Login/Logout

*
*  

"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 #NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
September 2010
Edition Date: 
Friday, September 3, 2010
Cover Image: 

News Briefs

UN Chief Attends Hiroshima Ceremony

Meri Lugo

In the first visit by a sitting UN secretary-general to Hiroshima’s annual observance of the atomic bombing of the city, Ban Ki-moon last month touted recent strides toward arms reductions worldwide while calling for more dramatic steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

In an Aug. 6 speech commemorating the 65th anniversary of the U.S. bombing, Ban praised the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia and the nuclear security summit in Washington in April. “[But] we must keep up the momentum,” he said. He announced he would convene a meeting Sept. 24 at the United Nations to revitalize the Conference on Disarmament, where efforts to begin negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and other arms control measures have stalled (see page 48).

Ban said he would discuss building consensus on a way forward for an FMCT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The world should set a goal of bringing the CTBT into force by 2012, he said. He also pressed for movement toward “agreement on a no-first-use doctrine, paving the way toward a no-use doctrine.”

U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos attended this year’s Peace Memorial Ceremony, the first time a U.S. official had done so. Representatives from France and the United Kingdom also attended the ceremony for the first time.

An estimated 140,000 Japanese were killed instantly in the Hiroshima bombing, and an additional 70,000 are estimated to have died during the bombing of Nagasaki three days later. These estimates do not include the hundreds of thousands of Japanese who later succumbed to radiation poisoning or cancer as a result of the bombings.


 

Japanese Panel Moots Nuclear Principle

Peter Crail

AJapanese government defense panel questioned in an Aug. 27 report whether Tokyo should maintain its principle of barring the entry of nuclear weapons from Japanese territory, expressing concerns about placing unilateral limits on the United States. The panel report is intended to contribute to a Japanese national security policy review later this year. Since 1971, Japan has subscribed to three “non-nuclear principles” of not possessing or producing nuclear weapons or introducing them into its territory. Although the report raised questions about maintaining the nonintroduction principle, it said that no changes were needed to the three principles “for the time being.”

In the past, the nonintroduction principle has come into conflict with the country’s defense cooperation with the United States as U.S. vessels carrying nuclear arms have made use of Japanese ports. The Japanese government released two reports in March on investigations into secret U.S.-Japanese agreements during the 1960s and ’70s allowing port calls by nuclear-armed U.S. vessels. Revelations on those agreements stirred controversy in Japan following a change in government last year.

Long-standing U.S. policy is neither to confirm nor to deny the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons aboard its vessels.

Panel member Takashi Shiraishi said during an Aug. 27 press conference that the report did not recommend a review of Japan’s three non-nuclear principles. “But at the same time, we didn’t think it wise to limits Japan’s future actions by setting a principle that Japan won’t need to review them in the future,” he said, stressing that Tokyo’s options should be left open.

However, during an Aug. 9 press conference marking the 65th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that he would “like to consider enshrining the principles into law.”


 

EU Contributes to CTBT Verification Efforts

Meri Lugo

The EU Council has provided a contribution of 280,000 euros to strengthen nuclear test ban verification, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) announced July 27. The contribution is part of the EU Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The EU contribution will fund projects related to improving the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) auxiliary seismic station network, which provides data on a seismic event on request. Those stations supplement the data from the CTBTO primary network, which runs constantly and provides data in real time. More than 75 percent of the CTBTO’s total planned 337 seismic stations, intended to detect nuclear test explosions, have already been constructed and certified.

The funds also will strengthen verification measures, such as on-site inspections and noble-gas monitoring, and provide technical assistance to African, Caribbean, and Latin American countries to facilitate their full participation in the CTBT verification regime.

The CTBTO’s 2010 budget is approximately 92 million euros. The assessed annual contributions of EU member states comprise about 40 percent of the CTBTO’s total budget, and the recent contribution marks the largest-ever voluntary contribution by the European Union to the CTBTO.

In a statement reflecting on its contribution, the EU remarked, “A fully operational and credible CTBT verification regime will provide the international community with reliable, independent means to ensure that [the] norm [against nuclear testing] is respected.”


 

Bout to Be Extradited to U.S.

Valerie Pacer

A Thai appeals court ruled Aug. 20 that alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout should be extradited to the United States. Bout was arrested on March 5, 2008, after a joint sting operation between the United States and Thailand where Bout allegedly attempted to arrange a weapons deal with undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agents, who were acting as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). (See ACT, April 2008.)

The United States, which had campaigned for the extradition, welcomed the move. In an Aug. 20 statement, Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler said that “the prosecution of Viktor Bout is of utmost priority to the United States.” Citing UN sanctions imposed on Bout, Grindler said that “the criminal charges he faces are not solely an American concern.”

Russia had opposed extradition, and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the decision to extradite Bout surprising, disappointing, and highly questionable in light of the lower court ruling in August 2009 that Bout should be released. That court said FARC is a political movement rather than a terrorist organization.

In the original U.S. indictment, Bout was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum of 15 years imprisonment. New charges unsealed earlier this year include conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, money laundering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and six counts of wire fraud.

In addition to the charges brought by the United States, Bout is included on UN travel ban and asset freeze lists, in part for violating Security Council Resolution 1343, which sought to end Liberian government support for Sierra Leonean rebels.

 

India, Japan Discuss Terms of Nuclear Trade

Eric Auner and Daniel Salisbury

India is pursuing a civil nuclear trade deal with Japan, which has said that cooperation depends on India not conducting any further nuclear test explosions.

On Aug. 21, India and Japan concluded the latest round of their strategic dialogue, which included discussions of civil nuclear cooperation. At a joint press conference with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna that day in New Delhi, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said that, in the event of a future Indian nuclear test, “Japan will have no option but to state that we shall suspend our cooperation.”

India also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Canada, and discussed nuclear cooperation with a high-profile British delegation.

India, which tested nuclear devices in 1974 and 1998, was barred from engaging in nuclear trade with Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) members until 2008. NSG guidelines ban nuclear trade with countries that are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and that do not place all their nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. India remains outside the NPT, but it obtained an NSG waiver in 2008 that allows it to conduct nuclear trade with the group’s members. (See ACT, October 2008.) India has placed some of its nuclear power reactors under safeguards.

Since the NSG decision, India has entered into nuclear cooperation agreements of various forms with a number of countries, including France, Russia, and the United States.

India and Japan formed a working group on nuclear energy in late April and engaged in two days of negotiations on the subject in late June. Talks on civil nuclear cooperation are taking place in the context of the “2+2” dialogue, which involves the foreign and defense ministers of both countries discussing a wide spectrum of economic and security issues

In addition to indicating that an Indian nuclear test would result in the suspension of a nuclear agreement, Okada urged India to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and make progress toward negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty.

Many Japanese nonproliferation advocates have opposed nuclear cooperation with India. The mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, released a statement criticizing nuclear negotiations with India. “This means that a nation that has suffered atomic bombings itself is now severely weakening the NPT regime, which is beyond intolerable” he said Aug. 9 during a ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

A Japanese condition suspending nuclear cooperation in the event of an Indian test would be similar to a section of the 2006 Hyde Act, which amended U.S. law to allow nuclear trade with India. The Hyde Act opened the door to the U.S.-Indian cooperation agreement; that accord, signed in 2007 and approved by Congress in 2008, does not itself contain a requirement that India forswear future nuclear tests. The Indian government has traditionally defended its right to conduct future nuclear tests although it currently is observing a moratorium.

India and Canada signed their cooperation agreement at the end of the June Group of 20 summit in Toronto after bilateral meetings between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The agreement will allow Canadian firms to export nuclear material, equipment, and technology to India and will encourage cooperation in nuclear safety and waste management.

Canada has a long history of involvement with India’s nuclear program. It sold a CIRUS research reactor, as well as two CANDU power reactors, to India in the 1950s and 1960s. Spent fuel from the CIRUS reactor was later used to produce the fissile material for India’s 1974 nuclear test explosion. Canada cut off nuclear trade in the wake of the 1974 test, opening a long-lasting diplomatic rift between the two countries.

At a June 27 press conference, Singh sought to ease concerns that Canadian nuclear exports would be used for military purposes. “We have complete civilian control and there is no scope whatsoever for any nuclear material or equipment being supplied going for any unintended purpose,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “Nuclear material supplied to India will be fully safeguarded” under the terms of India’s agreement signed with the IAEA, he said. He added that India has a “fool-proof system of export controls.” Singh and Harper released a joint June 27 statement in which both expressed their commitment to “the ratification of the agreement and the completion of all remaining steps necessary to ensure its early implementation.”

When asked about the nonproliferation assurances received by the Canadian government and whether Canada would cease nuclear cooperation in the event of an Indian nuclear test, Laura Markle, a spokeswoman at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said in an e-mail exchange last month that any use of Canadian materials or technology beyond “peaceful, civilian and non-explosive purposes” would “provide cause for the immediate suspension, and eventual termination of nuclear cooperation.”

The United Kingdom has been seeking greater participation in the Indian market as well. A high-profile British delegation, which included Prime Minister David Cameron, visited India in late July. While on the trip, Business Secretary Vince Cable said the countries already are cooperating on “a certain amount of modest research,” but want to move to “a higher level.” British companies “potentially could do a large amount of [nuclear] business in India,” he said. In February, India and the United Kingdom signed a Joint Declaration on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, in which the two governments expressed the desire “to promote extensive co-operation in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

 

India is pursuing a civil nuclear trade deal with Japan, which has said that cooperation depends on India not conducting any further nuclear test explosions.

Stalled CD Sparks Plans for Sept. UN Meeting

Peter Crail

Members of the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD) remained sharply divided in August over the body’s work, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon prepared for an effort to kick-start talks on substantive issues. The CD is the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament issues.

In May the parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) invited Ban to hold a high-level meeting in September to support the work of the CD, which operates on a consensus basis and has been plagued by years of deadlock. With brief exceptions, the CD has been unable to begin substantive work since 1995.

Ban announced last month that he would hold such a meeting Sept. 24, stating that the dialogue “will provide a unique opportunity to discuss how to revitalize the work of the Conference on Disarmament and build consensus on the broader challenges of disarmament—including moving forward” on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). The CD’s current primary agenda item is the negotiation of an FMCT, which would halt the production of material for nuclear weapons.

The high-level meeting is scheduled for five hours Sept. 24 and will be open to all UN members to deliver brief statements, primarily by their foreign ministers. The UN Secretariat has indicated that the outcome of that meeting will consist of a chair’s summary by Ban, which would include his own views as well as those of the participants.

Diplomatic sources said that expectations for the UN gathering were low, given continued intense disagreement over key substantive and procedural issues. Sources also said that some delegations have suggested that a follow-up discussion to the high-level meeting during the General Assembly later this year would be helpful to ensure continued efforts to break the deadlock.

CD members held discussions on the high-level meeting in late August, but several delegations expressed concern over the purpose and prospects of such a session.

Pakistan in particular, which has held up CD consensus on starting negotiations on an FMCT, said during an Aug. 24 discussion that Western countries were only interested in an FMCT and predicted that the UN Secretary-General summary would reflect this preference. Diplomatic sources said that the five NPT nuclear-weapon powers want the Sept. 24 meeting to focus solely on starting FMCT negotiations next year. Iran, Pakistan, and other developing states have pressed for negotiations on other topics, such as nuclear disarmament.

Beyond the high-level meeting, the CD discussed the prospect of holding a parallel process outside the CD to address an FMCT, skirting the body’s strict consensus rules. CD Secretary-General Sergey Ordzhonikidze said during the Aug. 24 session that the CD likely has a year to start substantive work before some members organize such outside initiatives.

The effort could be similar to a 1996 Canadian-led initiative that brought the issue of an anti-personnel landmine ban outside the CD, resulting in a global treaty banning such weapons the following year. Many key countries making use of such arms, however, remain outside that accord, including the United States.

Several delegations, including those of Canada, Germany, Mexico, and the Netherlands, expressed support for a parallel process on an FMCT. The Dutch ambassador, Paul van den Ijssel, stressed that his government did not want to wait another year for the CD to start negotiations on an FMCT.

A number of delegations opposed such a move, and Algeria and Pakistan suggested that the high-level meeting prevent initiatives outside the CD. Islamabad added that it would not attend any negotiations outside the CD on an FMCT.

Pakistan has been scaling up its fissile material production in recent years.

 

Members of the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD) remained sharply divided in August over the body’s work, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon prepared for an effort to kick-start talks on substantive issues. The CD is the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament issues.

Cluster Munitions Treaty Enters Into Force

Valerie Pacer

Hailed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as “a major advance for the global disarmament and humanitarian agendas,” the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) entered into force Aug. 1.

Cluster munitions are weapons that disperse smaller submunitions, sometimes a few and sometimes hundreds, that are supposed to explode on impact. However, these submunitions often fail to detonate promptly; if they explode later, they can injure civilians and combatants. The treaty is the result of the so-called Oslo process, led in part by Norway, in response to the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict that left up to 1 million unexploded submunitions. (See ACT, July/August 2008.)

The convention has been signed by 108 countries and ratified by 39. (See ACT, March 2010.) Since the countdown to entry into force, which began with the 30th country submitting its instrument of ratification Feb. 16, nine new countries have ratified the convention: Antigua and Barbuda, Comoros, Ecuador, Fiji, Lesotho, Mali, Samoa, Seychelles, and the United Kingdom. Among those absent from the list of signing and ratifying states are a number of major stockpiling and producing countries, including China, Russia, and the United States. Although data on stockpiles are incomplete, the United States is believed to have the world’s largest cluster munitions stockpile with approximately 5.5 million cluster munitions and more than 700 million submunitions.

Instead of the new convention, the United States has sought agreement on potential limits on cluster munitions use within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). A CCW group of governmental experts has been meeting for a number of years but, despite numerous meetings, has failed thus far to reach consensus on a text for a potential new protocol dealing with cluster munitions. The group is scheduled to meet again Aug. 30-Sept. 3 in Geneva. (See ACT, December 2009.)

In 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that, after 2018, U.S. cluster munitions must have an unexploded ordnance level of less than 1 percent and that until then, munitions failing to meet that standard could be used only after authorization by a combatant commander. The 1 percent ceiling was also established by Congress in 2007 as a requirement for any military sales or transfers of cluster munitions, effectively banning export of the vast majority of U.S. cluster munitions. Critics of the 1 percent level point out that the threshold uses ideal conditions as its standard and that, under field conditions, the percentage is higher. The critics argue instead for using criteria created by the CCM.

Under that treaty, countries are banned from using cluster munitions, except for certain cluster-like weapons that contain fewer than 10 submunitions, each of which weighs more than four but less than 20 kilograms, is designed to detect and engage single targets, has an electronic self-destruct mechanism, and can electronically self-deactivate. (See ACT, December 2008.)

Under Article 1 of the CCM, parties agree not to use cluster munitions nor “develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [them] to anyone, directly or indirectly.” States are required to destroy their existing stockpiles of cluster munitions within eight years of entry into force or if incapable of doing so, seek an extension of up to four years to complete the destruction.

States are allowed to retain “a limited number of cluster munitions and explosive submunitions for the development of and training in cluster munition and explosive submunition detection, clearance or destruction techniques, or for the development of cluster munition counter-measures.” The treaty does not provide absolute limits on the number of munitions and submunitions a country can retain.

Divestment Efforts Continue

A global effort is underway to divest from companies that produce cluster munitions and to stop financial institutions from supporting them.

New Zealand has joined Belgium, Ireland, and Luxembourg in passing national legislation banning cluster munitions investment. Other countries including Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland are discussing similar legislation, and the French government, without legislation, recently declared such investment illegal.

Individual companies and civil society also have been involved in divestment efforts. The three largest Japanese banks announced July 30 that they would no longer finance cluster munitions projects but that the ban would not extend to the companies themselves as they could make products other than cluster munitions. On Aug. 11, Deutsche Welle reported that the German government was under pressure after buying body scanners for the Hamburg airport that come from a subsidiary of a U.S. company, L3 Communications, that produces self-destruct fuses for submunitions.

In an April report, “Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: A Shared Responsibility,” authors from nongovernmental organizations IKV PAX Christi of the Netherlands and Netwerk Vlaanderen of Belgium found a “double standard” whereby CCM parties can neither produce nor assist in producing cluster munitions but investment in cluster munitions has continued from their financial institutions.

The report, which updates the version that came out last October, considers the seven largest producers of cluster munitions and their ability to secure loans and other financing. It concludes that since May 1, 2007, 146 financial institutions have invested a total of $43 billion in the companies. Despite the divestment effort, the producing companies have not been “hampered in [their] search for financial means.” (See ACT, December 2009.)

Of the top five institutions that provide investment banking services or loans to cluster munitions producers, three are U.S. businesses.

 

Hailed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as “a major advance for the global disarmament and humanitarian agendas,” the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) entered into force Aug. 1.

Progress Made at Arms Trade Treaty Meeting

Jeff Abramson

The first preparatory committee meeting on creating a legally binding arms trade treaty (ATT) succeeded in moving the UN process forward, but left many details to be worked out in coming years.

At the meeting, held July 12-23 at the United Nations, delegates discussed thorny issues, including what weapons might be covered by the treaty, what standards might apply in making export decisions, and how information might be shared, monitored and verified, but did not reach decisions on those points. Instead, facilitators from Australia, Egypt, and Trinidad and Tobago led informal discussions on these and other issues, producing summary papers that outlined a range of opinions and possibilities.

The meeting’s chair, Roberto García Moritán of Argentina, presented draft papers providing a skeleton of what elements might be included in a future treaty, as well as principles, goals, and objectives for it. García Moritán chaired the governmental group of experts, which concluded in 2008, and open-ended working group meetings in 2009 that preceded the preparatory committee. (See ACT, November 2009.)

U.S. delegation member Ann Ganzer, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for threat reduction, export controls, and negotiations, said in an Aug. 4 statement that the July meeting “made significant progress in discussing issues that must be addressed in any ATT. It also showed that much work remains to be done.” Many delegations made similar comments in the closing days of the meeting and afterward.

Which weapons to include in the treaty and whether to define them specifically or generally remain some of the key unresolved issues. As noted in the facilitator’s draft, “[A] large number of States supported inclusion of the seven categories of the UN Register of Conventional Arms,” which encompass tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers.

There was less agreement on the inclusion of small arms and light weapons, a category Washington wants to include. Ganzer said, “[T]he ATT must cover all conventional weapons, from military small arms and light weapons up to nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.” The United States does not support including ammunition in the treaty, despite the importance many developing countries put on the need for doing so. A joint statement delivered July 21 on behalf of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay called for the inclusion of ammunition and recommended that “[a] general definition that includes all arms that are not of a nuclear, chemical or biological nature could provide the flexibility needed and avoid lengthy negotiations on specific definitions that can quickly become obsolete.”

The UN process continues in 2011 with meetings scheduled for Feb. 28-March 4 and July 11-15. In 2012 a short preparatory committee meeting on procedural matters is to take place before a four-week UN conference that will aim to “elaborate a legally binding instrument.” That meeting, according to the General Assembly resolution authorizing it, will operate “on the basis of consensus.” The decision last year to include this consensus clause was controversial.

Many states, including those skeptical in the past, actively participated in the July meeting. China, India, Iran, Russia, and Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group) all made statements within the first days of the meeting, despite abstaining in the 2009 First Committee vote that established the current process.

With less than three weeks of official UN meetings set to take place prior to the 2012 conference, civil society members as well as states are planning to engage in efforts outside the established UN schedule. An intersessional meeting will be hosted by the University of Massachusetts Boston Sept. 28-30 to examine some issues in more detail, including scope, parameters, transparency, and implementation. Funded by Australia, Austria, and Luxembourg, the meeting is expected to draw government experts from more than 40 countries.

 

The first preparatory committee meeting on creating a legally binding arms trade treaty (ATT) succeeded in moving the UN process forward, but left many details to be worked out in coming years.

Prospect of Nuclear Deal With Israel Dismissed

Daniel Horner

The United States has no plans in the foreseeable future for civilian nuclear cooperation with Israel, U.S. officials said in recent weeks.

Media reports, seemingly confirmed by an Israeli cabinet minister, indicated that cooperation was at least being considered.

After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama July 6 in Washington, Israeli and other media reported that the two sides had discussed civilian nuclear cooperation.

In remarks at a July 8 conference in Tel Aviv, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said the United States had made a “declaration of willingness,” which he called a “breakthrough,” Bloomberg reported.

Under U.S. law and the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Israel is not eligible for major nuclear trade because it is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and has not placed all its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

The George W. Bush administration successfully pushed for an exception to U.S. law and the NSG guidelines to allow nuclear trade with India. (See ACT, October 2008.) Administration officials repeatedly said India’s case was unique and that Israel and Pakistan, which, like India, have never joined the NPT and have nuclear facilities that are not under safeguards, did not qualify for similar treatment. Since then, however, officials from the two countries have argued that they should receive a comparable deal.

At a July 8 press briefing, Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said, “There’s no agreement between the United States and Israel to pursue a nuclear cooperation agreement. There was no discussion of this issue between the president and prime minister.” Asked the following day if the two leaders had had any discussions related to nuclear energy or nuclear weapons, he said, “Not that I’m aware of.” He responded similarly to a question about a reported secret letter.

In an Aug. 25 interview with Arms Control Today, a U.S. official said that although some Israeli officials have raised the issue of an India-style deal, the United States has been “unambiguous” in rejecting it under the Bush and Obama administrations. He indicated that the policy is unlikely to change any time soon. “From our side, there is no interest in having this conversation,” he said.

The geopolitical situation in the Middle East makes a U.S.-Israeli nuclear deal unrealistic, he said. “It is clear, based on our discussions with other countries in the region, that U.S.-Israeli nuclear cooperation of the sort covered in a 123 agreement would be taken as a sign that we are not serious” about establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, he said. U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements are often known as “123 agreements” because they are required by Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act.

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference in May, the parties agreed on steps toward establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, including the convening of a conference in 2012. (See ACT, June 2010.)

The Israeli embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on the status of U.S.-Israeli nuclear cooperation.

At a March conference in Paris, Uzi Landau, Israel’s infrastructure minister, strongly reaffirmed his country’s interest in pursuing a nuclear power program and said the program could be “an area for regional cooperation.” (See ACT, April 2010.)

 

The United States has no plans in the foreseeable future for civilian nuclear cooperation with Israel, U.S. officials said in recent weeks.

Media reports, seemingly confirmed by an Israeli cabinet minister, indicated that cooperation was at least being considered.

New U.S. Space Policy Open to Arms Control

Jeff Abramson and Valerie Pacer

The Obama administration this summer announced a new space policy that marks a break with the previous administration by being more receptive to arms control efforts.

According to the document, released June 28, that spells out the policy, Washington will “consider proposals and concepts for arms control measures if they are equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the United States and its allies.” The new policy also calls on governmental agencies to “pursue bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures.”

In a July 13 speech to the stalled Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Defense Policy and Verification Operations Frank A. Rose noted that greater willingness to pursue arms control measures was a “departure from the 2006 policy.” That policy stated that “the United States will oppose the development of new legal regimes or restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space.” Christina Rocca, the U.S. ambassador to the CD, said in 2007 that the universalizing of existing space agreements was a “much more practical and effective step towards guaranteeing the peaceful use of outer space.”

It remains unclear what new measures the United States will pursue. Rose highlighted the desire to mitigate orbital debris; share information about observations and activities in space, in part to help avoid collisions; and pursue transparency and confidence-building measures. One possibility for Washington to consider supporting is the EU space code of conduct, according to senior administration officials at a June 28 briefing. The draft code, issued in December 2008, includes a voluntary commitment to refrain from intentionally harming space objects, measures to control and mitigate space debris, and mechanisms for cooperation and consultation. (See ACT, January/February 2009.) A revised draft of the code is expected soon. Rose reiterated U.S. support for discussions at the CD on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, even though the CD has failed to reach agreement on an agenda this year.

The concern for a space arms race differs from Bush administration policy. In June 2006, Department of State official John Mohanco told the CD that “the cold war is over...and there is no arms race in outer space. Thus, there is no—repeat, no problem in outer space for arms control to solve.”

The new policy does not outline limitations on U.S. military uses of space. In supporting the policy, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “Our continued presence in space is vital to our national security. Space-based capabilities are critical to our military’s ability to navigate accurately, strike precisely, and gather battle space awareness efficiently.”

 

The Obama administration this summer announced a new space policy that marks a break with the previous administration by being more receptive to arms control efforts.

According to the document, released June 28, that spells out the policy, Washington will “consider proposals and concepts for arms control measures if they are equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the United States and its allies.” The new policy also calls on governmental agencies to “pursue bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures.”

Russia Complied With START, State Dept. Says

Tom Z. Collina and Peter Crail

Adding a historical dimension to the Senate ratification debate on New START, the Department of State in July released a long-awaited report finding that Russia was in compliance with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). That finding should reassure the Senate that Russia would comply with New START, a senior State Department official said in a July 28 interview.

However, the report did not find a similar level of Russian compliance with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) or the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), raising eyebrows on Capitol Hill. At a July 29 Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) characterized the report as showing that “compliance issues from the last START treaty remain unresolved and that the Chemical Weapons Convention has not been adhered to, and [Russia] may not be in compliance with the international convention banning biological weapons.” He called Russia’s record of compliance “a matter of significant concern.”

All the issues are long-standing ones that State Department compliance reports have publicly tracked for many years.

The report, Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements, is required by law to be submitted to Congress annually, but the July document is the first update released since 2005. Republican senators had been requesting this report, along with a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and a State Department report on verification, before voting on New START. All three reports now have been submitted to Congress. The 2010 compliance report generally covers the period 2004 through 2008; in the case of START, it tracks compliance through the pact’s expiration last December.

According to the report, the United States is in full compliance with its treaty commitments. The Russian Foreign Ministry disagreed and issued its own report Aug. 7 raising concerns about U.S. treaty compliance.

The unclassified version of the 2010 U.S. report states that Russia was “in compliance with the START strategic offensive arms (SOA) central limits for the 15-year term” of the treaty. This was also the conclusion of the 2005 report. Despite the “overall success of START implementation,” the 2010 report notes that a number of compliance issues that were raised by each side in the treaty’s Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission remained unresolved when the treaty expired.

At the July 29 hearing, Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, testified that “the majority of compliance issues raised under START were satisfactorily resolved. Most reflected differing interpretations on how to implement START’s complex inspection and verification provisions.”

Gottemoeller told the Associated Press July 28 that the issues left unresolved were minor technical matters that “went away when START went out of force.” She added that there were “some concerns that we had about them, some concerns that they had about us.” The most significant disputes, such as movement of Russian SS-27 mobile missile launchers and U.S. inspection of re-entry vehicles aboard certain Russian missiles, were resolved, Gottemoeller said.

Neither side accused the other of violating provisions of START at any point, she said.

“Cheating implies intent to undermine a treaty,” Gottemoeller told The Cable July 28. “There’s no history of cheating on the central obligations of START; there’s a history of abiding by the treaty,” she said. “We think [the compliance report] actually tells a good story about Russia and its willingness to resolve compliance and verification issues and should help ratification” of New START, she said.

For its part, Moscow’s report states that “a number of Russian concerns with U.S. compliance with [START] were never alleviated.” For example, the report says that the conversion of five silo launchers of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to missile defense interceptor launchers at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is “contrary to the provisions of the treaty.” In addition, the U.S. conversion of B-1 heavy bombers to conventional missions did not provide conclusive evidence that the bombers could not be reconverted to nuclear missions, according to the report.

U.S. officials have said that one of the main reasons New START prohibits additional conversions of ICBM launchers to interceptor launchers is to address Russian concerns in this area.

Russian BWC Compliance “Remains Unclear”

According to the 2010 U.S. report, Russian entities have remained engaged in dual-use, biological research activities, although “there were no indications that these activities were conducted for purposes inconsistent with the BWC.” Dual-use activities are those that could be used for offensive or defensive purposes. For example, the treaty permits research on defenses against biological weapons attacks or disease outbreaks; such research often deals with biological agents that could otherwise be banned by the BWC.

As early as 1984, the United States found the Soviet Union to be violating the BWC, and both the 2003 and 2005 reports concluded that Russia continued to do so. The 2005 report found that the Soviet Union’s offensive biological warfare program before 1992 “was the world’s largest” and then was significantly reduced, but not eliminated. In 1992, Russia confirmed it had a biological weapons program inherited from the Soviet Union and agreed to dismantle it under on-site monitoring. “Russia’s annual BWC confidence-building measure declarations since 1992 have not satisfactorily documented whether this program was terminated,” the 2010 report says.

“There are significant challenges in monitoring and verifying…compliance with the BWC,” the 2010 report says. Because states are allowed to develop biological agents or toxins for defensive purposes, showing the existence of activity involving banned biological agents is not enough to demonstrate noncompliance. Moreover, the treaty does not have a formal verification system, but relies on ad hoc confidence-building measures.

Gottemoeller testified July 29 that Russian compliance with the BWC “remains unclear” but that the activities prompting the concerns date from the Soviet period. “President [Boris] Yeltsin made some statements in 1992 about Russian compliance or, rather, the existence of a Russian offensive [biological weapons] program. There was a statement made at the time that some information would be provided about that program. That information has never been received,” she said.

Russia’s August report finds that Washington “continues to avoid establishing international control over its biological activities in any form,” a reference to the Bush administration’s opposition, later supported by the Obama administration, to adding a verification protocol to the BWC, experts say. The report alleges that U.S. research continues at the University of Pennsylvania on a synthetic smallpox virus despite a World Health Organization prohibition on such work. Also questionable, according to the report, are “threat assessment investigations” that, according to the report, have “intensified in recent years and are being justified on the grounds of the need to combat terrorism.” The U.S. biodefense program has spent roughly $50 billion since 2001, according to Western estimates, giving rise to international calls for greater transparency into U.S. activities in this area.

Russia, U.S. to Miss CWC Targets

The 2010 U.S. report states that Washington is “unable to ascertain” whether Russia’s CWC declaration is complete for weapons production and development facilities and weapons stockpiles (declared to be 40,000 metric tons) and whether Moscow is complying with treaty criteria for chemical weapons destruction and verification. The United States is concerned that Russia’s process for eliminating chemical agents is not irreversible and thus not adequate. Russia, with significant international assistance, has built chemical weapons destruction facilities at Gorny, Kambarka, Leonidovka, Maradykovsky, and Shchuch’ye, and two more are planned.

In March 2006, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague set an intermediate deadline of Dec. 31, 2009, for Russia to destroy 45 percent of its chemical weapons stocks, and the CWC sets a final deadline of April 29, 2012. Russia announced that it has met the 2009 deadline, but the OPCW announced in June that Russia will not meet the 2012 deadline and that Moscow had estimated it would complete the destruction by 2015. (See ACT, July/August 2010.) The United States previously announced that it also would not meet the 2012 deadline and has set 2021 as its new target date. The United States has destroyed more than 65 percent of its stockpile (declared to be 28,000 metric tons), according to the OPCW.

Rogelio Pfirter, outgoing director-general of the OPCW, said in June that the deadline slippage did not call into question the Russian or U.S. commitment to the CWC. 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. Gottemoeller testified July 29 she was convinced that Russia was working to resolve CWC compliance concerns “by trying to reduce their stocks, as required by the convention.”

Moscow’s report states that U.S. law allows Washington to evade fulfilling the requirements of the CWC because the president can refuse inspections at U.S. chemical facilities and samples taken during inspections may be prohibited from leaving the country. Western experts have expressed similar concerns.

NPT Compliance Issues

The report also assesses the compliance of a number of countries with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). It finds that Iran “continues to be in violation of Article III,” which requires non-nuclear-weapon states to accept international safeguards on peaceful nuclear activities. It also says that “issues underlying” a finding in the 2005 report that Iran violated its Article II obligations not to seek nuclear weapons “remain unresolved.” In this regard, the recent report refers to past Iranian “weaponization” attempts, but does not say that such efforts continued during the report’s time frame.

The 2010 report repeats the conclusion of a 2007 NIE that Iran halted a nuclear weapons development program in the fall of 2003, stating, “Iran refuses to resolve concerns regarding its former nuclear weapons program.” Senior U.S. officials have said over the last several months that a new NIE on Iran’s nuclear program is underway.

In addition to Iran’s noncompliance, the 2010 report cites North Korea and Syria for noncompliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations. In particular, it notes that Pyongyang was in “material breach” of the NPT before it announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003. It states that Syria “was likely pursuing a non-peaceful nuclear program” in violation of the NPT with the construction of a reactor at Al Kibar. That reactor was destroyed by Israel on Sept. 6, 2007, before it became operational. (See ACT, October 2007.)

The report’s assessment of NPT compliance features a section on Myanmar (also known as Burma) that did not appear in prior reports. It indicates that, since May 2007, when Myanmar signed an agreement with Russia to receive a research reactor, Washington and other governments have “exchanged views” on the proliferation potential of such a development. Although the United States has not found Myanmar in violation of its NPT or International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards obligations, the report says “the United States is concerned about Burma’s interest in pursuing a nuclear program, including the possibility of cooperation with North Korea.”

The report also notes that, by September 1996, each of the five countries that the NPT designates as a nuclear-weapon state (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) had declared a nuclear testing moratorium and had signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the United States and China have yet to ratify. The report found no indications that any of these states engaged in activities inconsistent with its declared moratorium.

 

Adding a historical dimension to the Senate ratification debate on New START, the Department of State in July released a long-awaited report finding that Russia was in compliance with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). That finding should reassure the Senate that Russia would comply with New START, a senior State Department official said in a July 28 interview.

Key New START Vote Set for Mid-September

Tom Z. Collina

Seeking to increase Republican support for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the panel’s chairman, announced Aug. 3 that he would not bring the treaty up for a vote until after the Senate summer recess. The legislative break, which began Aug. 7, ends Sept. 12.

Kerry said in an Aug. 3 letter to committee members that they should be prepared to vote on the treaty Sept. 15 or 16, leaving little time for a vote by the full Senate before senators plan to recess again Oct. 8.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton endorsed Kerry’s decision, saying at an Aug. 11 press briefing that it was “a gesture of good faith and underscores the tradition of bipartisan support” for strategic arms control treaties. But she said there should be no more delays. “[W]hen the Senate returns, they must act, because our national security is at risk. There is an urgency to ratify this treaty because we currently lack verification measures with Russia, which only hurts our national security interests,” she said. There have been no bilateral inspections of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals since the original START, which was signed in 1991, expired in December.

The committee vote was originally planned for Aug. 4. All 11 Democrats and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the panel’s ranking member, support the treaty. Two Republicans—Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and James Inhofe (Okla.)—are opposed, and five Republicans have not declared their position.

Kerry told reporters Aug. 3 that “we have the votes to report the treaty out of committee now,” but he moved the vote to September at the request of members who wanted additional time to review treaty materials that had yet to be delivered, including input from the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, and to get responses to almost 800 questions that have been submitted. Kerry said he wanted to “build bipartisan consensus” around New START.

Lugar expressed serious concern about the delay. “The problem of the breakdown of our verification, which lapsed December 5, is very serious and impacts our national security,” Lugar told The Cable Aug. 3.

New START was signed by Russia and the United States on April 8 and would replace the 1991 START. New START would mandate reductions of both sides’ deployed strategic nuclear warheads by about 30 percent and associated delivery systems by about 50 percent below previous treaty limits, and it would re-establish a system of inspections and data exchanges to ensure compliance. (See ACT, May 2010.)

Timing of Floor Vote Not Determined

The new committee schedule means that a full Senate vote on New START could occur between mid-September and early October, during a postelection (lame duck) session of Congress, or sometime in 2011 after the new Congress is seated.

President Barack Obama has said he wants New START ratified before the end of the year. However, there will be many issues competing for time on the Senate’s crowded calendar before it adjourns. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not said if he will reserve floor time for a vote on the treaty. Sources say he is likely to give New START floor time once it is clear that there are 67 or more senators who would vote in favor of ratification.

Some treaty proponents are concerned that the closer the vote gets to the election, the more partisan the debate may become. Lugar, the only Republican to publicly endorse the treaty, reportedly argued internally that the committee vote should have proceeded as planned on Aug. 4. “We ought to vote now and let the chips fall where they may. It’s that important,” he told The Cable Aug. 3.

For his part, Kerry told The New York Times Aug. 3 that once the committee approves the treaty in September, he was not sure if it would be approved by the full Senate before the election or in a lame duck session. “Either is equally possible,” he said.

GOP: Do Not Rush Vote

Republican leaders have said they are in no rush to vote on New START. “The only way this treaty gets in trouble is if it’s rushed,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told Reuters Aug. 2. “My advice to the president was, don’t try to jam it, answer all the requests, and let’s take our time and do it right,” he said.

From Obama’s perspective, waiting until after the elections could make ratification more difficult. In the next Congress, opinion polls suggest there may be more Republicans in the Senate. Depending on the number of Republicans elected, there may be less incentive for McConnell and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to agree to a vote on New START during a lame duck session.

Politics aside, U.S. military leaders say there are significant national security reasons to proceed expeditiously to ratification, such as closing the current gap in on-site inspections. “If we don’t get the treaty, [the Russians] are not constrained in their development of force structure and…we have no insight into what they’re doing. So it’s the worst of both possible worlds,” General Kevin Chilton, U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) commander, testified June 16 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Similarly, seven former commanders of Strategic Air Command and STRATCOM, announcing their support for New START in a July 14 letter to the Senate, wrote, “[W]e will understand Russian strategic forces much better with the treaty than would be the case without it.”

Several Republican senators have not only been asking to review New START, but also have sought access to the negotiating record to get clarity on whether the treaty would limit U.S. missile defense programs. (See ACT, June 2010.) In his letter to committee members, Kerry wrote that the executive branch has provided a “thorough summary” of the negotiating record regarding missile defense. Foreign Relations Committee member Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) told Macon.com Aug. 4, “I find nothing in the treaty on missile defense that appears to be limiting.”

In addition to wanting more time to review New START, Republican leaders have been seeking more money for maintaining the nuclear weapons stockpile and modernizing the production complex. McConnell told Reuters Aug. 2, “All they have to do is find enough money to satisfy Senator Kyl” on the nuclear modernization issue “because without that I think the chances of ratification are pretty slim.”

According to Aug. 4 media reports, Kyl and Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said they want full funding in the fiscal year 2011 appropriations bill for the president’s $7 billion request to maintain the nuclear weapons stockpile and upgrade the associated infrastructure, as well as a “draft” budget from the administration for fiscal 2012 that includes a significant increase in funding for that effort.

Although he denied intentionally delaying the treaty, Kyl told Reuters Aug. 4 that it could be difficult to satisfy his demands before November and thus the vote on New START might need to take place during the lame duck session if the Senate wants to vote on the treaty this year. For example, a draft fiscal year 2012 budget may be not ready until November, when the Office of Management and Budget is expected to complete its work, nor is it likely that Congress will pass the appropriations bill until after the November elections.

Republican senators have cited a May 19 letter from 10 former directors of U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, which claims that the administration’s budget is “inadequate” for full construction of a plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and a uranium facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, each a multibillion-dollar project. They wrote of their concern that “Congress and the President will once again promise a great deal today, and then quickly forget about the nuclear weapons enterprise until something breaks.”

Gates and Chu replied to the former lab directors in a June 25 letter that they “recognize that out-year budgets are projections.” They wrote that as designs of the Los Alamos and Oak Ridge facilities mature, funding in future budgets “may require adjustment. We are committed to carrying out the intent of these and other initiatives to modernize the nuclear weapons enterprise.” Congress cannot commit federal funds more than one fiscal year in advance.

The fiscal year 2010 appropriation for nuclear weapons stockpile and infrastructure investments, programs that are managed by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, is $6.4 billion. The administration requested a 10 percent increase for fiscal year 2011, to $7 billion; the House and Senate appropriators have essentially approved that request, although the figure will not be final until an omnibus appropriations bill is passed. Using 2010 as the baseline, the administration’s $80 billion, 10-year plan would be an increase of $16 billion and includes $8 billion for the two construction projects. Michael Anastasio, current director of Los Alamos, testified before the Senate July 15 that the administration’s fiscal 2011 budget request is “an excellent start and a very strong, positive message.”

Nevertheless, Kyl and Corker have said that the administration’s funding plan for sustaining and modernizing the nuclear weapons complex is not enough. They say the plan, submitted to Congress in May, represents only a $10 billion increase over what was already planned to cover stockpile maintenance. After traveling to New Mexico to tour Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos in July, Kyl and Corker claimed that the administration’s spending plan falls roughly $10 billion short of what is needed for the new facilities at Los Alamos and Oak Ridge.

The former lab directors also said in their letter to Gates and Chu they are concerned that the language of the April Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) Report “imposes unnecessary constraints” on the labs by stating that “strong preference” will be given to refurbishment and reuse options for maintaining U.S. nuclear weapons, rather than options that would replace nuclear components with new designs. (See ACT, May 2010.) The NPR Report states that nuclear parts of warheads can be replaced with new designs only if authorized by the president and approved by Congress. The former lab directors expressed concern that this “higher bar” for replacement would “stifle the creative and imaginative thinking” at the labs. “If these skills are not exercised, they will be lost,” they wrote.

Gates and Chu replied that the requirement for presidential authorization for replacement is intended “to make sure that no one mistakes life extension activities for the pursuit of new warheads.” They said lab directors will be expected to study the full range of life extension options and to make recommendations “based solely on their best technical assessment.” The three sitting weapons lab directors stated in April that the NPR Report’s approach to life extension “provides the necessary technical flexibility” to manage the nuclear stockpile into the future with acceptable risk.

Resolution of Ratification

Kerry wrote to members Aug. 3 that the committee has begun to draft a resolution of ratification for New START and invited members to suggest language for it. Kerry wrote that the “working version” of the resolution will be circulated “well before” the business meeting on Sept. 15 or 16. The vote on the resolution itself may not take place until Sept. 21, sources say.

The Senate technically does not ratify treaties, but provides its advice and consent by approving a resolution of ratification, by a two-thirds majority vote, that empowers the president to ratify the treaty. The resolution includes any reservations, declarations, or statements that senators agree to make. For example, to address senators’ concerns about modernization, Lugar has suggested that the resolution of ratification for New START include language similar to the one for the 1993 START II, which never entered into force. In the START II resolution, the Senate declared “that the United States is committed to ensuring the safety, reliability, and performance of its nuclear forces” by conducting a stockpile stewardship program and maintaining the nuclear weapons production complex and laboratories.

After the Foreign Relations Committee marks up, or amends, Kerry’s draft resolution, the committee can vote on it. Those who vote against it have three days to attach minority views to the resolution before it is printed and sent to the full Senate, where any senator can offer amendments to the resolution. To be approved, such amendments, unlike the resolution itself, require a simple majority vote.

 

Seeking to increase Republican support for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the panel’s chairman, announced Aug. 3 that he would not bring the treaty up for a vote until after the Senate summer recess. The legislative break, which began Aug. 7, ends Sept. 12.

U.S. Hikes Aid for Russian Chemical Destruction

Daniel Horner

The U.S. government has agreed to continue “technical assistance support” for work at Russia’s Shchuch’ye chemical weapons destruction plant until the munitions stockpile there “is completely destroyed,” a Department of State spokesman said in a June 30 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

The commitment is significant because it marks a departure from a Bush administration policy that had set a firm ceiling, at just more than $1 billion, for total U.S. expenditures on Russian chemical weapons destruction, Paul Walker, director of security and sustainability at Global Green USA, said in a July 29 interview. U.S. expenditures reached that limit in fiscal year 2009, Walker said. He emphasized, however, that the early U.S. commitment to Russia was to build a “turn-key chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuch’ye,” with no funding ceiling established.

In his e-mail, the State Department spokesman said the support “is projected to cost $35 million over 3 years.”  The job is not expected to last more than three years because U.S. technical support “has actually accelerated the chemical weapons destruction rate” at Shchuch’ye and because the United States is passing on “lessons learned” to the Russian operators, a Department of Defense spokesman said in an Aug. 31 e-mail.

Walker, a former congressional staffer, said the commitment probably would require little if any newly appropriated funds from Congress. That is partly because the Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, which provides the aid for Russian chemical weapons destruction, has some “savings” as a result of favorable dollar-ruble exchange rates in recent years and partly because the pending fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill contains language providing authority to make certain kinds of transfers within the CTR program, he said.

Asked to comment on that point, the Defense Department spokesman said, “The funds will come from a mix of current and future CTR funds.”

Russian Request

In the June 30 e-mail, the State Department spokesman said the funding commitment was “[i]n response to a recent Russian request.”

A Russian official said in a June 25 e-mail that, in the spring, Russia had “distributed among G8 [Group of Eight] partners new proposals for additional projects” at Shchuch’ye and Kizner, with a total value of $300 million. The U.S. commitment is the only formal response Russia has received, the official said in an Aug. 27 e-mail. The other G-8 members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom. In 2002 the group established the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, a 10-year, $20 billion effort focused primarily on Russia and other former Soviet states.

The Shchuch’ye facility houses an arsenal of the nerve agents sarin, soman, and VX in artillery shells and missile warheads. The artillery shells are considered a particular risk because they are “man portable,” that is, small and light enough to be carried off the site. Shchuch’ye began initial operations in March 2009, but construction has not been completed on the facility, especially a second main destruction building.

The size and composition of the chemical weapons arsenal at Kizner is similar to the one at Shchuch’ye—5,700 metric tons of nerve agents at Kizner versus 5,400 tons at Shchuch’ye in some 2 million man-portable munitions at each site. Construction at Kizner has not been completed. According to the State Department spokesman, “No [U.S.] decisions for technical support at the Kizner chemical destruction facility have been made at this time.”

Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, Russia was supposed to complete its chemical weapons destruction by April 29, 2012. But in June, it told the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that it now estimates the task will take until 2015. (See ACT, July/August 2010.)

The United States also has said it will not meet the 2012 deadline. The U.S. and Russian stockpiles are the world’s largest.

At an Aug. 30 meeting with reporters in Washington, Ahmet Üzümcü, who became OPCW director-general in July, said part of the reason for the Russian delay was economic, including “commitments made by other states or organizations in terms of financial aid, which didn’t materialize in a timely manner.”

He said he was not intervening with the Global Partnership countries to press for funding for the Russian effort. However, he said he believes there is “a consensus that we should get rid of the stockpile as soon as possible” and, on that basis, he was appealing “to the international community” to provide support “within their means.”

 

The U.S. government has agreed to continue “technical assistance support” for work at Russia’s Shchuch’ye chemical weapons destruction plant until the munitions stockpile there “is completely destroyed,” a Department of State spokesman said in a June 30 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - September 2010