from Congress. In its February budget request for fiscal year 2009, which begins Oct. 1, the Bush administration asked lawmakers for $719 million to fund the project after Congress cut spending last year that would have gone toward construction activities. (See ACT, March 2008 .)

The U.S. proposal aims to deploy 10 long-range missile interceptors in Poland and an advanced missile tracking radar in the Czech Republic to counter what the United States asserts is a growing Iranian missile threat. The Missile Defense Agency has projected that Iran could develop an ICBM able to strike the United States by 2015, while Vice President Dick Cheney March 11 gave a longer estimate of “late in the next decade.”

Polish officials have indicated that Iran is not a significant factor in their willingness to explore hosting the U.S. interceptors, which are a modified and untested version of U.S. systems deployed in Alaska and California. Speaking Jan. 31 in Washington, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said that his country “does not feel directly threatened by Iran.”

One motivation behind Poland’s interest in the project is the belief that it will bolster ties with the United States. Sikorski argued that hosting the U.S. base “will make [U.S. and Polish] security mutually dependent for decades.”

Poland also sees the initiative as opening the door to additional U.S. weapons and military assistance. Visiting President George W. Bush March 10, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk noted that the “missile defense system and the modernization of the Polish forces…come in one package.” Bush promised Tusk that the United States would develop a “concrete and tangible” modernization plan for Poland “before my watch is over.”

Determining precisely what U.S. arms will be made available to Poland is a crucial issue in the U.S.-Polish negotiations. Michael Wyganowski, a former Polish diplomat and current executive director of the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis, told Arms Control Today March 20 that “what goodies the [United States] is willing to provide” will be important to Tusk’s ability to sell any outcome as a success to the Polish electorate.

Ambassador Stephen Mull, acting assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, is leading a U.S. assessment of Polish military modernization requirements. The study reportedly will take at least three months. Visiting Poland Feb. 29, Mull said the two sides will focus on “Poland’s air defense, command and control, and mobility needs.” The costs of any new Polish weapons procurement is expected to fall largely on Poland.

Moscow’s threat to target the planned bases is helping spur Warsaw’s interest in improving its air defenses, including the possible acquisition of shorter-range U.S. anti-missile systems. Russia maintains the proposed U.S. systems are secretly intended for use against it.

Poland has urged the Bush administration to sooth Russian anxieties about the project, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Moscow March 17 and 18 with that purpose (see page 33 ). They reiterated past U.S. proposals intended to ease Russian concerns, which include allowing Russian officials to monitor or visit the sites. One reported option is to permit designated officials at the Russian embassies in the two host countries to conduct short-notice inspections of the bases. Gates and Rice stressed that the host government would have to consent to any such arrangement, reflecting Czech and Polish unease with the notion of a Russian presence at military sites within their borders.

Although a Polish-U.S. agreement could take several months to materialize, talks with the Czech Republic seemingly are nearer completion. Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon’s press secretary, noted March 10 that it generally had been expected that an agreement would be announced Feb. 27 when Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek visited Washington.

During that visit, however, Topolánek said the two sides were stuck on “three words” related to “environmental protection.” Yet, he downplayed the disagreement as a “technical matter, which is going to be resolved very soon.” A Czech diplomatic source March 18 told Arms Control Today that a “common understanding” exists and all that is required is a “specific formulation.”

The diplomatic source further stated that Prague and Washington are close on both an agreement to host the U.S. base and a separate Status of Forces Agreement, which establishes the legal status of U.S. forces and property stationed in a foreign country. Poland also is negotiating two similar instruments with the United States. The diplomatic source indicated that the Czech Republic “will most probably not” link signing its agreements to the status of U.S.-Polish talks.

Both the Czech and Polish governments would prefer to have NATO’s endorsement of the project, but neither country is making that a precondition of concluding agreements with the United States. The 26-member alliance conducted an extensive study assessing the feasibility of protecting all members’ territories and population centers against long-range missile attacks but could not agree in 2006 on pursuing any strategic anti-missile systems. (See ACT, April 2007 .) NATO members are divided over the general issue, as well as the proposed U.S. system, and it is expected to be a point of discussion at NATO’s April 2-4 Bucharest summit.

In a report on the fiscal year 2008 defense authorization bill, signed into law Jan. 28, lawmakers stressed that NATO should play a “central role” in European missile defenses and urged that any long-range U.S. system located there should be compatible with future NATO systems. That law requires the secretary of defense to certify that any long-range interceptors destined for deployment in Europe have passed operationally realistic flight testing. It also orders an independent study of alternatives to the Bush plan. The report is due to Congress near the end of July.

The Bush administration is making progress in negotiating with the Czech Republic and Poland to host controversial U.S. strategic anti-ballistic missile systems. A final deal, however, seems much closer with the Czech Republic than Poland, which is making greater demands on the United States. (Continue)

Security Council Adopts More Iran Sanctions

Peter Crail

The UN Security Council March 3 adopted a third sanctions resolution responding to Iran’s refusal to comply with the council’s demands to suspend its nuclear fuel-cycle activities. Resolution 1803 calls on states to undertake additional efforts to prevent Iran from financing or procuring technology for its nuclear and missile programs, as well as broadening the existing sanctions imposed under two previous resolutions. The five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany agreed on pursuing the resolution as part of a “package deal,” seeking to impose additional sanctions on Iran on one hand, but also agreeing “to further enhance diplomatic efforts” to find a comprehensive long-term resolution to the nuclear issue as part of their “dual track approach.”

The council adopted the resolution with 14 votes in favor and Indonesia abstaining. Indonesian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Marty Natalegawa explained to the council following the March 3 vote that “Indonesia remains to be convinced of the efficacy of adopting additional sanctions at this juncture.”

A Modest Increase in Sanctions

Resolution 1803 reiterates the demands of three previous resolutions requiring Iran to suspend its activities related to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, as well as work on its heavy-water reactor. These activities have civilian nuclear uses but may also be used to create fissile material for nuclear weapons. The council initially made this demand in Resolution 1696, adopted in July 2006. It reiterated this demand in two subsequent sanctions resolutions, 1737 adopted in December 2006 and Resolution 1747 adopted in March 2007.

The resolution requests that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei submit a report to the council and the IAEA Board of Governors by June 3 regarding Iran’s compliance with these obligations. The agency’s board is scheduled to meet June 2-6. ElBaradei issued a report on Iran’s nuclear program Feb. 22 indicating that although Tehran had increased its cooperation with the agency, it did not suspend its nuclear fuel-cycle activities and has not yet answered questions regarding suspected work related to nuclear weapons. (See ACT, March 2008. )

As in Resolutions 1737 and 1747, Resolution 1803 highlights that the council will suspend its sanctions as long as Iran carries out these demands and will terminate the sanctions as soon as the IAEA verifies that “Iran has fully complied with” its obligations to the Security Council and the IAEA. It also indicates that if Iran fails to meet these obligations, the council shall “adopt further appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter VII” of the UN Charter. Article 41 grants the council the authority to adopt nonmilitary measures in response to threats to international peace and security.

Resolution 1803 expands and strengthens some of the targeted sanctions measures included in Resolutions 1737 and 1747. For example, the resolution extends the financial restrictions contained in the two previous resolutions, such as funds and assets freezes, to an additional 13 persons and seven entities involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. It also calls on states to “exercise vigilance and restraint” regarding the “entry into or transit through their territories” of these 13 persons.

In a slight strengthening of the travel restrictions imposed by the two previous resolutions, Resolution 1803 requires that states prevent the travel of a select list of five persons involved in Iran’s nuclear program whom were designated under Resolutions 1737 and 1747.

Resolution 1803 also expands the scope of restrictions on nuclear- and missile-related technology transfers to Iran. For example, Resolution 1737 placed restrictions on the supply of items and technologies directly associated with nuclear programs, but the new resolution places similar restrictions on a list of dual-use nuclear goods that have nuclear and non-nuclear applications.

This prohibition on dual-use nuclear technology does not apply to transfers exclusively for use in light-water reactors (LWRs) or for nonprohibited IAEA technical cooperation with Iran. All such transfers, however, must be carried out under strict control, including verifying the appropriate end use after shipment and notifying the committee established under Resolution 1737 of such transfers.

The exemption for LWR-related transfers allows Russia to continue its work on Iran’s first nuclear power reactor at Bushehr, scheduled for completion late this year.

In order for states to avoid financing Tehran’s proliferation activities, Resolution 1803 calls on all states to “exercise vigilance” regarding their firms that have dealings with Iran. In particular, it asks states to be wary of granting export credits, guarantees, or insurance to their businesses trading with Iran. The resolution also asks that states exercise the same caution in regard to activities between their financial institutions and Iranian banks, especially the state-owned Bank Melli and Bank Saderat and their branches and subsidiaries.

The United States has previously imposed financial sanctions on Bank Melli and Bank Saderat, Iran’s largest and second-largest state-owned banks, respectively. In October 2007, Washington placed restrictions on Bank Melli for its contributions to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and on Bank Saderat for its contributions to terrorist organizations. (See ACT, November 2007. )

The most controversial provision of the resolution calls on all states to carry out inspections of cargo going to and coming from Iran “at their airports and seaports” and of aircraft and vessels owned or operated by Iran Air Cargo and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line “provided there are reasonable grounds to believe” the cargo contains goods prohibited under the sanctions resolutions.

During the negotiations on the draft resolution in the council, some states, including Libya, South Africa, and Vietnam, expressed opposition to this provision due to legal concerns and the potential to incite hostilities. (See ACT, March 2008. ) Explaining South Africa’s vote in favor of the resolution March 3, Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa’s permanent representative to the UN, told the council that Pretoria “would have preferred that the resolution not contain the controversial provision” allowing such inspections “as this could spark confrontation.”

In order to address such concerns, language was added to the draft resolution requiring that these inspections be carried out in accordance with “national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, in particular the law of the sea and relevant international civil aviation agreements.”

As with the two previous resolutions, the resolution contains a call for states to report to a Security Council committee established under Resolution 1737 on the efforts they have taken to implement the sanctions within 60 days. Of the 192 UN members, about 85 states have submitted reports on their efforts under Resolution 1737, and about 71 have done so for Resolution 1747.

Further Developing Incentives

In addition to imposing sanctions on Iran, the resolution “stresses the willingness” of the five permanent members of the council and Germany “to further enhance diplomatic efforts” to find a comprehensive long-term settlement of the nuclear issue with Tehran.

Following the adoption of the resolution, the United Kingdom issued a statement on behalf of the group. The statement indicated that the six powers reconfirm the proposals they presented to Iran in June 2006 “and are prepared to further develop them.” According to the 2006 proposal, once Iran suspends its nuclear fuel-cycle activities, the six countries offered to negotiate a wide range of opportunities for technical, economic, and political cooperation with Iran, including European-Iranian nuclear cooperation. (See ACT, July/August 2006. )

Tehran formally rejected the proposal in August 2006. It claimed that, although the proposal contained “useful foundations and capacities for comprehensive and long-term cooperation,” it also had numerous ambiguities, in particular with regard to “Iran’s right to [a] peaceful nuclear program.”

A British diplomat told Arms Control Today March 19 that the primary reason for Tehran’s rejection of the offer was that it did not permit Iran to enrich uranium.

Since the 2006 offer was made, EU High Representative Javier Solana has held intermittent discussions with Iran on behalf of the six countries in order to open negotiations for a long-term settlement of the nuclear issue on the basis of the incentives package. These discussions have not been successful, and Solana said that he was “disappointed” with the latest talks in November 2007. (See ACT, December 2007. ) Resolution 1803 encourages these negotiations to continue.

The decision to further develop the incentives package was part of the overall agreement by the six countries on the draft sanctions they proposed to the council in February. (See ACT, March 2008. ) Russia and China conditioned their support for the additional sanctions on an agreement to repackage the incentives offer. A Russian diplomat told Arms Control Today March 3 that the agreement to enhance the incentives proposal was necessary in order for Moscow to support the draft sanctions resolution. Similarly, a German diplomat said March 5 that further work on the offer was also important to ensure Chinese support for the additional sanctions.

In a March 3 statement, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, told reporters that Moscow viewed the resolution and the statement of the six countries as a “package deal.” He highlighted that the statement is “extremely significant” as it does not just reiterate but expands on the June 2006 offer and asserted that it “deserves serious reflections on the Iranian side.”

European diplomats told Arms Control Today that the main purpose of “repackaging” the incentives offer is to demonstrate to the Iranian population the benefits that they would receive if Tehran decided to cooperate and suspend their nuclear fuel-cycle programs in order to enter negotiations. Several Western diplomats described the repackaging process as “ongoing.”

A British diplomat said March 19 that “the Iranian regime has been opaque with the Iranian people about the offer on the table,” adding that, should the Iranian public become aware of what the Iranian leadership was rejecting, “it may place public pressure on the regime.” The diplomat noted that the repackaging was largely clarifying the advantages that the Iranians would gain from cooperation.

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. permanent representative to the UN, made a similar appeal in a March 4 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, citing in particular the U.S. recognition of Iran’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy. Underlining the benefits that Iran would receive from the incentive package, he stated that the Iranian people “should know that the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany have offered to help Iran develop civil nuclear power” if Iran complies with the council’s “very reasonable demand” to suspend enrichment.

The March 3 resolution and six-country statement were issued more than a week prior to the March 14 Iranian parliamentary elections. The elections did not result in substantial changes in the makeup of the Iranian parliament.

Iran Rejects Suspension, Dialogue

Even before the adoption of Resolution 1803, Iran reiterated its refusal to comply with the council’s demands to suspend its nuclear fuel-cycle activities. Speaking to the council prior to the March 3 vote on the resolution, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran’s permanent representative to the UN, stated in regard to suspension that “Iran cannot and will not accept a requirement which is legally defective and politically coercive.”

Iran also rejected the call by the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany to pursue discussions on the nuclear issue on the basis of the incentives package. Iranian government spokesperson Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters March 15, “The issue of nuclear talks with the countries of the [five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany] is over.”

Unlike Iran’s response to the adoption of Resolution 1747, in which Iran curtailed its cooperation with the IAEA, Iranian officials have stated that Tehran will continue to work with the agency in line with its safeguards obligations. Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, Tehran’s ambassador to the IAEA, told Iran’s Press TV March 4, “Iran will continue its cooperation with the IAEA in accordance with the IAEA statute, [the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty], and its comprehensive safeguard[s] agreement.”

In March 2007, Iran suspended a subsidiary pact to its safeguards agreement that required Iran to provide design information for nuclear facilities as soon as it authorizes construction. Resolution 1803 underlines that the IAEA “has sought confirmation” that Iran will reapply this subsidiary agreement.

UN Security Council Resolution 1803

The UN Security Council on March 3 adopted Resolution 1803 imposing additional targeted sanctions on Iran for its failure to implement steps required in past resolutions, such as suspending its uranium-enrichment-related activities. The resolution was passed with 14 votes in favor and Indonesia abstaining. As with several past resolutions, Resolution 1803 was adopted under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides for the Security Council to take nonmilitary actions to threats to international peace and security.

The resolution expands on and strengthens some of the sanctions contained in Resolutions 1737, adopted in December 2006, and 1747, adopted in March 2007. These sanctions include travel and financial restrictions on Iranian personnel involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, controls over the transfer of certain nuclear- and missile-related goods to Iran, and constraints on providing Iran with major conventional combat systems.

In addition to sanctions, the resolution highlights the efforts by China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to further develop their June 2006 incentives offer to Iran in order to negotiate a comprehensive resolution of the nuclear issue once Iran suspends its relevant nuclear activities.

In particular, Resolution 1803:

• Reaffirms that Iran must verifiably suspend all of its activities related to uranium enrichment, spent fuel reprocessing, and heavy-water reactor construction. It also reaffirms the call by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for Iran to ratify and implement an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, which provides the agency with enhanced inspection authority in order to detect undeclared nuclear activities.

• Welcomes the August 2007 work plan concluded between the IAEA and Iran to resolve all outstanding safeguards issues and the progress made in this regard as detailed in the Feb. 22 report of IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. It encourages the IAEA to continue its work to clarify these outstanding issues.

• Calls on all states to exercise vigilance and restraint regarding the entry or transit of Iranian personnel associated with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs through their territories. The council decides that all states shall notify the Iran sanctions committee established pursuant to Resolution 1737 of the movement of additional Iranian personnel designated in an annex of this resolution.

• Decides that all states shall prevent the entry or transit of Iranian personnel designated in an annex to this resolution, as well as any additional persons designated by the council.

• Decides that all states shall freeze the financial assets and economic resources that are on their territories that are owned or controlled by the persons or organizations designated in annexes to the resolution.

• Decides that all states shall prevent the transfer of nuclear dual-use items and technology to Iran except for light-water reactors and IAEA projects. These transfers must be subject to strict controls. The council also decides that all states shall prevent the transfer of specialized materials, technologies and subcomponents that may be used in missile systems.

• Calls on all states to exercise vigilance in providing public financial support for trade with Iran, including granting export credits, guarantees, or insurance to entities involved in such trade.

• Calls on all states to exercise vigilance over their financial institutions involved with Iranian banks, especially Bank Melli and Bank Saderat, in order to prevent them from assisting the finance of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

• Calls on all states to inspect the cargoes to and from Iran of aircraft and vessels owned or operated by Iran Air Cargo and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line at their airports and seaports upon suspicion that such cargoes may be transporting items and technologies prohibited under the council’s resolutions. The council also requires that states must submit a report to the council within five working days regarding the details and rationale regarding such an inspection.

• Calls on all states to report to the Iran sanctions committee within 60 days on steps they have taken to implement the sanctions in the resolution.

• Stresses the willingness of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to further enhance their diplomatic efforts on the basis of their June 2006 offer to Iran in order to reach a long-term resolution of the nuclear issue so long as Iran verifiably suspends its sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle activities.

• Encourages European High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana to continue communications with Iran in order to create the necessary conditions for resuming talks on a diplomatic solution.

• Requests a report from ElBaradei on Iran’s compliance with the resolution within 90 days.

• Reaffirms that the council shall suspend sanctions as long as Iran verifiably suspends its nuclear fuel-cycle activities to allow negotiations on a long-term resolution to occur.

• Reaffirms that the council will halt sanctions once the IAEA director-general confirms that Iran has complied with the obligations under the relevant Security Council resolutions and meets the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors.

• Reaffirms that if the June 2008 report by ElBaradei demonstrates that Iran has not complied with the council’s resolutions, the council shall adopt further nonmilitary punitive responses.

Brazil, Argentina Pursue Nuclear Cooperation

Jessica Lasky-Fink

In February, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez released a joint communiqué establishing a binational commission to explore further areas of nuclear cooperation between the two nations.

According to the Feb. 22 communiqué, the commission will work on developing a joint nuclear reactor to meet the electrical needs of both nations, designing a bilateral project to explore aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, and establishing a binational company for uranium enrichment. The commission will also organize a seminar of Argentine and Brazilian researchers tasked with assessing strategies for future nuclear cooperation and identifying the necessary human resources and technology needed for bilateral cooperation.

The commission met for the first time in the beginning of March at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna. The communiqué stipulates that the commission has until Aug. 30 to prepare a report outlining the actions that should be taken to promote further bilateral cooperation.

The joint communiqué is the latest development in nuclear cooperation between Argentina and Brazil. In the 1980s, each nation agreed to stand down from the weapons-related programs that they were then pursuing as regional rivals. In 1991 they signed a bilateral agreement committing to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only. Thereafter, they established the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC), which is responsible for verifying compliance with the bilateral agreement.

Also in 1991, Argentina, Brazil, the ABACC, and the IAEA signed the Quadripartite Agreement, specifying procedures for IAEA and ABACC monitoring and verification of Argentine and Brazilian nuclear installations.

Brazil has an operational enrichment facility at Resende, about 100 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro. Argentina had a small-scale facility at Pilcaniyeu, and there has been speculation that Buenos Aires might restart an enrichment program in an attempt to keep pace with Brazil. Although the Resende facility is subject to IAEA and ABACC safeguards, past negotiations with the IAEA regarding verification procedures have been tense. (See ACT, October 2005. )

Moreover, neither Argentina nor Brazil has signed an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. Such protocols grant the IAEA expanded rights of access to information and undeclared nuclear sites.

Some outside experts have raised questions about Brazil’s nuclear ambitions and are particularly worried about the country’s aspirations for a nuclear-powered submarine. Most countries rely on nuclear submarines powered by highly enriched uranium, which can also be used in a nuclear weapons program. Although Brazil has said that its submarines will be fueled by low-enriched uranium, concerns remain about the potential for enrichment facilities to be used for a weapons program.

In a recent article published by the Brazilian Ministry of Defense, Nelson Jobim, the country’s defense minister, highlighted plans for the modernization of navy facilities needed for the construction, repair, and maintenance of a nuclear submarine. One of the top Brazilian generals, Jose Benedito de Barros Moreira, reiterated in a Feb. 8 interview on the specialized defense website [email protected] that Brazil’s number one military priority is the development of a nuclear submarine. According to Moreira, Brazil will complete construction of its nuclear submarine in eight to 10 years. Others are more reluctant to specify a timeline for submarine development, citing serious budgetary constraints that must be addressed before the Brazilian dream of a nuclear-powered submarine can become a reality.

U.S., Russia at Odds on Key Arms Issues

Wade Boese

Top U.S. and Russian officials accentuated the positive after a recent high-level meeting, but the two sides remain deeply divided on developing anti-missile systems and managing their future nuclear weapons relationship.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to Moscow to meet with their respective Russian counterparts March 17 and 18, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s handpicked successor and the president-elect. The trip was the second of the “two plus two” talks agreed to last July by Putin and President George W. Bush as a channel for their governments to discuss security issues. The inaugural meeting occurred last October in Moscow. (See ACT, November 2007 .)

Rice explained to reporters March 17 that she and Gates took the atypical step of visiting Moscow for a second straight time instead of hosting a reciprocal visit by their Russian counterparts because of “the hope that we will be able to move on a number of issues.” The trip stemmed from a March 7 phone call between Putin and Bush, who subsequently sent Putin a letter touching on a raft of issues. Putin described the letter as a “serious document.”

Despite descriptions by both sides of the two-day visit as “fruitful” and “productive,” the two countries did not reach any agreements on what have been two of the most divisive issues: missile defenses and future strategic nuclear arms limits. Nonetheless, Bush plans to meet Putin in Sochi, Russia a couple of days after both leaders attend an April 2-4 NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania. National security advisor Stephen Hadley March 26 informed reporters of the short-notice trip and described it as a chance to “identify areas of cooperation [and] resolve some outstanding issues so that the relationship is in good shape to be handed over to their two respective successors.”

The U.S. plan to deploy 10 long-range ballistic missile interceptors in Poland and an advanced missile tracking radar in the Czech Republic has been the greatest irritant in the U.S.-Russian relationship over the past year. The United States claims the systems are intended to protect against a growing Iranian missile threat, but Russia alleges that Russian missiles could be the target. As Gates acknowledged March 17, “The Russians hate the idea of missile defense.”

Gates and Rice sought to soften Moscow’s opposition by reaffirming and fleshing out some previous U.S. proposals intended to reassure Russia that Iran is the true target of the anti-missile systems. For instance, Gates suggested the United States could refrain from activating the proposed systems until Iran conducts longer-range missile flight tests. He also volunteered Washington’s readiness to “negotiate limits” on the anti-missile systems to alleviate Russian fears of a “breakout,” meaning a significant increase in U.S. capabilities that could be used against Russia.

The proposals apparently were very similar to those initially discussed last October, on which Russia later accused the United States of reneging. (See ACT, January/February 2008 .) Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov both downplayed that incident.

Still, Russia requested the United States provide its latest proposals in writing so they could be studied more thoroughly, and Russian Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov reiterated that “our positions have not changed.” Indeed, Lavrov remarked that the “best way” for the United States to address Russian concerns would be to abandon its plan.

Another point of contention is what should be done about the scheduled Dec. 5, 2009, expiration of the 1991 START accord. Although that treaty’s nuclear weapons reductions were completed several years ago, the accord’s extensive verification regime is still used by each of the countries to keep tabs on the other’s strategic nuclear forces, including compliance with the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which lacks verification measures. That accord commits the United States and Russia to lower their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to 1,700-2,200 warheads apiece by Dec. 31, 2012, which also happens to be the day the limit expires. (See ACT, June 2002 .)

Russia wants to negotiate new warhead limits lower than those mandated by SORT, as well as restrictions on strategic delivery vehicles. The Kremlin also wants the continuation of some legally binding verification measures.

Although initially resistant to negotiating any new legally binding instrument, including continuation of START verification provisions, the Bush administration relented last October to that possibility. But the administration remains opposed to codifying new arms limits. Rice argued March 17 that the current U.S.-Russian relationship does not require “the kind of highly articulated, expensive limitations and verification procedures that attended the strategic arms relationship with the Soviet Union.”

Although unable to resolve their major disputes, the two sides vowed to continue work initiated last year on a “strategic framework document,” which Rice said would “record all of the elements of the U.S.-Russia relationship.” She cited as key examples joint projects to combat nuclear terrorism and provide nuclear fuel assurances to states forgoing uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities that can be used to make nuclear bombs.

Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, a former U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament, will be responsible for advancing many of those projects in her new role as special envoy for nuclear nonproliferation. The Department of State announced her appointment March 14 and indicated her duties entail implementing the measures endorsed last July by Putin and Bush to promote nuclear energy worldwide and reduce proliferation dangers. Press reports indicate that one of the measures that may be signed during the trip is a nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries that Putin and Bush initialed in July 2007, but have yet to sign, in part because of U.S. dissatisfaction with Russia’s policies toward Iran.

Top U.S. and Russian officials accentuated the positive after a recent high-level meeting, but the two sides remain deeply divided on developing anti-missile systems and managing their future nuclear weapons relationship. (Continue)

Nuke Commander Unhappy With Status Quo

Wade Boese

The top U.S. military commander in charge of deployed nuclear forces is speaking out against the current state of the nuclear weapons enterprise and advocating for new warheads and the infrastructure and people to produce them. Meanwhile, Congress recently appointed a group of 12 experts to evaluate the appropriate roles for nuclear weapons in future U.S. security policy.

General Kevin Chilton, the head of Strategic Command, is striking a discordant note against a growing chorus supporting the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, ranging from former Republican Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). Chilton Feb. 27 testified to lawmakers that nuclear weapons would be “important for the remainder of this century” and expressed discomfort with the notion of reducing U.S. deployed nuclear forces to levels below the planned 2012 treaty limit of 1,700-2,200 strategic warheads. Russia is imploring the United States to negotiate lower limits, but so far the Bush administration has refused.

To be sure, Chilton said at a Feb. 21 speech at an Air Force Association symposium that “I share the vision of any parent of a day…where there are no nuclear weapons in the world.” But he added, “[F]rankly, I don’t see us achieving that vision in this century.”

Chilton, who assumed command of U.S. strategic forces last October, contends deeper reductions under current circumstances would be risky given his assessment that the United States lacks a sufficient warhead manufacturing base to build more weapons if a new threat emerges or something goes wrong with existing U.S. arms. Indeed, he argued Feb. 21 that existing warheads “are not maintainable” because of the way they were designed to pack the maximum number of warheads on top of a single missile in order to boost explosive power. Still, the U.S. government has annually certified existing warheads as safe and reliable and continues to invest billions in extending their lives without nuclear testing, which the United States ceased in 1992.

Chilton is calling for a sweeping effort to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear stockpile, numbering approximately 5,000 warheads, and reinvigorate the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including what he described as its “graying workforce.” He argued, “[W]e cannot tolerate that if we are going to provide a nuclear deterrent for the future generations of this country.”

Chilton’s predecessor, General James Cartwright, who is now vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed similar concerns, but Chilton appears to have placed a greater emphasis on them. For instance, Cartwright in 2007 devoted a few paragraphs of his address to the Air Force Association on modernizing U.S. nuclear warheads and production capabilities, while Chilton made it a centerpiece of his 2008 speech. Similarly, Chilton’s prepared testimony to lawmakers devotes much more attention to nuclear weapons than that delivered by Cartwright.

During the Feb. 27 hearing before the strategic forces panel of the House Armed Services Committee, Chilton delivered a more critical assessment of the U.S. weapons production capability than Thomas D’Agostino, the head of the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which manages the nuclear weapons complex. D’Agostino noted the United States can annually produce approximately 10 plutonium pits, the trigger component of warheads. But Chilton stated, “I would argue with Mr. D’Agostino that being able to produce 8 to 10 [pits] a year is a production capability.” NNSA is seeking to increase its output to 30 to 50 pits annually as early as 2012.

Chilton’s message aligns with the Bush administration’s goals to recapitalize the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and revive an initiative, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, to explore new warhead designs that supposedly will be easier to build and maintain and less susceptible to accidents or misuse than existing warheads. Congress denied funding for that program last year, but the administration is seeking some $40 million related to it as part of the most recent annual federal budget request. (See ACT, March 2008 .)

Lawmakers refused to appropriate money last year for the NNSA’s RRW program on the basis that the United States should not start developing new warheads without first determining future U.S. nuclear posture and policy. Hence, Congress mandated the Pentagon to conduct a nuclear posture review and created a separate commission to carry out a similar study.

On March 19, lawmakers announced the dozen experts making up the bipartisan commission. Its chairman is William Perry, a former secretary of defense for the Clinton administration, and the vice chairman is James Schlesinger, a former secretary of defense under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Other members include former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), former Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), and Fred Ikle, a former director of the defunct Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The group is supposed to make their recommendations on “the most appropriate strategic posture and most effective nuclear weapons strategy” to Congress and the president by Dec. 1.


The top U.S. military commander in charge of deployed nuclear forces is speaking out against the current state of the nuclear weapons enterprise and advocating for new warheads and the infrastructure and people to produce them. Meanwhile, Congress recently appointed a group of 12 experts to evaluate the appropriate roles for nuclear weapons in future U.S. security policy. (Continue)


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