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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
July/August 2010
Edition Date: 
Friday, July 2, 2010
Cover Image: 

Correction

The June 2010 article “Congress Delays Iran Sanctions” misidentified Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) 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.).

Consensus Found at Small Arms Conference

Delegates at a UN biennial meeting last month reached consensus on the next steps toward an international instrument to address the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. Although the commitments made were modest, the delegates’ ability to find consensus was seen as progress over their meeting in 2008, when they had to call a vote to reach agreement.

Jeff Abramson

Delegates at a UN biennial meeting last month reached consensus on the next steps toward an international instrument to address the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. Although the commitments made were modest, the delegates’ ability to find consensus was seen as progress over their meeting in 2008, when they had to call a vote to reach agreement.

Ranging from items such as pistols that can be carried by hand to heavy machine guns and others weapons that are generally transported by a pack animal or light vehicle, the authorized transfer of small arms, light weapons, and associated ammunition is worth at least $6 billion annually, according to estimates by the independent research group Small Arms Survey. By its nature, however, the illegal trade is difficult to measure. It poses a “grave threat to peace and security,” Pablo Macedo of Mexico said in his opening statement as chair of the meeting. Delegates at the meeting discussed implementation of the politically binding 2001 Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and the 2005 International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons, which grew out of the program of action. (See ACT, September 2008.)

In contrast to 2008, when the United States attended only for the day dedicated to the tracing instrument, the United States attended the entirety of this year’s week-long conference. U.S. delegation head Steven Costner made interventions on each of the meeting’s four main topics: combating illicit small arms trade across borders, improving international cooperation and assistance, implementing the tracing instrument, and strengthening follow-up mechanisms and preparations for the 2012 review conference. U.S. delegate William Kullman authored a discussion paper prior to the meeting and led the meeting’s paragraph-by-paragraph review of the text on the international tracing instrument to be included in the conference’s final document.

In general, states agreed to measures similar to the ones adopted in 2008: that they are committed to addressing the issue, should work together, and should develop national laws when needed. In a June 24 interview, a U.S. Department of State official, although emphasizing that the conference was able to reach a consensus decision, described the final agreements as generally driven to the lowest common denominator.

Delegates did discuss measures to improve the value of national implementation reports and upcoming meetings. Although states are invited to submit annual reports on the implementation efforts, only nine did so in 2009, and more than 35 have never done so, out of 152 member states plus the Holy See. In 2008 and 2010, however, more than 100 states submitted reports. Those higher-reporting years aligned with biennial meetings, and delegates agreed to “make every effort to produce, on a voluntary basis, a comprehensive report…every two years, timed with biennial meetings of States and review conferences,” according to the final draft text. (An official text of the agreement has yet to be released.) They also encouraged use of a new reporting template.

An open-ended meeting of governmental experts is scheduled for January 10-14, 2011, and a review conference for July 2-13, 2012. According to the final draft text of the biennial meeting’s outcome document, the content of the 2011 meeting will include international cooperation and assistance and “one or two” priority issues. That language represents a deliberate focusing of discussion from an earlier draft that read “one or more” and therefore could have allowed too many issues at once, according to the State Department official. UN First Committee and General Assembly meetings later this year may provide more guidance on the topics for the 2011 meeting, whether preparatory committee meetings will be established prior to the 2012 review conference, and the ultimate dates for such meetings.

 

NSG Makes Little Headway at Meeting

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last month concluded its annual plenary meeting with little apparent progress on two high-profile issues, the potential sale of two reactors from China to Pakistan and the adoption of more-stringent rules for sensitive nuclear exports.

Daniel Horner

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last month concluded its annual plenary meeting with little apparent progress on two high-profile issues, the potential sale of two reactors from China to Pakistan and the adoption of more-stringent rules for sensitive nuclear exports.

The Chinese-Pakistani deal was not on the formal agenda for the meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, but sources from participating governments said the matter was discussed.

The group’s June 25 public statement at the end of the meeting does not specifically mention the discussions, but it says that the NSG “took note of briefings on developments concerning non-NSG states. It agreed on the value of ongoing consultation and transparency.”

The planned Chinese sale is an issue for the NSG because the group’s guidelines do not allow the sale of nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel to countries that do not accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on all their nuclear facilities. Pakistan does not have these so-called full-scope safeguards.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, 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 reactor, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. According to several accounts, the group agreed that the second reactor would be allowable under the grandfather provision but that subsequent power reactor sales would not.

In the weeks before the June 21-25 Christchurch meeting, the U.S. government said the sale of reactors beyond Chashma-1 and -2 would be “inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG.” (See ACT, June 2010.)

In its public statements, China has responded to questions about the deal in general terms. At a June 24 press conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, “China and Pakistan, following the principle of equality and mutual benefit, have been cooperating on nuclear energy for civilian use. Our cooperation is consistent with the two countries’ respective international obligations, entirely for peaceful purpose[s] and subject to IAEA safeguard[s] and supervision.”

It it not clear what additional information China provided at the Christchurch meeting. According to a European diplomat, the discussion was “not confrontational.”

Clarification Sought

In a June 30 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a U.S. Department of State official said, “We are still waiting for more information from China to clarify China’s intended cooperation with Pakistan, in light of China’s NSG commitments.”

According to the official, “The United States has reiterated concern that the transfer of new reactors at Chasma appears to extend beyond cooperation that was ‘grandfathered’ when China was approved for membership in the NSG. If not covered by the grandfather clause, such cooperation would require a specific exception approved by consensus of the NSG.”

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

The NSG, which currently has 46 members, operates by consensus. It is not a formal organization, and its export guidelines are nonbinding. Before the 2008 NSG exemption, Russia made and carried out deals with India for reactors and fuel, justifying them on the basis of interpretations of the NSG guidelines that other members considered overly expansive.

Enrichment and Reprocessing

A long-standing issue for the NSG has been its effort to adopt a more rigorous standard for exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. Since 2004, the group has been discussing a new, so-called criteria-based set of guidelines for enrichment and reprocessing transfers, under which recipients of these proliferation-sensitive exports would have to meet a list of preset requirements. The list drafted by the group includes adherence to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, full-scope safeguards, and an additional protocol, which gives the IAEA enhanced inspection authority. However, the NSG members have not been able to overcome certain states’ objections to the proposal. Current NSG guidelines simply call for members to exercise “restraint” with respect to enrichment and reprocessing exports.

At the end of 2008, the suppliers appeared to be close to an agreement (see ACT, December 2008), but since then they have not been able to reach consensus. According to the Christchurch public statement, “Participating Governments agreed to continue considering ways to further strengthen guidelines dealing with the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies.”

In a June 27 e-mail to Arms Control Today, the European diplomat said that “while progress was made there was no consensus” on the matter. Before the meeting, observers said the main objections were coming from South Africa and Turkey. The diplomat declined to identify the sources of the objections at the meeting but said, “The delegations which have had difficulties in the past continue to have problems.”

Meanwhile, at their June 25-26 meeting in Muskoka, Canada, the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries extended their policy to adopt on a national basis the proposed NSG guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing transfers. The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States said in their summit communiqué, “We reiterate our commitment as found in paragraph 8 of the L’Aquila Statement on Non-Proliferation.”

Paragraph 8 of the L’Aquila statement, issued at the July 2009 G-8 summit in Italy, said the eight countries would implement as “national policy” for a year the draft NSG guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing and urged the NSG “to accelerate its work and swiftly reach consensus this year to allow for global implementation of a strengthened mechanism on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing facilities, equipment, and technology.”

 

Report Alleges Secret Myanmar Nuclear Work

Myanmar (Burma) has been carrying out rudimentary steps toward developing nuclear weapons, a documentary released in June by an opposition group alleges. The documentary by the Democratic Voice of Burma featured information provided by Sai Thein Win, a former officer in the Myanmar army. Win claimed to have been deputy manager of special machine tool factories involved in Myanmar’s secret nuclear weapons efforts and ballistic missile development program.

Peter Crail

Myanmar (Burma) has been carrying out rudimentary steps toward developing nuclear weapons, a documentary released in June by an opposition group alleges. The documentary by the Democratic Voice of Burma featured information provided by Sai Thein Win, a former officer in the Myanmar army. Win claimed to have been deputy manager of special machine tool factories involved in Myanmar’s secret nuclear weapons efforts and ballistic missile development program.

The opposition group also issued a corresponding report June 3 featuring an analysis of Win’s information by former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector Robert Kelley. Kelley claimed in the report that, taken collectively, the technology featured in Win’s information “is only for nuclear weapons and not civilian use or nuclear power.”

Much of the information is based on photographs Win provided, which depict machining tools and machined products produced at two factories believed to be housing key elements of Myanmar’s nuclear and missile programs. Although the tools and machined products were dual use in nature, according to Kelley, many could be used as part of a uranium-enrichment program. Even if they were used for that purpose, the report suggested that Myanmar’s nuclear efforts are at the very early stages, and its capacity to complete such a program is uncertain.

The report and documentary do not indicate any ties between North Korea and Myanmar’s suspected nuclear efforts; however, they do indicate North Korean assistance on ballistic missile development.

Media reports regarding suspicions of Myanmar nuclear activities led Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who has advocated diplomatic engagement with the country’s military junta, to cancel a scheduled June visit to the country. He said in a June 3 press statement that it would be “unwise and potentially counterproductive” to go there in light of allegations of proliferation activities by Myanmar. He added, however, that “[i]t is unclear whether these allegations have substantive merit.”

Webb noted that Myanmar was suspected also of violating UN proliferation sanctions against North Korea.

In May 11 remarks to the press in Yangon (Rangoon), U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said that contrary to the Myanmar government’s pledge to uphold the sanctions on North Korea, “recent developments call that commitment into question.” He did not elaborate on what those developments were.

He added, “I have asked the Burmese leadership to work with the United States and others to put into place a transparent process to assure the international community that Burma is abiding by its international commitments.”

Although Myanmar has a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA, it has adopted a small quantities protocol, which holds in abeyance much of the agency’s inspection authority.

Traditionally, countries with little or no nuclear activity may adopt a small quantities protocol as long as their nuclear material holdings do not exceed certain thresholds. In September 2005, the IAEA Board of Governors approved modifications to such protocols to correct what the board believed was “a weakness of the safeguards system.”

The modifications provide for safeguards inspections and require early reporting on decisions to construct nuclear facilities. The final document of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference encouraged all states with small quantities protocols “to amend or rescind them, as appropriate, as soon as possible.”

According to the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper June 18, the IAEA wrote a letter to Myanmar’s permanent representative to the agency, Tin Win, June 14 raising questions about media reports of undeclared nuclear activities in the country. The newspaper report said that Win responded in a letter stating that “no activity related to uranium conversion, enrichment, reactor construction or operation has been carried out in the past, is ongoing or is planned for the future in Myanmar.”

Myanmar is also a member of the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, a binding arrangement among 10 countries in the region that committed not to develop nuclear weapons or allow such weapons in the region.

The Treaty of Bangkok, which establishes the zone, allows the states of the region to request statements of clarification or conduct fact-finding missions if they suspect a member state has violated the accord.

 

Russia Revises Chemical Arms Deadline

Russia has said that it will not meet the Chemical Weapons Convention’s April 2012 deadline for destroying its stockpile of chemical weapons, the head of the convention’s implementing body said June 29.

Daniel Horner

Russia has said that it will not meet the Chemical Weapons Convention’s April 2012 deadline for destroying its stockpile of chemical weapons, the head of the convention’s implementing body said June 29.

Rogelio Pfirter, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said in remarks to the OPCW Executive Council that, during “informal consultations” the previous day, Russian delegates had said they estimated that their country would complete the destruction by 2015.

Experts have long said Russia was unlikely to meet the convention’s April 29, 2012, deadline (see ACT, July/August 2009), and recent Russian press reports have indicated the deadline would slip. However, Pfirter’s statement was the first official confirmation of the revised schedule.

Russia did not release a public explanation for the changed date. A diplomat at the Russian embassy in Washington said in an e-mail to Arms Control Today, “My government will make all necessary steps in order to achieve the earliest destruction of all Russian CW [chemical weapons]. Our priorities for this process are the highest standards for safety in CW destruction for human life and health as well as for the environment.”

In a June 29 interview, Paul Walker, director of security and sustainability at Global Green USA, said the decision shows that Russia is “clearly putting safety and cautiousness ahead of speed and deadlines.” Pfirter also cited the need to give priority to safety and environmental concerns.

Walker praised the move as “a very positive step forward” for Russia, the OPCW, and others who are “planning for the ultimate verified abolition of chemical weapons globally.”

Russia and the United States hold the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons. The United States had previously announced that it would not meet the 2012 deadline and has set 2021 as the target date.

In his remarks, Pfirter said the deadline slippage did not call into question the Russian and U.S. commitment to “the key goal of achieving the total and irreversible destruction of their declared stockpiles.” The two countries “have consistently shown their resolve to abide by their commitments under the Convention, and I for one have no doubt that they will continue to stay on track,” he said.

Walker said the completion date is “difficult to predict” for a variety of reasons, such as funding uncertainties, the need to obtain environmental permits, the limited availability of some technologies, and the possibility of accidents. For those reasons, the Russian and U.S. completion dates could move forward or backward from the current estimates, he said.

 

Russia, U.S. Working on Joint Launch Notification

Building on their progress on arms control and nonproliferation, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met at the White House June 24 and issued a joint statement saying the two nations would continue their efforts to share early-warning data on missile launches. That effort, first promoted a decade ago as a way to buttress Russia’s weak early-warning system, is now seen as a way to advance U.S.-Russian cooperation on ballistic missile defense.

Tom Z. Collina

Building on their progress on arms control and nonproliferation, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met at the White House June 24 and issued a joint statement saying the two nations would continue their efforts to share early-warning data on missile launches. That effort, first promoted a decade ago as a way to buttress Russia’s weak early-warning system, is now seen as a way to advance U.S.-Russian cooperation on ballistic missile defense.

The Joint Statement on Strategic Stability noted ongoing U.S.-Russian efforts “to establish a mechanism to exchange data on launches of ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles obtained from their national early warning systems.” The ultimate goal of such cooperation would be to create an international launch notification system, the statement said, and “U.S. and Russian experts will meet soon to begin this process.”

The Obama administration has been openly promoting U.S. missile defense cooperation with Russia. In a June 24 interview with Interfax news agency, for example, Obama said that he is “a strong proponent of cooperating with Russia on developing missile defense systems” and that “[w]e have recently proposed to the Russian government a number of ways to begin this cooperation.” Obama said, “[T]he sharing of our technologies and information, which we currently collect about missile launches from third countries, can make both of our countries more secure.”

The missile launch notification discussions were first announced at the July 6, 2009, Moscow summit in a Joint Statement on Missile Defense Issues, which said that the two sides would “cooperate on monitoring the development of missile programs around the world.” The statement said Russian and U.S. experts were “intensifying dialogue on establishing the JointDataExchangeCenter, which is to become the basis for a multilateral missile-launch notification regime.”

Efforts to establish a Joint Data Exchange Center (JDEC) date back to September 1998, when President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin first agreed to it. At that time, the United States was concerned that the poor condition of Russia’s early-warning system could lead to mistaken launches and crisis scenarios. Even so, 12 years later the JDEC remains unrealized, delayed first by various tax and liability issues and then by Russian concerns about Bush administration plans for strategic missile defenses.

The aim of the JDEC is to enable the United States and Russia to share in real time their early-warning data on ballistic missile launches worldwide. The JDEC would supplement Russia’s early-warning data with data from U.S. sensors and satellites and could potentially play a role in establishing cooperative U.S.-Russian approaches on missile defense.

The launch notification talks are being carried out by the U.S.-Russian Arms Control and International Security Working Group, chaired by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

According to the Department of State, this working group is also “examining cooperation on missile defense, developing ways to enhance stability and transparency, and jointly assessing 21st century threats and challenges.” The group is part of the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission, coordinated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, established at the July 2009 Moscow summit. It has met 10 times since its creation, most recently June 16 in Moscow.

Within the group, the United States has offered a number of proposals for bilateral missile defense cooperation. According to a May 27 speech in London by Frank A. Rose, deputy assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, “[S]pecific areas of potential cooperation include, among other things: joint research and development; joint missile defense testing; joint modeling and simulations; missile defense exercises; and joint analyses of alternative U.S.-Russian missile defense architectures for defending against common, regional threats.”

“These recent proposals build on earlier initiatives that involved sharing missile warning data and providing timely launch notifications between our two countries,” Rose said in the speech at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies Missile Defence Conference. He also said that Russia made a proposal in 2007, which was reiterated by Medvedev in 2008, to share data from the early-warning radars at Gabala in Azerbaijan and at Armavir in southern Russia to monitor Iranian missile flight tests. “The United States remains interested in exploring this Russian proposal further,” he said.

Shared control of decisions on when and against whom to launch missile defense interceptors, known as a dual-key system, does not appear to be on the table, according to sources.

In May of this year, the United States agreed to notify other nations before it launches most, but not all, ballistic missile tests or satellites. (See ACT, June 2010.) This step was reportedly meant to encourage reciprocity by Russia, which for years provided such notifications regarding its launches voluntarily under the Hague Code of Conduct, but stopped two years ago, complaining that the United States and other nations were not following suit.

Expectations that missile defense cooperation would be on the June 24 summit agenda led to concerns that “the administration is secretly working with the Russians to conclude an agreement that would limit U.S. missile defenses,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), citing press reports, at a June 17 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates replied that “whatever talks are going on are simply about trying to elicit [the Russians’] willingness to partner with us along with the Europeans in terms of a regional missile defense, but there is nothing in the approaches that have been made to the Russians that in any way, shape, or form would impose any limits whatsoever on our plans.”

 

Key Panel Plans August Vote on New START

Seeking to finish its work by the August recess, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held five hearings on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in June.

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing as well, its first since the treaty was transmitted to the Senate May 13.

Tom Z. Collina

Seeking to finish its work by the August recess, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held five hearings on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in June.

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing as well, its first since the treaty was transmitted to the Senate May 13.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and ranking member Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said in a June 10 statement they plan to hold a committee vote on New START “prior to the August recess,” which is scheduled to begin Aug. 9. Kerry said he and Lugar were “confident that our colleagues from both sides of the aisle will join us in supporting the treaty to strengthen our national security.”

The committee is unlikely to hold its vote until the U.S. intelligence community delivers a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the ability of New START’s monitoring and verification provisions to detect possible treaty violations. Administration sources say this NIE and two other required Department of State reports should be completed by early July. The panel has announced plans to hold a closed hearing with an unnamed “senior intelligence community official” that month.

To date, Lugar is the sole Republican senator to endorse New START publicly. Republican senators James Inhofe (Okla.) and Jim DeMint (S.C.), who both sit on the Foreign Relations Committee, have said they would oppose it. The committee has 11 Democrats and eight Republicans.

Sending a treaty out of committee to the full Senate requires only a simple majority. That step of the process is therefore not in doubt for New START, but administration sources say they would like to attract Republican votes on the committee beyond Lugar’s to show significant bipartisan support before the treaty gets to the Senate floor, where a two-thirds majority is needed for approval. Obama administration officials have said they hope to schedule the floor vote before the November elections, possibly before the August recess, but no date has been set.

After meeting at the White House with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev June 24, President Barack Obama said at a press conference that they had “reaffirmed our commitment to work to ratify [New START] as soon as possible so it can enter into force and set the stage for further cuts and cooperation.”

On June 10, the Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony favoring the treaty from retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, and Stephen J. Hadley, national security adviser to President George W. Bush. In response to a question, Scowcroft said that if the treaty were rejected by the Senate, the result “would be to throw the whole nuclear negotiating situation into a state of chaos.” Hadley said that New START makes a “modest but nonetheless useful contribution to the national security of the United States and to international stability.”

Several other senior former national security officials from Republican administrations, including former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and James Baker, have testified in support of New START. Frank Carlucci and George Shultz, President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of defense and secretary of state, respectively, endorsed the treaty in a joint statement with a bipartisan group of 28 other former officials released June 24 by the Partnership for a Secure America. Other endorsers included Colin Powell, President George W. Bush’s secretary of state, and former Republican senators Howard Baker (Tenn.), John C. Danforth (Mo.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Nancy Kassebaum-Baker (Kan.), Warren Rudman (N.H.), and Alan Simpson (Wyo.).

In contrast, sitting Republican senators other than Lugar, Inhofe, and DeMint are taking a wait-and-see approach while asking pointed questions, primarily about how New START relates to missile defense and the modernization of the nuclear stockpile and weapons complex.

McCain Joins Missile Defense Fray

Republican senators continued to question administration and outside witnesses about why New START includes legally binding language that relates to missile defense and what it means for the future of U.S. missile defense programs. At the June 17 Armed Services Committee hearing, ranking member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is up for re-election and is facing a primary challenge from the conservative wing of his party, asked why Article V of New START prohibits the conversion of offensive missile silos into missile defense silos, and vice versa, given that administration witnesses have testified that they have no plans to carry out such conversions in any case.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton replied that the Russians were concerned that U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos that are no longer operational, of which there are about 100, would be converted for use by missile defense interceptors, “and we said no, we had no intention of continuing with the conversion.” Five ICBM silos at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California were converted during the George W. Bush administration for missile defense use.

“It seemed to us to be a smart negotiating decision to put something in that, frankly, we never intended to pursue,” Clinton said.

As to why the five ICBM silos at Vandenberg had been converted in the first place, Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly testified before the Foreign Relations Committee June 16 that the United States began converting these silos to launch ground-based interceptors in 2002 because the MDA had not yet developed a silo for them. The United States was prohibited from fielding a nationwide missile defense system until it withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, also in 2002. “Since then, we have developed the [ground-based interceptor] silo that cost $20 million less than converting ICBM silos and is easier to protect and maintain,” O’Reilly said. Moreover, converting submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers into missile defense interceptor launchers would entail the “modification of submarines to carry missile defense interceptors [which] would be very expensive and impractical,” he said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified June 17 that the use of missile silos for more than one purpose could be destabilizing by creating confusion on the part of U.S. adversaries. As in the case of the Prompt Global Strike initiative, for which the United States could deploy conventional warheads on strategic missiles that previously carried only nuclear weapons, Gates said, “Any of these things that are confusing [to] a party on the other side, I think needs to be dealt with very carefully.”

McCain also questioned the wisdom of the treaty’s preamble, which, like the preamble to START I, acknowledges the interrelationship between strategic offensive and defensive forces. McCain said he needs “to be confident that the treaty in no way limits the administration’s ability and willingness to deploy missile defense capabilities, regardless of the statements made by the Russian government.” During an April 9 interview, McCain quoted Medvedev’s remarks, in which he referred to the preamble’s language on missile defense and said, “[I]f these circumstances will change, then we would consider it a reason to jeopardize the whole agreement.”

McCain argued that “it’s clear from many statements that Russian leadership has made that there is a very different interpretation of this treaty from what has been stated here concerning the connection to missile defense systems.” Numerous Republican senators have voiced the concern that the Obama administration would be self-deterred from deploying missiles defenses that might prompt Russian withdrawal from New START.

Clinton replied that Medvedev said in the same interview, in reference to the preamble, “That doesn’t mean that because of this, if the American side starts to build up the missile defense [system], that the treaty would automatically lose its power.” Medvedev also said, “I would like to make sure that there is no impression that any change in the U.S. missile defense system would be a reason to abandon a signed agreement.”

At the June 17 hearing, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) noted that the United States is currently planning to deploy the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIB ballistic missile defense interceptor in Europe in the 2020 time frame, which is intended to defend against missile launches from the Middle East, and that this missile will have an ICBM intercept capability. As a result, Chambliss said, the SM-3 Block IIB could provoke a Russian withdrawal from the treaty. “[A]ssuming that you were in your current position when that decision needed to be made, would you recommend the United States deploy this system regardless of the Russian response?” Chambliss asked Gates.

Gates said he would recommend deployment. “[T]he SM-3 Block IIB would give us the ability to protect our troops, our bases, our facilities, and our allies in Europe. So for all those reasons, that would be my recommendation if, God forbid, I were still in this job 10 years from now.”

Russian officials have long said they fear that a U.S. missile defense system in Europe could be used to intercept Russian long-range missiles aimed at the United States or even used to launch nuclear warheads at Russia from close range. O’Reilly said June 16 that SM-3 interceptors pose no threat to Russia because they do not have the size and range to reach Russian strategic missile fields. Even if Russia flew a missile within range of SM-3 interceptors, “given the time we would see the missiles and the velocity of their much larger strategic missiles and our smaller ones, we would not be able to catch up with those missiles in order to have an intercept,” he said.

Republican senators have asked why U.S. missile defenses are geared toward “rogue” threats, such as a limited number of missiles from Iran and North Korea, and not the larger Russian strategic missile force. Gates said June 17 that building a “missile shield of the kind envisioned in the 1980s is technologically unfeasible, cost prohibitive, and destabilizing. Therefore, we have no plans to do so.”

As to why a defense against massive Russian attack would be cost prohibitive, O’Reilly said June 16 that defense doctrines require two to four missile defense interceptors to be launched at each target. According to the U.S. Congressional Research Service, Russia plans to maintain more than 1,000 warheads on ICBMs and SLBMs under New START. Given current U.S. plans to protect the United States against limited missile attack using 30 deployed missile defense interceptors in Alaska and California, “a tremendously larger inventory of interceptors would be needed [to defend against a Russian attack], and the command and control sensor and fire control would be tremendously more complex than what we’re developing today,” O’Reilly said. The United States currently spends about $10 billion per year on missile defense.

Skepticism on Modernization Funding

As part of the administration’s transmittal of New START to the Senate, section 1251 of the fiscal year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act required a report on the plan for modernizing the nuclear weapons complex and upgrading nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles. A public summary of the classified report states that the administration plans to invest $80 billion over the next decade in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear stockpile and weapons complex budget and “well over” $100 billion in the Pentagon’s nuclear delivery systems.

At the Armed Services Committee hearing, McCain said he was “skeptical that the 10-year funding plan for NNSA adequately addresses the recapitalization needs of the weapons complex.” The $80 billion “is certainly a substantial sum,” but “only a fraction of that amount is actually above what would be allocated simply to sustain the current stockpile,” he said.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), also up for re-election and whose state borders strategic missile and bomber bases in North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, said that, of the $100 billion for delivery systems, about $30 billion would go to development and acquisition of a new strategic submarine. He cited estimates by U.S. Strategic Command putting the cost of maintaining the current nuclear force at approximately $5.6 billion per year, or about $56 billion over the decade. “That leaves roughly $14 billion of the $100 billion the administration intends to invest—even less if you factor in inflation. That $14 billion is not nearly sufficient to develop and acquire a next-generation bomber, a follow-on ICBM, a follow-on air-launched cruise missile, and develop a conventional prompt global strike capability,” Thune said.

Gates replied that decisions have not yet been made on how the administration is going to modernize the long-range bomber force or the ICBM force. “We are in the process,” said Gates. “We have money in the budget for a new nuclear reactor for the Navy for the next-generation nuclear submarine. So we are on track in that particular area of modernization.”

Gates added, “I’ve been up here for the last four springs trying to get money for this, and this is the first time, I think, I’ve got a fair shot of actually getting money for our nuclear arsenal.”

Rail-Mobile Missiles Covered

Some critics of New START have said that if Moscow were to build rail-mobile ICBMs, such as the now-retired Russian SS-24, those missiles might not count under treaty limits because they are not specifically mentioned in the text. James Miller, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, testified June 16 that the treaty’s central terms and definitions cover all ICBMs and ICBM launchers, “which would therefore include any rail-mobile systems.” If Russia were to deploy rail-mobile ICBMs in the future, the launchers, the ICBMs, and the warheads would be accountable under New START, he said.

At the June 10 hearing, Hadley also raised concerns about rail-mobile missiles, but after an exchange with Kerry, he agreed that “the way out of this” is to “emphasize the breadth of that language that would seem to catch any launcher even if it was on a rail platform.”

Robert Joseph, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in the George W. Bush administration, testified June 24, “To me, it is inconceivable that, should Russia again deploy rail-mobile ICBMs, they would not be counted under the treaty’s launcher and warhead limits.” Even so, he suggested that the Senate should ensure “that there is no room for ambiguity” by amending the treaty or exchanging formal notes with Moscow.

The Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees plan to hold additional hearings in July, with testimony from the directors of the Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia National Laboratories; START I negotiators Ronald F. Lehman II and Linton F. Brooks; members of the JASON group of defense consultants to the government; and members of the intelligence community.

 

Iranian Fuel Swap Still Up for Discussion

Iran remains open to talks with France, Russia, and the United States on a proposed nuclear fuel deal but is delaying the negotiations in response to international sanctions, Iranian officials said in June. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a June 28 press conference in Tehran that Iran would not hold talks prior to late August as “punishment” for imposing sanctions.

Peter Crail

Iran remains open to talks with France, Russia, and the United States on a proposed nuclear fuel deal but is delaying the negotiations in response to international sanctions, Iranian officials said in June. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a June 28 press conference in Tehran that Iran would not hold talks prior to late August as “punishment” for imposing sanctions.

The UN Security Council adopted a fourth round of sanctions against Iran June 9.

Iran also said that it was preparing a response to a June 9 letter that the three countries, known as the Vienna Group, submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) outlining concerns with a nuclear fuel swap declaration by Brazil, Iran, and Turkey. (See ACT, June 2010.)

The May 17 declaration, signed in Tehran, lays out an arrangement mirroring a deal proposed by the Vienna Group to Iran last fall wherein Iran would relinquish 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium (LEU) in return for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes.

In a June 17 interview with Iran’s state-run Press TV, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) chief Ali Akbar Salehi appeared upbeat about the prospects for dialogue. “I’m optimistic that the Tehran declaration will eventually open the way for a just and fair dialogue and negotiation with the Vienna Group,” he said.

Salehi dismissed the sanctions as “face-saving measures,” suggesting they would not impede negotiations.

Ahmadinejad had previously suggested Iran would not be willing to negotiate if sanctions were adopted, telling reporters in Istanbul June 8, “The U.S. government and its allies are so mistaken that if they think they can brandish the stick of resolution and then sit down to talk with us, such a thing will not happen.”

The five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany have also signaled their readiness to hold negotiations. Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, told reporters June 14 that she invited Iran for talks on the nuclear issue on behalf of the six countries.

Although they compared the May 17 proposal unfavorably to the Vienna Group’s original version, U.S. officials have suggested it could be salvaged. U.S. Permanent Representative to the IAEA Glyn Davies told the agency’s Board of Governors June 9, “We still think the [Tehran Research Reactor] proposal, if Iran implemented it in a way that addressed the international community’s concerns, would be a positive step.”

The Vienna Group responded with skepticism to the declaration. U.S. officials said they believed Tehran was only seeking to avoid UN sanctions.

Hours before the sanctions were adopted, the group delivered a letter to the IAEA detailing nine specific concerns they had with the declaration. The concerns included Iran’s continued production of 20 percent-enriched uranium, which the declaration did not address, and Iran’s doubling of its LEU stockpile since the group’s initial proposal last October. That LEU is enriched to less than 5 percent.

In February, Iran began producing 20 percent-enriched uranium, the level required for the Tehran reactor, although it does not have the ability to make the fuel plates for the plant. Following the May 17 declaration, Iranian officials said that Iran would continue such production, which puts the material closer to weapons-grade levels, even if the deal to receive the fuel from abroad were concluded.

In addition, although Iran would turn over 1,200 kilograms of its LEU as part of the fuel exchange, according to a May 31 IAEA report, Iran had accumulated an estimated 2,427 kilograms of LEU as of May 1. When the fuel swap was first proposed in October, it would have accounted for about 75 percent of Iran’s LEU stockpile. (See ACT, November 2009.)

New Medical Reactors

Potentially complicating any discussions over the fuel swap is Iran’s recent announcement that it would begin the construction of additional medical research reactors operating on 20 percent-enriched uranium fuel. Salehi said during his June 17 interview that Iran has begun to design the first of the new reactors, which he expected to be ready for operations in four to five years. Although UN sanctions prohibit Iran from importing nuclear technologies, such a reactor could fall under the exception for specific goods designated for light-water reactors.

Such imports would need first to be approved by the UN committee overseeing the Iran sanctions.

He indicated that the plant would be similar to the Tehran reactor and require the same fuel plates, although it would be more powerful, running between 10 and 20 megawatts rather than the Tehran reactor’s five megawatts.

Salehi said during a radiomedicine conference in Tehran June 16 that the reactors would produce medical isotopes both for consumption in Iran and for export “to regional and Islamic countries.”

If Iran moved ahead with plans to construct additional reactors operating on 20 percent-enriched fuel, it might continue enriching uranium to that level, a key sticking point raised by the Vienna Group over the declaration.

The May IAEA report said that Iran was preparing to expand its production of 20 percent-enriched uranium, having installed a second 164-centrifuge cascade for that purpose at its pilot enrichment facility.

But Iran does not yet have the capability to manufacture the fuel plates for the Tehran reactor out of the 20 percent-enriched uranium. The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted Salehi June 16 as saying that Iran “has acquired the know-how” to do so and expected to produce an initial batch of fuel by September of next year.

It does not yet appear that Iran has carried out substantial work on making such fuel plates. The IAEA’s May report indicated that Iran had not yet installed new process equipment to produce nuclear fuel rods or pellets at its Fuel Manufacturing Plant at Isfahan since May 2009.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials have suggested that Iran is reversing plans to terminate the operations of the Tehran reactor once a heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak is completed. The Arak reactor is also intended to produce radioisotopes, including for medicine. Salehi said June 17 that the Tehran reactor could be operated “for another 20 years.” However, his predecessor, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, told ISNA in 2006, “Tehran’s reactor will be turned off by the time that Arak’s reactor is started up.” (See ACT, March 2010.)

Construction on the Arak reactor is expected to be completed in 2011, with the reactor beginning operations in 2013. The UN Security Council has demanded that Iran halt construction because the reactor can produce up to two bombs’ worth of plutonium in its spent fuel each year.

 

UN Enhances Iran Sanctions

After a months-long push by the United States and its allies to expand penalties against Iran over its nuclear program, the UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran June 9. Resolution 1929 includes a range of mandatory restrictions aimed primarily at persons and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, but it also calls for additional measures against financial, shipping, and other activities that may contribute to Iran’s proliferation.

Peter Crail

After a months-long push by the United States and its allies to expand penalties against Iran over its nuclear program, the UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran June 9. Resolution 1929 includes a range of mandatory restrictions aimed primarily at persons and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, but it also calls for additional measures against financial, shipping, and other activities that may contribute to Iran’s proliferation.

Of the council’s 15 members, 12 voted in favor of the resolution, including all of its permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Brazil and Turkey, which had been engaged in a diplomatic effort to restart major-power negotiations with Iran, opposed the measure. It was the first time council members had voted against sanctions on Iran.

Lebanon abstained, stating following the vote that it had not “reached a final position” regarding the issue. A Lebanese Council of Ministers poll the day of the UN action to determine Beirut’s vote concluded in a 14-14 split.

In separate statements just prior to the vote, Brazil and Turkey expressed concern that insufficient time had been given to pursue a preliminary agreement they had reached with Iran the preceding month.

On May 17, the two countries inked a declaration with Iran in which Tehran agreed to a nuclear fuel swap arrangement that mirrored a proposal last fall by France, Russia, and the United States, the so-called Vienna Group. (See ACT, June 2010.) In particular, Brazil and Turkey criticized the Vienna Group for providing a formal response to the declaration only hours before the council vote.

“The fact that the response was of a negative nature and that it was sent on the day of the adoption of the draft resolution on sanctions had a determining effect on our position,” Ertugrul Apakan, Turkey’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told the council. He noted, however, that Ankara’s vote against the measure “should not be construed as reflecting indifference to the problems emanating from Iran’s nuclear program.”

In their statements following the vote, France, Russia, and the United States each welcomed the Brazilian-Turkish diplomatic efforts, expressing their intent to continue discussing the fuel swap proposal. Nevertheless, the three countries made a distinction between that proposal and broader issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice said the fuel swap “does not respond to the fundamental, well-founded, and unanswered concerns about Iran’s nuclear program,” adding, “Today’s resolution does.”

New Restrictions on Iran

Resolution 1929 reiterates the council’s demand, first made in July 2006, that Iran suspend all uranium-enrichment-related and spent fuel reprocessing activities and halt the construction of its heavy-water reactor. It is the sixth resolution by the council calling on Iran to do so. (Two of the resolutions did not impose sanctions.) Tehran has consistently ruled out such an action.

In addition, the new resolution requires that Iran implement a provision of its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement, so-called modified Code 3.1, which requires that Tehran provide the agency with design information on all nuclear facilities it intends to construct as soon as the decision has been made to do so.

Iran signed on to the modified Code 3.1 in 2003, but in response to the adoption of Resolution 1747 in March 2007 imposing the UN’s second set of sanctions, declared that it would revert to an older version of the provision that required handing over design information to the IAEA only six months prior to the introduction of nuclear material. Tehran claims that, by reverting to the older code, it does not need to provide the agency with access to additional enrichment facilities, such as one revealed last year near the city of Qom, or its heavy-water reactor at Arak, until they are nearer to completion.

The IAEA maintains and Resolution 1929 notes, however, that a country cannot unilaterally suspend any provisions of its IAEA safeguards agreement.

For the first time, the council prohibited Iran from carrying out any activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The resolution also requires that states “take all necessary measures” to prevent Iran from acquiring technology related to such capabilities.

Previous resolutions only required that Tehran not import key missile-related technologies and that states not export such technologies to Iran.

Intensified Sanctions

As in the case of the previous three sets of sanctions, Resolution 1929 imposes asset freezes, travel bans, and financial restrictions on individuals and entities believed to be involved in Iran’s proliferation-related activities. The resolution’s blacklist includes one individual, Javad Rahiqi, who heads Iran’s IsfahanNuclearTechnologyCenter, and a total of 40 organizations, many of which already fall under U.S. sanctions.

The organizations targeted by the sanctions include 22 firms that are directly involved in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities. Another 15 entities are owned by, controlled by, or acting on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a political-military organization overseeing Iran’s nonconventional weapons programs and holding increasing sway in Iran’s leadership. A final three are entities owned or controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), a shipping firm cited in a 2008 UN sanctions resolution on Iran for suspicions of transporting proliferation-related goods.

Since 2008, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has placed restrictions on IRISL, its affiliates, and more than 100 specific vessels operated by the firm, prohibiting U.S. nationals from any transactions with them.

Furthermore, the new resolution imposes an arms embargo on Iran covering most major combat systems, including battle tanks, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters. States are prohibited from supplying Iran with not only the systems themselves, but also related technical training, spare parts, and other services. The provisions strengthen a prior call in Resolution 1747 for states to “exercise vigilance and restraint” regarding the supply of such military items to Tehran.

Many of Iran’s U.S.-supplied military systems acquired before the 1979 Iranian Revolution have suffered from a lack of spare parts and maintenance due to U.S. sanctions. The embargo could have a similar impact on the military systems Iran has imported from other countries since that time, particularly Russia and China.

Beyond the mandatory restrictions on specific Iranian entities, the resolution includes a number of provisions that call for additional actions against Iranian entities suspected of contributing to proliferation. For example, it calls on states to take “appropriate measures” to prevent their financial institutions from engaging in transactions that might contribute to Iran’s nuclear and missile activities.

Resolution 1929 also expands the enforcement mechanisms endorsed in prior sanctions. Whereas the last set of sanctions, adopted in March 2008, called on states to inspect cargo carried by IRISL and another firm, Iran Air Cargo, if the cargo is suspected of containing illicit goods, Resolution 1929 calls on states to inspect any such suspicious cargo in their jurisdiction going to or from Iran. States are further required to withhold bunkering services, such as refueling, from Iranian-owned or -contracted vessels on the basis of such suspicions.

Moreover, the resolution notes that such inspections could occur on the high seas by request and with the permission of the vessel’s flag state.

In order to support the work of a UN committee established by the first Iran sanctions resolution in December 2006, the new resolution calls for the creation of a group of up to eight experts to evaluate the implementation of the sanctions and provide recommendations to strengthen them.

Many of the new provisions are similar to steps taken by the Security Council against North Korea in 2006 and 2009 in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear tests conducted in those years. (See ACT, July/August 2009.) Those sanctions included an arms embargo, calls to inspect ships suspected of carrying contraband to and from North Korea, a denial of bunkering services to suspicious North Korean vessels, and restrictions on financial transactions with North Korea that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs.

Pending EU Action

Following adoption of the UN measure, the European Union began taking steps to adopt its own set of sanctions that would go beyond those in Resolution 1929. During a June 17 EU summit, European leaders agreed on a statement outlining the punitive steps the bloc would take. Those steps included trade restrictions particularly focused on dual-use goods, financial sanctions against additional Iranian banking and insurance activities, and visa bans and asset freezes targeting the IRGC.

The EU also indicated that it would adopt restrictions against “key sectors of [Iran’s] gas and oil industry with prohibition of new investment.”

The specific measures must still be worked out and formally agreed by the EU foreign ministers when they meet July 26.

Over the last several months, U.S. officials have said frequently that one of the aims of the UN sanctions process was to provide a legal basis for its allies, particularly in Europe, to adopt their own stringent measures against Iran. (See ACT, May 2010 .)

In May the U.S. Congress postponed its consideration of sanctions aimed at companies doing business with Iran’s energy sector, which were poised to target European firms, until the EU took its own steps. (See ACT, June 2010.) The Obama administration has sought exemptions from those sanctions for countries cooperating with efforts to place pressure on Iran.

Iranian Response

Iran responded harshly to the sanctions and threatened to curtail cooperation with the IAEA. On June 21, Iran announced it was barring two IAEA inspectors from further visits to Iran on charges of authoring “a false report” about Iran’s nuclear program.

Tehran has criticized a May 31 IAEA report that said an electrochemical cell, used for removing impurities from uranium metal, had been removed from the Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory prior to an April 14 inspection. Iranian officials claimed no equipment was removed.

According to a February IAEA report, Iran had told the agency that it was using the equipment to carry out pyroprocessing research and development to study the electrochemical production of uranium metal. Siegfried Hecker, former head of Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in February that such work should be of concern, noting its possible relation to nuclear weapons. (See ACT, March 2010.)

It is not the first time that Iran has barred particular inspectors from visiting the country. Following the adoption of Resolution 1747 in 2007, Iran banned 38 IAEA inspectors from taking part in the agency’s safeguards activities in the country.

A June 21 statement by IAEA spokesman Greg Webb said that the IAEA had received Iran’s objection to the two inspectors and that the agency “has full confidence in the professionalism and impartiality of the inspectors concerned.” The statement also said that the IAEA “confirms that its report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran, issued on 31 May 2010, is fully accurate.”

 

The U.S.-Indian Deal and Its Impact

The decision five years ago by the United States to open up nuclear trade with India overturned decades of U.S. and global nonproliferation policy. Initially, it evoked only muted criticism from the nonproliferation community. Many U.S. and foreign experts hoped that the deal would fall through or that it could be salvaged by pressing India for nonproliferation concessions. Those hopes faded as the details and process of the agreement unfolded. Critics feared that global nonproliferation norms would be undermined by the extension of nuclear trade to India, a state that has tested nuclear weapons and never signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). They also feared that the deal could have the practical result of freeing up domestic uranium that India could use for its weapons program.

Sharon Squassoni

The decision five years ago by the United States to open up nuclear trade with India overturned decades of U.S. and global nonproliferation policy. Initially, it evoked only muted criticism from the nonproliferation community. Many U.S. and foreign experts hoped that the deal would fall through or that it could be salvaged by pressing India for nonproliferation concessions. Those hopes faded as the details and process of the agreement unfolded. Critics feared that global nonproliferation norms would be undermined by the extension of nuclear trade to India, a state that has tested nuclear weapons and never signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). They also feared that the deal could have the practical result of freeing up domestic uranium that India could use for its weapons program.

The Bush administration justified its actions by declaring that India would be brought into the “mainstream” of nonproliferation. Five years later, however, India’s nonproliferation behavior has neither improved nor worsened. Rather than India moving into the mainstream, the mainstream has moved to it. As the “nonproliferation ayatollahs” feared,[1] other states have begun to look at India’s example and ask, “If India, why not us?” India’s brand of exceptionalism matters less to these states than the possibility of exceptionalism, and a few are prepared to make their own case.

Past as Prologue

Thirty years ago, the United States cut off nuclear trade with India after that country tested a nuclear explosive device in 1974. India produced the plutonium for its test using materials and equipment it had obtained from Canada and the United States under a peaceful-use commitment. The United States responded by forming the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to avoid similar such incidents, and the U.S. Congress responded by enacting the 1978 Nuclear Nonproliferation Act (NNPA). The presumption of the NNPA was that piecemeal safeguards were not enough to prevent proliferation; only full-scope safeguards and therefore membership in the NPT could ensure peaceful uses. The NSG’s nonbinding set of guidelines for nuclear exports did not require full-scope safeguards as a condition of supply until much later. The adoption of this requirement in 1992 was hailed as a significant achievement.

At the time the NNPA was passed, the United States had been supplying fuel to India for the U.S.-built Tarapur reactors. Thereafter, the United States quietly facilitated supply by other countries. France provided fuel until the 1992 NSG decision, and China supplied fuel from 1994 until 2004, when it joined the NSG. Russia subsequently offered to provide fuel, but encountered U.S. objections. The first collateral damage of the U.S.-Indian deal came when Russia inked an agreement with India for Tarapur resupply just days before President George W. Bush arrived in New Delhi in 2006.

Anatomy of a Deal

Efforts to create a strategic partnership with India date back to the Clinton presidency although India’s 1998 nuclear tests temporarily halted them. Advocates of closer relations with India argued that expanding the partnership between the two countries was natural because the United States and India had so many common interests. For both sides, however, the nuclear issue got in the way. India, which craved legitimization of its nuclear weapons (“strategic”) program, insisted the United States had to lift restrictions on U.S. nuclear trade. U.S. policy, at least until the Bush administration, was that India had to freeze and roll back its nuclear weapons program.

Indian and U.S. strategic thinkers devised a way to resolve the nuclear proliferation tensions between the two countries: abandon restrictions on U.S. and global nuclear trade while asking for minimal nonproliferation commitments from India. Under the two countries’ July 18, 2005, joint statement, India committed to continuing its nuclear test moratorium, supporting U.S. efforts on a treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, separating its civilian from military programs, and placing a portion of its facilities, but no uranium-enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing facilities and no material, under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

Congress Gets Involved

Because the NNPA was designed to preclude nuclear cooperation with states that were outside the NPT, India clearly did not meet all the requirements of the law and would thus have to be considered an exceptional case. The law allows for the president to make an exception to the nine requirements contained in Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act, but only with a determination that meeting those requirements would be “seriously prejudicial to the achievement of U.S. non-proliferation objectives or otherwise jeopardize the common defense and security.” The Bush administration clearly did not want to take this path, which also would have required Congress to pass a law to approve the agreement. (An agreement that meets all the requirements of the law has the presumption of passage; it can enter into force after 90 days of so-called continuous session unless Congress passes a law against it.)

The Bush administration sought legislation that would have had Congress approve nuclear cooperation with India even before an agreement had been finalized. The House responded by passing the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act, which the Senate adopted in December 2006. The act created the needed exception for India, but it also sought to clarify several of India’s commitments. In particular, some members of Congress, including then-Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), were concerned that nuclear cooperation might continue if India tested nuclear weapons again, because of the inclusion of multiple assurances of fuel supply for India and because of New Delhi’s insistence on the right to take “corrective actions” in the event of fuel supply termination.[2] Under U.S. law, a nuclear test explosion by India could be grounds for breaking off nuclear cooperation.

Members of Congress were also concerned that the United States might seek to bypass the NSG and therefore made the U.S. agreement’s entry into force contingent on a decision by the NSG to permit supply. Unfortunately, this approach seemed to galvanize the Bush administration to push for rapid-fire completion of all the necessary steps: India’s safeguards agreement was hastily approved at a special IAEA meeting in August 2008, and the NSG exemption was handled just a few weeks later in two special sessions. According to some participants, the Bush administration exerted unprecedented political pressure at the NSG to clinch the deal, including phone calls from U.S. cabinet members to their foreign counterparts during negotiating sessions. With an NSG approval in hand, the Bush administration returned to Congress and, by October 1, got a winning vote. A key part of the administration’s argument was that it made no sense to hold back U.S. nuclear cooperation with India once the door to global cooperation had been unlocked,[3] and few members of Congress were inclined to disagree.

Fallout From the Deal

Creating an “exceptional” nonparty to the NPT has increased pressure across the nonproliferation regime. States have pushed the boundary between legally binding and voluntary commitments. NSG consensus has suffered dramatically, as China and Russia have exploited the political disarray for their own national benefit. Efforts to restrict enrichment and reprocessing may suffer, as some states insist on their “legal” rights. At the 2010 NPT Review Conference in May, the language in the action plan referring to states’ fuel cycle decisions called on treaty parties to “[r]espect each country’s choices and decisions in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy without jeopardizing its policies or international cooperation agreements and arrangements for peaceful uses of nuclear energy and its fuel cycle choices,” a swipe at efforts to get countries to forswear the acquisition of sensitive technology such as uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing.

NSG Consensus

Russia lost no time in restarting nuclear cooperation with India. Days before Bush arrived in New Delhi in 2006 to finalize India’s plan to place some of its facilities under safeguards, Russian officials informed the NSG that they would resupply fuel to India’s Tarapur reactors. At the time, the NSG had not yet considered an exception for India, so the Russian action violated the guidelines. Although it was clear that the Bush administration also would seek an NSG exemption for India, Russia’s action revealed the willingness of some suppliers to exploit potential gaps in the system.

In this context, China’s recent plan to build two more power reactors for Pakistan is not surprising.[4] China has always been a supplier of peaceful and not-so-peaceful nuclear technology to Pakistan. In joining the NSG in 2004, China announced its intention to continue some kinds of cooperation with Pakistan under the NSG’s grandfathering provision. This included lifetime support and fuel supply for the Chashma I and II nuclear power plants, supply of heavy water and operational safety services to the Karachi nuclear power plant, and supply of fuel and operational safety services to the two safeguarded research reactors at PINSTECH.[5] At the time, Chashma I was operating, and Chashma II construction had not yet begun. If China builds these two newest reactors, it will be a blatant violation of NSG guidelines. In April 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted in answers to questions for the record from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “[i]f China did seek to provide additional reactors to Pakistan, it would need NSG accommodation. The NSG operates by consensus, so China would need the support of all other participating governments to proceed. We do not believe that the 45 member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group would agree to such an accommodation, and we do not support such an initiative with Pakistan.”[6]

Israel, too, has sought to exploit the gaps. Israel, which is not a party to the NPT but is an adherent to NSG guidelines, has been openly discussing initiating a nuclear power program in its country. Israeli officials circulated a nonpaper to the NSG in March 2007 that suggested criteria that would allow both India and Israel to be exempted from full-scope safeguards requirements.[7]

At the same time, the NSG has been struggling with revisions to its guidelines on enrichment- and reprocessing-related exports. As a coda to the India deal, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) extracted a promise from Rice that the administration would move quickly to ensure an NSG decision on those revisions. In the draft language that the NSG has been considering, NPT membership is required for such transfers. India would thus be excluded from receiving such technology. Ironically, although Russia has since decided against such sensitive nuclear technology trade with India, France had already signed an agreement in September 2008 that would allow sensitive nuclear transfers.[8] In the interim, the Group of Eight’s 2004 policy of no new enrichment and reprocessing transfers was watered down in 2008 to allow for transfers if there is no replication of the technology.

Pakistan’s Reaction

From the start, Pakistan lodged objections to the U.S.-Indian deal, while asserting that it deserved the same deal. In March 2006, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying that “[t]he agreement represents an important relaxation of the NSG’s existing guidelines, and transfer of civilian nuclear technology from NSG members to non-NPT States. Pakistan has the same claim and expectation for international cooperation under safeguards for nuclear power generation, especially because Pakistan is a fossil fuel deficit country and has a significant and fully safeguarded nuclear power generation programme.” In the wake of the 2004 revelations about the Abdul Qadeer Khan black market nuclear network, however, the Bush administration was adamant about not pursuing a similar deal with Pakistan.

Pakistani officials have argued that the deal would free up India’s domestic uranium for weapons and that Pakistan would need to increase its own capability to produce fissile material. The National Command Authority declared in August 2007 that the agreement “would have implications on strategic stability as it would enable India to produce significant quantities of fissile material and nuclear weapons from un-safeguarded nuclear reactors.”[9]

Although Bush administration officials told Congress they would encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint in fissile material production, the deal seems to have accelerated Pakistan’s unsafeguarded uranium- and plutonium-production capability. Pakistan has been expanding its capabilities to produce plutonium in unsafeguarded production reactors (Khushab site) and reprocessing plants (PINSTECH site) and to process uranium (at the Dera Ghazi Khan site).[10] Finally, Pakistan’s perceptions of and concerns about the Indian civil nuclear deal also appear to have further degraded Islamabad’s willingness to engage in key nonproliferation and disarmament talks. Responding to a press question in 2009 about the prospects that Pakistan would follow suit if India joined the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman noted that “[o]bviously new realities have to be considered. I can tell you that at this point in time there is no consideration to sign the CTBT.”[11] Pakistan has also hardened its opposition to the start of fissile material production cutoff talks at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva. For more than a decade, Pakistan has complained that that a cutoff treaty must not lock in disparities in fissile material stocks.[12] The India deal has only underscored that fear.

Fuel Cycle, Cooperation Rights

Regardless of the outcome of NSG decisions on technology transfers, the India deal has affected countries’ expectations about their rights regarding fuel cycle decisions and nuclear cooperation. Although India is meant to be an exception, it is clearly seen as a pathbreaker of sorts. Until the India deal, the United States did not give programmatic consent, as opposed to case-by-case consent, for reprocessing U.S.-origin fuel unless a country already had an advanced nuclear program, including reprocessing and enrichment plants; did not pose a proliferation risk; was not located in regions of proliferation concern; and had excellent nonproliferation credentials. Until India, the United States had approved the reprocessing of U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel only in Japan and EURATOM countries France and the United Kingdom. Additionally, the U.S.-Indian deal has left the door open to enrichment and reprocessing cooperation, subject to certain requirements (the facilities must be multilateral or part of a project to improve proliferation resistance) and approval of an amended agreement. Until now, the United States has only engaged in enrichment cooperation with one state (Australia), and in that case, the technology transfer was to the United States, not the other way around.

With the resurgence of interest in nuclear energy, many states are considering their options and the potential for cooperation with advanced nuclear states. South Korea, for example, is likely to request programmatic consent for reprocessing U.S.-origin spent fuel. Without an India deal, it might have asked for this anyway. With an India deal, it may be more successful. Now, South Korea also is interested in keeping its options open on uranium enrichment. One thing is certain: the India deal has shown states that the path to global acceptance of capabilities is through the United States.

2010 NPT Review Conference

During the 2010 NPT Review Conference, India’s special status was a significant irritant. The 118 members of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) charged that the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal had given an NPT nonparty more benefits than NPT parties. This had two effects: NAM countries sought to restrict benefits to India by including language on the need for full-scope safeguards for nuclear supply, and they sought to widen their own possibilities for supply by including language on fuel cycle rights.

In the case of the first, the NAM argued that the review conference’s final document should reiterate a requirement for comprehensive safeguards for “existing or new” nuclear supply arrangements as well as a requirement to forswear the acquisition of nuclear weapons. U.S. officials could not accept language that would apply to India and argued against inclusion of the word “existing.”[13] The final president’s statement reaffirmed that “new supply arrangements” should require full-scope safeguards and “international legally-binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons.” The statement also calls on all parties to give “preferential treatment to the non-nuclear weapons States parties to the Treaty, taking the needs of developing countries, in particular, into account.”

In the case of the second effect, Action 47 of the final document, as noted earlier, urges all states to respect fuel cycle choices without jeopardizing international cooperation agreements.

Conclusion

The U.S.-Indian nuclear deal bestows privileges on India beyond what is normally given to states in good standing with their nonproliferation obligations. To lessen the negative impact of the deal, the global nonproliferation regime needs to return to more equitable approaches to restrictions on technology dissemination. From the supply side, the NSG needs to adopt meaningful restrictions on enrichment and reprocessing transfers that, at a minimum, do not allow any such cooperation with India and, more importantly, strongly limit the further dissemination of such capabilities. Cradle-to-grave fuel supply services could help provide incentives to countries not to acquire sensitive technologies, but they cannot prevent them. Above all, the regime needs to go beyond approaches that perpetuate dividing lines between the haves and the have-nots.

Instead, a single vision for a nuclear energy future that complements nonproliferation and disarmament objectives, rather than defeats them, is needed. Elements could include limitations on all states and legally binding commitments not to build national fissile material production capabilities. Approaches might include multinational fuel-cycle centers or an international nuclear fuel authority, as envisioned in the NNPA. Connecting fuel cycle restrictions to disarmament obligations, such as in a fissile material production cutoff treaty, could be helpful to win broader support.

These are ambitious goals, but small-scale revisions to the nonproliferation regime will not be able to repair the damage that the India deal has caused.


Sharon Squassoni is a senior fellow and director of the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. From 2002 to 2007, she was a senior specialist for weapons of mass destruction at the Congressional Research Service.


ENDNOTES

1. The term “nonproliferation ayatollah” was coined in the Indian press prior to the U.S.-Indian deal to describe U.S. and Western experts that were critical of India’s nuclear weapons program. It was used extensively during the debates from 2005 to 2008 to disparage nonproliferation experts opposed to the deal. See, for example, Kaushik Kapistalam, “The Reign of the Non-proliferation Ayatollahs,” Bharat Rakshak Monitor,Vol. 6, No. 5 (March-April 2004).

2. In a colloquy with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) on November 16, 2006, Obama sought to clarify that, under the terms of the implementing legislation, “in the event of a future nuclear test by the Government of India, nuclear power reactor fuel and equipment sales, and nuclear technology cooperation would terminate.”

3. The closing line of a letter from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to support the House legislation (H.R. 7081) on October 1, 2008, stated, “You can also help ensure that U.S. industry—just like its international counterparts—is able to engage with India in civil nuclear trade.”

4. See Daniel Horner, “China, Pakistan Set Reactor Deal,” Arms Control Today, June 2010.

5. “Answers to Questions for the Record Submitted to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by Senator Richard Lugar,” in Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation and U.S. Additional Protocol Implementation Act, S. Rpt. 109-288, p. 164.

6. Ibid.

7. David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington, told The Washington Post in 2007 that “Israel, recognized to be a full-fledged adherent to the NSG guidelines, has urged the NSG to consider adopting a generic, multi-tiered, criteria-based approach towards nuclear technology transfers.” See Glenn Kessler, “Israel Submits Nuclear Trade Plan,” The Washington Post, September 30, 2007.

8. For text of the Indo-French deal, see www.dae.gov.in/sectt/indofrench.pdf.

9. See “Statement by the National Command Authority,” August 2, 2007, http://missions.itu.int/~pakistan/2005_Press_Releases/Disarmament/prnca_2aug07.htm.

10. See Paul Brannan, “Steam Emitted From Second Khushab Reactor Cooling Towers; Pakistan May Be Operating Second Reactor,” ISIS Reports, March 24, 2010; David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Robert Kelley, “Pakistan Expanding Dera Ghazi Khan Nuclear Site: Time for U.S. to Call for Limits,” ISIS Reports, May 19, 2009.

11. See www.mofa.gov.pk/Spokesperson/2009/June/Spokes_18_06_09.htm.

12. See “FMCT Resisted by Brazil, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan, Group of 21,” Dawn, April 19, 2010.

13. Peter Crail, “NPT Parties Agree on Middle East Meeting,” Arms Control Today, June 2010.

 

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