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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
April 2010
Edition Date: 
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Cover Image: 

Pakistan Presses Case for U.S. Nuclear Deal

Daryl G. Kimball

As part of a wide-ranging, high-level dialogue between Pakistani and U.S. leaders held in Washington last month, Pakistan reportedly proposed a civilian nuclear trade arrangement similar to the one granted to India, but received a noncommittal response from senior U.S. officials.

Since India and the United States announced plans in 2005 to lift U.S. and international restrictions on nuclear trade with New Delhi, Pakistani officials have argued for such an arrangement.

Ahead of the March 24-25 talks involving Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that were focused primarily on strategic cooperation on security and energy issues and the war in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials once again raised the possibility of civil nuclear cooperation and recognition of Pakistan’s status as a state possessing nuclear weapons.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told reporters following a March 16 meeting in Islamabad with U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair that U.S. assistance with “[c]ivilian nuclear technology will help Pakistan meet its growing energy demand.”

In an interview with the Los Angeles-based newspaper Pakistan Link published on March 19, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson was quoted as saying the United States is “beginning to have a discussion” with the Pakistani government on the country’s desire to tap nuclear energy. “We are going to have working-level talks” on the issue in Washington, she said.

Patterson said in the interview that U.S. “non-proliferation concerns were quite severe,” but she added, “I think we are beginning to pass those and this is a scenario that we are going to explore.”

Her comments quickly prompted speculation in Pakistan and India and in Washington that the United States might be prepared to reverse existing U.S. policy and law barring civil nuclear trade with Pakistan, which is not a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), has tested nuclear weapons, and does not accept comprehensive international safeguards for its extensive nuclear infrastructure.

The same is true of India, but the United States created an exception for New Delhi through a process that involved congressional approval for an exemption from the requirements of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, the negotiation of a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement subject to congressional review and approval, and the consensus approval of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). A nuclear deal with Pakistan would have to go through a similar process.

Clinton Cautious

In an interview with Pakistan’s Express TV March 22, Clinton was more circumspect than Patterson about the prospects for nuclear trade. “I’m sure that that’s going to be raised, and we’re going to be considering it, but I can’t prejudge or pre-empt what the outcome of our discussions will be,” Clinton said, adding that the civil nuclear cooperation deal with India “was the result of many, many years of strategic dialogue.”

In September 2008, the NSG, which has more than 40 members, made an India-specific exemption to long-standing guidelines barring civil nuclear trade with states that do not have a comprehensive nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). (See ACT, October 2008.) The NSG is a voluntary group that coordinates its nuclear export policies in order to prevent the spread of materials and technologies that could aid nuclear weapons programs. In 1992 the group adopted a rule significantly restricting nuclear trade with any non-nuclear-weapon state that does not open all its nuclear facilities and activities to the IAEA. India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan are classified as non-nuclear-weapon states under the NPT.

Since the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation initiative was first announced in July 2005, the United States and other key NSG states have rejected repeated suggestions from Pakistan and an overture to the NSG from Israel that they too should be eligible for civil nuclear trade. In March 2007, Israel circulated a “non-paper” to NSG members outlining a criteria-based approach for nuclear supply eligibility that would allow nuclear trade with Israel.

According to a report published in The Wall Street Journal March 22, Pakistan sent a 56-page document to U.S. officials ahead of the strategic talks in Washington. The document reportedly focused on proposals for expanded military and economic aid, but according to the Journal, it also reiterated its request for U.S. support for Pakistan’s civilian nuclear program.

“We want the U.S. to recognize Pakistan’s nuclear status and give us assurances not to undermine the (weapons) program,” a senior Pakistani military officer who serves as an aide to the head of Pakistan’s army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, told the Journal. “Energy security is crucial, and we need U.S. help,” he said.

On March 23, Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington that “we have not been talking to Pakistan about a civilian nuclear deal. If Pakistan brings it up during the course of the meetings the next two days, we’ll be happy to listen.”

A “Complicated” Issue

In response to a question about the U.S. response to the Pakistani request for civil nuclear cooperation at a joint news conference ahead of the formal talks March 24, Clinton demurred, calling the matter “complicated.”

Qureshi responded by saying that “the most important thing is recognizing that there is a need to fulfill the energy gap, that our indigenous resources that can be exploited, and we also have the option of civilian nuclear technology.”

Following the conclusion of his formal talks with Clinton, Qureshi told Reuters March 25, “I am quite satisfied with the discussions we had” about the nuclear cooperation issue, but declined to elaborate.

The joint communiqué issued March 25 does not reference nuclear energy cooperation specifically, but rather says that “[t]he United States recognized the importance of assisting Pakistan to overcome its energy deficit and committed to further intensify and expand comprehensive cooperation in the energy sector.”

Two senior U.S. lawmakers who met with the Pakistani delegation to Washington called the idea of civil nuclear trade with Pakistan “premature.” In a March 25 interview with The Cable, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said, “I don’t think it’s on the table right now considering all the other issues we have to confront.”

“There are countless things that they would have to do in order to achieve it. If they’re willing to do all those things, we’ll see,” Kerry said. “There are a lot of things that come first before that. It’s really premature,” he added. “It’s appropriate as something for them to aspire to and have as a goal out there, but I don’t think it’s realistic in the near term.”

In the same article, The Cable also quoted Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the committee’s ranking member, as saying talks on civil nuclear trade with Pakistan would be “premature.”

Khan Concerns

One likely reason for the lawmakers’ reluctance to consider the issue is the unresolved questions surrounding Pakistan’s disgraced former nuclear weapons program chief, Abdul Qadeer Khan. Just days ahead of the high-level U.S.-Pakistani talks in Washington, Pakistani government lawyers sought court permission to investigate new reports concerning Khan’s illicit transfers of nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran and other states.

The petition was filed in the Lahore High Court on March 22 after The Washington Post published an article about alleged notes written by Khan in which he claims that he provided assistance with the knowledge of the Pakistani government to Iran and Iraq to develop nuclear weapons. Since then, Khan has disputed the media account. The Pakistani government has asserted since 2004 that Khan acted without official government knowledge.

In a March 29 decision, the court turned down the government’s request. Reuters quoted Soofi Amar Bilal, a government lawyer, as saying the judge had ruled that “it’s up [to] the government” to decide whether to pursue the investigation.

Khan has been under house arrest since he publicly apologized for his role in a black market nuclear trade network that was finally disrupted but not fully dismantled in 2004. Khan has been barred from meeting with foreigners or traveling abroad. He has been appealing to the public and Pakistan’s courts for relief from the restrictions. In another March 29 decision, the court left the restrictions largely intact, Reuters reported.

A U.S. military and development aid package for Pakistan approved by Congress last September requires that some of the aid shall be withheld until President Barack Obama certifies that Islamabad has provided “relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals” involved in past nuclear commerce. The Pakistani government has so far refused to allow U.S. officials to interview Khan about his role in the nuclear trade network and insists that the matter is “closed.”

 

As part of a wide-ranging, high-level dialogue between Pakistani and U.S. leaders held in Washington last month, Pakistan reportedly proposed a civilian nuclear trade arrangement similar to the one granted to India, but received a noncommittal response from senior U.S. officials.

Since India and the United States announced plans in 2005 to lift U.S. and international restrictions on nuclear trade with New Delhi, Pakistani officials have argued for such an arrangement.

Israel States Strong Interest in Nuclear Energy

Daniel Horner

Israel’s infrastructure minister last month strongly reaffirmed his country’s interest in pursuing a nuclear power program and suggested such a program could be “an area for regional cooperation.”

Uzi Landau made the comments March 9 at a conference in Paris.

Observers agree that, to build a reactor on its territory, Israel would need to import at least some key components. Under the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Israel is barred from receiving such imports because it has nuclear facilities that are not safeguarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In his prepared remarks for the Paris meeting, Landau said nuclear power represents “[r]eliable, environmentally clean and high efficiency electricity.” Israel “sees itself as eligible as any other country [for] the peaceful uses of nuclear energy: it has the need, the required scientific and technical infrastructure and know-how and certainly the motivation to engage in such [a] project,” he said.

In 2008 the NSG made an exception to its guidelines for India, lifting a long-standing ban on nuclear exports to a country that conducted nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998 and allows IAEA inspections of only some of its nuclear facilities. That initiative was led by the United States, which made a similar exception to its domestic law.

Bush administration officials said the deal was a unique exception for India and explicitly ruled out similar arrangements for Israel and Pakistan, the other two nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) holdouts. However, a congressional source recalled last month that “the Israelis have not been shy” about “linking themselves” to the India deal by suggesting they should receive similar treatment. The source said he was not aware of any recent Israeli effort to make that case. Other sources in Israel and the United States also said they knew of no such effort.

In a March 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a U.S. official indicated that no deal was in the offing. “All nuclear-related technical exchanges between the U.S. and Israel are restricted by U.S. law, which does not permit broad nuclear cooperation with Israel,” she said. She noted that the United States does not have a nuclear cooperation agreement with Israel and said “there is no discussion of negotiating one.”

Real Interest

According to an Israeli source, the country’s “interest in nuclear energy has been and remains real,” and its nonproliferation credentials are “as good as India’s or better.”

In his Paris remarks, Landau said, “Naturally, all nuclear power reactors to be built in Israel will be subject to international safeguards as well as appropriate physical protection measures.” He also said it is “imperative to minimize proliferation risks—especially those associated with the nuclear fuel cycle technologies.”

The Israeli source said he thought Israel would be willing to import fresh fuel for the reactor and send the spent fuel out of the country. This so-called cradle-to-grave approach has been widely supported by nonproliferation advocates and many political leaders as a way to lessen proliferation concerns about countries that are launching nuclear power programs. Such arrangements are designed to give countries an incentive to refrain from pursuing uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing programs.

Israel has an unsafeguarded reactor and reprocessing plant at the Dimona site, where the country is widely believed to have produced the plutonium for its nuclear arsenal.

Recent media reports have said Israel has been in discussions with France and Jordan about a joint reactor project at a site in the latter. One potential advantage of that route is that it might allow Israel to sidestep the NSG ban.

In a March 23 interview, Fred McGoldrick, a former State Department official who handled nuclear trade and nonproliferation issues, said an arrangement under which a Jordanian reactor was supplying electricity to Israel “technically” would “probably not violate the NSG guidelines but it would not be faithful to their intent.” Even though Israel would not have access to nuclear exports from NSG members, it would be getting “the benefits of nuclear energy without making the commitments” that NSG recipients are required to make, he said.

A similar plan was floated in the mid-1980s, and the United States “killed it because it would have been an obvious circumvention of our full-scope safeguards requirements,” he said.

The Israeli source and others said there were several potential obstacles to a joint reactor project built in Jordan. There are “multiple layers of security and politics” that would have to be addressed, the Israeli source said. He said that an overarching question is, “Can you be confident the Jordanians would not only initially commit to but would also be able to keep on supplying Israel energy even if the relationship would become politically sour?” Another issue is that Jordanian trade unions, which support a boycott of Israel, probably would oppose the project, he said.

The Associated Press quoted Khaled Toukan, the head of Jordan’s Atomic Energy Commission, as saying, “It’s too early to talk about any regional cooperation with Israel before a solution is found to the Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts.”

Even though Landau indicated a preference for collaborative projects, Israel would have to “weigh an indigenous option,” the Israeli source said.

In his remarks, Landau recalled that Israel in the 1970s had chosen a site called Shivta in the NegevDesert and prepared some of the preliminary safety and security documentation. “Israel has kept the site and the necessary scientific and technical infrastructure for the safe and reliable operation of the future nuclear power plant,” he said.

Israel is one of about a dozen Middle Eastern countries that have expressed an interest in nuclear energy.

Criteria-Based Approach

The United States was “myopic” in making the U.S. and NSG exemptions specific to India rather than adopting a so-called criteria-based approach that also would have made Israel and Pakistan potentially eligible, the Israeli source said. Nuclear suppliers should establish a principle of “the harder you try, the more you qualify for,” he said. Such an approach would encourage the non-NPT states to come closer to the nuclear mainstream and would help raise the levels of security, safety, and nonproliferation adherence in those countries, he said.

Since the U.S.-Indian deal, Pakistan has repeatedly indicated it would like a similar arrangement. It would be “logical” to hold open the possibility of nuclear trade with Pakistan so as not to alienate Islamabad, the Israeli source said.

 

Israel’s infrastructure minister last month strongly reaffirmed his country’s interest in pursuing a nuclear power program and suggested such a program could be “an area for regional cooperation.”

Uzi Landau made the comments March 9 at a conference in Paris.

Putin Predicts Summer Start for Iranian Reactor

Peter Crail

In a statement that triggered a public dispute with the United States, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last month Russia would help Iran’s first nuclear power plant begin operations this summer. The March 18 announcement, made during a Russian nuclear industry conference, coincided with a visit to Russia by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who criticized the move.

“I think it would be premature to go forward with any project at this time, because we want to send an unequivocal message to the Iranians,” Clinton said in response to a question during a March 18 joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “If [Iran] reassures the world, or if its behavior is changed because of international sanctions, then they can pursue peaceful, civil nuclear power,” she said.

The United States is currently pressing for a fourth UN sanctions resolution in response to Iran’s nuclear program. Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley appeared to link concerns over the reactor start-up to that effort, telling reporters March 18 that Clinton’s concern was not about Russia, but “the potential for a mixed message as we are working to put pressure on Iran.”

The UN sanctions restricting the export of most nuclear-related goods and technology to Iran exempt such transfers if they are “for exclusive use in light water reactors,” in order to allow assistance with the Bushehr reactor to continue.

At the March 18 press conference, Lavrov defended Russia’s work on the reactor, which has been under construction since 1995 and undergone years of delays. He said the Bushehr project played an important role in promoting Iran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and “ensuring that Iran is complying with its nonproliferation obligations.” Lavrov did not explain what this role was. All declared Iranian nuclear facilities, including the Bushehr facility, are under IAEA safeguards.

The exchange appeared to resurrect a once-contentious issue that Moscow and Washington largely resolved in 2005. At that time, the United States said it would drop its public objections if Moscow took steps to address U.S. proliferation concerns about the reactor, former State Department officials told Arms Control Today last month.

In particular, those concerns stemmed from the risk that Iran could separate plutonium for weapons use from the reactor’s spent fuel.

In 2003 testimony to the House International Relations Committee, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton said Iran could produce “over 80 nuclear weapons” after operating the reactor for five to six years. Producing the weapons would require a reprocessing facility to separate plutonium from the spent fuel. Iran has carried out reprocessing experiments in the past but is not known to currently have a reprocessing capability.

U.S. officials had also expressed concern that Russia’s nuclear assistance would provide Iran with expertise and dual-use technology that could benefit a nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, April 2005.)

In February 2005, Russia took a key step toward alleviating the concern about the potential misuse of Bushehr’s spent fuel, announcing it had concluded an agreement with Iran to provide fuel for the reactor with the condition that it would be returned to Russia after it was used and sufficiently cooled. The arrangement would also mean that Iran would not need to enrich uranium to fuel that reactor, removing one of the justifications Iranian officials had given for their controversial uranium-enrichment program. Light-water reactors such as the one constructed at Bushehr are regarded as more proliferation resistant than other types as they do not produce weapons-grade plutonium as readily during normal operations.

Since then, the United States has generally supported the Bushehr project, holding it up as a model that would allow Iran to pursue its peaceful nuclear energy aspirations without investing in the costly and proliferation-sensitive technologies of uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. Speaking to reporters on Dec. 18, 2007, shortly after Russia delivered the first shipment of fuel for the reactor, President George W. Bush said he supported Moscow’s provision of fuel for Iran’s nuclear power program. “If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian power plant, then there’s no need for them to learn how to enrich,” he said.

The fuel shipments were completed in January 2008 and have been kept under IAEA seal since then.

The 2005 policy shift to accept the Bushehr reactor followed a debate within the Bush administration as to how to approach the issue. According to the former officials, the debate was largely between those with responsibilities for nonproliferation, such as Bolton, who continued to object to Russia’s construction of the reactor, and the State Department’s regional bureau and its allies, who argued that it could serve as a model for Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

One former official said of the debate, “That’s no surprise, and not particular to the Bush administration; the two sides were reflecting their natural positions.”

The summer start-up of the reactor announced by Putin follows years of slipping timelines for when the reactor would be completed and begin operations. Russia had long maintained that those delays were due to technical problems and missed Iranian payments, but it is widely believed that Moscow has intentionally delayed the project due to concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions. Construction of the reactor was completed last year.

After another estimated date for starting reactor operations announced by Russian and Iranian officials passed at the end of 2009, Russian nuclear energy corporation chief Sergey Kiriyenko told reporters in January that “2010 is the year of Bushehr,” adding that “[t]here is absolutely no doubt that it will be built this year.”

More recently, officials from Atomstroyexport, the Russian state firm responsible for the reactor work, have given a more definitive time frame. The Russian news service RIA Novosti quoted Atomstroyexport Vice President Timur Bavlakov as saying March 24, “The start-up of the Bushehr nuclear power plant is planned for August.”

This would appear to come after the expected time frame for additional UN sanctions. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said during a March 14 press briefing he believed it was possible to agree on a resolution by June.

 

In a statement that triggered a public dispute with the United States, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last month Russia would help Iran’s first nuclear power plant begin operations this summer. The March 18 announcement, made during a Russian nuclear industry conference, coincided with a visit to Russia by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who criticized the move.

News Analysis: What Is a “New” Nuclear Weapon?

Tom Z. Collina

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) told Arms Control Today, “I will not authorize the development of new nuclear weapons.” In its first months, the new administration stated on its Web site that it “will stop the development of new nuclear weapons.” Now, as the administration wraps up its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and presents its fiscal year 2011 budget request to Congress, some important details are emerging about what President Obama’s pledge really means and how the administration defines a “new” nuclear weapon.

The Obama administration has been debating over the past year how far the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, should be allowed to go when it rebuilds nuclear warheads that have reached the end of their shelf life. (See ACT, November 2009.) The options include rebuilding some or all the parts but staying within the confines of the original warhead design (“refurbishment”), mixing and matching well-tested nuclear components of different warheads (“reuse”), and manufacturing new, untested nuclear components of new design to replace existing ones (“replacement”).

Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, testified before the House Armed Services Committee March 16 that the NPR “is examining the appropriate policy guidance for considering future choices between refurbishment, reuse, and replacement.” Now planned for release in April after numerous delays, the NPR is also expected to resolve the related question of how the administration defines a “new” nuclear weapon. For example, does a “refurbished” warhead of old design but newly made parts count as “new”? Can a warhead of new design that performs an old mission count as “old”?

According to an administration source, the NPR will likely reflect the definition of “new” currently used by Congress. As part of the fiscal year 2003 National Defense Authorization Act (Section 3143), Congress defined a “new nuclear weapon” as one that “contains a pit or canned subassembly” not in the stockpile or in production as of 2002. A pit is the plutonium component in a warhead’s primary stage, and a canned subassembly (CSA) is the uranium and lithium-deuteride component in the secondary stage. Together, these parts are known as the warhead’s “nuclear explosive package.”

Although it does not explicitly say so, the congressional definition would allow the refurbishing of warheads within the confines of existing designs, as is now being done by the NNSA’s Life Extension Program (LEP). The 2003 defense authorization act and subsequent legislation explicitly endorsed such life extension efforts, but the definition does appear to prohibit the introduction of new “replacement” pits and CSA designs into the stockpile after 2002. This is analogous to allowing a mechanic to rebuild a car’s engine to existing design but prohibiting its replacement with a newer, possibly more powerful design.

The administration appears to be following this definition in its fiscal year 2011 budget request for the NNSA. For example, the administration is requesting $252 million in fiscal year 2011 for a life extension study for the B61 aircraft-delivered gravity bomb. According to the budget request, this funding would enable the NNSA to “extend the life of the nuclear explosive package which may include an extension of the B61 nuclear primary’s life (reusing the existing B61 nuclear pit), potential implementation of multipoint safety, and reuse or remanufacture of the canned subassembly (CSA) and for a complete life extension of the B61 -3, -4, -7, and -10, if directed by the Nuclear Weapons Council.”

In the case of the B61 LEP, the most extensive planned so far, both the primary and the secondary may be refurbished, but neither would be redesigned. If the primary is rebuilt, the existing pit would be reused intact, and for the secondary, the CSA would be reused or remanufactured to original design. These activities would be consistent with the congressional definition because the design of the nuclear explosive package would remain unchanged.

How the administration defines a “new” nuclear weapon is important because new warhead designs have been proposed to increase the reliability of the stockpile and to make warheads even more secure against possible terrorist acquisition. Serious consideration of new warhead designs to increase reliability was essentially put to rest by the September 2009 JASON report of senior scientists, which found that the lifetimes of existing warheads could be extended indefinitely through refurbishment with no loss of confidence in the stockpile. (See ACT, December 2009.) Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that controls NNSA funding, said at a March 10 hearing that he agrees with the JASON conclusion that “these nuclear weapons will be reliable well out into the future.”

Terrorist-Proof Warheads?

The JASON report left open the question of the need for new warhead designs to address physical security, finding that “[f]urther scientific research and engineering development is required.” Chilton testified March 16 that JASON concluded “only reuse or replacement options allow for the inclusion of intrinsic surety features that would be the last line of defense against unauthorized use.”

However, one member of JASON, physicist Richard Garwin, gave a Jan. 28 briefing on Capitol Hill where he said that “ideal security implies that a nuclear weapon could be captured by a knowledgeable group and, somehow, could never be made to provide a nuclear yield.” He continued, “[O]ne hypothetical possibility, for instance, would be for the security package intentionally to detonate the high explosive at a single point (which for all U.S. nuclear weapons is now guaranteed to provide no significant nuclear yield) so as to disperse the plutonium, substituting a massive radiological mess for the possibility of a later terrorist nuclear explosion.” Garwin concluded that “usually, less extreme security options are chosen.” U.S. nuclear warheads are deemed to be “one-point safe” if the detonation of the high explosive at one point (by a stray bullet, for example), as opposed to a multipoint detonation, does not result in significant nuclear yield.

Intrinsic security modifications like those he described would require new warheads to be designed and new nuclear components to be produced, Garwin said. He said that, for a stockpile of 5,000 deployed and reserve warheads, replacement would take at least 50 years because the maximum rate planned for pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is about 100 per year. According to Garwin, “What can be said about weapon security is that the most secure design imaginable…would not soon solve or even reduce our security problems.”

No New Military Missions

The administration’s apparent ban on new warhead designs appears to extend to providing nuclear warheads with new military capabilities, such as higher yields. “I need no new [nuclear] military capabilities today,” Chilton said at the March 16 hearing. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher said Feb. 17 at a conference on nuclear deterrence that the United States is “not in the business of seeking new nuclear capabilities. They are not needed to preserve a strong, credible deterrent.”

Another issue is how the administration defines a “nuclear weapon” in the context of its no-new-nuclear-weapons pledge. For example, the Air Force plans to begin work in fiscal year 2011 on a new, nuclear-capable long-range cruise missile, according to Department of Defense budget documents. The new missile would replace the current B-52 bomber-delivered air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) that is now in service but slated for retirement by 2030. ALCMs are armed with W80-1 nuclear warheads. Would the new missile count as a new nuclear weapon?

According to an administration source, Obama’s reference to “nuclear weapons” was specific to nuclear warheads, not delivery systems such as missiles and airplanes. Indeed, in addition to the new cruise missile, the administration is moving ahead with a variety of nuclear-capable delivery systems, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a replacement for the Ohio-class nuclear-armed submarine, and the modernization of existing strategic ballistic missiles such as the land-based Minuteman III and submarine-based Trident II.

 

 

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) told Arms Control Today, “I will not authorize the development of new nuclear weapons.” In its first months, the new administration stated on its Web site that it “will stop the development of new nuclear weapons.” Now, as the administration wraps up its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and presents its fiscal year 2011 budget request to Congress, some important details are emerging about what President Obama’s pledge really means and how the administration defines a “new” nuclear weapon.

New START to Be Signed April 8

Tom Z. Collina

Wrapping up a year of intense negotiations and missed deadlines in which the presidents of Russia and the United States reportedly met or spoke on the telephone 14 times, President Barack Obama announced March 26 at a White House press briefing that “a pivotal new arms control agreement,” the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), was finished and would be signed April 8 in Prague. Flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, Obama said the two countries had just agreed to “the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades.”

Speaking by telephone that morning, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed that the new treaty demonstrates their commitment “to reduce their nuclear arsenals consistent with their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Such actions invigorate our mutual efforts to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime and convince other countries to curb proliferation,” according to a White House account of the call.

“We do not need such large arsenals to protect our nation and our allies against the two greatest dangers we face today: nuclear proliferation and terrorism,” Clinton said. Gates said that “the journey we have taken from being one misstep away from mutual assured destruction to the substantial arms reductions of this new agreement is testimony to just how much the world has changed.” The Joint Chiefs “stand solidly behind this new treaty,” Mullen said.

Clinton predicted that New START would win Senate ratification in due course. “I’m not going to set any timetables, but we’re confident that we’ll be able to make the case for ratification,” she said.

At a March 29 press briefing at the Department of State, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher said, “Our goal is to submit the treaty in the late spring and to seek ratification by the end of the year.”

In a March 28 op-ed in The Boston Globe, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he would hold hearings “in the coming weeks” and that, “with the help of Senator Richard Lugar [of Indiana], the committee’s ranking Republican, I am sure we will achieve the necessary level of certainty to reassure our colleagues and the American people that this treaty will make our world safer.”

In a March 26 statement, Lugar said, “I also look forward to working with Chairman Kerry…so that we can work quickly to achieve ratification of the new treaty.”

Once New START is signed April 8, Senate staffers said the administration could send it to Capitol Hill by May, after completing the article-by-article analysis of the treaty, which explains the administration’s interpretation of the agreement in detail. That schedule would theoretically leave enough time to hold hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and then report a resolution of ratification out of committee before the August recess, with a vote by the full Senate in the fall. The Republican minority, however, may not be eager to open the way for a treaty vote prior to the 2010 midterm elections, which could delay the treaty’s ratification until late 2010 or even 2011, according to Senate staff members from both parties.

The main treaty text, which is said to be about 20 pages, has been essentially ready for months, sources said; negotiators in Geneva had been working on the 100- to 150-page protocol that will spell out technical terms and verification procedures. There will be a technical annex as well. All three parts are legally binding and will be submitted together to the Senate for its advice and consent. Tauscher said the treaty and the protocol, which contain the basic rights and obligations agreed by both sides, have been finished, but the annex is still being negotiated.

Clinton said March 26 that one of the reasons the talks were delayed is that the two sides wanted to complete both the treaty and protocol before declaring success. “We made a decision that we wanted not just the treaty agreed to; we wanted the protocols agreed to,” she said.

Arsenal Reductions

Obama said the new treaty cuts “by about a third” the number of strategic or long-range nuclear weapons both sides can deploy. The treaty would reduce deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs to a limit of 1,550, down 30 percent from the 2,200 limit set by the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). The launchers for these warheads and bombs—ground-based silos for ICBMs, submarine tubes for submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers assigned to nuclear missions—would be limited to a total of 800 for deployed and nondeployed systems, such as Trident submarines in overhaul. Deployed launchers are limited to 700, which is more than a 50 percent reduction from the limit of 1,600 launchers set under the 1991 START, which expired last December. The reductions must be completed within seven years after the treaty enters into force; the treaty’s duration is 10 years and can be extended for an additional five years.

Under the new treaty, conventional warheads may be loaded on strategic missiles, as the United States may do to create a “prompt global strike” capability, and would be counted against these limits. Trident submarines converted to carry conventional cruise missiles would not be counted against this limit, nor would bombers fully converted to conventional missions, administration sources familiar with the details of the new treaty told Arms Control Today.

Compared to currently deployed U.S. nuclear forces, the reductions required by New START are somewhat less than 30 percent. The United States announced last year it deployed 2,126 strategic warheads under SORT; New START would reduce that number by about 27 percent. The United States currently has about 900 strategic launchers, according to administration sources; the new treaty would reduce that number only about 10 percent. According to independent nongovernmental estimates, Russia has approximately 2,600-2,700 deployed strategic warheads. The new treaty would mandate reductions by about 40 percent below this level. Russia is currently estimated to have fewer than the New START ceiling of 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles. Russia had originally proposed a ceiling of 500 strategic delivery vehicles.

Warhead Verification

The treaty’s verification regime includes relevant parts of START as well as new provisions to cover items that were not previously limited, the White House said. For example, START did not directly limit warheads, but instead assigned a certain number of warheads to each launcher; a count of the launchers gave an upper limit on the number of warheads that could be deployed but not necessarily an actual count. New START includes direct limits on deployed warheads and bombs and allows for on-site inspections to give both sides confidence that the limits are being upheld.

Mullen said at the March 26 briefing that New START “features a much more effective, transparent verification method that demands quicker data exchanges and notifications.”

“For the first time, we will count the number of actual warheads on Russian missiles,” Kerry wrote in the Globe. Because neither side currently deploys nuclear bombs or cruise missiles on its heavy bombers but instead keeps them in storage, on-site inspections of bombers would find no weapons to inspect. Therefore, New START will count each heavy bomber as one warhead, even though hundreds of bomber-assigned warheads and bombs may be in storage. The treaty does not limit warheads or bombs once they have been removed from deployed launchers, sources said.

One of the more difficult issues the negotiations had to resolve was how much sharing of missile flight test data, or telemetry, would be required. “Mr. Obama’s team assumed that the Kremlin would agree to an updated version of the START treaty’s verification program,” according to a March 26 account of the negotiations in The New York Times. START banned the encryption of telemetry with limited exceptions, and the Russian side opposed this openness, saying the ban had been needed only because START limited the development of new types of missiles, which New START does not do. A compromise formula was incorporated into New START allowing for the exchange of telemetry information on up to five missile tests per side per year, Gates said March 26.

“Telemetry is not nearly as important for this treaty as it has been in the past,” said Gates. “In fact, we don’t need telemetry to monitor compliance with this treaty,” he said.

“I think that when the testimony of the intelligence community comes to the Hill, that the DNI [director of national intelligence] and the experts will say that they are comfortable that the provisions of the treaty for verification are adequate for them to monitor Russian compliance, and vice versa,” Gates said.

Missile Defense

“Missile defense is not constrained by this treaty,” Gates said at the White House briefing. Russia made a last-minute effort to limit U.S. defenses after the issue gained prominence in February when Romania announced that it would host one of the proposed U.S. missile interceptor launch sites in Europe. (See ACT, March 2010.) During a Feb. 24 phone call between the U.S. and Russian presidents, described as a low point in the talks, “Mr. Medvedev insisted on issuing a joint statement that would bind missile defense,” according to U.S. officials cited in the March 26 New York Times account. Obama reportedly refused, but suggested separate unilateral statements that would detail each side’s position without being legally binding.

Citing Russian concerns about U.S. missile defense plans and Russian statements urging that New START establish a “linkage of offensive weapons and missile defense,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said in a March 15 letter to Obama that “it is highly unlikely that the Senate would ratify a treaty that includes such a linkage,” including “unilateral declarations that the Russian Federation could use as leverage against you or your successors when U.S. missile defense decisions are made.”

Past U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaties, including START, contain references to the relationship between anti-missile deployments and the offensive strategic balance. The treaties also include unilateral Russian statements noting that U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and subsequent strategic missile interceptor deployments could serve as the basis for Russian withdrawal. (See ACT, March 2010.) In a July 22, 2001, joint statement following a meeting in Genoa, Italy, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin had also agreed that “offensive and defensive systems” were “inter-related matters.”

Referring to a 10 percent, $600 million increase in the fiscal year 2011 budget request to Congress for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) weapons activities, the McConnell-Kyl letter praised the administration for “making necessary investments in the U.S. nuclear deterrent,” noting that “as President, the safety, security and reliability of these weapons is your responsibility.” Even so, they wrote that the funding increase is “not sufficient” and that administration efforts to “fully” fund nuclear modernization “could have a significant impact on the Senate as it considers the START follow-on treaty.”

Responding to the Senate Republicans’ concerns about missile defense and the nuclear weapons infrastructure, Gates said at the March 26 briefing that “we have addressed both of those.”

 

 

Wrapping up a year of intense negotiations and missed deadlines in which the presidents of Russia and the United States reportedly met or spoke on the telephone 14 times, President Barack Obama announced March 26 at a White House press briefing that “a pivotal new arms control agreement,” the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), was finished and would be signed April 8 in Prague. Flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, Obama said the two countries had just agreed to “the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades.”

News Briefs

Japan Admits Secret U.S. Nuclear Pacts

Tom Z. Collina

Japan confirmed in March, after decades of denials, the existence of secret Cold War-era pacts to allow U.S. nuclear-armed ships to dock in Japanese ports in violation of Tokyo’s own national policies. The secret pacts had been revealed previously in Washington, but Japanese leaders had continued to deny their existence.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government opened an investigation of the secret agreements shortly after taking office in September 2009. The victory by Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan ended the almost unbroken 54-year reign of the Liberal Democratic Party last year.

“It is regrettable that such facts were not disclosed to the public for such a long time, even after the end of the Cold War,” Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told reporters in Tokyo March 9. “This is about becoming a government that discloses more information and is more truthful.”

Okada said exposing the pacts would not change Japan’s postwar policy of not making or owning nuclear weapons or allowing their entry into Japanese ports. He added the agreements were no longer needed because U.S. ships no longer carry nuclear weapons.

The investigation committee’s report said it had not found a formal signed treaty that allowed U.S. nuclear-armed warships into Japanese ports. Instead, the report said there had been an unspoken understanding with Washington that Tokyo would not ask whether U.S. ships had nuclear weapons on board.


 

More North Korean Arms Intercepted

Peter Crail

South Africa intercepted smuggled North Korean tank components last November, Pretoria reported to a UN sanctions committee at the end of February. In Feb. 24 testimony to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the tank parts were destined for the Republic of Congo. The components were carried in two containers said to contain spare bulldozer parts, the Associated Press reported Feb. 25.

The attempted North Korean arms transfer joins a series of UN sanctions violations by Pyongyang uncovered in the nine months since a UN arms embargo was tightened last June. States with evidence of sanctions violations are required to report them to a UN Security Council committee established to monitor the sanctions. A Jan. 18 report by the committee indicated that it received reports on four cases of suspected violations by North Korea last year.

Known cases include the interception of arms caches by Thailand last December and the United Arab Emirates last August. Both shipments contained small arms, light weapons, and munitions bound for Iran. (See ACT, January/February 2010.)

The United States and its allies maintain that the sanctions have helped to put economic pressure on North Korea, which relies largely on sales of military equipment for foreign currency.


 

U.S. Releases Cybersecurity Details

Michael Ashby

The White House released for the first time unclassified details of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) March 2. Launched in January 2008 by the Bush administration, the CNCI details a number of initiatives designed to increase the security of public and private U.S. computer networks.

In a March 15 interview, James Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the release of CNCI is “a signal that the United States is taking a new approach to cybersecurity.” Lewis, who previously worked on national-security and technology issues for the U.S. government, added that the declassification of parts of the CNCI is a necessary step to include the private sector.

Part of the CNCI is “aimed at building an approach to cyber defense strategy that deters interference and attack in cyberspace…and developing appropriate responses for both state and non-state actors.” That statement appears to be the first acknowledgment by the Obama administration that it will develop a deterrence strategy in cyberspace.

According to Lewis, “[A] lot of the broad questions haven’t been wrestled to the ground: Who authorizes [the use of a U.S. offensive response]? When to use it? What will be its characteristics?”

The primary cyberthreats facing the United States come from China and Russia, Lewis said. Cyberattacks originating in those countries typically cannot be traced to the governments, but, because China and Russia have put a great deal of effort into monitoring communications, it is “implausible” that they “have not actively encouraged cybercrime,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the CNCI “faces challenges if it is to fully achieve its objectives related to securing federal information systems.” In a March 2010 report, the GAO said the CNCI should do a better job of defining roles and responsibilities, establish “measures of effectiveness,” and determine “an appropriate level of transparency.” On the last point, the report said, “Few of the elements of CNCI have been made public, and the rationale for classifying related information remains unclear, hindering coordination with private sector entities and accountability to the public.”


 

Russia, India Reach Arms Sale Agreements

Caitlin Taber

During Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s March 12 visit to India to meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Moscow and New Delhi agreed on several arms sales, according to news reports. Most notably, the visit concluded six years of negotiations for the sale of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov to India, the reports said.

Media reports on the sale put the total value at $2.3 billion. Vadim Kozyulin, director of the conventional arms program at the nongovernmental PIRCenter in Moscow, said Putin has signed the agreement but that the final amount of the sale has yet to be disclosed.

The estimated price is significantly higher than the original $1.5 billion price tag Russia initially gave India in 2004, as reported by the U.S. Congressional Research Service. The price increase was a source of contention throughout the talks.

Negotiations reportedly are still under way to complete the sale of 29 MiG-29 fighter jets. According to the news reports and Kozyulin, that part of the package is worth about $1.5 billion. A contract for about 40 Su-30MKI fighter jets is also expected to be concluded in 2010, Kozyulin said.

In addition, Russia is currently testing the Akula-II class Nerpa nuclear-powered submarine for a possible lease to India later this year, Kozyulin said.

 

Next Steps on New START

Daryl G. Kimball

U.S. and Russian negotiators, with a push from Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, have concluded the most important strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty in nearly two decades. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which will be signed in Prague April 8, puts Washington and Moscow back on the path of verifiable reductions of their still-bloated Cold War nuclear arsenals and renewed cooperation on other vital nuclear security priorities.

The treaty would limit each side to no more than 700 deployed strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and 1,550 deployed strategic warheads, which is 30 percent below the existing warhead limit. Just as importantly, New START would replace the 1991 START verification regime, which expired last December, with a more effective and up-to-date system to monitor compliance for the 10-year life of the new pact.

New START will restore strategic stability and predictability. It is a concrete example of U.S. and Russian action on disarmament that will bolster support for measures designed to strengthen the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at the May review conference.

The conclusion of the treaty after a year of intensive, up-and-down U.S.-Russian negotiations is a significant diplomatic achievement for the Obama team. Yet, the signing of New START is only the first step toward the president’s goal of reducing “the number and the role of nuclear weapons” worldwide.

New START will still leave the United States and Russia with thousands of excess nuclear weapons that are liabilities in the effort to curb proliferation and combat terrorism. Obama and Medvedev should announce their readiness to resume consultations on the next round of nuclear arms reductions. As Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested during a January 2009 hearing on her nomination as secretary of state, such talks should be broadened to include the verifiable elimination of all warhead types: deployed and nondeployed, strategic and nonstrategic.

To boost momentum at the upcoming NPT meeting, Obama and Medvedev should also invite the world’s other recognized nuclear-armed states to engage in a high-level dialogue on how to make their nuclear capabilities more transparent, create greater confidence, and move toward the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons.

Most immediately, the administration must undertake a smart, government-wide effort to mobilize the Senate to consider and approve the new treaty before year’s end—a task made all the more difficult by partisan rancor on the president’s domestic agenda.

To succeed, the overwhelming national security value of New START and the dangers of delay or defeat of the treaty must be made clear. The White House already demonstrated the strong and visible backing for the treaty from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as key Republican national security figures, including former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has said he will help the committee “work quickly to achieve ratification of the new treaty.”

The administration must continue to make it clear that concerns raised by other Republican senators, including Jon Kyl (Ariz.), about limitations on U.S. missile defense programs and the verifiability of the new treaty have already been addressed. Obama resisted 11th-hour Russian proposals for limitations on U.S. plans for missile interceptor deployments designed to counter Iran’s short- and medium-range missiles; New START limits only U.S. and Russian strategic offensive weapons. As previous U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreements did, New START will merely acknowledge the offensive-defensive relationship in the nonbinding preamble.

Kyl, who in 2003 praised the brevity of the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty and called START and its monitoring provisions a “700-page behemoth” that “would not serve America’s real security needs,” now bemoans the loss of certain START verification practices. In reality, New START features a more effective, transparent verification method that demands quicker data exchanges and notifications than its predecessor. It modifies or eliminates costly practices not directly relevant for today’s post-Cold War needs. New START will also include new and innovative techniques to identify each side’s strategic delivery vehicles and verify with high confidence actual warhead deployment levels.

Despite a 10 percent increase in the administration’s funding request for nuclear weapons infrastructure modernization, Republican senators have also suggested that verifiable U.S.-Russian strategic arsenal reductions would be imprudent without even greater funding increases and the pursuit of a “modern warhead.” In fact, the U.S. nuclear weapons labs have more than enough resources to maintain the reliability of all major warhead types through their ongoing Life Extension Programs. New-design warheads and the renewal of nuclear testing are technically unnecessary and would undermine the U.S. nonproliferation effort.

Delaying action on the follow-on to START and rekindling U.S.-Russian nuclear competition is unwise and dangerous. New START promises to enhance U.S. and global security by further reducing excess Cold War strategic nuclear weapons.

U.S. and Russian negotiators, with a push from Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, have concluded the most important strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty in nearly two decades. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which will be signed in Prague April 8, puts Washington and Moscow back on the path of verifiable reductions of their still-bloated Cold War nuclear arsenals and renewed cooperation on other vital nuclear security priorities.

The treaty would limit each side to no more than 700 deployed strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and 1,550 deployed strategic warheads, which is 30 percent below the existing warhead limit. Just as importantly, New START would replace the 1991 START verification regime, which expired last December, with a more effective and up-to-date system to monitor compliance for the 10-year life of the new pact. (Continue)

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