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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
January/February 2010
Edition Date: 
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Cover Image: 

House Adopts Iran Oil Sanctions

Peter Crail

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Dec. 15 to penalize companies that provide refined petroleum to Iran, advancing congressional efforts to strengthen sanctions against Tehran.

The Senate is considering similar measures in more expansive sanctions legislation approved by the Senate Banking Committee in October. House and Senate committee leaders indicated in April that they would delay moving the legislation forward to allow the Obama administration to pursue diplomatic engagement with Iran. (See ACT, June 2009.)

The House adopted the measure by a vote of 412-12, with four voting “present.”

The legislation, called the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, amends the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act, which imposes trade and financial penalties on foreign firms that invest $20 million in Iran’s energy sector in one year. The new legislation is intended to apply similar penalties to companies that supply refined petroleum to Iran or help it to construct petroleum refineries.

The legislation is intended to take advantage of Iran’s reliance on foreign sources for about 30 to 40 percent of its refined petroleum. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who introduced the bill in April, said in an October 2009 press release that Iran’s need to import such a significant percentage of its refined petroleum was its “Achilles’ heel.”

Iran’s suppliers of refined petroleum include firms in a variety of countries in Europe and Asia, but its European suppliers have reduced their exports in recent years under pressure from the United States and their own governments. Tehran has therefore increased its supply of gasoline from Asian countries, particularly China, and in September signed a deal with Petróleos de Venezuela to import 20,000 barrels of gasoline per day.

To date, no firms have been sanctioned under the Iran Sanctions Act although several firms have met the $20 million investment criterion, according to an October report by the Congressional Research Service. Due to concerns that such penalties on foreign firms may hinder international cooperation to address Iranian proliferation, previous presidents have often not made the official determination that a firm is violating the law, skirting the need to issue a waiver or impose sanctions.

The House bill seeks to limit this practice by requiring that the president investigate suspicions of violation and imposing a time frame for making a determination. The bill also makes the conditions under which the president can issue a waiver more stringent by requiring that the waiver be used only when it is “vital” to U.S. national security, rather than just “important.”

Concerns Over Senate Bill

Although the sanctions bills have received strong bipartisan support, administration officials have expressed some concern about the potential timing of the passage of the Senate bill as well as some of its provisions. In a Dec. 11 letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), first published on the Web site of Foreign Policy magazine, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said that he is concerned that the current version of the Senate bill “might weaken rather than strengthen international unity and support for” efforts to “impose significant international pressure on Iran.”

Steinberg said the administration’s substantive concerns related to “the lack of flexibility, inefficient monetary thresholds and penalty levels, and blacklisting that could cause unintended foreign policy consequences.”

He requested that the Senate wait until 2010 so that U.S. diplomatic efforts were not undermined. The Obama administration had set a Dec. 31 deadline for Iran to make progress in negotiations with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany, pledging to seek additional UN sanctions on Iran if there was insufficient progress by then.

Congressional sources said in December that although the Senate legislation was approved by the banking committee, Kerry’s committee also has jurisdiction over the issue, and Kerry’s approval is important for its potential passage. A Senate source said in December that Senate members sought to seek approval for the bill before the holiday recess under a unanimous consent rule. That rule would allow the bill to be put to a vote in its present form so long as no senator objected. The attempt to acquire unanimous consent was not successful.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted Kerry spokesman Frederick Jones Dec. 15 as saying that Kerry’s office is “working with the administration to reach a solution that achieves the minimum all parties” are seeking.

The administration does not appear to have weighed in on the House bill. Berman told reporters Dec. 15 that the administration neither told him to “go ahead” or “not to go ahead.” He said he is willing to work with the administration to address some of its concerns in a conference committee reconciling the House and Senate bills, including the possibility of exempting the firms of certain countries from sanctions if those countries already impose strong sanctions against Iran.

Over the past several months, administration officials have frequently stressed their preference for pursuing multilateral measures rather than expanding U.S. sanctions. Discussing the passage of the House bill Dec. 15, Department of State spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters that the administration wants to make sure that “the right kind of package” is being considered with respect to sanctions. He added that “any kind of pressure is going to be more effective if it’s implemented broadly and not simply bilaterally.”

Berman appeared to agree during a July hearing, when he said the legislation should be “plan C,” following administration efforts to pursue diplomatic engagement and stronger UN sanctions.

Diplomatic and congressional sources said in December that some of the multilateral sanctions the administration is considering are similar to those contained in the legislation, including restrictions on providing refined petroleum to Iran or helping it construct refineries.

In December, the European Union signaled its intent to strengthen its own sanctions on Iran. A Dec. 11 statement by the EU Council said that it would support additional UN sanctions “if Iran continues not to cooperate with the international community over its nuclear program,” adding that it is ready to take steps to implement any such additional measures as well.

Banks Paying Fines for Iran Assistance

As the consideration of sanctions on foreign entities doing business with Iran intensifies, two major international financial institutions settled legal challenges with U.S. authorities over violations of U.S. sanctions.

The Department of the Treasury announced on Dec. 16 a $536 million settlement by Credit Suisse, the largest sanctions settlement in the history of the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Stuart Levey, undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, told reporters the same day that Credit Suisse had concealed the involvement of foreign entities sanctioned by the United States in transactions with U.S. banks for more than 20 years, adding that “the great majority of the transactions involved Iran.”

“Banks that do business with Iran expose themselves to the risk of becoming involved in Iran’s proliferation and terrorism activities,” he said.

The Treasury Department also announced a $217 million settlement by Lloyds TSB Bank. According to a Dec. 22 press release, beginning in the mid-1990s, “Lloyds developed a policy of intentionally manipulating and deleting information about U.S. sanctioned parties in wire transfer instructions,” in league with Iranian banks.

 

 

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Dec. 15 to penalize companies that provide refined petroleum to Iran, advancing congressional efforts to strengthen sanctions against Tehran.

The Senate is considering similar measures in more expansive sanctions legislation approved by the Senate Banking Committee in October. House and Senate committee leaders indicated in April that they would delay moving the legislation forward to allow the Obama administration to pursue diplomatic engagement with Iran.

START Stalls; Talks Continue

Tom Z. Collina

Despite repeated pledges by their leaders and other top officials to finish “before the end of the year,” Russia and the United States failed to meet their self-imposed deadline for completing a successor to START. But President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to keep talking and predicted near-term success. “I’m confident that [the new treaty] will be completed in a timely fashion,” Obama said in public remarks after a Dec. 18 meeting with Medvedev in Copenhagen. Medvedev replied, “I hope that we will be able to do it in a quite brief period of time.” No new deadline was set, although talks are expected to resume in Geneva in mid-January, according to the Department of State.

After missing an earlier deadline of Dec. 5, when START’s 15-year term expired, there was much speculation that agreement would be reached within weeks. The two governments issued a joint statement on Dec. 4 pledging “to continue to work together in the spirit of the START Treaty following its expiration” and expressing a “firm intention to ensure that a new treaty on strategic arms enter into force at the earliest possible date.”

Medvedev and Obama later announced plans to meet on the sidelines of global climate talks in Copenhagen on Dec. 18, raising expectations for progress on START. Officials’ statements that the talks were advancing fueled media speculation. “We count on resolving all the remaining questions in the very near future, if not hours,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told reporters early on Dec. 18, according to Reuters. A senior U.S. official said in Washington Dec. 17 that Obama and Medvedev could reach an agreement in principle in Copenhagen, leaving negotiators to finalize a deal later, Reuters reported. Interfax news service quoted an unidentified diplomatic source as saying, “The provisions of a new START agreement are agreed and there will be an official announcement in the near future.”

Indications that agreement would prove elusive began to surface Dec. 17. “It’s high time to get rid of excessive suspiciousness,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow, according to the Associated Press (AP). “In the last couple of days we have noticed some slowing down in the position of U.S. negotiators in Geneva,” Lavrov said. “They explain this by the need to receive additional instructions. But our team is ready for work.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs denied Washington was dragging its feet but said at a Dec. 18 press briefing, “We want something that works for both sides. We’re going to work on this agreement until we get it right…. [I]t doesn’t make sense to get something just for the sake of getting it if it doesn’t work for both sides.”

With nothing to sign at their press conference Dec. 18, the two leaders put their failure to reach agreement into a positive light. Obama said, “We’ve been making excellent progress. We are quite close to an agreement.” Medvedev said, “[O]ur positions are very close, and almost all the issues that we’ve been discussing for the last month are almost closed. And there are certain technical details which we can encounter, many agreements which require further work.”

Supporting the view that the negotiations are nearing completion but that significant issues remain, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, said Dec. 21, “I think that we should be able to sign the treaty early next year, but there are still serious difficulties,” AP reported.

According to media accounts and other sources, the main unresolved issues relate to verification, in particular whether the United States would continue to have access to Russian missile flight test data, known as telemetry. Under START, the parties agreed to exchange telemetric data after each flight test, along with information needed to interpret the data, and agreed not to jam or encrypt such data.

The United States is not currently developing new strategic missiles, but is instead rebuilding current models, such as the Trident D-5. The Russians, on the other hand, are developing new missiles, such as the RS-24 mobile missile, to replace Soviet-era systems. The Russians see the telemetry access requirements as burdensome and unequal because the United States has no telemetry data to report under START. Moreover, the United States is currently testing interceptors for its various missile defense systems, but is not obligated under START to share this test data with Russia.

Speaking to journalists in Vladivostok on Dec. 29, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeared to propose a compromise: to trade Russian offensive missile data for U.S. missile defense data. After stating that Russia has no plans to build a missile defense system of its own but will develop new offensive weapons to offset a future U.S. missile defense, Putin told the group, according to AP, that the United States “should give us all the information about the missile defense, and we will be ready then to provide some information about offensive weapons.”

It was not clear if Putin’s proposal, which was widely reported in the Russian media, reflected a new Russian negotiating position or a trial balloon. In response to the Obama administration’s shift in missile defense plans in September (see ACT, October 2009), Lavrov told Russia Today in October that the United States “has dropped its missile defense plans, and developed an alternative system, which would not create problems in its first phase, but we would like more details on further stages.”

If Putin’s proposal was a trial balloon, the United States was quick to pop it. In response to Putin’s remarks, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in Washington Dec. 29, “While the U.S. has long agreed that there is a relationship between missile offense and defense, we believe the START follow-on agreement is not the appropriate vehicle for addressing it,” The New York Times reported.

On strategic delivery systems, the Russians had been pressing for lower numbers than their U.S. counterparts. In July, Obama and Medvedev promised limits of 500 to 1,100. The U.S. side then picked a middle ground of around 800, about the number of delivery vehicles it currently deploys. The Russians, with only about 620 nuclear delivery systems in use, wanted a lower number, about 550, according to The Wall Street Journal. Indications are that the two sides have resolved this issue, settling on a number between 550 and 800. As for deployed nuclear warheads, both sides are expected to agree to a limit of about 1,600.

The issue of deploying conventional warheads on strategic delivery systems appears to have been resolved. Lavrov said Dec. 22, “The links between strategic offensive weapons with a nuclear and non-nuclear potential will be fixed in the new treaty,” according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, all 40 Republicans plus Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) sent a letter to Obama Dec. 15 stating that “we don’t believe further reductions can be in the national security interest of the U.S. in the absence of a significant program to modernize our nuclear deterrent.” Such modernization should include, they said, Lifetime Extension Programs (LEPs) for the B61 and W76 warheads, a “modern warhead” that includes “replacement” or possibly “component reuse,” stockpile surveillance work in the nuclear weapons complex, and new warhead production facilities, including a plutonium pit production site at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and uranium facilities at the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Once the negotiations on the treaty are finished, the Obama administration plans to submit it to the Senate for advice and consent, requiring 67 votes for approval. In that context, the fact that the letter was signed by 41 senators is significant. However, the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2011 budget, to be released in February, is expected to request funding for many of the programs cited in the Senate letter. Also, the full Senate has already called on the administration to prepare a report, as required by Section 1251 of the defense authorization act for fiscal year 2010, on its plans to enhance the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile; modernize the nuclear weapons complex; and maintain the delivery platforms for nuclear weapons. The report must be submitted to the Senate along with the finished START follow-on treaty.

 

 

Despite repeated pledges by their leaders and other top officials to finish “before the end of the year,” Russia and the United States failed to meet their self-imposed deadline for completing a successor to START. But President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to keep talking and predicted near-term success. “I’m confident that [the new treaty] will be completed in a timely fashion,” Obama said in public remarks after a Dec. 18 meeting with Medvedev in Copenhagen. Medvedev replied, “I hope that we will be able to do it in a quite brief period of time.” No new deadline was set, although talks are expected to resume in Geneva in mid-January, according to the Department of State.

Russia Drafts European Security Pact

Volha Charnysh

A Russian proposal for a new European security treaty has drawn support from some former Soviet states, but Western government leaders and others have reacted coolly to the plan.

The text of the draft treaty was published Nov. 29 on the Kremlin’s official Web site, which said the pact would “finally do away with the Cold War legacy.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent the draft to the heads of state and international organizations in the Euro-Atlantic region. The proposal came ahead of the Dec. 1-2 ministerial council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Athens, as well as the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council since the 2008 Georgian-Russian war. Russia had initially threatened to cancel the NATO meeting over what it said was the alliance’s refusal to consider the draft.

Speaking on Russian television Dec. 1, Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said some alliance members were trying to block Moscow’s proposals. The proposals are “suffering from Cold War psychology,” he said. He warned that making decisions “without taking Russia’s interests and opinions into account won’t work.”

At the OSCE meeting, several delegates agreed on the need to improve European security, but few mentioned the Russian proposal. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Dec. 17 the alliance was prepared to discuss the draft but he saw no need for a new agreement. He noted that a security framework already existed in the form of the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, the Charter for European Security of 1999, and the Rome Declaration of 2002.

In the statement on its Web site, the Kremlin said the new European security treaty would be based on the principle that no nation or organization is “entitled to strengthen its own security at the cost of other nations or organizations.” The draft would enable signatories to object to actions by others and call a summit if they considered their security under threat.

According to Article 2 of the draft, parties to the treaty would have to ensure that decisions within the framework of organizations and alliances to which they belong “do not affect significantly security of any Party or Parties to the Treaty” and do not conflict with the new treaty, international law, or decisions of the UN Security Council. Article 3 of the draft treaty says that the parties are entitled to request “information on any significant legislative, administrative or organizational measures” taken by another party if the measures “in the opinion of the Requesting Party, might affect its security.”

Using language that is somewhat similar to the NATO treaty’s, the proposed treaty says that a party would be “entitled to consider an armed attack against any other party an armed attack against itself,” although the parties are not obligated to respond to attacks on fellow members. The draft calls for the UN Security Council, in which Russia holds veto power, to “bear primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.”

The treaty would be open for signature by states “from Vancouver to Vladivostok,” as well as by NATO, the European Union, the OSCE, and the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, which all are members of the CSTO, expressed support for the Russian initiative in a joint statement with Russia issued two weeks before the meeting.

Rasmussen said the OSCE was the most appropriate forum to discuss the draft treaty. In his statement at the OSCE meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the initiative was “designed to harness the potential of States and international organizations to create a truly indivisible space of equal security for all the States of the Euro-Atlantic region.”

Questions Raised

Speaking at the OSCE meeting Dec. 1, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the Russian proposal omitted the issues of arms control, human rights, and the Georgian-Russian conflict. His comments were seconded by Ian Cliff Obe, head of the British delegation, who also stressed the need for “a resolution of the crisis” of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. Russia suspended its implementation of the treaty in December 2007. (See ACT, January/February 2008.)

At the OSCE meeting, Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze questioned “the need to redraft” European security “in accordance to the whims of one revisionist power.”

U.S. Department of State spokesman Ian Kelly said Dec. 1 that Washington was studying Medvedev’s draft “carefully.” Any proposal “must build on the existing body of commitments” and structures such as the OSCE and NATO, which “have helped to ensure security in Europe,” he said.

The draft comes 18 months after Medvedev first raised the issue of European security at a June 2008 meeting in Berlin, saying “Europe’s problems won’t be solved until its unity is established, an organic wholeness of all its integral parts, including Russia.” NATO later suspended all joint activities with Moscow in response to Russia’s conflict with Georgia.

Medvedev, Lavrov, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have continued to reiterate the need for a new security framework. In an April 20 speech at HelsinkiUniversity, Medvedev said the draft should be seen as a “Helsinki plus” treaty, “born out of the Helsinki process, but adapted to the end of ideological confrontation and the emergence of new subjects of international law.” The Helsinki Accords, signed by 35 countries, were the final act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1975.

According to the State Department’s Web site, that treaty “had a far-reaching effect on the Cold War and U.S.-Soviet relations.” The Helsinki process, which included review meetings, “led to greater cooperation between Eastern and Western Europe,” according to the Web site.

Experts See Problems

In a Dec. 23 interview, Steven Pifer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, described the draft treaty as “very ambiguous.” It is unclear what actions would be considered under Article 2 to have a significant effect on a party’s security, he said. Moscow would probably see NATO enlargement as one such action, while NATO would not accept the notion of a Russian say over alliance decisions, he said. If the Russian draft were accepted without changes, it would trigger “dozens of disputes as to meaning,” Pifer said.

Differences of opinion would arise not just between Russia and the West, but also between Russia and Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, and others, Pifer said. But the West likely “won’t say no” to dialogue and “even in Washington there is agreement that you cannot just ignore Russia on this question,” he said.

Pifer suggested the West should consider how it could turn the Russian proposal to the advantage of Western interests. “If the West were clever, for example, it might tie its readiness to discuss the Russian proposal” to solving the impasse on the CFE Treaty or at least a restoration of the treaty’s transparency and confidence-building measures, Pifer added.

David J. Kramer, senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, described the Russian proposal as “anticlimactic” in a Dec. 17 interview. Kramer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and later assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, said the main problem with the Russian proposal was that Moscow would be itself violating it. He pointed to Russia’s suspension of the CFE Treaty and invasion of Georgia and said that energy cutoffs, cyberattacks, and export bans affected security in the region as much as military actions. Russia’s attempts to produce disagreements between Western allies will not work, he said.

Gary J. Schmitt, a resident scholar and director of advanced strategic studies at the American Enterprise Institute and former staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a Dec. 16 e-mail that the draft treaty would have committed the United States and its allies to avoiding any new ties to states that Moscow considers to be in its sphere of influence. According to Schmitt, the proposal is “especially problematic in light of recent Russian behavior in occupied Georgia, in the recent military exercises aimed at Poland, in the new laws passed by the Duma authorizing military interventions to protect Russians and Russian-speaking peoples in surrounding states, and in the new authorities the Russian president is seeking enabling him to use the Russian military on his own authority.”

When Lavrov presented the draft treaty Dec. 4 at the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels, he also tabled a working paper proposing an agreement between Russia and NATO not to station military infrastructure in the alliance’s new member states in eastern Europe, according to The Moscow Times. Most of those states, which have joined in three waves of enlargement since 1999, are former Warsaw Pact or Soviet countries.

The draft treaty was released as Kazakhstan was about to assume chairmanship of the OSCE Jan. 1. The Kazakh government will be in charge of preparing a 2010 OSCE security summit, which could become a forum for discussing Medvedev’s initiative. Kazakhstan fully supports Russia’s proposal, Kairat Abusseitov, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, said Dec. 9. “This is one of the priority tasks of our chairmanship, to try to work to ensure that talks are launched on the important theme of a new security architecture and to ensure that they produce results,” he said. He made the comments at a London conference, “Towards a New European Security Architecture?”

 

 

A Russian proposal for a new European security treaty has drawn support from some former Soviet states, but Western government leaders and others have reacted coolly to the plan.

The text of the draft treaty was published Nov. 29 on the Kremlin’s official Web site, which said the pact would “finally do away with the Cold War legacy.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent the draft to the heads of state and international organizations in the Euro-Atlantic region. The proposal came ahead of the Dec. 1-2 ministerial council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Athens, as well as the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council since the 2008 Georgian-Russian war. Russia had initially threatened to cancel the NATO meeting over what it said was the alliance’s refusal to consider the draft.

Work on Nuclear Security Summit Progresses

Volha Charnysh

Preparations for a planned nuclear security summit in Washington are moving along well, and preliminary discussions on follow-up meetings have already begun, a senior Department of State official said in a Dec. 22 interview.

World leaders are scheduled to meet in Washington April 12-13 to discuss nuclear security, carrying out an idea that President Barack Obama proposed in his speech in Prague last year. At a Dec. 2-3 preparatory meeting in Tokyo for the April event, there was “an open and inclusive atmosphere,” and few contentious issues were raised, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, State Department coordinator for threat reduction programs, said in the interview.

According to media reports, which Jenkins confirmed, Obama has invited 43 countries to attend. Invitations were “based on several criteria, including the states’ possession of fissile materials and nuclear cycle facilities as well as their involvement in the international norms and agreements,” she said. Regional representation was another factor in the selection process, she added. Even the states that were not invited will be engaged in the longer-term effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide, she said.

The summit’s aim is to help develop steps “to secure vulnerable materials, combat nuclear smuggling and deter, detect, and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism,” according to a July 8 White House statement. “The planned outcome of the Summit would be a communiqué pledging efforts to attain the highest levels of nuclear security,” the statement said. The summit participants also will draft a plan of work, Jenkins said.

The next and possibly last preparatory meeting for the summit will be held in the Netherlands in February, she said.

In early planning for the April event, there was some discussion of the possibility that Russia would host the meeting, Jenkins said. Russia might “potentially host a nuclear security summit” in the future, she said.

Jenkins said Japan is considering hosting a regional meeting on nuclear security issues. She said she anticipated that more countries would follow Japan’s example by “taking leadership roles” at a regional level.

 

 

Preparations for a planned nuclear security summit in Washington are moving along well, and preliminary discussions on follow-up meetings have already begun, a senior Department of State official said in a Dec. 22 interview.

Global Panel Calls for Steep Nuclear Cuts

Tom Z. Collina

Providing a boost to President Barack Obama’s nuclear weapons agenda, an international panel of experts sponsored by Australia and Japan released a report Dec. 15 finding that global stockpiles of nuclear weapons should be reduced 90 percent by 2025 and ultimately eliminated.

“[T]he key recommendation is to get serious about a world without nuclear weapons because there are far more risks associated with the continuation of nuclear weapons than there are these days any benefits,” commission co-chair and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans told Australia’s ABC News Dec. 15. “We’re realistic about how long that will take. We’re setting a target date, 2025, to achieve a dramatic 90 percent reduction in the world’s nuclear weapons. We think that’s realistically achievable.”

In releasing the report, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called it “an important framework for discussions and debate on nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament.” Rudd initially proposed the creation of the panel, known as the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND). In September 2008, he and Yasuo Fukuda, then Japan’s prime minister, launched the ICNND as a joint initiative of their governments. Former Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi is a co-chair. The report was formally released in Tokyo by Evans, Kawaguchi, Rudd, and Fukuda’s successor, Yukio Hatoyama.

The report, entitled “Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers,” drew criticism from opposite flanks. “Capping U.S. and Russian arsenals at 500 warheads is unrealistic given today’s world,” wrote Franklin Miller, a Pentagon and National Security Council official from 1979 to 2005, and Andrew Shearer of Australia’s Lowy Institute for International Policy, in The Wall Street Journal Dec. 16. They were referring to the number of weapons that would remain in U.S. and Russian arsenals after 90 percent reductions.

Meanwhile, 17 leaders of the international nuclear abolition movement, including the mayor of Hiroshima, signed a joint letter saying, “The pace of the action plan for nuclear disarmament laid out in the report is far too slow. Rather than adding to the global momentum for nuclear abolition, there is a danger that it could in fact act as a brake.”

Among its many findings, the 230-page report noted that nuclear weapons are “the only weapons ever invented that have the capacity to wholly destroy life on this planet, and the arsenals we now possess are able to do so many times over. The problem of nuclear weapons is at least equal to that of climate change in terms of gravity—and much more immediate in its potential impact.”

Directly challenging traditional approaches to nonproliferation, the commission, which included former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Russian Duma member Alexei Arbatov, found that “[s]o long as any state has nuclear weapons, others will want them. So long as any such weapons remain, it defies credibility that they will not one day be used, by accident, miscalculation or design.”

The commission laid out a phased action agenda, similar in many ways to that of the Obama administration. In the short term (by 2012), the panel called for U.S.-Russian agreement on the START follow-on, a strengthening of the nonproliferation system at the May 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty. The commission also called for progress on nuclear security and multilateralization of the nuclear fuel cycle.

“Sole Purpose” Policy

In a policy recommendation that reportedly prompted considerable debate within the commission, the panel called for a declaration by all nuclear-armed states that the “sole purpose” of nuclear weapons is to deter their use by others. In the ABC News interview, Evans said the “immediate priority” for U.S. action is to include that point in the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), now scheduled to be issued in March.

In his Sept. 23 UN Security Council speech, Obama said, “We will complete a Nuclear Posture Review that…reduces the role of nuclear weapons.” Experts have interpreted this as meaning that Obama would push the NPR process to conclude that U.S. nuclear weapons could be used to deter nuclear attacks, but not attacks with chemical, biological, or conventional weapons.

Japan’s new foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, has been a strong proponent of no-first-use policies and has said he expected the Evans-Kawaguchi report to make a recommendation “along those lines.” The policy of no-first-use goes somewhat beyond the sole-purpose policy; under the latter, a nation could agree to use nuclear weapons only for deterrence, but theoretically reserve the right to use them first to “pre-empt” an imminent nuclear strike. The issue is controversial in Japan, which values its place under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, is within range of North Korean missiles, and is the only nation to have suffered nuclear attacks. Inside the ICNND, Kawaguchi reportedly was opposed to sole purpose, even as Okada was calling on the United States to declare a no-first-use policy.

In their Wall Street Journal article, Miller and Shearer said an “unequivocal ‘no first use’ declaration would weaken American deterrence.” The commission’s report said that “‘[e]xtended deterrence’ does not have to mean extended nuclear deterrence.”

The apparent compromise is that the panel called for an early sole-purpose declaration, delaying a no-first-use policy until the medium term, or 2025.

The commission’s other goals for 2025 include “a world with no more than 2,000 nuclear warheads (less than 10 percent of today’s arsenals),” with 500 each for Russia and the United States and 1,000 divided among the other nuclear states, and development of a nuclear weapons convention to “legally underpin the ultimate transition to a nuclear weapon free world.”

For the period beyond 2025, the commission calls for creating “political conditions, regionally and globally, sufficiently cooperative and stable for the prospect of major war or aggression to be so remote that nuclear weapons are seen as having no remaining deterrent utility.”

Wading into the controversial waters of how to treat India, Israel, and Pakistan, nuclear-armed states that have not signed the NPT, the commission said, “Provided they satisfy strong objective criteria demonstrating commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation, and sign up to specific future commitments in this respect, these states should have access to nuclear materials and technology for civilian purposes on the same basis as an NPT member.”

With regard to the separation of plutonium for nuclear energy programs, the commission said, “The increasing use of plutonium recycle, and the prospective introduction of fast neutron reactors, must be pursued in ways which enhance non-proliferation objectives and avoid adding to proliferation and terrorism risks.” Although some countries are pursuing programs to separate plutonium from spent fuel and then use it to fabricate new fuel, other countries have turned away from such programs, citing proliferation risks as one of the key reasons. The abolition movement’s joint letter says that “the specific measures proposed [by the commission] for controlling materials and technology that can be diverted to weapons, including uranium and plutonium, are inadequate.”

In addition to Arbatov, Evans, Kawaguchi, and Perry, the commission’s members are Turki Al Faisal (Saudi Arabia), Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway), Frene Noshir Ginwala (South Africa), François Heisbourg (France), Jehangir Karamat (Pakistan), Brajesh Mishra (India), Klaus Naumann (Germany), Wang Yingfan (China), Shirley Williams (United Kingdom), Wiryono Sastrohandoyo (Indonesia), and Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico).

 

 

Providing a boost to President Barack Obama’s nuclear weapons agenda, an international panel of experts sponsored by Australia and Japan released a report Dec. 15 finding that global stockpiles of nuclear weapons should be reduced 90 percent by 2025 and ultimately eliminated.

“[T]he key recommendation is to get serious about a world without nuclear weapons because there are far more risks associated with the continuation of nuclear weapons than there are these days any benefits,” commission co-chair and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans told Australia’s ABC News Dec. 15. “We’re realistic about how long that will take. We’re setting a target date, 2025, to achieve a dramatic 90 percent reduction in the world’s nuclear weapons. We think that’s realistically achievable.”

IAEA Board Approves Russian Fuel Bank Plan

Daniel Horner

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors has adopted a resolution authorizing Russia to establish a reserve of low-enriched uranium (LEU) as part of an international nonproliferation plan.

In addition to approving the proposed text of an agreement with Russia, the Nov. 27 resolution authorizes the IAEA director-general “to conclude and subsequently implement” agreements with IAEA member states to receive the LEU from the Russian reserve if the countries meet certain basic requirements. According to the resolution, the board does not have to provide “case-by-case” authorization, but the director-general should “keep the Board informed of the progress of individual Agreements” with potential recipient countries. As part of the resolution, the board also approved a “model agreement” with potential recipients of the LEU.

The Nov. 27 approval came with eight dissenting votes and three abstentions among the 35-member board, a Vienna-based diplomat said in a Dec. 14 interview. The board traditionally reaches decisions by consensus; the vote tallies are not made public.

The Russian proposal is one of several variants of the concept of an international fuel bank, which aims to give countries an attractive alternative to indigenous uranium-enrichment programs by providing an assured supply of fuel at market prices. The bank would serve as a backup to existing commercial mechanisms for countries with good nonproliferation credentials.

The concept has been strongly supported by Mohamed ElBaradei, who was the IAEA’s director-general until Dec. 1; President Barack Obama; and others. But the concept faced resistance, particularly from some key members of the Nonaligned Movement.

As a result, the Russian proposal and another fuel bank plan, from the private, U.S.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), did not get a go-ahead from the board when they were considered in June, and efforts to resolve the issue made little progress before the September board meeting. (See ACT, October 2009.)

At the November board meeting, Russia requested a vote on its proposal, the diplomat said. The eight dissenting votes came from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Egypt, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Africa, and Venezuela, he said; India, Kenya, and Turkey abstained. Azerbaijan was absent, but later said it would have voted in favor of the proposal, he added.

The other current members of the board are Afghanistan, Australia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Mongolia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay.

The countries that did not support the resolution said they were concerned that the arrangement could “erode their Article 4 rights,” the diplomat said. He was referring to Article 4 of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which gives parties the right to “the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy” and says parties have an “inalienable right” to pursue nuclear energy programs as long as the programs are “in conformity with” the treaty’s nonproliferation restrictions.

The board resolution says that those rights “will in no way be affected” by the Russian initiative.

The IAEA-Russian agreement says Russia will “establish a guaranteed physical reserve” of 120 metric tons of LEU in the form of uranium hexafluoride. When fabricated into reactor fuel, that amount of material would provide enough fuel for a typical power reactor to operate for several years.

The agreement names the InternationalUraniumEnrichmentCenter at Angarsk as the “executive authority.” The center is a Russian commercial enrichment venture with investments from other countries. The fuel reserve would be located on the Angarsk site in Siberia, in an area separate from the enrichment plant, the diplomat said.

The material will be under IAEA safeguards, and Russia will assume the costs of the safeguards, the agreement says.

As described by the agreement and the diplomat, a shipment of LEU from Angarsk would go to the port of St. Petersburg, where ownership would transfer to the IAEA. The agency would then immediately transfer ownership of the LEU to the customer country, which would have paid for it in advance, the diplomat said. The IAEA then would pay Russia, he said.

Under the IAEA-Russian agreement, the countries eligible to receive the LEU would be those “with respect to which the IAEA has drawn the conclusion that there has been no diversion of declared nuclear material and concerning which no issues are under consideration by the IAEA Board of Governors relating to the application of IAEA safeguards.” The recipient countries would have to have an agreement with the IAEA opening all their “peaceful nuclear activities” to inspections.

Back-up Fuel Supply System

It is expected that shipments of fuel would take place rarely, if ever, since the arrangement is intended to be a last-resort option if supplies are interrupted for reasons other than violations of the country’s nonproliferation commitments. The IAEA board resolution said that “the establishment of the reserve of LEU and the subsequent implementation of future agreements with Member States will be carried out as a back-up solution only and in such a way that any disturbance of or interference in the functioning of the existing fuel market is avoided.” The board “not[ed] the importance of developing a range of complementary options for additional assurances of supply, and the fact that the good operation of the market already provides assurances of supply.”

Before the IAEA board meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher issued a joint Nov. 23 statement, saying, “For those who seek greater assurance than the market provides, multilateral fuel assurance mechanisms can serve as safety nets in the event of a fuel supply disruption.”

In a Nov. 28 statement, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the initiative helps ensure the supply of nuclear fuel “on a predictable, stable, cost-effective and long-term basis,” which “will facilitate expanding the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” The ministry added that “[t]his initiative aims at strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime and is a concrete contribution of Russia to creating the conditions for successfully holding the 2010 NPT Review Conference.”

The board did not take up the NTI plan, which was aimed at establishing an IAEA-owned reserve of LEU. In 2006, the NTI pledged $50 million for such a reserve on the condition that IAEA member states would donate another $100 million. That goal has been met by pledges from the United States ($49.5 million), the European Union (up to 25 million euros), Kuwait ($10 million), the United Arab Emirates ($10 million), and Norway ($5 million).

However, the diplomat said, reaching the pledge threshold does not mean that the NTI offer automatically is accepted. The board has to make a formal decision to accept the money, and that move could face the same type of opposition that the Russian plan did, he said.

There also needs to be a decision on the host country, the diplomat said. In a document sent to the IAEA in May, Kazakhstan said it “could consider” hosting the facility if a fuel bank were established.

“Perhaps if things go well,” the board could take up the NTI proposal at its June meeting, the diplomat said. The board meets quarterly in Vienna, where the agency has its headquarters.

The NTI declined to comment on the status of its proposal.

 

 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors has adopted a resolution authorizing Russia to establish a reserve of low-enriched uranium (LEU) as part of an international nonproliferation plan.

In addition to approving the proposed text of an agreement with Russia, the Nov. 27 resolution authorizes the IAEA director-general “to conclude and subsequently implement” agreements with IAEA member states to receive the LEU from the Russian reserve if the countries meet certain basic requirements. According to the resolution, the board does not have to provide “case-by-case” authorization, but the director-general should “keep the Board informed of the progress of individual Agreements” with potential recipient countries. As part of the resolution, the board also approved a “model agreement” with potential recipients of the LEU.

OPCW Chiefs Ponder Chemical Arms Deadlines

Oliver Meier

A possible failure by Russia and the United States to meet a 2012 deadline set by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) for the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles does not call into question the commitment of states-parties to the eventual elimination of chemical weapons, the current and future chiefs of the treaty’s implementing body said in December.

Rogelio Pfirter of Argentina, outgoing director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and his designated successor, Ahmet Üzümcü of Turkey, made the comments during and just after the organization’s annual meeting in Geneva Nov. 30-Dec. 4.

Russia and the United States are by far the biggest possessors of chemical weapons. Since the CWC entered into force, member states have declared about 70,000 tons of chemical weapons, with Russian and U.S. stockpiles accounting for more than 95% of that total. Under the CWC, Russia and the United States are obligated to eliminate their stocks by April 29, 2012. Yet, the United States has already announced that it will be unable to meet the 2012 date, and there are doubts about Russia’s ability to do so. (See ACT, July/August 2009.) At the meeting, Russia announced that it has met a Dec. 31, 2009, intermediate deadline and destroyed 45 percent of its stockpile. The United States has destroyed more than 65 percent of its stockpile, according to an Oct. 7 OPCW report.

In a Dec. 3 conference call with journalists, Üzümcü said that the commitments of both countries to the destruction of their chemical weapons stockpiles are “unwavering” and that the problems they have encountered in meeting treaty deadlines for destruction are “more technical ones than political ones.”

Pfirter, in a Dec. 14 interview with Arms Control Today, said the CWC’s core purpose is “to ensure the full, irreversible, complete and universal destruction of existing stockpiles by possessor states.” Russian or U.S. inability to meet the 2012 destruction deadline would not mean that “we run the risk of that central objective being violated by the two major possessor states,” he said. He argued that “we need not…make the ultimate success of the treaty dependent on any particular date.”

Pfirter welcomed the OPCW Executive Council’s October decision to ask the council’s chairman, Jorge Lomónaco Tonda of Mexico, to begin informal consultations on how and when to initiate discussion on issues related to meeting the “final extended deadlines” for the destruction of chemical weapons. “The fact that the council has chosen to act in the way it has chosen indicates to me that people indeed share this view of moving on prudently,” Pfirter said.

At the OPCW meeting, members adopted a council recommendation to approve an extension of Libya’s deadline for the destruction of its chemical weapons to May 15, 2011. (See ACT, November 2009.) They also followed the council’s lead by unanimously agreeing to appoint Üzümcü as the next director-general. He will begin his four-year term July 25.

Achieving Universality

During the conference call, Üzümcü emphasized that Turkey “has good relations” with Egypt, Israel, and Syria, the three Middle Eastern states that are not parties to the CWC. Üzümcü has served as Turkey’s ambassador to Israel and has also been posted to Syria. He said that as director-general he hopes to use “those relations and contacts to discuss this issue from a constructive perspective and try to persuade [Egypt, Israel, and Syria] to soon join the convention.”

The CWC currently has 188 states-parties. Israel and Myanmar have signed but not ratified the treaty; Angola, Egypt, North Korea, Somalia, and Syria are nonsignatories.

Pfirter said that Angola might join the convention very soon. “I’m hopeful about Angola because I don’t believe there is any issue behind the delay or at least not any issue related to the objectives and purposes of the convention,” he said.

Industry Verification

Pfirter used his Nov. 30 statement at the meeting to suggest a new approach for tackling an issue that exists under the current OPCW inspection regime: the large number of Other Chemical Production Facilities (OCPFs) that are inspected at a lower rate than other declarable facilities.

Many OCPFs use modern production techniques and could be converted with relative ease for chemical weapons production. Yet, these facilities fall outside the three “schedules” of chemicals that can be used for chemical weapons production that form the basis of most industry inspections by the OPCW. These schedules are listed in the CWC’s verification annex. (See ACT, January/February 2007.)

Speaking personally, Pfirter told delegates that the OPCW’s technical secretariat “should significantly augment the organization’s verification effort concerning the OCPF category of chemical industry.” As a complement to the existing verification regime, he proposed to involve national authorities in verification, particularly the ones in countries with large numbers of declared OCPFs. Pfirter suggested that national authorities themselves verify some of their declared OCPFs, especially those “that could be defined as less relevant for treaty purposes.”

In the Arms Control Today interview, Pfirter said he believes that the number of OCPF inspections would need to be increased “because otherwise we run the risk of being complacent.” He argued that OCPFs could not only be misused by governments for the production of chemical weapons but that these facilities also are potentially of interest to terrorists who “would like to engage in something more than an occasional act.” Pfirter said that he would not present a formal proposal to move his idea forward but that several states-parties had privately expressed interest in the concept. “No one came to me rejecting this,” he said.

Regulating Nonlethal Weapons

In personal remarks to the meeting on the issue of incapacitants and nonlethal weapons, Pfirter emphasized “the need for the OPCW, at some stage in the not too distant future, to take stock of the growing interest on the part of some governments and civil society” in developments related to potential gaps or gray areas in the comprehensive ban on chemical weapons.

The CWC allows the use of toxic chemicals for “law enforcement, including domestic riot control purposes.” Yet, there have been ongoing discussions on which types of incapacitating agents are prohibited and on the circumstances under which the use of such agents might be legal. (See ACT, May 2008.)

In the interview, Pfirter said he wants to avoid a politicization of the debate. “This issue first and foremost needs to be well informed from the scientific point of view, and that is why I am suggesting that the [OPCW’s Scientific Advisory Board] be the first one, if the organization so considers, to look into this matter, and then at the next review conference, if sufficient information has been produced by that date, the member states will look into it.” The third review conference of the CWC will take place in 2013.

Pfirter said there are “some countries which are very keen on having it debated” and that a debate about limitations on the use of nonlethal weapons and incapacitants is unavoidable. “The issue will not go away,” he said.

Asked about the need to take action on stricter regulations of incapacitants under the CWC before the next review conference, Üzümcü reacted cautiously. He said that “the convention is quite clear with regard to riot control agents” and that states-parties “are fully aware that they have to operate within those rules.” He acknowledged the debate on the issue among nongovernmental experts and groups, but said that to his knowledge “states-parties did not discuss this issue recently.”

At the meeting, the 122 states-parties in attendance adopted the OPCW’s 2010 budget of 74.5 million euros. This marks the fifth consecutive year of zero nominal growth for the organization.

At its meeting last July, the Council of the European Union approved a voluntary contribution of 2.1 million euros in support of the OPCW.

During the interview, Pfirter praised the launch of a network of nongovernmental organizations on the sidelines of the meeting. During a two-day conference convened by Global Green USA, more than 30 groups established a “Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition” to support efforts to rid the world of chemical weapons. Global Green USA will serve as the coalition’s initial network coordination hub. “I think it’s a brilliant idea,” Pfirter said. “The OPCW needs continued support.”

Article corrected January 21, 2010. The original version misstated the date of the decision by the Council of the European Union to approve a voluntary contribution of 2.1 million euros to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The decision was made by EU foreign ministers on July 27, and the project became operational on November 6.

A possible failure by Russia and the United States to meet a 2012 deadline set by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) for the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles does not call into question the commitment of states-parties to the eventual elimination of chemical weapons, the current and future chiefs of the treaty’s implementing body said in December.

Rogelio Pfirter of Argentina, outgoing director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and his designated successor, Ahmet Üzümcü of Turkey, made the comments during and just after the organization’s annual meeting in Geneva Nov. 30-Dec. 4.

U.S. Lays Out Plans to Address Biothreats

Daniel Horner

The Obama administration unveiled a revised U.S. strategy for dealing with biological weapons proliferation and terrorism Dec. 9, altering the Bush administration’s approach in some ways but keeping the focus on the threat from bioterrorism and reaffirming the decision not to pursue a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

Some diplomats questioned the emphases of the U.S. approach and the casting of the decision on the verification protocol.

Details of the U.S. approach came in the 23-page “National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats” and in remarks by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher. She delivered the remarks during the annual meeting of parties to the BWC Dec. 7-11 in Geneva.

In summarizing the strategy, Tauscher said one key element was international cooperation “to combat infectious diseases regardless of their cause,” that is, whether they are “of natural, accidental or deliberate origin.”

She also said the United States would “work toward establishing and reinforcing norms against the misuse of the life sciences.” Another piece of the strategy is to “implement a coordinated approach to influence, identify, inhibit, and interdict those who seek to misuse scientific progress to harm innocent people,” she said.

When the Obama administration came into office, it conducted a review and found that the United States did not have in place a “comprehensive strategy to address gaps in our efforts to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons and scientific abuse,” Tauscher said. The strategy document emphasizes that nonproliferation efforts are not intended to interfere with legitimate uses of life sciences. “Consistent with [the BWC] and other obligations under domestic law and international agreements, we will seek to pursue policies and actions that promote the global availability of life science discoveries and technologies for peaceful purposes,” the document says.

Article 10 of the BWC establishes the right of all parties to “the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the use of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins for peaceful purposes.” Article 3 bans any kind of assistance relating to “agents, toxins, weapons, equipment or means of delivery” that are part of a biological weapons program.

The Obama strategy document gives credit to the Bush administration for having “significantly expanded” programs to “recognize and respond to acts of bioterrorism or other outbreaks of infectious disease” since 2001, when, shortly after the September 11 attacks, anthrax-filled letters were delivered to congressional offices and media outlets. The document says, however, that work on preventing such threats “has received comparatively limited policy focus or substantive guidance at the National level” and needs to be increased, in particular by greater efforts to “reduce the likelihood that such an attack might occur.”

The strategy cites a range of methods for combating biological threats, including “technology watch” efforts that “provide cutting edge insight and analysis” by experts in the relevant scientific fields, export controls, and law enforcement.

In a Dec. 24 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a diplomat from a key country in the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) said the new strategy puts too much weight on “law enforcement and Article III,” considering that “the response to bioattacks (terrorism or otherwise) is based on good primary health care systems, which is more related to Article X.”

Varying Risk Assessments

In her remarks, Tauscher said that “while the United States remains concerned about state-sponsored biological warfare and proliferation, we are equally, if not more concerned, about an act of bioterrorism, due to the increased access to advances in the life sciences.”

Other diplomats, however, questioned that general emphasis, as well as the specific connection to advances in life sciences. In a Dec. 18 interview, a European diplomat said science developments since the mid-1990s deal primarily with activities and technologies that are feasible for governments but not for terrorist groups.

The NAM diplomat made a similar point, saying that “the concerns with regard to new scientific developments are not addressed at all and these developments will be relevant to state programmes in [the] future.”

In her Geneva remarks, Tauscher said the Obama administration wants to “reinvigorate” the BWC as “the premier forum for global outreach and coordination.”

The European diplomat responded skeptically to that statement. The actions that Tauscher listed to achieve that goal are, for the most part, “exactly what we are doing,” he said. Some of the proposed steps actually might undermine that goal, he added. For example, “engaging in more robust bilateral compliance discussions,” a step Tauscher mentioned, could be seen as “undermining the convention as the international platform,” he said.

Another element of the U.S. strategy is to build “new, broader coalitions of ‘like-minded’ BWC States Parties.”

Some of the language in the strategy document suggests possible reasons that the Obama administration feels the need to rely on subgroups of the BWC membership rather than on the membership as a whole. “[C]oncerns remain that some treaty partners may be developing biological weapons,” the document says. In the past, the United States has raised concerns about the compliance of China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, which are parties to the treaty, and Syria, which is not.

The strategy document also says that there is a “plurality of perspectives in the international community as to the severity of the risk and mitigative actions that nations should take” in response.

Verification Issues

Tauscher also told the annual meeting of BWC parties that the United States has “carefully reviewed previous efforts to develop a verification protocol and [has] determined that a legally binding protocol would not achieve meaningful verification or greater security.” Discussions on a verification protocol collapsed in 2001, in part because of the Bush administration’s strong opposition. (See ACT, September 2001.)

In announcing the decision, Tauscher said she hoped “this will not be a surprise to anyone” and cited the difficulties of verifying compliance. “The ease with which a biological weapons program could be disguised within legitimate activities and the rapid advances in biological research make it very difficult to detect violations. We believe that a protocol would not be able to keep pace with the rapidly changing nature of the biological weapons threat,” she said.

The European diplomat agreed that “there was no surprise on substance” in Tauscher’s statement on verification, but he said he thought the statement about the inability to keep pace was “not correct.” Since 2001, there have been no discussions on how scientific or other advances could help strengthen monitoring capabilities, he said.

He noted that the statement delivered at the December meeting by Sweden on behalf of the European Union recalled the EU commitment “to the development of measures to verify compliance with the Convention.” The EU’s “long-term position” is to put verification “back on the table,” although not necessarily in the form of a protocol, he said.

The NAM diplomat said he believed that “such an instrument is necessary” and that a protocol “would be able to pace with new developments in the same manner that the Convention is able to keep pace.” However, he said he did not think any “real steps will be taken towards any other legally binding instrument in the short term” because “the climate is not right for such a process.”

 

 

The Obama administration unveiled a revised U.S. strategy for dealing with biological weapons proliferation and terrorism Dec. 9, altering the Bush administration’s approach in some ways but keeping the focus on the threat from bioterrorism and reaffirming the decision not to pursue a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

Some diplomats questioned the emphases of the U.S. approach and the casting of the decision on the verification protocol.

In a First, U.S. Attends Landmine Meeting

Jeff Abramson

For the first time since the Mine Ban Treaty entered into force in 1999, the United States officially participated in a meeting of states-parties, joining more than 120 other countries in Colombia Nov. 30-Dec. 4 at the treaty’s second five-year review conference.

At the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World, the United States reiterated its recent decision to conduct a review of its policies on landmines. Also at the meeting, the treaty’s member states agreed to a detailed action plan and granted deadline extensions to four states for landmine clearance.

The United States, which has not signed the treaty and had never officially attended an annual meeting of states-parties or a five-year review conference, participated as an observer state. James Lawrence, head of the U.S. delegation and director of the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, said Dec. 1, “The administration’s decision to attend this review conference is the result of an on-going comprehensive review of U.S. landmine policy initiated at the direction of President Obama.” He indicated that the review “will take some time to complete.”

That statement contradicted one made Nov. 24 by State Department spokesman Ian Kelly that a review had already been concluded and that the United States would not be joining the treaty. That announcement immediately drew criticism from nongovernmental organizations and longtime anti-landmine leader Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who said, “This is a default of U.S. leadership and a detour from the clear path of history.” On Nov. 25, Kelly changed the statement, saying that the Obama administration “is committed to a comprehensive review of its landmine policy. That review is still on-going.”

In 2004 the Bush administration declared that the United States would not join the treaty. That decision overrode pledges made by President Bill Clinton in 1998 to set the United States on the path to sign the pact in 2006. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The 1997 treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention, prohibits the use, stockpiling, transfer, and production of anti-personnel landmines, defined as “a mine designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person.” The treaty also applies to some mixed landmine systems that have both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle devices, but does not rule out the use of purely anti-vehicle landmines. One hundred fifty-six countries are parties to the treaty, including all NATO countries, other than the United States and Poland. Poland signed the treaty in 1997 and has said it expects to ratify it in 2012.

The United States has not deployed anti-personnel landmines since 1992 and is the world’s top funder of landmine clearance and victim assistance activities. In his statement to the conference, Lawrence reiterated U.S. policy to “end all [U.S.] use of persistent mines, both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle, by the end of next year, in 2010.” After 2010, U.S. policy allows for the use of so-called smart mines, which are designed to self-destruct and self-deactivate within a specified period of time. The treaty and U.S. policy also allow for the use of so-called man-in-the-loop mines, which are designed to be detonated by a live controller, as opposed to victim contact.

Like the United States, China and Russia attended the meeting as observers. Together, those three countries maintain approximately 145 million stockpiled anti-personnel landmines, the vast majority of the global total, according to the latest Landmine Monitor Report, an annual publication supported by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and widely regarded as the de facto monitoring regime for the treaty. In a statement to the summit, Chinese delegation leader Cheng Jingye highlighted Beijing’s commitment not to export anti-personnel landmines as well as its support of Protocol 2 to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which specifically deals with the use of mines. As with cluster munitions, China, Russia, and the United States have preferred to address controls on landmines within the CCW rather than through other treaties. (See ACT, December 2009.)

Under the Mine Ban Treaty, countries have 10 years from the time the pact enters into force for them to clear areas of anti-personnel mines and four years to destroy their stockpiles, with the exception of the minimum number necessary for the development of and training in mine detection, clearance, and destruction techniques. At the Cartagena meeting, Albania, Greece, Rwanda, and Zambia announced that they had cleared all known mined areas within their borders. With the treaty now 10 years old, however, a number of countries have sought extensions to their mine clearance deadlines. In 2008, 15 states sought and were granted extensions. (See ACT, January/February 2009.) In Cartagena, Argentina, Cambodia, and Tajikistan received extensions until 2020 to clear mine-affected areas, and Uganda received an extension until 2012. Ukraine announced in 2009 that it would likely miss its 2010 stockpile destruction deadline. Belarus, Greece, and Turkey failed to meet stockpile destruction deadlines in 2008 and remain in violation of the treaty.

The conference adopted a 67-point action plan that included commitments across a range of issues, including victim assistance, mine clearance, risk education, stockpile destruction, and international cooperation. “This plan spells out in concrete terms what we will do to better meet the needs of landmine survivors,” said the president of the Cartagena conference, Norway’s Susan Eckey. “It is a strong plan that will require a shared commitment to be implemented. Doing so will get us closer to our aim of a world without anti-personnel mines.”

 

 

For the first time since the Mine Ban Treaty entered into force in 1999, the United States officially participated in a meeting of states-parties, joining more than 120 other countries in Colombia Nov. 30-Dec. 4 at the treaty’s second five-year review conference.

At the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World, the United States reiterated its recent decision to conduct a review of its policies on landmines. Also at the meeting, the treaty’s member states agreed to a detailed action plan and granted deadline extensions to four states for landmine clearance.

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