"I learned so much about arms control and disarmament at ACA! I learned more about arms control here in four months than I had in all three years at my college."

– Alicia Sanders-Zakre
Intern, Fall 2016
December 16, 2016
June 2010
Edition Date: 
Friday, June 4, 2010
Cover Image: 

Books of Note

American Missile Defense

Victoria Samson, Praeger, 2010, 252 pp.

American Missile Defense is an in-depth, authoritative account of U.S. missile defense programs from the early 1950s to the present. Victoria Samson, director of the Washington office of the Secure World Foundation, argues that U.S. missile defense capabilities are widely exaggerated and suffered from poor development planning under the George W. Bush administration. Samson details the elements of the U.S. missile defense system, discussing their developmental paths, costs, operational timelines, and current capabilities. She evaluates various programs in the context of overall U.S. missile defense strategy and concludes that development of programs to intercept long-range strategic missiles has been slowed by lack of oversight and cost control under the Bush administration. She argues that although the Obama administration has begun to make improvements in the development process, U.S. missile defense programs are still incapable of meeting current threats facing the United States. —MICHAEL ASHBY


Exporting the Bomb: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons

Matthew Kroenig, CornellUniversity Press, 2010, 233 pp.

Noting that a state’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons hinges on receiving outside help, GeorgetownUniversity professor Matthew Kroenig presents a novel supply-side approach to nuclear proliferation and challenges the conventional wisdom that nuclear exports are driven by economic considerations. Kroenig argues that the likelihood of sensitive nuclear transfers rises with an exporting state’s inability to project power over the nuclear recipient and with the presence of a common enemy. He also argues that states are less likely to provide sensitive nuclear assistance when they depend on a superpower patron. Kroenig constructs a data set of yearly information for all capable nuclear suppliers and potential recipients from 1951 to 2000 and examines several case studies to test his theory. He suggests that other nations give lower priority to nonproliferation issues than Washington because “nuclear proliferation threatens the United States more than any other state.” Kroenig concludes that although sensitive nuclear assistance is unlikely to be provided to terrorists, strategic incentives for sensitive nuclear exports to states will remain. —VOLHA CHARNYSH


A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons

Edward M. Spiers, Reaktion Books, 2010, 224 pp.

In A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons, Edward M. Spiers offers a comprehensive overview of the development, future, and implications of biological and chemical weapons. Spiers’ book traces the origins of chemical and biological warfare from their ancient beginnings to the first major use of gas in 1915 in World War I, to more recent uses and suspicions of use. He also discusses ways in which disarmament efforts developed in tandem with the weapons themselves. Another focus of the book is biological and chemical terrorism and weapons proliferation. Spiers recommends greater information sharing on the local, state, federal, and international levels. He concludes that although a biological or chemical attack could present a worst-case scenario for many states, “worst-case scenarios…are rare events.” Nevertheless, he says, it is important that the United States and other countries examine ways to respond to and prevent such a scenario. —CAITLIN TABER


American Missile Defense, Victoria Samson, Praeger, 2010, 252 pp. 

Exporting the Bomb: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons, Matthew Kroenig, CornellUniversity Press, 2010, 233 pp. 

A History of Chemical and Biological Weapons, Edward M. Spiers, Reaktion Books, 2010, 224 pp.

IN MEMORIAM: Stephen J. Ledogar (1929 - 2010)

John King

Stephen J. Ledogar, a career U.S. Foreign Service officer and an ambassador who negotiated several arms control agreements, died of cancer on May 3 at the age of 80.

A native New Yorker, Ledogar earned a law degree from FordhamUniversity, was admitted to the New York Bar, and practiced for several years before joining the Foreign Service in 1959. His legal background, military experience as a U.S. Navy pilot, and readily recognizable diplomatic skills led to a rapid rise through the ranks, with early assignments in Canada, Italy, and Vietnam and with NATO in Belgium. He naturally gravitated to political-military issues, including arms control, serving subsequently in increasingly responsible posts in Washington, in Paris as spokesman for the U.S. delegation to the Vietnamese peace talks, and again with NATO as deputy chief of mission, where he played a major role in influencing the talks on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Along the way, he became fluent in French, Italian, and Vietnamese.

His first major arms control negotiating role came in 1987 when President Ronald Reagan appointed him ambassador and U.S. permanent representative to the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks in Vienna, concurrently serving as head of delegation to the negotiations on the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. He had a key role in successfully working out many of the major provisions and virtually completing that treaty. President George H.W. Bush then reassigned him to Geneva in 1989 as ambassador and U.S. permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament (CD). Ledogar remained in this latter position for more than seven years, completing complex negotiations for the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, followed by equally arduous negotiations for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that were concluded in 1996. In between, he played a crucial role at the 1995 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, where he acted as the main U.S. negotiator of the “principles and objectives” document, which was a key part in the successful effort to extend the treaty indefinitely.

Ledogar’s direct negotiating responsibility for these arms control treaties was virtually unique. He received special recognition from President Bill Clinton, who noted in a letter to him that it represented “a remarkable feat that is not likely to be matched.” Even more important, perhaps, was the respect and cooperation he gained from his negotiating counterparts. He earned their confidence, friendship, and active assistance through close collaboration at every step of the negotiating process. Anyone who ever worked with him experienced his unique blend of intense focus, sustained leadership, strategic and diplomatic finesse, political sensitivity, technical and negotiating expertise, and sheer tenacity. His creative solutions to negotiating problems bridged many gaps and drew bickering parties together to find agreement. It was a performance that was remarkable because it persisted over such a long period of time, affected so many people, and accomplished so much of lasting value.

His success in negotiating key treaties helped make the global community a much safer place to live. A far-sighted thinker, Ledogar understood earlier and more deeply than many of his colleagues the positive dynamic that arms control could bring to international security. He privately remarked at one point that he believed the United States could manage a CD negotiation on nuclear disarmament and that it would have significant political benefits for the United States and for nonproliferation as a whole. He was nothing if not a realist, however, understanding that his thinking was ahead of its time and more than the existing political climate could bear. Instead, he more prudently described his views in October 1999 testimony on the CTBT before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stating that the treaty’s “zero yield” provision was in the U.S. interest because it ensured there would be no nuclear testing threshold of any kind for anybody. Thus, in preparing to resubmit the CTBT to the Senate for ratification, the Obama administration could not be providing a more fitting tribute to his legacy.

The international arms control community and many others mourn the passing of this peerless ambassador. He was a valiant champion of the interests of his country as well as the hopes of those everywhere who seek to make the world a more secure and humane place.

He leaves behind his wife of 43 years, the former Marcia (Marcie) Hubert; daughter Lucy van Beever; son Charles; and three grandchildren.

John King directs the Program on Disarmament Education and Training for the UN-mandated University for Peace in Geneva. He served as a U.S. Foreign Service officer and worked with Ledogar on various occasions, primarily as executive secretary of the U.S. delegation to the Conference on Disarmament during Ledogar’s tenure there.

Stephen J. Ledogar, a career U.S. Foreign Service officer and an ambassador who negotiated several arms control agreements, died of cancer on May 3 at the age of 80.

Letters to the Editor

Anti-Missile Testing Has Been Successful

Rick Lehner

Contrary to the views expressed by George N. Lewis and Theodore A. Postol (“A Flawed and Dangerous Missile Defense Plan,” May 2010), every Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) intercept test since 2002 which the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) reported as successful indeed was successful. In each test, the target was destroyed by the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense/SM-3 system due to the extreme kinetic energy resulting from the “hit-to-kill” intercept. In each instance, the mission objective of hit-to-kill of the unitary or separating target was achieved. The authors apparently based their assessment on unclassified, publicly released photos gleaned from a sensor mounted aboard the SM-3 and postulated what they perceived to be the interceptor’s impact point, although they had no access to classified telemetry data showing the complete destruction of the target missiles, or subsequent sensor views of the intercept that were not publicly released so as not to reveal to potential adversaries exactly where the target missile was struck.

Viewing unclassified video from all the SM-3 tests aptly demonstrates the violence of this collision; the video can be seen at www.mda.mil/news/gallery_aegis.html. Contrary to the author’s endnotes, these videos have always been on the MDALink Web site and were not removed.

The authors cited only tests involving unitary targets and chose not to cite the five successful intercepts in six attempts against separating targets, which, because of their increased speed and small size, pose a much more challenging target for the SM-3 than a much larger unitary target missile. They also did not mention the fact that the system is successfully intercepting targets much smaller than probable threat missiles on a routine basis and has attained test scores that many other Department of Defense programs aspire to attain.

The first three Aegis tests (FM-2, FM-3, FM-4), conducted in 2002, used prototype interceptors. The objective for each of these early tests was simply to determine if a ballistic missile target could be destroyed by a new interceptor, the SM-3, fired and guided by a ship at sea using hit-to-kill technology. Because they were the first tests using prototype interceptors complex, expensive mock warheads were not used in the tests. Specific lethality capability was not a test objective; the objective was to hit the target missile. Contrary to the assertions of the authors, all three tests resulted in successful target hits, with the unitary ballistic missile target destroyed. This provided empirical evidence that ballistic missile intercepts could in fact be accomplished at sea using interceptors launched from ships equipped with the Aegis system. (There was also a fourth test, in July 2009, in which the target did not have a warhead because lethality was not an objective.)

After successful completion of these early developmental tests, the test program progressed from just “hitting the target” to one of determining lethality and proving the operationally configured Aegis SM-3 Block I and SM-3 Block 1A system. These tests were the MDA’s most comprehensive and realistic test series, resulting in the Operational Test and Evaluation Force’s October 2008 Evaluation Report stating that the Aegis Block 04 3.6 system was operationally effective and suitable for transition to the Navy.

Since 2002, a total of 19 SM-3 missiles have been fired in 16 different test events resulting in 16 intercepts against threat-representative full-size and more challenging subscale unitary and full-size targets with separating warheads.  (In two of the tests, two interceptors were launched against two targets. In the first of those tests, the two SM-3 missiles destroyed both targets; in the second test, the SM-3s had one hit and one miss. In two tests, a single interceptor missed its target. There was also one test in which the SM-3 did not launch. In all the other SM-3 tests, a single interceptor was fired and hit its target. Further details are in the MDA fact sheet, “Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Testing,” which also includes information on one satellite and three SM-2 launches.)

From 1991 through 2010, the MDA has conducted 66 full-scale hit-to-kill lethality sled tests and 138 subscale hit-to-kill light-gas-gun tests covering all MDA interceptor types against nuclear, unitary chemical, chemical submunitions, biological bomblets, and high-explosive submunition threats. Eighteen of these tests were specifically devoted to the current SM-3 kinetic warhead system. This extensive database of lethality testing has conclusively demonstrated that the MDA’s weapon systems are highly lethal against ballistic missile threats when they engage within their accuracy and velocity specifications. 

Rick Lehner is director of public affairs for the Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Agency. 


George N. Lewis and Theodore A. Postol Respond: 

We were pleased to see the letter to Arms Control Today from the Pentagon. It completely confirms that the Pentagon has no credible response to our article.

Essentially all expert analysis, including that of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), concludes that the kill vehicle must directly hit the warhead for the defense to reliably stop the warhead from continuing to the ground and exploding. However, the consistent failures to hit the warhead eight to nine times out of 10, and the misrepresentation of the tests as successful intercepts, is hardly the primary problem revealed by the MDA’s own data.

The overwhelmingly larger problem confirmed by the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) data is that both the SM-3 and the ground-based midcourse ballistic missile defense (GMD) kill vehicles have not demonstrated that either system will ever be able to reliably find the warhead.

We went to great lengths in our article to show and explain why the SM-3 and GMD kill vehicles will never be able to reliably find aimpoints when a warhead is attached to a rocket body or upper rocket stage. We also showed how this fundamental inability translated into an inability to select warheads when they are separated from the rocket body and surrounded by credible decoys. None of the tests of the SM-3 or GMD systems have demonstrated that a separated warhead can be reliably identified among credible decoys. If the warhead cannot be reliably identified, it can never be reliably intercepted.

The SM-3 experimental data therefore show that, in combat, both the SM-3 and GMD kill vehicles will never be able to select warheads except by chance. Even when warheads are selected, appendages could easily be attached to warheads and decoys that would make them indistinguishable to the kill vehicle. The appendages would also make it impossible to reliably find aimpoints even when warheads have been selected by pure chance. The only conclusion that can follow from the Pentagon’s test data, and the science behind it, is that the SM-3 and GMD systems are not, and will never be, “proven and reliable.”

South Korea’s Need For Pyroprocessing 

Hee-Seog Kwon

Having read Frank von Hippel’s recent article on South Korea’s nuclear program (“South Korean Reprocessing: An Unnecessary Threat to the Nonproliferation Regime,” March 2010), as well as the earlier article he co-authored on a similar subject (“Reprocessing Revisited: The International Dimensions of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership,” April 2008), I sense that the complex situation facing South Korea and its rapidly expanding nuclear power program may not be fully appreciated in the United States.

Importing nearly 100 percent of its energy sources, South Korea has relied on the cheap electricity produced by nuclear reactors for its rapid socioeconomic development. Since the first nuclear power plant came online in 1978, the country has significantly expanded its nuclear generating capacity to be the world’s sixth-largest nuclear power generator, with 20 reactors in operation and eight more under construction.

 At the end of 2009, South Korea’s reactors had discharged a lifetime total of 10,761 metric tons of spent fuel, with 700 tons being generated annually. The material has been stored at South Korea’s four reactor sites. From 2016, spent fuel storage pools will be saturated one by one; if the pools were filled, the reactors would have to be shut down for safety reasons. The possibilities for enlarging storage capacity by reracking have been exhausted. Although not yet fully explored, the option of a permanent geological repository is unlikely to be available in South Korea, which is roughly the size of Indiana (36,420 square miles). For these reasons, it seems inevitable that South Korea will build additional interim dry-cask storage capacity by 2016 or so. However, local populations can be expected to mount considerable opposition to building more interim dry casks at the reactor sites. To be successful, the government should offer the host community a credible strategy and timetable for the longer-term management of the spent fuel so that the community could be convinced that it is accepting the spent fuel only for a temporary period.

To cope with the ever-increasing spent fuel problem, since 1997, the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) has been developing pyroprocessing technology, which will substantially reduce the volume, heat, and radiotoxicity of spent fuel. The final products of pyroprocessing will be burned, or transmuted, in the next-generation fast-neutron reactors that KAERI has been developing since 1992. This technology will greatly reduce the disposal burden for nuclear power states and, at the same time, provide a new energy source.

Nonproliferation advocates have rightly discouraged “reprocessing.” However, the term should be applied specifically to PUREX (plutonium-uranium extraction) technology, which is used today in France, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Now, the advocates tend to equate pyroprocessing with PUREX.

I do not support PUREX technology and its minor variants, such as UREX+ and COEX. Those technologies raise serious proliferation and terrorism concerns, and they have minimal benefits for nuclear waste disposal. However, pyroprocessing is essentially a spent fuel treatment and conditioning process with enhanced proliferation resistance; it produces as the final product the inseparable transuranic elements—a mixture of neptunium, plutonium, americium, and curium. The technology is indeed proliferation resistant since curium in the final product emits spontaneous neutrons continuously to neutralize the fissile plutonium-239. The product is still thermally and radioactively far too hot; producing suitable bomb material would require further purification of the product, which in turn would need a separate PUREX facility. At the same time, the entire process of the pyroprocessing development will remain under robust International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

The current plan is to build an engineering-scale, mockup facility by 2016 to verify its technical and economic viability. A demonstration pyroprocessing plant with the capacity of handling 100 metric tons of heavy metal per year would be constructed by 2028. The associated development of the engineering-scale, sodium-cooled fast-neutron reactor is to be completed by 2030. The first module of a commercial pyroprocessing facility would be built subsequently.

Given the proliferation concern inherent in spent fuel treatment, Seoul should actively consider the facility’s multilateralization. In a multilateral pyroprocessing facility, the technology would be carefully guarded in black-box mode by the host country or countries, and other participating states would utilize the facility to solve their spent fuel problem. The pyroprocessing facility could be co-located at one of the reactor sites in South Korea’s southern region. By offering the first-ever multilateral facility, South Korea would make a landmark contribution to strengthening global nonproliferation principles and norms. 

To ensure the needed steady technological progress in pyroprocessing development, Korean scientists should have the opportunity to analyze spent fuel in the laboratory. The 1974 U.S.-South Korean nuclear cooperation agreement stipulates that the United States holds prior consent rights over the reprocessing or alteration in form and content of all U.S.-origin nuclear material in South Korea. The Korean nuclear community believes that these terms make the two countries jointly responsible for resolving South Korea’s growing spent fuel dilemma. As crucial security allies and indispensable partners in nonproliferation and peaceful nuclear use, South Korea and the United States should lead a candid and constructive dialogue in a mutually beneficial and complementary manner to reach an early agreement.  

Hee-Seog Kwon is a visiting fellow at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He is a former director for nonproliferation and disarmament affairs at the South Korean Foreign Ministry. 


Arms Controllers Need To Accept Nuclear Power

Alex DeVolpi

Sadly, some arms control analysts continue to take an ostrich’s head-in-the-sand approach to nuclear energy and materials management.

Nuclear reactors are not going away; nuclear energy is expanding. Those pretending otherwise are not contributing to solutions for proliferation and oversized arsenals. We need realistic institutional mechanisms to manage the growth of nuclear power, especially with increased recognition of a shortfall in fossil energy reserves and the environmental costs of extraction and burning carbonaceous fuels.

The April 2010 Arms Control Today reflects some wayward policies. Leonard Spector (“The Coming Glut of Japanese Spent Fuel”)—citing and amplifying upon Frank von Hippel’s academic analysis of South Korean reprocessing plans (“South Korean Reprocessing: An Unnecessary Threat to the Nonproliferation Regime,” March 2010)—expresses concern over “spent” nuclear fuel accumulating in Japan. However, one reason Japan, the United States, and some other countries have a glut of unprocessed reactor fuel is that anti-nuclear-power activists, such as von Hippel, have raised immaterial, specious objections to reprocessing.

France, Russia, and some other nations are moving ahead with reprocessing in order to extract residual energy and reduce the possibility that incompletely consumed fuel would contribute to terrorism. Fast-spectrum nuclear reactors offer still another hundredfold recovery of already-mined resources. There is no looming shortage of usable nuclear energy.

The failure of the United States to complete the YuccaMountain repository could actually be a blessing if spent fuel were to be reprocessed and its residual energy salvaged.

I wonder if ACT readers are aware that half the nuclear electricity produced in the United States is derived from fissile materials used or once destined for weapons. Burning fissile materials in civilian nuclear reactors is the most straightforward, practical, effective, and profitable way of irreversibly ridding ourselves of nuclear arsenals. Already-embedded value can be extracted to produce eco-friendly energy by using safeguarded nuclear recycling facilities.

The arms control community should be focusing on institutional mechanisms for managing the ongoing expansion of nuclear energy. Rather than conceding Rüdiger Lüdeking’s dismal nonproliferation forecast (in the April ACT), international safeguards need to be reinforced and enhanced so countries can reduce the risk of nuclear materials falling into illegal channels, while expanding beneficial uses of nuclear energy and vastly reducing nuclear weaponry.

Incidentally, hyping “global zero” for nuclear weapons diverts attention from organized steps required to manage, reduce, and demilitarize existing inventories of indispensable ingredients, i.e., weapons-grade fissile materials.

Also in the April ACT, Li Hong, representing a nongovernmental organization in China, reminds us that “nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy” are three equal “pillars” of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, mutually complementary and inseparable. News articles in the same issue address Iran’s forthcoming power reactor operation, Israel’s “strong interest” in nuclear energy, and Pakistan’s desire for a civilian nuclear trade agreement. All this speaks for official U.S. acceptance of energy supply realities and opportunities.

Those of us sharing arms control goals should support practical and thoughtful measures to manage nuclear materials. 

 Alex DeVolpi, a nuclear physicist and arms control analyst, retired in 1999 after 41 years at Argonne National Laboratory. He is author of the trilogy Nuclear Insights: The Cold War Legacy.


Frank N. von Hippel Responds:

Alex DeVolpi and Hee-Seog Kwon dream of fast-neutron reactors cooled by molten sodium that could either breed more plutonium then they burn (DeVolpi) or burn more plutonium than they breed (Kwon). For me, the issue is the proliferation implications of promoting the separation and recycling of plutonium. Commercialization of fast-neutron reactors also faces another challenge, however. Several industrialized countries have collectively spent $100 billion on research, development, and demonstration projects and found sodium-cooled reactors to be much more costly and unreliable than current-generation water-cooled reactors.

Nevertheless, the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute has managed to push the issue of reprocessing to the top of the U.S.-South Korean diplomatic agenda on the premise that someday South Korea will be able to commercialize fast-neutron reactors. This is an old story. In the 1970s, fast-neutron-reactor advocates also convinced the governments of France, India, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom to reprocess spent fuel to obtain start-up plutonium for breeder reactors that never came.

Kwon says that pyroprocessing is proliferation resistant. My own view is captured nicely in the U.S. national laboratory review quoted in my article. It found “only a modest improvement in reducing proliferation risk over existing PUREX technologies and these modest improvements apply primarily for non-state actors.”

Kwon argues that reprocessing would give communities confidence that interim on-site storage of spent fuel is only temporary because a reprocessing plant would provide a destination to which the spent fuel could be shipped. But the reprocessing plant then becomes the interim storage facility. The United Kingdom has learned how costly this can be after its reprocessing company went bankrupt, leaving behind a $100 billion cleanup challenge.

Although Kwon argues that South Korea is not big enough to accommodate a deep-underground spent fuel repository, reprocessing does not eliminate the need for a radioactive-waste repository. In any case, the surface area required by a spent fuel repository is very small. The estimated surface area required for Finland’s repository is 0.2 square kilometers, less than 10 percent of the area covered by one of South Korea’s nuclear power plant sites. The area underlain by the underground disposal tunnels required to hold the 100,000 tons of spent fuel projected to be discharged by South Korea’s reactors by 2100 might translate into five such repositories, each underlying an area the size of New York City’s Central Park. But there is not much demand for real estate 500 meters down. Indeed, much of the area could be located under the seabed offshore.

South Korea might also want to consider borehole disposal, which could, in theory, accommodate all of its current spent fuel inventory in 10 holes, each measuring just 45 centimeters in diameter and five kilometers in depth.


News Briefs

Indonesia to Ratify Test Ban Treaty

Meri Lugo

Indonesia will begin proceedings to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Foreign Minister R. M. Marty M. Natalegawa announced May 3. “Indonesia is initiating the process of the ratification,” he said during Indonesia’s opening statement at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations. “It is our fervent hope that this further demonstration of our commitment to the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation agenda will encourage other countries that have not ratified the treaty to do the same,” he added.

Indonesia is one of nine remaining “Annex 2” states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force; the other eight are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States. Under Annex 2 of the CTBT, 44 specified countries must ratify the treaty to bring it into force.

Indonesia signed the CTBT in 1996, on the first day it was opened for signature.

During a speech in Washington last June, then-Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda announced that Indonesia would ratify the CTBT as soon as the United States did so. Explaining the policy change at a May 4 press conference, Natalegawa said Indonesia hoped that its decision would “be a positive incentive for other states to follow suit.”

In their opening statements at the review conference, several speakers applauded Indonesia’s new policy. Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth said May 6 that “the announcement is of crucial importance in moving the treaty closer to entry into force, and underscores the leadership role of Indonesia in regional and global nonproliferation and disarmament efforts.”

In a May 4 statement, President Barack Obama thanked Indonesia “for its responsible leadership in the global effort to reinforce the nuclear nonproliferation regime.”

In April 2009, Obama pledged to pursue U.S. ratification of the CTBT and is expected to do so after Senate consideration of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago and the Central African Republic deposited their instruments of ratification for the CTBT on May 26, bringing the total number of ratifications to 153.


U.S. to Give Missile Launch Notifications

Volha Charnysh

The United States has agreed to provide prelaunch notification for the majority of its ballistic missile and satellite launches, officials said last month.

The United States sent a confidential note to the secretariat of the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, spokesman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry, which coordinates HCOC information exchanges, said in a May 25 interview.

The U.S. move, which was first reported by the Associated Press, was “a confidence-building measure,” he said.

Under the HCOC, which has 130 members and is the most wide-ranging international agreement on missile proliferation, countries make a nonbinding commitment to provide prelaunch notifications on ballistic missile and space-launch vehicle launches. Although the United States has regularly provided the HCOC with annual reports, it has never supplied prelaunch notifications through the code. Moscow stopped notifying HCOC members of its ballistic missile launches in 2008 on the grounds that some current members have not been issuing prelaunch notifications. (See ACT, March 2008.)

A U.S. Department of State official said in a May 28 interview that Washington had recently completed a review of its policy on prelaunch notifications and decided to issue such notifications of commercial and NASA space launches, as well as “the majority” of its intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launches using the HCOC process. The United States had been abiding by the December 2000 Memorandum of Understanding on Notifications of Missile Launches with Russia instead of the HCOC, he said. Consistent with its position at the time of the HCOC’s creation in November 2002, the United States will “on rare occasions” withhold launch information on certain ballistic missiles or space-launch vehicles, he said.

Launsky-Tieffenthal said the U.S. prenotification plans were to be further discussed at the next regular meeting of the HCOC, scheduled for May 31-June 1.


Landmine Review Garners Congressional Support

Jeff Abramson

Sixty-eight senators last month expressed support for the Obama administration’s review of U.S. landmine policy as well as a potential presidential decision that would lead to joining an international treaty banning their use.

In a May 18 letter, the senators said, “We are confident that through a thorough, deliberative review, the Administration can identify any obstacles to joining the Convention and develop a plan to overcome them as soon as possible.”

The senators were referring to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty. Before the United States could join the treaty, at least two-thirds of the Senate—67, if all 100 senators are present—would have to support it. Treaty advocates said the 68 signatures on the letter make a decision to join the treaty easier for the administration.

Key members of Senate committees, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and ranking member Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Senate Arms Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), signed the letter, which was circulated by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Obama received a similar letter from 57 House members.

In 2009 the administration announced it would conduct a comprehensive review of landmine policy and attended a meeting of treaty states-parties for the first time. (See ACT, December 2009.) That review is ongoing, and the administration has not indicated whether it plans to join the treaty.

Under a policy inherited by the Obama administration, the United States this year will forswear use of persistent mines, also known as “dumb mines,” but retain so-called smart mines, those equipped with self-destruct mechanisms. Both types of mines are prohibited by the treaty. So called “command-detonated” mines, which require an operator to detonate them intentionally, are permitted.


UK Ratifies Cluster Munitions Convention

Jeff Abramson

The United Kingdom, a key U.S. ally and past user and producer of cluster munitions, ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions May 4, becoming the 11th NATO member to do so. Since February, when the treaty met its minimum number of 30 ratifications needed to set an entry-into-force date, Ecuador, Samoa, and the Seychelles have also ratified the accord, bringing total ratifications to 34. In April, Mauritania signed it, raising the total number of signatories to 106.


China, Pakistan Set Reactor Deal

Daniel Horner

China reportedly has reached a deal to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan, a country that does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections.

Under the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which China joined in 2004, countries other than the five recognized nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—are not eligible to receive most nuclear exports from NSG members unless they agree to accept such inspections, known as full-scope safeguards.

In an April 28 article, the Financial Times cited an interview with a Pakistani official and a statement on China National Nuclear Corporation’s Web site as confirming the deal, which has been the subject of conflicting information over the past few months. The Times also cited diplomats in China as saying Beijing had approved the deal, but that it had not been sealed.

The NSG, which is currently chaired by Hungary, is scheduled to hold its annual plenary meeting June 21-25 in New Zealand. In a May 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a Hungarian diplomat said that “the Chinese-Pakistani deal on nuclear reactors has not been formally discussed within NSG but we anticipate the issue will be raised” during the New Zealand meeting. The diplomat added, “We hope to learn more about the deal during the plenary after which the Group can formulate a well-informed position on the issue.”

When China joined the NSG, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second one, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan.

China made “a declaration of existing projects” that covered Chashma-1 and -2, which “were grandfathered as conditions of China’s NSG membership,” a U.S. official said in a recent e-mail to Arms Control Today.  “There was no declaration at that time, and subsequently no NSG approval, of any intention to build additional nuclear power plants at Chasma,” the official said.

“Without an exception granted by the NSG by consensus, Chinese construction of additional nuclear power plants in Pakistan beyond what was grandfathered in 2004 would be inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG,” the official said.

The U.S. government “has reiterated to the Chinese government that the United States expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations,” the official said.

In 2008 the NSG, led by the United States, granted an exemption making India, which also does not apply full-scope safeguards, eligible to receive nuclear exports from NSG members.

The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding.


China reportedly has reached a deal to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan, a country that does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections.

South Korea Charges North in Ship Sinking

Peter Crail

South Korea formally accused North Korea May 20 of torpedoing a patrol vessel in March, the latest step in the fallout from an incident that has increased tensions between the two countries and further worsened the near-term prospects for restarting multilateral talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs.

Those six-way talks, involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States, have taken place intermittently since 2003. The most recent round ended in April 2009. (See ACT, May 2009.)

Following the sinking, which killed 46 South Korean sailors, Seoul and Washington abandoned efforts to bring Pyongyang back to the talks while suspicions of North Korea’s role in the sinking were assessed. (See ACT, May 2010.) The South Korean accusation follows a nearly two-month-long multinational investigation into the March 26 sinking of the patrol ship Cheonan.

During a May 20 press briefing, the team of investigators from Australia, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States pointed in particular to torpedo parts recovered from the Yellow Sea that they said matched a type used by the North Korean military. The team issued a report on the incident the same day that said “the evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine.”

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan told reporters April 19 that the six-party talks “would not be possible for some time” if clear evidence emerged that North Korea was responsible for the sinking.

Similarly, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Hirofumi Hirano, told reporters May 20, “It would be difficult to have the six-party talks if the situation stays as it is now.”

North Korea has denied the charge, claiming in a May 20 statement carried by its state media that it would react to any punishment “with various forms of tough measures.”

The White House issued a statement May 20 declaring the attack to constitute “a challenge to international peace and security” and “a violation of the [1953] Armistice Agreement.” That agreement imposed an end to hostilities during the Korean War, but there is no peace treaty officially ending the conflict.

The investigation’s impact on the potential resumption of nuclear disarmament talks appears to have overshadowed suggestions that Pyongyang might be willing to return to them. China’s official Xinhua news agency said May 7 that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told Chinese President Hu Jintao during a May 3-7 visit that Pyongyang “will work with China to create favorable conditions for restarting the six-party talks.” It was Kim’s first foreign visit in four years. North Korea has insisted that progress on replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace process is necessary before it returns to multilateral talks, while the United States and its allies maintain that Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament must come first.


South Korea formally accused North Korea May 20 of torpedoing a patrol vessel in March, the latest step in the fallout from an incident that has increased tensions between the two countries and further worsened the near-term prospects for restarting multilateral talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs.

U.S.-Russian Civil Nuclear Pact Resubmitted

Daniel Horner

President Barack Obama on May 10 transmitted to Congress an agreement for civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia, reviving questions on Capitol Hill over Russian nuclear and missile-related assistance to Iran.

A top administration official said Russia had stopped providing such aid, but congressional staffers from both chambers and both parties questioned that assessment.

In May 2008, President George W. Bush submitted the cooperation agreement to Congress. He effectively withdrew it in September of that year, citing Russia’s military clash with Georgia the previous month. However, there also had been questions on Capitol Hill about the status of Russian assistance that could help Tehran develop a nuclear weapons capability or boost its missile development efforts.

Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in May 2008 to examine the executive branch’s process for preparing the Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS) for the U.S.-Russian agreement. Under U.S. law, the NPAS is one of the documents the president must send to Congress along with a nuclear cooperation agreement. Such pacts are known as 123 agreements, after a section of the Atomic Energy Act.

Citing the “history of [Russia’s] support for Iran’s nuclear, missile, and advanced conventional weapons programs,” Dingell and Stupak asked the GAO to determine “whether all relevant information from classified and unclassified sources was considered and fairly assessed” and “whether the NPAS conclusions are fully supported and whether there is contradictory information that was omitted which could invalidate, modify, or impair the conclusions for recommendation to approve the 123 agreement.” They asked the GAO to examine both the unclassified NPAS and its classified annex.

The GAO report, which was released in July 2009, found flaws with the NPAS process. It did not address the specific questions on Russian assistance to Iran; those issues were addressed in classified oral briefings to congressional staff, sources said at the time. (See ACT, September 2009.)

In a statement last month responding to Obama’s submittal of the agreement, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, said it was “a mistake” to send the accord to Congress “at this time.” Russia should first commit itself to strong UN sanctions against Iran, he said. The United Nations is developing a resolution imposing a new round of sanctions on Tehran (see page 25).

Citing the GAO report, Sherman said, “Russia’s ongoing nuclear relationship with Iran also needs critical examination…. At a minimum, we need to be assured that no Russian assistance is being provided to the most sensitive aspects of Iran’s nuclear development.”

At a May 11 Center for Media and Security luncheon with reporters, Senior White House Coordinator for WMD Counterterrorism and Arms Control Gary Samore said, “As long as I’ve been in this job, there’s been no concern about Russian entities providing nuclear assistance to Iran, outside of Bushehr.”

Bushehr is the nuclear power plant that Russia built in southwestern Iran; its much-delayed start-up is now projected to take place later this year. Current UN sanctions, which ban most nuclear aid to Iran, make an exception for Bushehr.

In an interview last month, an official at the Russian embassy in Washington said Bushehr is “[t]he only project we have with [the] Iranians in [the] nuclear field.”

At the luncheon, Samore said, “Not to my knowledge has there been any assistance to the parts of the Iranian program that we’re worried about from a weapons standpoint. I think that was true of the Bush administration, but it has not been true as long as I’ve been in my job.” Samore took office in early 2009.

Factual Basis Questioned

A Republican Senate aide questioned Samore’s statement, saying in a May 28 interview that the claim of no Russian assistance is “very aggressive and probably not supportable based on facts.” He said that “it’s true there was a particular problem,” that U.S. officials discussed it with their Russian counterparts, and that “there have been claims the problem was completely resolved.” However, he said, “Based on everything I know, it’s hard to say nothing is going on in the last year and a half.” He declined to say what the “particular problem” was, citing classification restrictions.

Supporters and opponents have portrayed the resubmittal of the 123 agreement as part of the Obama administration’s effort to improve—“reset,” in the administration’s terminology—U.S. relations with Russia. The Senate aide said he supports the effort to improve relations with Russia but that it should not make officials “stop looking at ambiguous information.”

In a May 25 interview, a Sherman aide said that in light of the deficiencies that the GAO found in the process for the 2008 NPAS, “Congress needs to carefully examine the [new] NPAS’ clean bill of health for Russia with respect to Iran.”

With regard to missiles, the Senate aide and other congressional staffers following the issue cited the most recent version of the annual U.S. intelligence report to Congress on weapons of mass destruction and advanced conventional munitions. That version, which covers 2009, said, “Assistance from entities in China and North Korea, as well as assistance from Russian entities at least in the past, has helped Iran move toward self-sufficiency in the production of ballistic missiles.”

A 2007 U.S. intelligence assessment that the Senate aide also cited said,

We assess that individual Russian entities continue to provide assistance to Iran’s ballistic missile programs. We judge that Russian-entity assistance, along with assistance from entities in China and North Korea, has helped Iran move toward self-sufficiency in the production of ballistic missiles. The Russian Government has taken steps to improve controls on ballistic-missile technology, and its record of enforcement—though still mixed—has improved over the last decade.

The Senate aide said, “The statement ‘at least in the past’ [in the recent assessment] appears to suggest several possibilities regarding Russian assistance.”

Another congressional aide made a similar point, saying the difference could be that “things are really changing,” the intelligence community is having “collection issues,” or the new language is an indication of “the politics of reset.”

In response to a question about Russian missile assistance to Iran, Samore said at the May 11 luncheon that it was “a huge issue” during the Clinton administration. (Samore served in that administration.) Since then, he said, “I think the Russians have done a very good job, both at the end of the Clinton administration and then throughout the Bush administration, in cracking down on what I now think was unauthorized activities…. I think that has really been cleaned up.”

Asked if there was any current Russian assistance to Iran’s chemical or biological weapons or missile programs, Samore replied, “Not that I know of.”

In the message to Congress accompanying the 123 agreement, Obama said that “the level and scope of U.S.-Russia cooperation on Iran are sufficient to justify resubmitting” the agreement. “The Russian government has indicated its support for a new United Nations Security Council Resolution on Iran and has begun to engage on specific resolution elements with P5 members in New York,” he said. The five permanent members of the Security Council, known as the P5, are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Obama also cited a list of U.S.-Russian arms control and nonproliferation agreements over the past year. Overall, he said, “these events demonstrate significant progress in the U.S.-Russia nuclear nonproliferation relationship.”

Congressional Review

Under the Atomic Energy Act, a 123 agreement such as the one with Russia can enter into force after 90 days of continuous session from the date of its submittal unless Congress passes a joint resolution of disapproval. Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) introduced such a resolution May 20. Congress has never disapproved a 123 agreement, but in a few cases has added nonproliferation conditions.

If the current Congress ends before the 90 days have elapsed, the agreement would have to be reintroduced in the next Congress. Some observers said the 90-day clock was a factor in the administration’s decision to submit the agreement when it did.

Fortenberry and Markey also offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, but the House Rules Committee did not allow the amendment. The Fortenberry-Markey provision would have blocked the entry into force of the 123 agreement until the president certified that Russia had “verifiably suspended all assistance to the nuclear program of Iran and all transfers of advanced conventional weapons and missiles to Iran” and had committed to maintaining the suspension.

Russia has completed all the necessary procedures to bring the 123 agreement into force and is awaiting U.S. action, the Russian embassy official said.


President Barack Obama on May 10 transmitted to Congress an agreement for civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia, reviving questions on Capitol Hill over Russian nuclear and missile-related assistance to Iran.

NATO Experts Hedge on Nuclear Posture

Oliver Meier

A report delivered by a group made up largely of diplomats and former officials on May 17 to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen does not give clear guidance on whether U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe should be withdrawn, saying that “the Alliance should be prepared for in-depth consultations on the future role of nuclear weapons in its deterrence strategy.”

The lack of clear guidance reflects divisions among the experts and among NATO allies on this question, diplomatic sources said. “I am not sure that you can say that there is an overall direction” with regard to the group’s recommendations on the future of nuclear sharing arrangements, a senior U.S. official said in a May 20 interview.

The report, “NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement,” had been mandated by an April 2009 NATO summit to encourage an open discussion of NATO’s organization and purpose. The group of experts, headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, had consulted widely on the report since September.

During a May 17 press conference, Rasmussen called the report a “very solid basis for the discussions to come.” Rasmussen is expected to develop a first draft of NATO’s new Strategic Concept by September; member states hope to be able to agree on the substance at the meeting of NATO foreign and defense ministers on Oct. 14 in Brussels. NATO intends to adopt its new Strategic Concept at its Nov. 19-20 summit in Lisbon.

The report’s recommendations on nuclear weapons and arms control, which make up 1.5 pages of the 35-page substantive analysis, restate a number of principles of NATO’s nuclear weapons policy, including the fact that “NATO relies upon a mixture of conventional and nuclear weapons for the purpose of deterring an armed attack.” The experts also say that any change to NATO’s nuclear posture “including in the geographic distribution of NATO nuclear deployments in Europe” should be made by the alliance “as a whole.” No member state has questioned these fundamentals, although Germany in October 2009 initiated an alliance-wide discussion on the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany and Europe. (See ACT, December 2009.) At a May 20 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the report, Albright said that the group “spent quite a lot of time” on nuclear issues and had “some of our livelier discussions” on NATO’s nuclear posture.

Under NATO nuclear sharing arrangements, the United States keeps an estimated 150 to 200 nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey. These countries would provide aircraft that could deliver U.S. nuclear weapons to their targets in times of war, although the strike mission of the Turkish air force probably has expired. NATO does not provide details of nuclear deployments, but officials in the past have confirmed that “a few hundred” U.S. nuclear weapons are deployed in Europe. (See ACT, September 2007.)

In addition to forward-deployed U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, NATO relies on the nuclear arsenals of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States for nuclear deterrence.

The group recommends re-establishing the “special consultative group” on arms control “for the purpose of facilitating its own internal dialogue about the whole range of issues related to nuclear doctrine, new arms control initiatives, and proliferation.” During the Senate hearing, Albright portrayed the proposal as being aimed primarily at engaging Russia on tactical nuclear weapons. The group “did believe that it was very important to have discussions with the Russians over this,” she said. The consultative group could be the place “to have this kind of a dialogue,” she said.

NATO in 1979 had set up the consultative group to raise NATO’s profile on arms control and coordinate allied positions for talks with the Soviet Union, specifically during negotiations on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. After the treaty was signed in 1987 and most of the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe were withdrawn in the early 1990s, the group fell into disuse.

Officials view the recommendation as a sign that the group wants to postpone any real decisions on the future of nuclear sharing beyond the Lisbon summit, the U.S. official said. “There are some in the alliance that believe that there is more harm than good to be done by NATO agreeing on specific recommendations in the Strategic Concept. They want to avoid potentially divisive discussions on this issue,” the official argued. He said the “allies would have to agree on some placeholder language in the new Strategic Concept” if that course were followed. In response to questions from the Green Party, the German government stated May 11 that there is “unanimity in NATO” that decisions on the future of the alliance’s nuclear deployments “will be taken only after the Lisbon summit” in order to “take into account the agreements reached in the Strategic Concept.”

The report argues that “broad participation” of the non-nuclear NATO members “is an essential sign of transatlantic solidarity and risk sharing” and that “under current security conditions, the retention of some U.S. forward-deployed systems on European soil reinforces the principle of extended nuclear deterrence and collective defence.” The U.S. official, however, described the latter statement as “a linguistic finesse that avoids having to say whether the weapons will have to stay.”

The group’s finding that “participation by the non-nuclear states can take place in the form of nuclear deployments on their territory or by non-nuclear support measures” is causing some confusion. “I don’t understand what those non-nuclear support measures could be,” the U.S. official conceded. Other officials, speaking privately, speculated that the measures could include participation in NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group, acceptance of the temporary deployment of dual-capable aircraft by NATO members that currently do not host nuclear weapons, and the refueling of such aircraft.

Julian Borger of the Guardian newspaper reported on his Web log in March that the experts group had reached a consensus that withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons would only be envisaged in a quid pro quo with Russia. (See ACT, May 2010.) That condition, however, is not in the final version, which only states that “there should be an ongoing NATO dialogue with Russia on nuclear perceptions, concepts, doctrines, and transparency” and that these talks “should help set the stage for the further reduction and possible eventual elimination of the entire class of sub-strategic nuclear weapons.” The U.S. official pointed out that the lack of insistence on Russian reciprocity “reflects a lack of consensus among the group’s experts on this issue.” The argument that NATO should only change its nuclear posture if Russia does “is not universally shared within the alliance,” he said.

Reacting to the experts group report, Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin was quoted by Deutsche Welle as saying May 19 that the United States first “must bring their tactical nuclear weapons home. Only then would we consider reducing our own arsenal.”

Russia is believed to possess several thousand short-range nuclear weapons in various states of readiness.

The group also recommends that NATO adopt the new negative security assurances contained in the recent U.S. Nuclear Posture Review Report (see ACT, May 2010), saying that “NATO should endorse a policy of not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.” The U.S. official predicted “intense discussions” among allies on this issue.


A report delivered by a group made up largely of diplomats and former officials on May 17 to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen does not give clear guidance on whether U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe should be withdrawn, saying that “the Alliance should be prepared for in-depth consultations on the future role of nuclear weapons in its deterrence strategy.”

Congress Delays Iran Sanctions

Peter Crail and Matt Sugrue

In a nod to long-standing Obama administration requests, Congress will delay finalizing sanctions legislation on Iran while the UN Security Council considers its own draft sanctions resolution, the two lead sponsors of the legislation said in a May 25 press release. “[W]ith the progress in negotiations at the Security Council, we believe that our overriding goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability is best served by providing a limited amount of time for those efforts—and expected follow-on action by the EU [European Union] at its mid-June summit—to reach a successful conclusion before we send our bill to the President,” said the statement by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.).

The administration has expressed concern that the pending legislation might harm diplomatic initiatives to mount international pressure on Iran because the bills may require sanctioning U.S. allies as well as China and Russia.

A key component in both congressional bills is U.S. sanctions on foreign firms providing gasoline to Iran or investing in Iran’s refining capacity. This measure is intended to expand on the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act, which requires sanctions on foreign firms investing $20 million or more in other parts of Iran’s energy sector. (See ACT, January/February 2010.)

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee May 18 that the five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—had agreed on a draft resolution. The resolution was circulated to the council’s 10 rotating members later that day (see page 25). Berman and Dodd said in the May 25 statement that they had been “skeptical about the prospects for near-term action on Iran sanctions at the United Nations” until that agreement was reached.

The delay comes in the midst of increased momentum by Congress to pass a final bill; many lawmakers have expressed impatience with the administration’s protracted efforts to achieve a fourth set of UN sanctions. Arguing for swift congressional action on the sanctions, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters April 22, “In my opinion, we have waited long enough for the diplomacy to work.” In April, Congress set a May 28 deadline for the conferees appointed to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters May 18 that he expected a floor vote on the final bill the following week.

Although the administration has succeeded in buying time for the UN sanctions effort to move first, it is unclear if the UN action will help the administration carve out exemptions in the sanctions legislation for specific diplomatic partners. Lawmakers from both parties have resisted such a provision. A May 3 letter by a bipartisan group of 10 senators to Berman and Dodd argued against the inclusion of exemptions for “cooperating countries” in the final sanctions bill. “Specifically, we would find it difficult to support any conference report that would weaken…sanctions by providing exemptions to companies or countries engaged in the refined petroleum trade with Iran,” the letter said.

In a May 19 statement, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), a member of the conference committee, suggested that the UN sanctions would not be a rationale for loosening the planned restrictions. “Nothing about this resolution, or any measures which countries may take under its cover, justify weakening the legislation currently in conference,” he said.

A congressional source said May 6 that other options may be considered to address the administration’s concerns. For example, the source said,  the legislation might include criteria that would have to be met before exemptions could be made.

In addition to the administration, U.S. allies, particularly in Europe, have expressed concern about the pending legislation. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton sent a letter to Clinton reminding her of a 1998 agreement between the United States and the EU in which Washington pledged not to sanction European firms under the Iran Sanctions Act in return for increased EU cooperation on Iran’s nuclear program. Ashton wrote that she was concerned about the “extraterritorial application of U.S. legislation,” which would be “contrary to the EU-US understanding of 1998 under which it was agreed that such sanctions would not be applied to the EU in the light of the EU’s commitment to work with the U.S. to counter the threat that Iran poses to international security.”

The EU threatened to bring the United States before the World Trade Organization in 1997 in response to the passage of the Iran Sanctions Act on the basis of its extraterritorial application of U.S. law. The 1998 agreement defused that threat.

In interviews with Arms Control Today over the last two months, European diplomats said that EU countries are already engaged in efforts to discourage their own companies from investing in Iran’s energy sector. Those efforts have met with some success, the diplomats said. The EU would continue its previous practice of using the UN restrictions as a baseline for adopting even tougher sanctions, they said.


This page was corrected on June 8, 2010. The original article misidentified Rep. Brad Sherman as the House chairman of the conference committee on the pending Iran sanctions bill. Sherman is a member of the conference committee; the House chairman is Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.).

In a nod to long-standing Obama administration requests, Congress will delay finalizing sanctions legislation on Iran while the UN Security Council considers its own draft sanctions resolution, the two lead sponsors of the legislation said in a May 25 press release. “[W]ith the progress in negotiations at the Security Council, we believe that our overriding goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability is best served by providing a limited amount of time for those efforts—and expected follow-on action by the EU [European Union] at its mid-June summit—to reach a successful conclusion before we send our bill to the President,” said the statement by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.).

U.S. Reveals Nuclear Force Plan, Arsenal Levels

Tom Z. Collina

The United States will retain up to 420 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), 60 nuclear-capable bombers, and 240 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, the Obama administration announced May 13. This new force structure was provided to the Senate as part of the materials transmitted with New START for ratification. In addition, as part of the administration’s effort to show progress on disarmament at the May review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Department of State announced April 27 that the United States had 1,968 “operationally deployed” warheads at the end of 2009, and the Pentagon announced May 3 that as of last Sept. 30, the U.S. nuclear stockpile stood at 5,113 warheads.

Although New START limits were announced in March, the Pentagon had not made clear how it would distribute its ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers to make up a treaty-compliant force of 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed delivery systems. A White House document transmitted with New START May 13 provides further details:

•  The United States currently has 450 ICBM silos. Under the “baseline plan,” the country will retain up to 420 deployed Minuteman III ICBMs, all with a single warhead.

•  The United States currently has 94 deployable nuclear-capable bombers. Some will be converted to conventional-only bombers (not accountable under New START), and up to 60 nuclear-capable bombers will be retained.

•  The United States currently has 14 strategic nuclear submarines (SSBNs), all of which will be retained. The United States will reduce the number of SLBM launch tubes from 24 to 20 per SSBN and deploy no more than 240 SLBMs at any time.

This planned force structure under New START reduces deployed ICBMs by 30 from current levels, reduces nuclear-capable bombers by 34, and reduces SLBMs from a current force of 288 to 240. (The 14 Trident submarines contain 24 missile launch tubes each, or 336 tubes total. Two submarines are in dry dock at any given time with no missiles aboard, for a total of 288 missiles currently deployed.) The biggest surprise may be the large number of bombers being retained, given that they are not on alert or loaded with weapons in peacetime and thus are widely considered the least significant leg of the nuclear triad. One factor in this decision may have been the New START counting rule that allows each bomber to be counted as “one” deployed warhead, even though bombers can carry up to 20 nuclear weapons.

Compared to current deployments, New START would reduce deployed U.S. delivery vehicles by 18 percent and warheads by 11 percent, counting each bomber as one warhead. Compared to treaty limits set by the 1991 START I and 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), New START would reduce deployed U.S. delivery vehicles by 50 percent and accountable warheads by 30 percent. Adding up the planned deployments for delivery systems under New START totals 720, which is 20 above the treaty’s cumulative limit. Because the treaty allows for 800 deployed and nondeployed launchers, however, removing 20 delivery systems from deployment and placing them under maintenance would allow the United States to meet the limits. Under the treaty, the new force structure does not have to be reached until seven years after the pact’s entry into force. As strategic forces are reduced under the treaty, those that remain would be upgraded. Over the next decade, the administration plans to invest $180 billion to modernize the nuclear weapons complex and nuclear delivery systems.

Historical Stockpile Levels

In addition to revealing the total stockpile size and operationally deployed stockpile for last year, the Pentagon on May 3 released stockpile numbers for each fiscal year from 1962 to 2009. According to those figures, the U.S. stockpile reached its peak in 1967, at 31,255. It declined gradually thereafter to 19,008 in 1991, and then, with the signing of START I and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, dropped swiftly to 10,979 in 1994, the year START I entered into force. The stockpile hovered around 10,000 until 2003, when SORT entered into force, declining to 5,113 by 2009.

These numbers include strategic and tactical warheads, both active and inactive, the May 3 Pentagon document says. According to the document’s definitions, active warheads are “maintained in an operational, ready-for-use configuration” and have tritium bottles installed. (Tritium is a limited-life gas that boosts the explosive yield of the warhead.) Inactive warheads are nonoperational, with tritium bottles removed, the document says. The “operationally deployed” force, a subset of the active stockpile, stood at 1,968 in 2009, according to the April 27 State Department document.

These numbers do not include “several thousand” warheads that have been retired and are awaiting dismantlement, estimated to be roughly 4,500. In its May 3 document, the Pentagon said the United States had dismantled 8,748 warheads from 1994 to 2009 and the number of nonstrategic weapons had declined by approximately 90 percent since 1991, when President George H.W. Bush announced unilateral withdrawl of many tactical weapons.

The document stated, “Increasing the transparency of global stockpiles is important to nonproliferation efforts, and to pursuing follow-on reductions after the ratification and entry into force of the New START…that cover all nuclear weapons: deployed and non-deployed, strategic and non-strategic.”

Responding to questions about whether Russia would follow the U.S. example and disclose its own stockpile numbers, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told a May 12 press briefing, “Washington’s move, in our view, will increase transparency and serve to strengthen the trust between nuclear and non-nuclear states.” He said that Russia, after entry into force of New START, “will also be able to consider in practical terms the question of disclosing the total number of [its] deployed strategic delivery systems and their warheads.”

On May 26, British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced in the House of Commons that the United Kingdom’s “overall stockpile of nuclear warheads will not exceed 225 warheads.” That was the first time the size of the total British stockpile was revealed, although the United Kingdom had previously announced that it had up to 160 “operationally available” warheads. The additional warheads are for “logistic management” so as to maintain the operational force, according to a statement by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. “We believe that the time is now right to be more open about the weapons we hold,” Hague said. France declared in 2008 that it was reducing its arsenal to fewer than 300 operational warheads.

Table 1: U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START

This table shows how the deployed U.S. strategic nuclear stockpile will decline between 2010 and 2017, when reductions under New START would be completed, assuming the treaty takes effect this year. Current delivery vehicle numbers and the Pentagon’s plan for reductions under New START were announced May 13. Warhead numbers as of 2009 were announced by the Department of State April 27. The planned 720 deployed delivery vehicles under New START will need to be reduced to 700 by, for example, moving 20 to nondeployed status to comply with the treaty limit. Under New START, each bomber is counted as one warhead, but in fact can carry up to 20. On May 3, the Pentagon, revealing exact stockpile numbers for the first time, said that as of 2009, the United States had a stockpile of 5,113 strategic and tactical warheads. That number includes active and inactive weapons, but does not include an estimated 4,500 warheads that have been retired and are awaiting dismantlement.

Shaded warhead numbers are estimates based on the known number of deployed delivery vehicles, the known total number of deployed warheads, and typical warhead loadings.

2010 2017

Delivery Vehicles


Delivery Vehicles



Minuteman III






Trident II D5





Strategic Bombers









Total Deployed





Total Stockpile



The United States will retain up to 420 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), 60 nuclear-capable bombers, and 240 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, the Obama administration announced May 13. This new force structure was provided to the Senate as part of the materials transmitted with New START for ratification. In addition, as part of the administration’s effort to show progress on disarmament at the May review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Department of State announced April 27 that the United States had 1,968 “operationally deployed” warheads at the end of 2009, and the Pentagon announced May 3 that as of last Sept. 30, the U.S. nuclear stockpile stood at 5,113 warheads.


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