“It will take all of us working together – government officials, and diplomats, academic experts, and scientists, activists, and organizers – to come up with new and innovative approaches to strengthen transparency and predictability, reduce risk, and forge the next generation of arms control agreements.”
– Wendy Sherman
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
June 2, 2022
September 2010
Edition Date: 
Friday, September 3, 2010
Cover Image: 

NATO Struggles to Define New Nuclear Doctrine

Oliver Meier

NATO is likely to defer major decisions on its future nuclear weapons policy until after the alliance’s Nov. 19-20 Lisbon summit, according to answers given by the German government to the Bundestag July 20. Diplomatic sources from several countries made similar comments during interviews in recent weeks.

At the summit, the alliance is scheduled to adopt its new Strategic Concept, defining NATO’s role in the coming decade. At their last summit, in April 2009, NATO member states tasked the secretary-general with developing the new concept.

The future role of nuclear weapons in NATO’s deterrence posture, particularly the continued presence of about 150 to 200 tactical U.S. nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, has emerged as a contentious issue in the deliberations on the new concept. (See ACT, May 2010.)

Diplomats told Arms Control Today that expectations in Brussels are low that the new Strategic Concept will contain major revisions of NATO’s current nuclear policy. In response to questions posed by opposition Social Democrats on progress toward withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Germany, the German government acknowledged that the new Strategic Concept is likely to contain only “guidelines for the future nuclear policy of the alliance, which will then be implemented by the appropriate NATO bodies” after the Lisbon summit.

The level of detail of those guidelines and the mandate and purpose of a possible follow-on process are apparently still controversial issues, according to the diplomats.

The current coalition government, which is led by the Christian Democrats, promised after the September 2009 elections “as part of the development of NATO’s new Strategic Concept, to work within the Alliance and with our U.S. allies to ensure that the nuclear weapons remaining in Germany are withdrawn.” (See ACT, December 2009.) In a March 24 joint resolution, governing and opposition parties in the Bundestag urged the government “to work vigorously” toward implementation of that goal.

In an Aug. 24 interview, Uta Zapf, a Social Democrat who chairs the disarmament, arms control and nonproliferation subcommittee in the Bundestag, said she is disappointed by the government’s current position. The government answers indicate that “not much appears to be left” of Germany’s ambition to work toward withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from German territory, Zapf complained. “The government is too passive, merely reacting to what is being proposed by others,” she said.

A report delivered by a group of former officials and other experts to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen May 17 had recommended re-establishing the special consultative group on arms control “for the purpose of facilitating its own internal dialogue about the whole range of issues related to nuclear doctrine, new arms control initiatives, and proliferation.” (See ACT, June 2010.) Asked whether it supports this proposal, the government stated that Germany supports the creation of a “high-level” body to enable NATO to play a stronger role in disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation, but that the exact mandate of such a body will have to be decided “at the appropriate time” by the alliance.

There is apparently still some uncertainty as to when and how Rasmussen intends to finalize the concept. Some observers say they expect Rasmussen to release his draft Sept. 28, when the new Strategic Concept is on the agenda of a NATO Council meeting. Rasmussen then could invite member states to comment on his draft. But some NATO member states would like to see an earlier release because they want to have adequate time to prepare for the Oct. 14 meeting of NATO foreign and defense ministers, when member states are expected to outline their official responses to the draft.

Although NATO has previously highlighted the importance of transparency on discussions of a new Strategic Concept, some diplomats in Brussels predict that the final stages of the drafting process will take place behind closed doors, among NATO diplomats only. By contrast, Zapf argued that discussions on the new Strategic Concept should be transparent and that “parliaments must be involved in the process at all stages, particularly as the final draft is being discussed.”


NATO is likely to defer major decisions on its future nuclear weapons policy until after the alliance’s Nov. 19-20 Lisbon summit, according to answers given by the German government to the Bundestag July 20. Diplomatic sources from several countries made similar comments during interviews in recent weeks.

Bushehr Fuel Loading Commences

Peter Crail

Following decades of construction delays, Russian and Iranian technicians began loading Russian-provided fuel for Iran’s first nuclear power reactor, at Bushehr, Aug. 21. The critical step kicks off the initial stages of the reactor’s operations, which are covered by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The reactor is scheduled to begin producing electricity in the coming months.

Iranian officials characterized the move as an act of defiance against Western pressure. “Resistance of the Iranian nation…led to the completion of the Bushehr power plant project,” said Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief Ali Akbar Salehi in an Aug. 21 ceremony marking the fuel loading.

Although the United States opposed Russia’s construction of the plant for many years, Washington dropped its opposition in 2005 after Moscow secured an agreement from Tehran to return the spent fuel from the reactor to Russia. (See ACT, April 2010.) The 2005 arrangement helped to address U.S. concerns that Iran might reprocess the spent fuel to produce plutonium for weapons.

Under normal operations, light-water reactors (LWRs) such as the Bushehr plant do not produce plutonium of a quality appropriate for nuclear weapons. The reactor operations can be adjusted to produce better-quality plutonium, but such activities would be detectable by IAEA inspectors because they would entail shutting down the reactor very early.

In order to separate plutonium from the reactor’s spent fuel, Iran would need a reprocessing capability, which it is not known to have. Moreover, Iran is currently constructing a heavy-water reactor at Arak that is far more suited to weapons-grade plutonium production.

Since 2005, U.S. officials have characterized the Bushehr plant as a model for Iran’s nuclear program, highlighting that Tehran’s arrangement for fueling the plant means that Iran does not need to enrich its own uranium.

Russia’s support for Bushehr underscores that Iran does not need an indigenous enrichment capability if its intentions are purely peaceful,” Agence France-Presse quoted Department of State spokesman Darby Holladay as saying Aug. 21.

The Bushehr reactor operates on uranium fuel enriched to about 4 percent of the fissile isotope uranium-235, the same isotope that, in high concentrations, can be used in nuclear weapons.

Russia has agreed to fuel the reactor for at least 10 years, providing both the enrichment and the fuel fabrication. Iran clams that it is enriching uranium to ensure that the Bushehr plant, as well as other reactors it intends to construct, have long-term fuel supplies. The proprietary specifications for fabricating the Bushehr plant’s fuel are owned by the Russian state-owned nuclear conglomerate Rosatom. A Russian diplomat said in April 2009 that he doubted that Rosatom provided the specifications to Iran to make this fuel. (See ACT, May 2009.)

In an apparent attempt to address its inability to fabricate the Bushehr fuel itself, Iran has proposed a joint Iranian-Russian consortium do so in Iran. “We have made a proposal to Russia to create a consortium under Russian license to do part of the work in Russia and part in Iran,” Salehi told Tehran’s state-owned Press TV Aug. 26.

Responding to the fuel-loading process, Israel criticized Iran’s ability to benefit from nuclear energy while it shirked nonproliferation obligations. “It is totally unacceptable that a country that so blatantly violates resolutions of the Security Council, decisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its commitments under the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] should enjoy the fruits of using nuclear energy,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy said in an Aug. 21 statement.

All non-nuclear-weapon states that are parties to the NPT must subject their nuclear activities to IAEA inspection and not seek nuclear weapons. A recent State Department report on compliance with international arms control agreements found Iran to be in noncompliance with its IAEA safeguards and to have been in violation of its NPT commitment not to seek nuclear weapons, at least in the past (see page 41).

Although UN Security Council sanctions prohibit the transfer of nuclear goods and technology to Iran, they allow exemptions for assistance related to LWRs. Russia sought the exemption to allow continued work on the Bushehr plant.

Complicated Construction History

Construction of the Bushehr plant has taken place on and off for the past 35 years, by two different countries, and under two different Iranian governments.

Germany’s Kraftwerk Union (KWU) began construction of two reactors at Bushehr in 1975 under commission by the shah. Following Iran’s 1979 revolution, the new Islamic government discontinued payments. The German firm then backed out of the contract, leaving the first reactor nearly completed and the second only partially built. The eight-year Iran-Iraq war prevented KWU from reviving the project during the 1980s, as the plant was repeatedly targeted by Iraqi air strikes.

After the end of its war with Iraq and in the midst of increasingly strained relations with the West, Iran sought new partners to finish the project. Moscow agreed to take over construction of the first reactor in 1992 with work beginning three years later, but this effort has suffered repeated delays.

Russian officials have publicly cited technical and financial reasons for the setbacks, but diplomatic sources have said that Moscow held up construction to place pressure on Iran over its nuclear program as well.

Russian officials now cite the start-up of the Bushehr plant as an example of Moscow’s good faith. “Physical launch of Bushehr nuclear plant confirms Russia lives up to its commitments,” said Rosatom head Sergey Kiriyenko during an Aug. 21 press briefing with Salehi.

Nuclear Negotiations to Restart

Meanwhile, U.S., European, and Iranian officials have said that negotiations on the nuclear issue are set to resume this fall. Such talks, officials say, will be pursued on two tracks. One track entails broad discussions on Iran’s nuclear program between Tehran and the so-called P5+1—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany. The other track addresses a fuel-swap arrangement, proposed last year by the United States, which would send a portion of Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile out of the country in return for fuel for a medical reactor. (See ACT, November 2009.)

Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin told reporters Aug. 3 that “useful exchanges” are taking place to restart talks and that “both tracks have promise in bringing about a diplomatic and political solution.”

According to recent press reports, President Barack Obama told a group of reporters Aug. 4 that following the recent series of sanctions Washington has pursued over the last several months, the United States would renew its diplomatic engagement with Iran. “It is very important to put before the Iranians a clear set of steps that we would consider sufficient to show that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons,” he said, according to the The New York Times.

Iran has signaled its readiness for the dual-track discussions. “We are ready for both talks, and as soon as we receive the final details from the other side, such as the date and venue, we will start,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters Aug. 24.

However, Tehran has repeatedly given mixed signals on a key issue in the fuel-swap discussions: Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 20 percent. The P5+1 has insisted that Iran must halt the production of 20 percent uranium, which is closer to weapons-grade enrichment, as part of any fuel-swap deal.

The Iranian parliament approved a bill July 18 urging the government to continue 20 percent enrichment. Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted Aug. 20 in an interview with Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper as saying, “We promise to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity if we are ensured fuel supply” for the medical reactor.


Following decades of construction delays, Russian and Iranian technicians began loading Russian-provided fuel for Iran’s first nuclear power reactor, at Bushehr, Aug. 21. The critical step kicks off the initial stages of the reactor’s operations, which are covered by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The reactor is scheduled to begin producing electricity in the coming months.

Global Sanctions on Iran Intensify

Peter Crail and Matt Sugrue

Following on the heels of a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran in June, several countries, led by the United States, have adopted their own national penalties to place additional pressure on Tehran. Many of these punitive actions go beyond the nuclear- and missile-related sanctions required by the United Nations and are intended to have a broader impact on Iran’s economy (see table 1).

The most significant of those national steps was wide-ranging U.S. legislation primarily aimed at penalizing foreign firms that provide refined petroleum to Iran. The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010, which was signed into law July 1, followed more than a year of congressional efforts to augment existing U.S. law sanctioning foreign companies that invest in Iran’s oil and gas sector. During the time in which Congress considered those sanctions, a number of foreign firms agreed voluntarily to restrict business dealings with Iran’s oil and gas sector, thereby avoiding U.S. penalties.

In another critical move the same month, the European Union, Iran’s largest trading partner, adopted a wide variety of sanctions affecting the trade, energy investment, and financial relationships between the bloc’s 27 countries and Iran, as well as implementing the latest UN penalties against Iran’s proliferation activities.

A number of other countries, including Australia, Canada, and Norway, similarly went beyond the requirements of the UN sanctions in June and July and restricted investment with Iran’s oil and gas sector, in line with U.S. and EU sanctions. On Aug. 3, Japan approved measures to implement the UN sanctions and indicated that it would consider further measures.

The Obama administration insists that its efforts to convince private firms abroad not to invest in Iran’s oil and gas sectors have garnered success and are poised to impact Iran’s economy. According to an Aug. 5 White House summary of the recent sanctions, Washington has “convinced a significant number of companies” to reduce their energy investment in Iran, adding that “[b]ecause the Iranian economy depends so heavily on oil revenues, this will adversely impact Iran’s long term economic situation.”

U.S. lawmakers also have touted the impact of the sanctions. In an Aug. 3 statement, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and ranking member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), co-sponsors of the House sanctions bill, said the U.S. law “has already had a significant impact on Iran’s access to international markets and its ability to acquire refined petroleum.”

Congress Strengthens Iran Sanctions

The U.S. sanctions legislation was adopted by a 99-0 vote in the Senate June 24 and a 408-8 vote in the House later the same day. The House adopted its version of the bill in December and the Senate in March, but the two versions of the legislation contained key differences that had to be reconciled in a conference committee. (See ACT, April 2010.) The June vote was on the text that the conference committee had worked out.

The legislation amends the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act, which requires the president to sanction foreign firms found to have invested more than $20 million in Iran’s oil and gas sector in a given year. Iran’s oil exports account for about one-half of its government revenues. In addition to targeting oil and gas investments, the new law levies sanctions against foreign firms that provide Iran with refined petroleum products or help Tehran develop its refining capacity.

Iran, which currently imports 30 to 40 percent of its gasoline due to limited refining capacity, has been working to expand its domestic refining capacity to reduce its import needs.

Beyond the petroleum sanctions, the new law includes a variety of measures to restrict trade and investment in Iran. These measures include extending the Iran Sanctions Act restrictions to U.S. firms whose subsidiaries violate that law; codifying Department of the Treasury asset freezes and trade bans against Iran; and prohibiting U.S. government contracts with firms that export sensitive communications monitoring and jamming equipment to Iran.

The new law extends the Iran Sanctions Act to December 2016. It was previously set to expire in December of next year.

In floor statements during the vote, proponents of the legislation characterized it as the strongest sanctions Congress has passed on Iran. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that foreign firms would need to choose: “Do you want to do business with Iran, or do you want to do business with the United States?”

Berman said he did not know if the sanctions would bring Iran’s leadership “to its senses,” adding, “But I do know this: doing nothing certainly won’t work.”

The opposition to the legislation, comprising six Democrats and two Republicans, cited concerns that the measure would harm the Iranian people, which the United States says it supports, while benefiting the Iranian leadership. “Not one member of the Iranian elite will lack for gasoline while ordinary Iranians will go without,” Rep. Earl  Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said during the House vote.

Enforcement Versus Flexibility

Even as lawmakers touted the strength of the sanctions legislation, many stressed that the sanctions depend on the administration’s willingness to punish violators. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said during the Senate vote, “It is only from full implementation of this law and pressure from the international community that Iran may be dissuaded from this course.”

One of the most contentious aspects of the legislation was an effort by Congress to require the administration to cite companies that violate the law. Since the 1996 law was passed, U.S. administrations have opted not to cite potential violators, thereby avoiding the need either to sanction them and potentially harm U.S. diplomatic and trade relations or waive the sanctions and come under political pressure from Congress. In 1998, President Bill Clinton waived the sanctions for the only project determined to have been in violation of the law, a $2 billion contract by the French energy conglomerate Total and partners Gazprom of Russia and Petronas of Malaysia.

Citing ongoing efforts to secure a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran, the administration sought to exempt countries cooperating with U.S. efforts in Iran from the sanctions legislation. Key lawmakers balked at the request, but when efforts to adopt a new UN resolution entered their final stages in May, Congress postponed finalizing the legislation until the UN and follow-up EU actions made progress. (See ACT, June 2010.) The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1929 on June 9, and EU leaders outlined steps the bloc would take to extend sanctions on Iran June 17. (See ACT, July/August 2010.)

The new law requires that the administration investigate any companies believed to be in violation of the energy sanctions and report them to Congress. Also, it limits the waiver to 12 months, rather than allowing it to be in effect indefinitely, and stipulates that the president must report on what the country is doing to assist in efforts to address Iran’s illicit activities to provide justification for the waiver. “The waiver has the name-and-shame effect and a political cost for the White House,” Berman said in his June 24 floor statement.

President Barack Obama’s July 1 signing statement for the legislation also highlighted the waiver provision. Noting that the law provides “new authority” to address the issue of states cooperating in multilateral efforts on Iran, he said, “The Act appropriately provides this special authority to waive the application of petroleum-related sanctions provisions to a person from such a closely cooperating country, out of recognition for the key role such a country plays in ongoing multilateral efforts to constrain Iran.”

It is not the first time that Congress has sought to limit presidential waiver authority regarding the 1996 law, and numerous bills to that effect have been introduced in Congress over the past several years. In 2007, for example, legislation adopted by the House removed the waiver provision from the Iran Sanctions Act. (See ACT, November 2007.) The Senate never voted on a similar measure.

In order to stress sanctions enforcement, Berman and Ros-Lehtinen announced the creation of a bipartisan working group on sanctions implementation, outlining in an Aug. 3 statement that the group would help ensure that the sanctions were “fully implemented” and “effectively enforced.” The lawmakers indicated that the House Foreign Affairs Committee would hold hearings on the sanctions in the fall.

The working group will be focused primarily on efforts to implement the refined petroleum sanctions provisions of the legislation, a House staffer said in an Aug. 3 interview.

EU Adopts Sanctions

Meanwhile, the EU agreed July 26 on “a comprehensive and robust package of measures in the areas of trade, financial services, energy, [and] transport, as well as additional designations for [a] visa ban and asset freeze,” according to a statement by the bloc’s foreign ministers.

The measures closely align with the sanctions required by Resolution 1929, as well as the new U.S. energy-related sanctions.

European officials claim that Iran can obtain certain kinds of equipment and technology required for its oil and gas development only from Europe, and although Tehran can seek alternatives for other technologies in other countries, it would prefer the European imports it has traditionally used in these other areas as well. Likewise, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Mark Fitzpatrick told The New York Times July 26 that, “over the long term Iran’s output of oil and gas will continue to decline without European technology.”

In the past, the EU has adopted more stringent sanctions on Iran than those required by UN Security Council resolutions, but those sanctions have been aimed primarily at Iran’s proliferation-related activities, avoiding steps that would penalize regular commercial activity. Moreover, the EU has been wary of the possibility of falling under Iran Sanctions Act penalties due to the extensive business relations between European firms and Iran’s energy sector, threatening to bring the matter before the World Trade Organization in 1997 as an extraterritorial application of U.S. law.

In February, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reminding her of a 1998 agreement between the United States and the EU in which Washington pledged not to sanction European firms under the Iran Sanctions Act in return for increased EU cooperation addressing proliferation concerns about Iran.

Over the past several years, however, some European countries, in particular France and Germany, have warned their firms and financial institutions against continuing to do business with Iran. This effort has led many major European firms and banks to restrict their dealings with Iran voluntarily or abandon them altogether.

Yet, European officials and companies are wary of the cost of such efforts to reduce the bloc’s trading relationship with Iran because other countries, particularly China, might replace such lucrative trade. In recent years, China has surpassed Germany as Iran’s top national trading partner as German firms pulled out of Iran.

Recognizing these concerns, U.S. officials have indicated that Washington is seeking to address the issue directly with Beijing. Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control Robert Einhorn, who coordinates U.S. nonproliferation sanctions efforts on Iran and North Korea, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform July 29, “China has backfilled when a number of responsible countries have distanced themselves from Iran.” The U.S. government has “begun to raise this at the highest levels with Chinese leaders,” he said.

Table 1: Recent Iran Sanctions

Key provisions of recent UN, U.S., and EU sanctions against Iran are outlined below. Where appropriate, this list incorporates sanctions previously adopted by the three bodies that have been updated, revised, or otherwise augmented by the recent actions. Although the EU action was intended to implement the new UN sanctions, the U.S. sanctions were not directly related to the UN action, and other U.S. mechanisms are used to carry out UN sanctions mandates.

UN Security Council Resolution 1929 U.S. Iran Sanctions Act

July 26, 2010, European Council Decision

Financial Restrictions

Calls on states to “take appropriate measures” to prohibit Iranian banks from opening new branches or offices in their territory and conducting business with their own financial institutions if such activities might contribute to Iran’s “proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities” or its missile program.

Calls on states to take appropriate measures to prevent their banks from opening branches or offices in Iran if doing so may contribute to Iranian proliferation.

Prohibits U.S. entities owned or controlled by U.S. financial institutions from doing business with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or other proscribed entities.

Prohibits or restricts the holding of U.S. accounts by foreign banks that facilitate proliferation- and terrorism-related activities by Iran or provide significant financial services for the IRGC and its affiliates.

Requires U.S. banks holding accounts for foreign banks to monitor for prohibited activities.

Urges the president to sanction the Central Bank of Iran and other banks connected to Iran’s nuclear program.

Prohibits “new commitments for grants, financial assistance and concessional loans” for the Iranian government (except for humanitarian assistance).

Prohibits Iranian banks from opening new branches or offices in the EU and EU banks from opening new offices in Iran.

Requires increased monitoring of financial activities with Iranian banks.

Requires that any money transfers of more than 40,000 euros have prior authorization and that transfers of more than 10,000 euros be reported to the proper authorities.

Assets Freeze Requires that states freeze the assets of 118 persons and entities associated with Tehran’s nuclear program or its ballistic missile program, as well as select IRGC members and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) entities.

Freezes the assets of persons and entities associated with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and international terrorism.

Separate Department of the Treasury sanctions freeze the assets of 245 persons and entities associated with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

Freezes the assets of a list of 246 persons and entities that are identified in UN Security Council resolutions on Iran, associated with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, or affiliated with IRISL or are senior members and entities of the IRGC.
Trade No restrictions.

Codifies long-standing executive orders imposing a U.S. trade embargo on Iran.

Bans U.S. government contracts with firms that provide Iran with equipment and technology to monitor or censor Internet usage.

Requires restraint in entering new short-term commitments for public and private trade support, including granting export credits, guarantees or insurance, and prohibits similar medium and long-term commitments.
Oil and Gas Sector Restrictions
Refined Petroleum

No restrictions.

The resolution’s preamble notes “the potential connection between revenues derived from Iran’s energy sector and the funding of its proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities” as well as the similarity between petrochemical materials and equipment and those of certain sensitive fuel-cycle activities. At the same time, the council acknowledges that access to various forms of energy is necessary for economic development.

Imposes sanctions on foreign firms providing Iran with $5 million in refined petroleum exports or assistance in the development of Iran’s petroleum refining capacity in a given year. Prohibits the transfer of petroleum refining equipment or technology to Iran.
Trade and Investment

Imposes sanctions on foreign firms that invest $20 million in Iran’s oil and gas sector in a given year.

Requires foreign firms seeking U.S. government contracts to certify that they are not engaged in sanctionable activities in Iran’s oil and gas sector.

Allows states legally to divest from firms that invest $20 million in Iran’s oil and gas sector in a given year.

Prohibits the transfer of oil and gas equipment and technology to Iran related to liquefied natural gas exploration and production.

Prohibits granting loans to or creating joint enterprises with Iranian oil and gas industries or acquiring the shares in such firms.

Prohibits technical and financial assistance and services to Iranian oil and gas industries.

Strategic Trade Controls
Nuclear and Missile Technology

Requires states to prohibit the transfer of nuclear- and missile-related goods and technology subject to multilateral export control guidelines as well as technical, financial, or brokering assistance related to such goods and technologies, to Iran. Such goods and technologies intended for use in light-water reactors may be exempt.

Requires states to prohibit Iranian nationals and entities from investing in commercial activity in their territory involving uranium mining or the use or production of nuclear materials and technology, particularly uranium enrichment, spent fuel reprocessing, and heavy-water-related work, as well as ballistic missile technology.

Restricts the export of U.S. goods and technology that could contribute to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs to a country identified as allowing such U.S.-origin goods to be diverted to Iran.

Prohibits nuclear cooperation with a country whose nationals or entities contribute to Iran’s nuclear or missile programs unless that country was unaware of the assistance or has taken steps to counteract such activity.

Prohibits the transfer of nuclear- and missile-related goods and technology subject to multilateral export control guidelines as well as technical, financial, or brokering assistance related to such goods and technologies, to Iran. Such goods and technologies intended for use in light-water reactors “begun before December 2006” may be exempt.

Prohibits Iranian nationals and entities from investing in commercial activity in EU member states involving uranium mining or the use or production of nuclear materials and technology, particularly uranium enrichment, spent fuel reprocessing, and heavy-water-related work, as well as ballistic missile technology.

Conventional Arms Bans the sale or transfer of “battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems...or related materials or spare parts” to Iran, as well as related training and assistance. Restricts the export of U.S. military items to countries identified as allowing the diversion of U.S.-origin military goods to Iran. Prohibits the transfer of “arms and related materiel of all types” to Iran, except for armored noncombat vehicles intended solely for use by EU and member state personnel.

Calls on states to inspect vessels in their jurisdiction suspected of transporting items to or from Iran that are prohibited by relevant UN resolutions and notes that states can request to do so on the high seas, consistent with international law.

Prohibits the provision of bunkering services, such as servicing or fueling vessels, to Iranian-owned or contracted vessels believed to be carrying items prohibited by relevant UN resolutions.

Addressed by other U.S. laws and sanctions.

Requires states to inspect cargo transported to or from Iran believed to contain items prohibited by the EU decision.

Prohibits the provision of bunkering services, such as servicing or fueling vessels, to Iranian-owned or -contracted vessels believed to be carrying items prohibited by the EU decision.

Provides for the request of ship inspections on the high seas, consistent with international law, of vessels believed to contain items prohibited by the EU decision.

Travel Requires that states ban the entry of certain listed persons due to their association with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs or other proliferation-related activities, as well as senior IRGC members. Imposes travel restrictions on IRGC members and those who provide IRGC members with financial or material support. Bans entry by certain listed persons due to their association with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs or other proliferation-related activities, as well as senior IRGC members.
Sources: UN Security Council Resolution 1929; the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010; EU Council Decision of July 26, 2010, concerning restrictive measures against Iran and repealing Common Position 2007/140/CFSP.

Following on the heels of a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran in June, several countries, led by the United States, have adopted their own national penalties to place additional pressure on Tehran. Many of these punitive actions go beyond the nuclear- and missile-related sanctions required by the United Nations and are intended to have a broader impact on Iran’s economy.

Last Sunset or New Dawn for Nuclear Weapons?

Reviewed by Randy Rydell

The Twilight of the Bombs:
Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons

By Richard Rhodes
Knopf, 2010, 384 pp.

Richard Rhodes has become the Herodotus of the nuclear age. Like Herodotus, he is a meticulous observer of the world around him. He gathers facts systematically and presents his work in a literary narrative sprinkled with anecdotes and interesting insights that lure readers deeper into the text. Yet, many readers of his other exhaustive works on the history of nuclear weapons—The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (1995), and Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race (2007)—may wonder what more is there to say about the bomb.

It is perhaps not surprising that his most recent book, The Twilight of the Bombs, would focus on what one might call “the making of” nuclear disarmament. The subject is quite timely, and the conclusion is clear: the world would be better off without the bomb.

There is, however, a certain ambiguity, probably unintentional, in the title, for “twilight” can refer to the glimmer of light in early morning or late evening. Many readers will see the bomb approaching its final sunset, a theme stressed in this book.

To others, the bomb might appear to be facing a new dawn. Warhead modernization programs continue. Work proceeds on new delivery systems. Long-term planning focuses on the maintenance and improvement of stockpiles rather than their elimination. Disarmament agencies are most noted for their absence in nuclear-weapon states. The budgets, to the extent they exist at all, for nuclear disarmament pale in comparison to the largesse for current and planned nuclear weapons programs.

So what is really ahead for nuclear weapons? Is the world destined to accept the existence of such weapons as a permanent feature of the international landscape? Will their persistence sow the seeds of new weapons programs around the world, justified as always with the logic of nuclear deterrence, reinforced by some recent calls that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons should be to deter nuclear attack? If the perpetuation and proliferation of such weapons are unavoidable, will this also imply a greater risk of use or of acquisition of such weapons by nonstate actors? If all are true, can anything be done by anybody to yield a safer world free of such weapons?

Although The Twilight of the Bombs does not answer all of these questions, it does leave some strong hints about where to find the answers.

Heroic Efforts

The first and perhaps most prominent clue lies in the author’s keen interest in the views and activities of specific individuals who have had responsibilities relating to the bomb. For this reason, he also might be regarded as the Thomas Carlyle of the nuclear age, with his characteristic focus on heroes and heroic acts.

The heroes in this book are bold individuals who took the initiative, often despite the constraining influences of bureaucracies or the counsel of experienced veterans. Readers will find quote after quote from the heroes of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) who were determined to root out all of Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Juxtaposed against them are the more cautious views of Hans Blix, first as director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and later as the executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, whose moderation and measured incrementalism appeared, vis-à-vis the bravado of the UNSCOM teams, to be somewhat short of what was really needed to accomplish and verify the disarmament of Iraq.

Yet, the line between hero and bureaucrat is not quite so clearly drawn in this book, as Blix and his IAEA successor, Mohamed ElBaradei, also emerge as sage professionals working courageously to avert another war in Iraq in 2003. Regardless of the personalities involved, this book attaches great importance to the efforts of specific individuals.

Learning From Crises

Another clue the author offers on how to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons is to learn lessons from particular disputes. The routine, day-to-day observance of global norms by the vast majority of states receives far less attention in this book, as in many others, than the hot crises that have demanded immediate responses. This method reverses Sherlock Holmes and counsels us all to concentrate on those dogs that do bark in the night.

Perhaps reflecting the book’s subtitle, which mentions “recent challenges, new dangers,” the table of contents makes it quite clear that the case for disarmament is being constructed here on a foundation of lessons learned from crises. Rhodes pays close attention to the challenge of finding Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction or at least figuring out what happened to them. He also addresses concerns over the security of nuclear weapons during the breakup of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the Russian Federation and discusses the prudent “preventive defense” initiatives of cooperative threat reduction.

Together, these cases comprise about one-half the book. Much of the factual basis for these narratives comes from previously published works, supplemented by interviews with key participants.

Also, there are chapters on the nuclear challenges posed by North Korea; the reversal of South Africa’s nuclear weapons program; the effort led energetically by Thomas Graham, to whom the book is dedicated, to achieve the indefinite extension of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT); and a brief account of nuclear rivalry in South Asia.

The concluding part treats nuclear weapons as “an intolerable threat to humanity.” Yet, only the last 21 pages—the final chapter—address the actual “making of” nuclear disarmament. The discussion of what is required to achieve the “twilight of the bombs” is reserved for the twilight of the book.

The prescription emphasizes the following:

•  the “political courage of national leaders”;

•  the need for the world community to “sooner or later organize to meet” the security needs of India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan;

•  the claim that the growing “technological and economic interconnection” among peoples of the world “fosters non-violent relations,” a trend reinforced by a “demographic transition” to a new generation “less willing to see their children pressed into military service to be slaughtered in war”;

•  a “tightening web of social controls over public violence”;

•  a prediction that “[i]f not in my lifetime, probably in the lifetime of my children, and certainly in my grandchildren’s lifetimes, weapons of mass destruction will be outlawed”;

•  a declaration that, “[i]n time, possession of a nuclear weapon will be judged a crime against humanity”; and

•  progress toward global implementation of a “public health” or “common security” approach, involving a “fundamental transformation in relationships between nations.” Elements of this approach include “materials control and accounting, cooperative threat reduction, security guarantees, agreements and treaties, surveillance and inspection, sanctions, [and] forceful disarmament if all else fails.”

Given these formidable conditions, which include a fundamental transformation of international relations and the prior resolution of chronic regional disputes, should readers expect to witness a twilight of the bombs or of nuclear disarmament? Readers may reach different conclusions. Yet, none could doubt the credit that is due the author for taking on the challenge of answering this question—one that follows logically from his previous works.

Achieving Nuclear Disarmament

The great strengths of this book are its clear writing style; the importance it justifiably attaches to all nuclear threats from existing arsenals, proliferation, and terrorism; and its unambiguous conclusion that the world will be safer without nuclear weapons.

The book also has a few shortcomings that somewhat limit its value as a guide for practical action to achieve global nuclear disarmament. First, the book is not strong in its treatment of the U.S. Congress. The author recognizes heroic leadership from Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who pioneered cooperative threat reduction, and addresses the partisan politics leading to the Senate’s failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999.

Although Congress has indeed not shown much leadership on nuclear disarmament, it has certainly played major roles in enacting U.S. nuclear nonproliferation laws and in overseeing their implementation. The book does not mention the 24-year career of Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio) in these areas, including his efforts to enforce legal prohibitions on providing military aid to Pakistan while it was building its bomb and to strengthen norms for international cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy.[1] The contributions of many other members of Congress similarly are not discussed.[2]

The United Nations is scarcely addressed in this book, apart from its role in the disarming of Iraq. There is no mention of the role of the General Assembly in constructing global norms of disarmament and specific criteria for assessing progress in this field, namely transparency, irreversibility, verification, universality, and bindingness. The book does not address the role of the secretary-general, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s five-point nuclear disarmament proposal,[3] which was endorsed in 2009 by the Inter-Parliamentary Union[4] and cited twice in the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference.[5] The past successes, current difficulties, and potential future roles of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) might have received some attention as well.

The book makes a persuasive case that achieving nuclear disarmament will require overcoming opposition from the “military-industrial complexes” of nuclear-weapon states and solving the problem of “threat inflation,” but is less clear on how to accomplish these crucial tasks. There is no call, for example, to rally nongovernmental organizations in civil society or to encourage a grassroots movement. The role of private foundations in funding their work is not considered. There is no recommendation to mobilize international groupings, such as the middle-power countries or various coalitions of the willing, to advance disarmament. The change, one is left to infer, must come from heroes inside governments of the states that possess nuclear weapons.

In terms of civil society, some reference to the historical work of Lawrence Wittner would have been helpful, especially his three-volume series The Struggle Against the Bomb, on the global evolution of postwar anti-nuclear-weapon movements.[6] Rhodes also does not mention several recent disarmament initiatives launched by civil society: Global Zero, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Mayors for Peace, and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, among many others.

In addition, the book reaches some questionable technical conclusions, especially relating to the author’s dismissal of plutonium as “a likely terrorist explosive.” That position is at odds with other references in the book to the “Nth Country Experiment,” which proved that a small group of physicists without nuclear weapons training could design a nuclear weapon. According to the experiment’s report, “It was decided to design a spherically symmetric plutonium implosion explosive which would be compressed by a spherically converging detonation wave.”[7] The dismissal of plutonium also contrasts with a paper, cited in the book, by J. Carson Mark, Theodore Taylor, and three other former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists, which found that a small team of terrorists working with five or six kilograms of plutonium “should be able to produce a weapon with a minimum yield of several tons of TNT equivalent, and very possibly of one hundred tons or more.”[8]

The book comments on the limitations of fissile material controls in Russia, but this problem exists in all states that possess nuclear weapons. A 2000 report by the British Ministry of Defence concluded that “the Government does not believe that it will ever be possible for any of the relevant States to be able to account with absolute accuracy and without possibility of error or doubt for all the fissile material they have produced for national security purposes.”[9]

This finding has profound implications for the future of nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and even efforts against nuclear terrorism. Its implications extend to the world’s long-standing pursuit of a multilateral fissile materials treaty, which the book mentions only in passing.

Other omitted subjects include the various efforts that have been underway in the world community to pursue a nuclear weapons convention. A model convention has already been drafted by a group of nongovernmental experts and circulated as a UN document and recently updated.[10] Ban’s five-point disarmament proposal included the goal of concluding such a convention or a framework of separate, mutually reinforcing instruments. ICAN is working specifically to advance such a convention. The HenryL.StimsonCenter has published a detailed study urging pursuit of such a treaty.[11]

The book speaks highly of the value of security assurances in ensuring that Kazakhstan and Ukraine would become non-nuclear-weapon states, but does not mention the role of security assurances contained in the protocols to the treaties establishing five regional nuclear-weapon-free zones. These protocols are important to the 113 non-nuclear-weapon states that are members of those zones. The fact that not all of the nuclear-weapon states have ratified them would have been useful to note, along with the various provisos that have been attached to them; the book also could have mentioned recent meetings of the members of such zones to coordinate their activities.[12] The difficulties encountered at the CD in achieving a consensus to negotiate legally binding negative security assurances deserve some recognition as well.

The book’s “twilight” theme could have been strengthened by reference to the work of some past architects of nuclear weapons policies, especially Robert McNamara,[13] Paul Nitze,[14] and George Kennan,[15] who later questioned the value of nuclear weapons, as did 60 generals and admirals who voiced their support for nuclear disarmament.[16] More than 200 prominent political, military, business, faith, and civic leaders have joined the Global Zero campaign.

Without doubt, the future historiography of nuclear weapons will be shaped by careful chroniclers like Herodotus and by contributions from Carlylian heroes. Perhaps one day, they will be joined by a future Thucydides, who will trace the roots of the final elimination of these weapons to their obsolescence in a world with rapidly evolving concepts of power and duty.

Global nuclear disarmament efforts would benefit from a solid critique of nuclear weapons from the standpoint of political realism, one identifying some practical solutions to chronic institutional and political obstacles to disarmament. These will surely include leadership by the nuclear-weapon states, efforts by coalitions in the international diplomatic community, and persistent initiatives from civil society. Rhodes has capably pointed his readers in the right direction, while not claiming to offer all of the solutions himself.

The Approaching Twilight

Readers of this book should consider the extraordinary diversity of security challenges facing the world community stemming from civil wars, terrorism, global climate change, chronic poverty, corruption, injustice, human rights abuses, disputes over natural resources, pandemics, ethnic conflicts, and countless other sources. Such a survey would help to put into sharp focus both the irrelevancy of nuclear weapons in addressing such threats and the realities of how these weapons aggravate many threats, especially proliferation and terrorism.

Readers should consider the social and economic opportunity costs of burgeoning military expenditures worldwide, now in excess of $1.5 trillion annually, including the tens of billions slated for investments in nuclear weapons over the years ahead. They also should consider the moral unacceptability of weapons that are intrinsically indiscriminate in the effects and the common benefits the world would gain from their elimination.

Having finished this book, they should view nuclear disarmament as a practical necessity and a moral imperative. This alone would be a triumph of The Twilight of the Bombs. As Herodotus once wrote, “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering.”[17]

Randy Rydell is a senior political affairs officer in the UN Office of the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. He served from 1987 to 1998 as a member of the professional staff of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs under Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio). From 1980 to 1986, he was a nuclear nonproliferation analyst at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations.


1. Randy Rydell, “Giving Nonproliferation Norms Teeth: Sanctions and the NPPA,” Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 6 No. 2 (Winter 1999), pp. 1-19, http://cns.miis.edu/npr/pdfs/rydel62.pdf.

2. These include Senators Howard Baker (R-Tenn.), Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.), Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.), and Stuart Symington (D-Mo.) and Representatives Jonathan Bingham (D-N.Y.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Ottinger (D-N.Y.), and Clement Zablocki (D-Wis.).

3. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “‘Contagious’ Doctrine of Deterrence Has Made Non-Proliferation More Difficult, Raised New Risks, Secretary-General Says in Address to East-West Institute,” SG/SM/11881, October 24, 2008, www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/sgsm11881.doc.htm.

4. Inter-Parliamentary Union, “Advancing Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, and Securing the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: The Role of Parliaments,” April 10, 2009, www.ipu.org/conf-e/120/120-1.htm (resolution adopted at the 120th IPU Assembly, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).

5. 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document,” NPT/CONF.2010/50 (Vol. I), June 18, 2010, www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2010/.

6. Lawrence Wittner, One World or None: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement Through 1953, Vol. 1 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993); Lawrence Wittner, Resisting the Bomb: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1954-1970, Vol. 2 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997); Lawrence Wittner, Toward Nuclear Abolition: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1971 to the Present, Vol. 3 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003).

7. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, “Summary Report of the Nth Country Experiment,” UCRL-50249 (declassified), (Livermore, CA: Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, March 1967), p. 5, www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20030701/nth-country.pdf.

8. For the text of the paper, see J. Carson Mark et al., “Can Terrorists Build Nuclear Weapons?” in Preventing Nuclear Terrorism, ed. Paul Leventhal and Yonah Alexander (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1987), pp. 55-65.

9. British Ministry of Defence, “A Summary Report by the Ministry of Defence on the Role of Historical Accounting for Fissile Material in the Nuclear Disarmament Process, and on Plutonium for the United Kingdom’s Defence Nuclear Programme,” 2000, para. 2.

10. UN General Assembly, “Letter Dated 17 December 2007 From the Permanent Representatives of Costa Rica and Malaysia to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General,” A/62/650, January 18, 2008. It was circulated after a request by Costa Rica and Malaysia. For the earlier version submitted by Costa Rica, see UN General Assembly document A/C.1/52/7.

11. Barry M. Blechman and Alexander K. Bollfrass, eds., Elements of a Nuclear Disarmament Treaty (Washington, DC: StimsonCenter, 2010).

12. “Declaration for the Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones,” CZLAN/CONF/5, 2005, www.opanal.org/Docs/seminars/nwfz/DNU-02931C.pdf; “Outcome Document: Second Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia,” April 30, 2010, http://nuclearweaponsfreezones.org/Outcome_Document__II_Conf_NWFZs.pdf.

13. Robert S. McNamara and James G. Blight, Wilson’s Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing and Catastrophe in the 21st Century (New York: Public Affairs, 2001), ch. 4.

14. Paul Nitze, “A Threat Mostly to Ourselves,” New York Times, October 28, 1999, p. A25.

15. George F. Kennan, The Nuclear Delusion: Soviet-American Relations in the Atomic Age (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982).

16. “Statement on Nuclear Weapons by International Generals and Admirals,” December 5, 1996, www.nuclearfiles.org/menu/key-issues/ethics/issues/military/statement-by-international-generals.htm.

17. Herodotus attributed this to Solon. Rhoda Thomas Tripp, ed., The International Thesaurus of Quotations (New York: Harper and Rowe, 1970), p. 225.


It is perhaps not surprising that Richard Rhodes' most recent book, The Twilight of the Bombs, would focus on what one might call “the making of” nuclear disarmament. The subject is quite timely, and the conclusion is clear: the world would be better off without the bomb.

Staying Credible: How Precedents Can Help the IAEA Get Noncompliance Calls Right

Peter Jenkins

In recent years, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has come under fire for its handling of safeguards noncompliance cases. A prominent example of such criticism is the one from the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) which produced a comprehensive report and recommendations on every aspect of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in December 2009.[1]

In its report, the commission suggests that a delay “of nearly three years” in the case of Iran put at risk the credibility of IAEA noncompliance determinations and that the IAEA should confine itself to technical judgments, leaving all political judgments to the UN Security Council.[2]

This article seeks to show that this criticism is unwarranted and that the IAEA can be trusted to fulfill its statutory obligations to the Security Council. In particular, it argues that the IAEA statute requires the Board of Governors to make judgments that extend beyond the purely technical and that the board’s record to date in this respect has been good. It points out that the seven noncompliance cases that have come before the board constitute a body of precedents on which the board can draw in the future and suggests that using past cases as a guide can be considered akin to a case-law approach.

The issue may seem abstruse, but in reality, it goes to the heart of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. The violation of an IAEA safeguards agreement may be the first overt indication that a state is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons in contravention of the NPT. In the last decade, five safeguards agreement violations or multiple violations have come before the board for it to determine whether they constitute the noncompliance to which Article XII.C of the IAEA statute refers.[3] It is quite possible that the board will face similar challenges in the future.

The statute requires the secretariat and the board to cooperate in detecting and reporting to the Security Council instances of noncompliance with NPT safeguards arrangements. The secretariat is the technical arm of the agency, responsible for detecting any violation of the provisions of safeguards agreements.

Following the detection of a violation, the Department of Safeguards has to distinguish between those violations that should be reported to the board in a specific report as noncompliance, in accordance with the provisions of Article XII.C, and the far larger number of violations that need only be reported, if at all, in the annual Safeguards Implementation Report.

In the absence of any statutory guidance, the safeguards department has had to develop criteria for drawing this distinction. To judge from past practice, one or more of the following factors have been decisive:

•  whether the violation has made it impracticable to implement the safeguards agreement (e.g., if the state concerned has refused to cooperate with the agency);

•  whether the nature of the violation has suggested that diversion has occurred;[4]

•  whether the nature of the violation has suggested that diversion may have occurred, including to “purposes unknown”; and

•  whether there has been any indication of possible weapons intent.

The safeguards department is widely held to have performed its task of detecting safeguards agreement violations and distinguishing among them in terms of gravity with competence and impartiality. The ICNND in effect acknowledges this by concentrating its criticism and its recommendation on the board.

Noncompliance Reports

Article XII.C requires the director-general to transmit to the board all specific noncompliance reports made by the safeguards department. It is for the board, which is a political body, to determine whether the failure to comply reported by the secretariat does indeed constitute noncompliance under Article XII.C and, if so, when this needs to be reported to the Security Council. The wording of Article XII.C implies that there may be grounds to distinguish some of the reports transmitted by the director-general from others; the board will not necessarily find that every report merits being reported to the Security Council and the UN General Assembly.

The statute does not define what constitutes noncompliance or spell out the criteria that the board should use to arrive at a finding. Some believe that the sole criterion should be whether the secretariat has been “unable to verify that there has been no diversion of nuclear material required to be safeguarded”—the language of paragraph 19 of the standard NPT safeguards agreement.[5]

In practice, board members, noting that a clear definition of “unable to verify” is absent[6] and that the Model Additional Protocol has clarified that the agency’s mandate includes looking for indicators of any undeclared nuclear activities, have adopted a more policy-oriented approach. Whether the Security Council needs to be informed of a case has been the prime consideration. This has required a judgment as to whether a failure to comply has implications for international peace and security.[7] This is logical, because Article III.B.4 contains a passage that suggests that its framers wished the Security Council to be kept informed of matters pertaining to the maintenance of peace and security: “[I]f in connection with the activities of the Agency there should arise questions that are within the competence of the Security Council, the Agency shall notify the Security Council as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and may also take the measures open to it under this Statute, including those provided in paragraph C of article XII.”

In making a formal noncompliance finding in the Iranian case in September 2005, the board implicitly drew attention to this link between Article XII.C, which requires the board to find whether noncompliance has occurred, and Article III.B.4, which requires the board to notify the Security Council of questions that are within its competence. In Resolution GOV/2005/77, the board found not only that “Iran’s many failures and breaches of its obligation to comply with its NPT safeguards agreement” constituted “non-compliance in the context of article XII.C of the Agency Statute,” but also that a number of listed factors had “given rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.”

In order to determine whether specific cases have implications for peace and security, board members have looked at the specific characteristics and circumstances of each case. No two cases have been the same. Yet, the five cases in which the board has found noncompliance needing to be reported to the Security Council—Iraq (1991), Romania (1992), North Korea (1993, 1994, and 2003), Libya (2004) and Iran (2005)—have had in common the following characteristics:

•  undeclared activities detected and reported by the inspectorate have involved or been related to the production of fissile material;

•  the inspectors have reported evidence that nuclear material required to be safeguarded has not been placed under safeguards or, having been under safeguards, has been diverted;

•  the inspectors have reported evidence of the state concerned pursuing a policy of concealment prior to the breach or breaches coming to their notice;

•  the inspectors have reported evidence that the nondeclaration or diversion of material required to be safeguarded has been deliberate; and

•  the inspectors have reported grounds to suspect or evidence of an underlying intent to gain the capacity to produce nuclear weapons.

In three of the cases—Iraq, North Korea, and Iran—the inspectors also have reported denial of access, obstruction, or a significant absence of proactive cooperation in the period following the detection of a breach or breaches.

A key point that emerges from the five cases is that board members have not required proof; they have been content with evidence, or even just grounds for suspicion. As John Carlson has pointed out,[8] board members have recognized that requiring the sort of proof necessary for conviction in U.S. criminal trials, i.e., beyond a reasonable doubt, would set an unrealistic threshold for the inspectorate. Such a requirement would risk delaying a noncompliance finding and subsequent report to the Security Council to a point beyond that at which the council may be able to determine and avert a threat to peace and security. Rather, a balance of probabilities has been seen as sufficient to justify providing the Security Council with the opportunity to consider the matter.

The five cases make clear that board members have not required evidence of intent to manufacture or acquire nuclear weapons. Requiring evidence of the intent to gain the capacity to produce nuclear weapons or even the grounds to suspect it falls well short of that.

It may be instructive to note the characteristics of two cases reported by the secretariat that were not found by the board to constitute noncompliance.[9] The first occurred in 2004, when the inspectors reported that, over an extended period of time, there had been undeclared South Korean experiments involving the production of small quantities of fissile material using undeclared nuclear material. The inspectors also reported that certain South Korean authorities had initially taken some actions that could be interpreted as attempts to conceal some of this noncompliance.

Board members took note of these failures with concern, but accepted the assurance of the South Korean government that it had been unaware of these activities at the time. The board also gave weight to the absence of evidence to support suspicion of a governmental intent to gain the capacity to produce nuclear weapons and to evidence that the undeclared activities had been terminated. Calculating, in essence, that the noncompliance reported by the secretariat had no implications for peace and security, board members refrained from making a formal noncompliance finding.

Whether this judgment was correct has been questioned then and since.[10] It would have been systemically helpful if the board had made a formal noncompliance finding and had reported the case to the Security Council. Such a course of action would have set the bar for findings and reports low enough to include cases in which there is reasonable room for doubt as to whether the case presents implications for peace and security. Nevertheless, the course the board chose did not do any systemic damage; subsequent developments support the view that the case had no implications for peace and security.

In the second case, in 2005, the inspectors reported comparable failures to declare experiments resulting in the production of small quantities of fissile material using undeclared material over an extended period, this time in Egypt. As in the South Korean case, there was no evidence of an underlying intent to gain the capacity to produce nuclear weapons, and the quantities of material involved were small. Also, there was no evidence that the failures to report had been deliberate or that the relevant authorities had attempted to conceal these failures once they had come to their notice; and neither denial of access nor obstruction had occurred. The board again refrained from making a formal noncompliance finding—less questionably than in the South Korean case, although it will be important to note whether recently renewed investigations by the safeguards department into aspects of Egypt’s nuclear program suggest that the board should revisit the 2005 conclusion.

The statute is silent on the timing of the reporting of noncompliance to the Security Council. In practice, in every case but one, the report has followed within days of the finding. In the Iranian case, the board decided to address the timing of the report at a subsequent, unspecified session. It did so for political reasons; by making use of the flexibility afforded by the absence of a specific statutory provision, it sought to put pressure on Iran to resume suspension of uranium enrichment.

Defining Noncompliance

In addition to the ICNND recommendation that the IAEA should confine itself to technical judgments, there have been calls for a common understanding on the definition of noncompliance.[11] A precise definition of noncompliance is unnecessary and would be risky. It also is improbable that IAEA members would agree to it.

There would be a strong argument for some kind of definitional understanding if the board had failed to make a noncompliance finding in relation to a case that could reasonably be held to have had implications for peace and security. Leaving aside the special case of Iran, there is no evidence that this has happened. Even those who believe that a noncompliance finding could have been useful in the South Korean case would find it difficult to demonstrate that the case presented implications for peace and security.

The board’s failure to find Iran noncompliant in November 2003 was the result of a conscious political decision, with which almost all board members were content, to endorse the outcome of ministerial talks in Tehran on October 21, 2003. During those talks, the Iranian government offered to suspend all uranium-enrichment and reprocessing activities and to apply the Model Additional Protocol provisionally, in return for France, Germany, and the United Kingdom committing to the view that “the immediate situation” should be “resolved by the IAEA Board.”[12] Had this not been the case, the board undoubtedly would have found Iran noncompliant, despite the unpopularity at that time of the prime advocate of a noncompliance finding, the U.S. government.

Within weeks of Iran’s August 2005 breach of its 2003 commitment to suspend enrichment activity,[13] the board found Iran to have been noncompliant. The vote on September 24, 2005, was 22-1, with 12 abstentions. It is likely, although this cannot be proved, that the number of votes in favor would have been larger had not Iran, since 2003, taken steps to remedy its noncompliance, as required by Article XII.C, and perhaps had not members of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) been susceptible to the influence of IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, who argued privately against a noncompliance finding.

A precise definition would be risky because it might give rise to a majority of board members declining to report to the Security Council violations having implications for peace and security, arguing that they fell outside the definition. Excluding this risk by anticipating all possible circumstances under which noncompliance might occur at the stage of drafting a definition would be an almost impossible task for a single expert, let alone for a committee comprising the 35 members of the board or the full membership of the agency.

A precise definition also would deprive governments of most of the discretion that they currently enjoy as board members. They can use that discretion profitably to allow space for diplomacy or to give the benefit of the doubt to a state that has breached its safeguards undertakings. Board members and Security Council members receive instructions from the same source: governments. Being able to exercise political judgment in the IAEA board as well as in the Security Council is a plus for governments. Flexibility enhances the global community’s capacity to manage the nuclear nonproliferation regime; it does not impair that capacity.

Irrespective of whether a precise definition of noncompliance is necessary or desirable, it is unlikely that the board would be able to reach the necessary consensus on it. During the 2003-2005 period, all the leading members of the board indicated in some way that they were attached to the flexibility currently enjoyed by the board. It enabled France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and others to agree to defer finding Iran noncompliant as long as Iran suspended work on uranium enrichment and cooperated with IAEA inspectors in return. It left the United States and many others free to give South Korea the benefit of the doubt in relation to its safeguards agreement violations.

Moreover, NAM members would probably see any attempt to adopt a precise definition of noncompliance as intended to make referral to the Security Council more likely and as strengthening the nonproliferation pillar of the NPT without any compensating reinforcement of the nuclear disarmament or peaceful-use pillars. For those reasons, they would be likely to resist such an effort.

A case could be made for delegating the board’s responsibility for noncompliance findings to the director-general, on the grounds that he could be expected to be more neutral than the board. In practice, delegation to the director-general could turn out to be counterproductive. In the weeks leading up to the September 2005 vote on Iran, ElBaradei made no secret of his self-assigned mission to save the member states, his employers, from taking a step to which he felt opposed. Had the board’s responsibility rested with him, it is most unlikely that Iran would have been found noncompliant, despite the obvious implications for peace and security of what the inspectorate had reported since May 2003. Moreover, delegating the responsibility would be unacceptable to all who are attached to the political discretion that the board currently enjoys.


It seems possible that much of the criticism of the IAEA’s handling of noncompliance, leading to calls for the IAEA to confine itself to technical judgments or for a common understanding on the definition of noncompliance, originates in circles that would have wished Iran to be reported to the Security Council in the fall of 2003. In reality, it is wrong to infer from those events that the IAEA is incapable of dealing adequately with noncompliance. The board’s handling of the Iranian case that fall was atypical. Four of the five states that are permanent members of the Security Council and almost all other members of the board at that time believed that recourse to the political discretion afforded by the statute was justified, to leave the way open for a suspension of all uranium-enrichment work in Iran and to secure for the IAEA inspectors the access provided by provisional application of the additional protocol, not least because the Security Council had been divided earlier in the year over Iraq and had failed to respond adequately to North Korean noncompliance. In other noncompliance cases, the board has made findings promptly, and those findings have passed the test of time.

In the event of any future noncompliance reports from the safeguards department, board members can refer to past cases for criteria to arrive at findings that are consistent with the board’s duty to inform the Security Council of questions falling within the council’s competence. This body of precedents can be considered as having some of the characteristics of case law. The attraction of a case-law approach is that it offers guidance to those of whom a judgment is required, but leaves them free to take account of factors that framers of codified legal systems may be unable to foresee.

In this instance, no more than an approximation to a case-law approach can be possible. The board does not articulate explicitly its reasons for arriving at or refraining from noncompliance findings, and this could lead to disagreement as to the interpretation of past cases and the guidance to be derived from them. The preambular paragraphs of the board resolutions that frame noncompliance findings and board discussion records can go some way toward addressing that deficiency.

A case-law approach or, more precisely, something akin to it, can help fill the vacuum created by the absence of a definition of noncompliance in the IAEA statute while leaving intact the freedom of governments to give a state that has breached its undertakings the benefit of the doubt or to delay a finding to create space for diplomacy. It allows governments the possibility of exercising political judgment in the IAEA board as well as the Security Council, thereby preserving options for wise management of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. By giving some guidance but not too much, it can strike a good balance.

Peter Jenkins was permanent representative of the United Kingdom to the International Atomic Energy Agency from 2001 to 2006. He is currently an associate fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and a partner in ADRg Ambassadors. He wishes to acknowledge the advice and specific textual suggestions provided by John Carlson and Pierre Goldschmidt during preparation of this article. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.


1. International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), “Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers,” December 15, 2009, www.icnnd.org/reference/reports/ent/index.html.

2. The report reads as follows:

Under the IAEA’s Statute, safeguards inspectors have the responsibility of determining in the first instance whether a state is in compliance with its safeguards agreement. They are required to report any non-compliance to the IAEA’s Board of Governors (consisting of 35 of its 150 member states, meeting five times a year), and if the Board finds that non-compliance has occurred, it is required to report the non-compliance to the Security Council. Confidence in the security guarantees afforded by the NPT depends to a large extent on how well compliance problems are addressed by this system. A basic problem is that a finding of non-compliance almost inevitably involves both technical and political dimensions: it appears for example that concern about the possible adverse consequences of a non-compliance finding led in the case of Iran to the finding being delayed by three years, with significant risk to the integrity and credibility of the IAEA processes.

It is important, if that credibility is to be maintained, that the IAEA confine itself essentially to technical criteria, applying them with consistency and credibility, and leaving the political consequences to the Security Council to determine. Issues of standard of proof become relevant here, and the IAEA has not helped itself by in practice setting the bar higher than its own standard safeguards agreements, which provide, for example, that a state may be found in non-compliance if the agency is not able to verify that there have been no diversions.

Ibid., paras. 9.14-9.15.

3. The relevant section of the article states, “The inspectors shall report any non-compliance to the Director General who shall thereupon transmit the report to the Board of Governors. The Board shall call upon the recipient State or States to remedy forthwith any non-compliance which it finds to have occurred. The Board shall report the non-compliance to all members and to the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations.”

4. Diversion can involve declared nuclear material, i.e., nuclear material placed under safeguards, or undeclared nuclear material, i.e., nuclear material that should have been placed under safeguards. Diversion constitutes using such material for nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices or for “purposes unknown.” This last provision covers cases where the IAEA cannot establish the intended use of the nuclear material in question, in circumstances in which a nuclear weapon or explosive purpose is plausible.

5. IAEA, “The Structure and Content of Agreements Between the Agency and States Required in Connection With the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” INFCIRC/153.CORR, June 1972, www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/Others/infcirc153.pdf.

6. The absence of a clear definition is one reason that it would be a mistake for the board to confine itself to this criterion. The words “unable to verify” are open to two interpretations. They can imply that verification has proved impossible because a state under safeguards has withheld cooperation, or that IAEA inspectors have insufficient grounds to state that diversion has not taken place. The former interpretation is narrow; withholding cooperation is only one of several possible indications that a situation has arisen that ought to be cause for concern. Withholding cooperation has been a feature of only three of the five noncompliance cases that have been reported to the Security Council.

7. Under Article 39 of the UN Charter, the Security Council is responsible for “maintain[ing] or restor[ing] international peace and security.”

8. John Carlson, “Defining Noncompliance: NPT Safeguards Agreements,” Arms Control Today, May 2009, pp. 22-27.

9. At the time, the director-general was insisting that the secretariat use synonyms for noncompliance such as “breach of the obligation to comply.”

10. See, for example, Pierre Goldschmidt, “Exposing Nuclear Non-Compliance,” Survival, Vol. 51, No. 1 (February-March 2009), pp. 143-164.

11. For example, a British Cabinet Office document states,

We must continue to work with international partners and the Agency to find and report promptly to the UN Security Council any instance of non-compliance. This would be part of a wider strategy to build international consensus for ensuring that any non-compliance with IAEA safeguards agreements…triggers strong [UN Security Council] action. The UK would like to discuss with the Agency and Member States at the earliest possible opportunity past practices in exposing and addressing non-compliance by the Agency, with the aim of reaching a common understanding on the definition of non-compliance.

British Cabinet Office, “The Road to 2010: Addressing the Nuclear Question in the Twenty-First Century,” Cm 7675, July 2009, para. 6.3, www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/224864/roadto2010.pdf.

12. British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, “Iran’s Nuclear Programme: A Collection of Documents,” Cm 6443, January 2005, p. 41, www.fas.org/nuke/guide/iran/uk2005.pdf (“Joint Statement at the End of a Visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Foreign Ministers of Britain, France and Germany,” October 21, 2003, para. 3c).

13. The board took action less than two years after its November 2003 session, not the “nearly three years” mistakenly alleged by the ICNND. ICNND, “Eliminating Nuclear Threats,” para. 9.14.


In recent years, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has come under fire for its handling of safeguards noncompliance cases. A prominent example of such criticism is the one from the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) which produced a comprehensive report and recommendations on every aspect of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in December 2009.

Nuclear Arms Control and India: A Relationship Explored

Manpreet Sethi

India has spent the 12 years since its 1998 nuclear tests operationalizing “credible minimum deterrence.” This process has involved steps such as building a warhead stockpile, establishing robust command and control, and developing, testing, and deploying reliable delivery vehicles of requisite ranges. Amid this flurry of activity, nuclear arms control has hardly been on the minds of India’s policymakers.

Although this situation is not really surprising—no nuclear-weapon state at a similar stage of its nuclear life has behaved any differently—it is now time for a reassessment. By pursuing nuclear arms control, India could help itself and its nuclear-armed neighbors to increase nuclear stability while rationalizing its arms buildup. In so doing, India could clearly establish itself as a responsible state with nuclear weapons.

India, which has two nuclear-armed neighbors with whom it does not enjoy the best of relations, needs to explore nuclear arms control as a tool for stabilizing its nuclear relationships and enhancing strategic security. Nuclear arms control can be seen as a nuclear confidence-building measure. Although some rightly argue that confidence is an essential prerequisite for arms control, the idea offered here is that arms control agreements are more precise and specific than generic confidence-building measures and can be negotiated by two or more sides for particular objectives that all participants believe would increase the stability of their relationship. Hence, the chance of their success may be more than that of broad-based, general confidence-building measures.

However antagonistic or hostile its relationship may be with the adversary—in fact, the greater the hostility, the more it is necessary—India must explore and undertake steps that hold the promise of establishing strategic stability to enhance national security. This is easier said than done for at least three reasons.

•  The unfulfilled promises of nuclear confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan. Nuclear confidence-building measures were crafted soon after the nuclear tests by both nations in 1998. The bilateral memorandum of understanding signed in Lahore in early 1999 was very forward looking,[1] but the identified steps could never be taken because, within months of the memorandum, Pakistan had sent its army regulars dressed as mujahideen to seize Indian territory in Kargil. Confidence building since has been disrupted several times by acts of terrorism planned in Pakistan, often with the knowledge and support of government agencies such as the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence.

•  China’s nonacceptance of India as a state with nuclear weapons and hence its refusal to enter into any nuclear negotiations; and

•  India’s traditional aversion to arms control measures because it has perceived these as ineffective at best and discriminatory at worst, owing to the manner in which these measures have been crafted and enforced, especially in their multilateral forms. India often found itself a target or victim of nonproliferation treaties and export control and technology denial regimes. Given this experience, it is not surprising that the country has a largely negative perception of nuclear arms control and views it with skepticism and suspicion.

For these reasons, an attempt to identify areas of nuclear arms control that India can negotiate with its nuclear-armed neighbors cannot be expected to take off immediately or bear fruit quickly. Yet, because of the benefits that nuclear arms control could offer to India’s nuclear security, the relationship is worth exploring. Just as nuclear arms control has been used by the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States to rationalize their nuclear weapons stockpiles and deployments and to establish strategic stability in a balance of terror, so must India use it for bilateral and regional security.[2]

Until fortuitous circumstances bring about universal nuclear disarmament, it is certain that nuclear weapons will stay in India’s neighborhood. It is also fairly obvious that China, India, and Pakistan will steadily move toward their concept of credible deterrence through strategic modernization to acquire a mix of offensive and defensive capabilities depending on their threat perceptions. Every such step by one country will inevitably elicit a response from the other, as is normal in the game of nuclear deterrence. Consequently, as arsenals grow, capabilities increase, and infrastructures expand, so will the existential risks of unplanned or inadvertent escalation due to unintended use or a miscalculation. Such events could be triggered by improper judgment by the leadership at higher or lower levels or by the governments being involuntarily sucked into an offense-defense spiral. Some of these risks can be mitigated through national measures taken individually, but some must be handled in a reciprocal fashion. Coordinated nuclear arms control is one way of dealing with the situation.

For this to happen, India, as well as China and Pakistan, must recognize the need, rationale, and mechanics of nuclear arms control in bilateral and multilateral dimensions. This article makes the case from an Indian perspective for New Delhi to engage proactively in nuclear arms control to derive six specific benefits.

•  At the bilateral level, it would enable India to nudge the strategic stability architecture into a form that suits it best. Bilateral initiatives with China and Pakistan could enhance deterrence stability. If agreements could be formalized as treaties, they would carry the weight of law, making it easier to invoke international action in case of violations.

•  It would enhance security by moderating and limiting a conflict by constraining or proscribing certain classes of weapons or capabilities.

•  It would minimize existential dangers that normally accompany nuclear weapons by facilitating communication and fostering an understanding of each other’s nuclear strategies.

•  Multilateral nuclear arms control, such as through the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), could be an effective tool for constraining capabilities of the adversaries.

•  It would help to avoid the nation being drawn into an arms race.[3]

•  Finally, for a country that has recently been granted an unprecedented exemption by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to participate in international nuclear commerce despite not being a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and without placing its nuclear program under full-scope safeguards, it would offer India a means of demonstrating responsible behavior to earn greater international respect and cooperation.[4]

The first section of the article defines the general purpose of nuclear arms control and highlights some of the principles that should guide the process, based on the experience of the Soviet Union and the United States during their long years of ideological confrontation. The second section emphasizes the role that the military must play in this exercise. (Arms control has traditionally been considered a preserve of the foreign policy establishment in India.) The last section offers some thoughts for bilateral nuclear arms control with China and Pakistan.

Purpose and Principles

After the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and once the two superpowers had accepted the inevitability of having to live with the other’s nuclear arsenal, the focus shifted to undertaking serious negotiations to stabilize the nuclear stalemate. Arms control emerged out of this understanding as each country sought to target and limit the other’s capability while safeguarding its own through bilateral arms control agreements.

Seen from an Indian perspective, nuclear arms control must meet two primary objectives: establish strategic stability by constraining or proscribing the development of those weapons and systems that increase temptation for pre-emption due to the adversary’s acquisition of a unilateral advantage, and prevent an arms race by fostering better understanding of offense-defense linkages.

In contrast to the U.S.-Soviet history, substantial reductions in nuclear arsenals to ensure parity would not be an important objective of Indian nuclear arms control. Rather, given that ambiguity about numbers of warheads and delivery systems is considered essential for deterrence, a treaty devised for verified reductions right at the beginning would end up putting a stop to the process. Instead, the aim of nuclear arms control initiated by India should be to rein in development of weapon capabilities that could upset strategic stability, while accepting those that would enhance it. For instance, development and deployment of capabilities that enable counterforce targeting destabilize the nuclear equation by tempting pre-emption.[5] Yet, development of survivability measures is conducive to deterrence stability because it promises assured retaliation. The certainty of being able to inflict punishment even after suffering a nuclear attack liberates countries from the pressure of having to use their nuclear weapons early for fear of losing them to a first strike. This obviously improves stability and lowers chances of deterrence breakdown.

The defining parameters of a country’s nuclear arms control policy can be derived best from the national nuclear doctrine, which performs the task of outlining the force characteristics for credible deterrence by establishing the role of nuclear weapons in the national security strategy. For instance, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine and strategy is premised on projecting a low nuclear threshold to deter the superior conventional military capability of India. Therefore, it is natural that Islamabad should seek to develop suitable nuclear war-fighting options that project the possibility of being able to conduct a counterforce first strike and then deter India’s nuclear retaliation by threatening a countervalue second strike. In following this approach, Pakistan subscribes to the argument that “a first strike that left only the option of a general attack on cities might be the functional equivalent of a disarming first strike because such a retaliation would be deterred by the prospect of the far greater costs that would ensue.”[6]

To counter this strategy, India’s objective should be to establish nuclear stability by reducing Pakistan’s temptation for nuclear pre-emption. Such a move would be in Pakistan’s interest as well because no rational decision-maker in Pakistan can believe that its first nuclear strike on India could be disarming, decapitating, or demoralizing enough to go without an Indian retaliation. Any Indian response, whether countervalue in keeping with the country’s nuclear doctrine of massive retaliation or a mix of counterforce and countervalue, would seriously degrade Pakistan as a functioning society and polity. Therefore, it is equally in Pakistan’s interest to adopt measures that increase deterrence stability.

This could be achieved by arriving at a nuclear arms control arrangement that consists either of mutual renunciation of first-strike weapons, such as use of low-yield nuclear weapons in a counterforce mode, or encouragement of measures that enhance the retaliatory capability of both countries. India’s nuclear doctrine, in fact, with its emphasis on not using nuclear weapons first, mandates the creation of a survivable nuclear capability. For instance, the triad, especially submarine-based deterrence, is being developed in this context, as are missile defenses. Misperceptions among the neighbors abound, however, making the task of nuclear arms control very daunting. That is precisely the challenge; it is obvious that disagreements and mistrust will threaten negotiations between rival countries. Such obstacles should not deter the exercise.

Rather, for nuclear arms control to overcome such obstacles and be meaningful and sustainable, negotiations must be conducted on the principles of equity of benefits, flexibility of approach, domestic acceptability of end results, and verifiability of agreed measures. They must be rooted in a general belief that an arms control agreement would lead to greater security of the parties involved. Unless all sides see these benefits for themselves, the negotiations cannot produce any worthwhile results and in fact are likely to be counterproductive, by placing greater strain on the bilateral relationship because one side could perceive itself as the loser in the process.

Furthermore, in nuclear arms control, it would be useful to start with a general national security objective in mind (such as achieving crisis stability or arms race stability) instead of a particular outcome on which public positions have already been pronounced. For instance, the general goal of deterrence and arms race stability could be achieved by placing mutually acceptable limits on ballistic missile defense deployment. Negotiations should aim for this general national security objective instead of prejudging or announcing the number of sites that would be acceptable to one or the other side. As has been said, “When negotiators bargain over positions, they tend to lock themselves into those positions.… As more attention is paid to positions, less attention is devoted to meeting the underlying concerns of the parties.… Agreement becomes less likely.”[7] Such an approach tends to make modification during negotiations appear as a concession to the adversary, even if it may actually be a rational step that can be accommodated in pursuit of the larger goal. The perceived concession then can be hijacked by domestic politics, especially in a democracy. That can lead to a stiffening of the adversary’s negotiating posture, making progress difficult.

It tremendously helps nuclear arms control if there is a general consensus on the need for and on the broad objective of the process, on one’s own side as well as the other party’s.[8] The case of the recent Indian-U.S. engagement on civilian nuclear cooperation was not strictly an exercise in nuclear arms control, but it provides some pointers in this direction. For instance, the basic objective of India throughout the many rounds of negotiations was to protect its nuclear weapons program while negotiating the terms of cooperation for the civilian nuclear sector. With that objective, the Indian negotiators were allowed to maneuver around the terms of cooperation. Yet, another significant factor that propelled the negotiations toward success was India’s apparent and steadfast political will. This is critical to getting the negotiations started, sustaining them through the rough ride, and ensuring that they are honored on completion. Nuclear arms control negotiations will have to be conducted in a similar way, with a broad objective such as deterrence stability rather than a narrow approach focused on arms reduction and with political will soundly supporting the objective and the process.

Given that nuclear arms control is conducted between countries where the trust deficit is high, arriving at some mechanisms and procedures for verification is critical. The agreement must achieve a fine balance, by being meaningful but not overly intrusive. National technical means or overhead satellites, where available, offer an option of verification from afar because they help a country unilaterally verify an agreement through imagery and detection equipment based in space or air or on land or water. Other possible verification provisions include data exchanges, notifications, and on-site inspections. These could collectively enhance mutual confidence and help deter violations. Meanwhile, mechanisms that help discuss violations or treaty implementation, such as the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), also are helpful.

In the context of China, India, and Pakistan, verification is likely to be a difficult part of negotiations. On the one hand, there is a dire need for verification in order to establish a level of trust and credibility; on the other hand, the acceptance of the terms, scope, and means of verification is problematic precisely because of the trust deficit. For instance, the acceptability of short-notice on-site inspections or even data exchanges is doubtful given that opacity and ambiguity are seen as essential for deterrence. Meanwhile, the inadequacy and asymmetry of national technical means is also a handicap. In the context of the CTBT, China, India, and Pakistan had opposed the use of such measures as being “selective and discriminatory.”[9] Since then, however, at least China and India have developed advanced national space programs. Satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles already enable a capability for national technical means in the hands of both nations, although Pakistan remains devoid of any such capability. Therefore, the issue of verification will pose a significant challenge to nuclear arms control. Realization of this fact will help avoid a potential stumbling block in future talks.

Role of the Military

Three decades ago, Colin Gray lamented that arms control and defense planning “proceed down largely autonomous roads” in the United States.[10] Things are not very different in India today. In fact, the military in India has hardly any role or even the understanding of the fact that it must play a role in nuclear arms control. This is largely considered the domain of the Ministry of External Affairs because it is seen as a foreign policy issue. The notion that arms control with adversaries can make a substantial contribution to national defense by providing increased security at lower and less dangerous levels is largely ignored in India.

This is a big mistake; there is a clear linkage between arms control and national security strategy, and the military is a stakeholder in this relationship. Translating arms control objectives into effective negotiating positions calls for an understanding of force planning so that arms control positions can logically support national security objectives. In fact, the very purpose of arms control must emanate from adequate knowledge of force effectiveness. Because targeting is the key to evaluating nuclear arsenal requirements and the military must be able to fulfill its targeting obligations at all times, arms control must be able to support this responsibility. Hence, the military input is absolutely critical for arms control to achieve the objective of establishing strategic stability.

Naturally then, in the context of India, input from the Strategic Forces Command would be essential for India’s conceptualization of its objectives on specific nuclear arms control measures. Specialists from the military and foreign policy establishment must navigate tricky negotiations together. In the case of the Soviet Union and the United States, the exercise was conducted by “career” arms control specialists meeting in semipermanent sessions to consistently present their side’s positions, explore possible compromises, recommend solutions, and draft treaty language. As arsenals and capabilities grew, it was hardly surprising that every negotiation took longer to conclude. It took three years for the first treaty under the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) to be negotiated, seven years for SALT II, and eight years for START. Indeed, arms control requires rigorous, serious, committed and thorough work.[11] Professionals backed by political will, but removed from politics, can best achieve this.

Potential Areas of Arms Control

As noted earlier, nuclear deterrence, in the Indian understanding, depends not as much on a comparison of numbers of nuclear warheads with the adversary as on what is needed to inflict unacceptable damage on the adversary. Therefore, India’s objectives from nuclear arms control should be to establish a set of mutually accepted operational guiding principles that allows both sides to increase deterrence stability, and to constrain the capabilities or classes of weapons and weapons systems whose existence or development has the potential to create strategic imbalance and the possibility of misperception among decision-makers.

The article suggests four areas of possible nuclear arms control that India could offer to China and Pakistan. At this moment, one cannot be optimistic about how these would be received in Beijing or Islamabad or even New Delhi for the reasons mentioned at the beginning of this article. Nevertheless, it is in India’s interest to make the offer and persist with it. Hopefully, over a period of time and without having to go through a tense episode such as the Cuban missile crisis, all sides will see the benefits of nuclear arms control.

An ABM Treaty of sorts. Missile defense changes the nuclear equation between nations by adding a denial dimension to nuclear deterrence, which may otherwise be based only on deterrence by punishment.[12] A country secure under its missile defense may be tempted toward nuclear pre-emption based on the belief that, having taken out most of the enemy’s nuclear arsenal in a first strike, it could intercept the remaining weapons. This would be perceived as destabilizing by the adversary and would lead to the development of countermeasures, such as increasing the numbers of missiles to saturate missile defense, equipping the missiles with penetration aids, lofting or depressing missile trajectories, or bypassing defenses with cruise missiles or bombers. There are counter-countermeasures to these countermeasures, but the cost of entering this offense-defense spiral must not be overlooked.

For this reason, it may be useful to arrive at some understanding on ballistic missile defense within the larger rubric of nuclear arms control. This could be achieved through an Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of sorts between India and Pakistan or India and China or even among the three of them. No such example of a triangular nuclear arms control regime has ever existed, so new ground will have to be broken and fresh ideas explored. An ABM agreement in the region would allow both sides to build and deploy some ballistic missile defense capability while keeping them mutually vulnerable to deterrence by punishment. Such an ABM treaty would significantly lower the chances of an arms race between offense and defense.

The benefits of this would be immense because the three countries already are engaged in the development or deployment of ballistic missile defenses or countermeasures. China has been developing both for several years now in order to protect its deterrent against U.S. missile defenses. India also entered the ballistic missile defense realm, as is evident from the four successful interceptions carried out from 2007 to 2010.[13] This capability is being built in response to the threats from Pakistan, especially an unauthorized missile launch, and China. Meanwhile, Pakistan is discomfited by these developments and is crafting its own strategy of countermeasures,[14] in spite of warnings from some Pakistani analysts against being drawn into an arms race with India. These analysts have suggested instead “hardened and mobile basing, countermeasures, and a small numerical preponderance in relation to Indian defence capability.”[15]

The problem for every nation facing the prospect of a ballistic missile defense system is in assessing how “small” a preponderance could suffice. Although the side deploying the system perceives a clear benefit of “existential defense” because the adversary can never be sure that it would not work, the side against the system perceives a clear degradation of its deterrent and hence the need for an offensive buildup. Yet, if all sides are to escape the ravages of the offense-defense spiral, then an understanding on the limits of ballistic missile defense must be evolved through frank and fair negotiations. Ballistic missile defense could be integrated into the nuclear strategy as a more stabilizing element by allowing a mutually agreed limited deployment of those elements of the nuclear arsenal that promise assured retaliation (for instance, the command and control structures or storage sites for delivery vehicles).

Controls on MIRVed missiles. Another candidate for nuclear arms control is a proscription on multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), the technology that allows one missile to carry multiple warheads. China is believed to have the technology for MIRVing but is not known to have deployed it yet. Meanwhile, India and Pakistan can certainly be expected to be moving up the development trajectory of missile technologies.

Once all three countries have MIRVed their missiles, strategic stability would decline because MIRVing creates a temptation for pre-emption. Together with the greater accuracy of these missiles, multiple warheads make them essentially first-strike weapons. For the attacking state, MIRVing provides the promise of being able to carry out a disarming counterforce strike. Meanwhile, missiles with many warheads also become attractive targets for the adversary too, creating an urgency to strike the MIRVed missiles before they are launched. Therefore, the use-or-lose dilemma is heightened because nations feel compelled to keep their missiles on launch-on-warning alert levels. In a crisis, either country with MIRVed technology might be tempted to launch first in the hope of gaining a war-winning advantage.

An agreement whereby all sides agree not to MIRV their missiles would contribute to fostering crisis stability because, in such a situation, anticipated military advantage would not provide an incentive for pre-emption during crisis. Single-warhead missiles would present much less tempting targets as pre-emption would require more warheads to be expended than could be destroyed. It would be far more worthwhile for China, India, and Pakistan to arrive at a mutual understanding on this technology rather than following the dangerous path taken by the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War only to arrive at the realization, articulated in the U.S. 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report, that the de-MIRVing of missiles is a step toward strategic stability.[16]

CTBT. The CTBT proscribes the testing of nuclear explosive devices. It has the twin objectives of preventing new countries from gaining a nuclear weapons capability and restraining countries with existing nuclear arsenals from developing more sophisticated designs. This multilateral medium for nuclear arms control can be used by India to freeze the weapons designs of its adversaries at the existing level.

Opinion is divided within India on whether it should subscribe to the treaty even after the United States and China have ratified it. In deciding whether to join the CTBT, policymakers in New Delhi should keep in mind that India’s nuclear tests to date, although limited in number, have established the reliability of India’s arsenal in terms of yield. More tests would be desirable to obtain better yield-to-weight ratios or weapons of the megaton variety, but they are certainly not essential for building credible deterrence. This is true for Pakistan too. Given the densities of population in China, India, and Pakistan and a knowledge of targeting that would allow nuclear weapons to cause more damage than they did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,[17] the existing types of weapons suffice to cause unacceptable damage. Also, deterrence is only partially derived from the warhead and its yield. A large part of its credibility depends on other factors such as the range, reliability, the ability of delivery mechanisms to penetrate defenses, and the survivability of the command and control.

Therefore, if the role of nuclear weapons is deterrence alone, the CTBT can be safely used as a measure of nuclear arms control to proscribe the development of more sophisticated thermonuclear designs or halt modernization of arsenals. China, India, and Pakistan would have little to lose in terms of their strategic capability; each has a nuclear deterrent that, even if frozen at the current capability, is viable enough.

FMCT. An FMCT would stop member states from future production of fissile material for weapons. China is believed to have stopped production of its fissile material although this has never been officially corroborated or denied. India publicly stands committed to supporting the early conclusion of the treaty, which has been stalled in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) by Pakistan’s insistence on inclusion of existing stocks within the purview of the treaty, a provision that none of the other states with nuclear weapons support. Therefore, the chances of an FMCT materializing quickly in the near future seem remote.

The FMCT could be used effectively as an arms control tool by India for capping Pakistan’s stockpile accumulation, which is likely to proceed at a frenetic pace in order to bridge the asymmetry with India. Recent Pakistani attempts to block negotiations in the CD are an indication that it sees its stockpile as less than adequate. It is obviously trying to buy time so that new plutonium-production reactors, currently under construction at Khushab, can quickly be made operational and have a few years of service before an FMCT comes into the picture. If India has determined that it does not need an open-ended stockpile to establish credible deterrence against its adversaries, it would actually be in India’s interest to stoke movement toward early conclusion of an FMCT.

Given that President Barack Obama is keen on attempts at stopping fissile material production and securing the available stockpiles worldwide, Indian support for an FMCT would help it not only gain international goodwill but also the strategic benefit of nuclear arms control through a multilateral route. It is unlikely that Pakistan would agree to a quick conclusion of an FMCT, but given the dangers of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism that coincide in that country, it is in the interest of India, the United States, and other states to put pressure on Islamabad to concede on this. The greater the amount of nuclear material in the country, the greater are the security challenges.


By its very nature, nuclear arms control requires negotiations with an adversary. In fact, the more adversarial the relationship, the greater the need for arms control to establish deterrence stability. The greater the hostility, however, the more difficult it is to engage meaningfully to arrive at constructive results.

In order to resolve this catch-22 situation, political statesmanship is needed to look beyond momentary benefits in favor of long-term interests. In fact, there is a deep linkage between interstate relations and arms control. Progress in one area could lead to breakthroughs in the other. In case of the Soviet Union and the United States, joint pursuit of major arms control agreements, especially at times when there were few other areas of positive interaction, helped develop patterns of cooperation and provided incentives for more constructive behavior in other aspects of the relationship. Long periods of interaction between the two produced insights into each other’s strategic thinking, as well as a shared understanding of key concepts and dangers.

Yet, for nuclear arms control negotiations even to begin and eventually to succeed, they must be anchored in a basic belief that the process would contribute significantly to the security of all sides. Therefore, it has to be accepted as more than a zero-sum game. It is imperative that India engage in discussions on a range of strategic topics with China and Pakistan, either bilaterally or trilaterally, so that adoption of certain concrete measures can alleviate concerns and suspicions, clarify policies and practices, and build mutual confidence. Mutual agreements (bilateral or trilateral) on developing and deploying only a limited form of missile defense and on MIRVed missiles are two such measures that have been highlighted in this article.

Nuclear arms control should be expected to be a long, drawn-out process that will have to continue as long as nuclear weapons exist. Clarity on how to proceed, confidence in the benefits of the process, and expertise in handling the difficult negotiations will emerge slowly. Mutual trust and sincerity only can be built over time. Results will be slow, if they come at all. Given that this mechanism offers a relatively inexpensive way of assuring national security through preservation of strategic stability, it needs to be given the chance it deserves, especially by a responsible nuclear power such as India.


Manpreet Sethi heads the Project on Nuclear Security at the Centre for Air Power Studies in New Delhi. She is author of Nuclear Strategy: India’s March Towards Credible Deterrence (2009), co-author of Nuclear Deterrence and Diplomacy (2004), and editor of Towards a Nuclear Weapons Free World (2009) and Global Nuclear Challenges (2009).



1. The Lahore declaration was signed on February 21, 1999, by the prime ministers of both countries. The accompanying memorandum of understanding included confidence-building measures such as an agreement to exchange information on nuclear doctrines and security concepts, numbers of warheads and missiles, advance notification on missile tests, and prompt notification of any accidental, unauthorized, or unexplained nuclear incident. It also recommended a review of existing confidence-building measures and establishment of emergency hotlines for better communication.

2. The U.S.-Soviet history of nuclear arms control is perhaps more relevant to India’s relations with Pakistan than to its relations with China. India and Pakistan see each other as nuclear equals, as the Soviet Union and the United States did. As noted above, China does not recognize India’s nuclear weapons program.

3. One cannot deny that arms control cannot stop an arms race completely. Yet, as one observer commented in reference to the experience of the two superpowers during the Cold War, “[T]he arms race would have developed still more feverishly and the world would have been less stable and less secure.” David B. Rivkin Jr., “The Soviet Approach to Nuclear Arms Control,” Survival, Vol. 29, No. 6 (November-December 1987), p. 488.

4. Although some would be dismissive of this last benefit of nuclear arms control, it is incorrect to undermine its importance at a time when perception of legitimacy in the international arena is an important ingredient for expansion of a country’s influence and power, especially of the soft variety. Smart foreign policy must cash in on every opportunity that increases the legitimacy of India’s nuclear status.

5. When a country feels confident of being able to hit its adversary’s nuclear warhead and delivery vehicle storage sites in a disarming first strike in order to degrade the retaliatory capability of the adversary, the temptation for first nuclear use is assumed to be higher.

6. Walter Slocombe, “Strategic Stability in a Restructured World,” Survival, Vol. 32, No. 4 (July-August 1990), pp. 299-312.

7. Roger Fisher and William Ury, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981), p. 5.

8. For instance, in 1983, during the negotiations on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), a leading U.S. arms control expert, said that the key question had become “whether we can get beyond negotiating among ourselves so that we can begin to negotiate with the Soviet Union.” Ibid., p. 81.

9. See Sha Zukang, Statement to the Conference on Disarmament, CD/PV.743, August 1, 1996, www.nti.org/db/china/engdocs/sha0896.htm.

10. Colin Gray, Strategic Studies: A Critical Assessment (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982), p. 156.

11. START, for instance, contained many detailed definitions that elaborated the restrictions not only on the permitted number of nuclear warheads but also the locations and movement of delivery vehicles. It mandated extensive data exchanges between the two sides. Counting rules were painstakingly evolved, keeping the objective of ease of verification in view. For additional information, see Amy F. Woolf, “Strategic Arms Control After START: Issues and Options,” CRS Report for Congress, R40084, January 13, 2010, pp. 4-6.

12. “Deterrence by punishment” is a theoretical construct of nuclear strategy attributed to Bernard Brodie. Explained simply, it underpins deterrence on the premise that “if you attack me, I’ll punish you.” On the other hand, “deterrence by denial” was extrapolated by W.L. Borden to loosely mean that “if you attack me, I’ll hit back and deny you victory.” Therefore, although the former concept seeks to avert nuclear use by threatening punishment for the act, the latter imposes deterrence by implying the ability to win a nuclear exchange and thereby deny victory to the adversary.

13. India has conducted four successful interceptions to exhibit its capability in the exoatmosphere and endoatmosphere. According to V.K. Saraswat, the chief controller of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, the organization was “developing a robust anti-missile defence system that will have high speed interceptions for engaging ballistic missiles in the 5,000 km class and above.” Animesh Roul, “India: Missile Defence Dreams,” ISN Security Watch, March 28, 2008, http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Security-Watch/Detail/?id=52022&lng=en.

14. It appears to matter little to Pakistan that one reason for New Delhi to acquire missile defense capabilities is based on the need to ensure survivability of critical components of the nuclear arsenal, such as its command and control centers—the National Command Post (NCP) and the Alternate NCP or other elements of retaliatory capability. In this context, India’s limited missile defense should enhance nuclear deterrence and logically be less disconcerting for the adversary. Despite the missile defense, a no-first-use commitment reduces the likelihood of nuclear pre-emption, which is a primary concern when countries with a first-use doctrine, such as the United States, deploy missile defense systems.

15. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “India’s Endorsement of the U.S. BMD: Challenges for Regional Stability,” Islamabad Policy Research Institute Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Summer 2001), pp. 28-43.

16. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, pp. ix, 23-25, www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report.pdf.

17. Even the low yields of 15 to 20 kilotons that were used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were so destructive in nature that they have scarred the human mind enough to restrain such inhuman action since. These yields came from nuclear weapons that were dropped from a height that was less than optimum (or the damage to Hiroshima would have been far greater) and on a target not well chosen (Nagasaki’s topography saved it from much greater destruction).



India has spent the 12 years since its 1998 nuclear tests operationalizing “credible minimum deterrence.” This process has involved steps such as building a warhead stockpile, establishing robust command and control, and developing, testing, and deploying reliable delivery vehicles of requisite ranges. Amid this flurry of activity, nuclear arms control has hardly been on the minds of India’s policymakers.

New START: Security Through 21st-Century Verification

To download a PDF of this article click here.

Rose Gottemoeller

On July 1, 1988, a U.S. inspection team flew to the Soviet Union to inspect one of its intermediate-range-missile operating bases. Upon arrival in Moscow, the team announced to the Soviet escorts that it would inspect Rechitsa, an SS-20 missile base located in present-day Belarus. The visit to Rechitsa marked the first time a U.S. inspection team had the opportunity to inspect a Soviet operating base for nuclear-armed intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

On the same day, a Soviet team of inspectors arrived at Travis Air Force Base in California to inspect intermediate-range-missile facilities there and at bases in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. In the 22 years since these first inspections occurred under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, on-site inspections have been a vital means of verifying compliance with arms control treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union, the post-Soviet successor states, and now the Russian Federation.

With the December 2009 expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the United States is unable, for the first time in more than 20 years, to conduct nuclear arms inspections inside Russia.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which was signed April 8 and is before the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification, provides for a resumption of vital on-site inspections of Russian strategic nuclear facilities. There is no substitute for on-site inspections. They provide not only the “boots on the ground” presence to confirm Russian data declarations, thus helping to verify compliance with treaty obligations, but also insights into Russian strategic forces located at those facilities. Simply put, the United States is more secure and safer when our country is able to gain a better understanding of the Russian strategic arsenal.

New START is a continuation of the international arms control and nonproliferation framework that the United States has worked hard to foster and strengthen for the last 50 years. It will provide ongoing transparency and predictability regarding the world’s two largest strategic arsenals, while preserving the United States’ ability to maintain the strong, credible nuclear deterrent that is a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and friends.

Building on a Legacy

New START continues a bipartisan tradition of concluding agreements that verifiably reduce and limit U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. The INF Treaty was negotiated and ratified during the Reagan administration. START was signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Secretary of State James Baker negotiated the Lisbon Protocol to ensure that the former Soviet states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine would assume the START obligations. Thereafter, the Clinton administration provided leadership and support that led to the denuclearization of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine with assistance provided through the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which was created by Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) to help ensure that nuclear weapons did not fall into the wrong hands after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

During the administration of President George W. Bush, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) was negotiated and ratified. Later, recognizing that START would expire in 2009, Bush began talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin about a follow-on arrangement. They first discussed it at a meeting in Kennebunkport in July 2007 and then agreed at the Sochi summit in April 2008 to continue developing a legally binding post-START arrangement.

Thus, in negotiating New START, we had a rich history of arms control experience with Russia on which to build, just as each treaty before it built on the lessons learned from implementing predecessor treaties.[1] Conducting on-site inspections under the INF Treaty was a major breakthrough during the Cold War, signaling that the perestroika and glasnost’ policies of Mikhail Gorbachev were truly beginning to affect the Soviet Union and how it did business. The on-site inspection concept was further developed and refined under START.

During the 15-year span of START, U.S. and Russian inspectors visited each other’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bases, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) bases, heavy bombers bases, missile test ranges, and storage facilities, among others. The first inspections under START began in March 1995 when, during the 120-day period after entry into force of the treaty, U.S. and Russian inspection teams conducted baseline inspections at all of the sites that the treaty covered. Because much territory had to be covered in a very short period of time, the U.S. inspection teams were organized according to weapons systems covered by the treaty: silo-based ICBMs, SLBMs, heavy bombers, or mobile ICBMs.

These baseline inspections began at the close of a very cold winter in Russia. U.S. inspectors often stood knee deep in snow while conducting three- to four-hour-long discussions with their Russian escorts on the nuances of inspection procedures. For many Russian and U.S. personnel, this was their first encounter with their counterparts from the other country, so initially the relationship was impersonal, formal, and sometimes adversarial. During the succeeding years of conducting START inspections, the demeanor on both sides developed into one of mutual respect as each side recognized that the other’s inspection team members or in-country escorts were doing their jobs with competence, professionalism, and fairness while ensuring the exercise of their full and reciprocal rights under the treaty.

Over the life of START, the atmosphere during inspections continued to improve. “It’s not personal, it’s about the treaty” became the mantra of the inspectors on both sides. Each side learned a great deal about the other’s strategic forces during those on-site inspections. Thus, both sides gained a strong body of knowledge and experience about conducting on-site inspections efficiently and effectively under START and the INF Treaty; they also learned how to improve on them.

Verification in New START

For the United States, New START is designed to allow for flexible modernization and operation of U.S. strategic forces, as well as predictability regarding the deployment of Russian strategic forces. This predictability is based on insights gained through a strong and effective verification regime. In New START, we created a verification regime that is effective and robust, adapted to the requirements of the new treaty while building on the knowledge gained from the practices of the past. We also agreed on a regime that would seek to address implementation problems from earlier treaties and avoid carrying such problems forward.

New START, along with its protocol and annexes, contains a detailed set of rules and procedures for verification, many of them drawn from START. We looked for ways, informed by earlier experiences, to make the verification regime simpler and safer to implement and, at the same time, minimize disruptions to the day-to-day operations of both sides’ strategic forces.

New START’s verification measures are designed to ensure that each party is able to verify the other’s compliance with the central limits of the treaty, including the right to maintain:

• no more than 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed nuclear-capable heavy bombers;

• no more than 1,550 warheads emplaced on deployed ICBMs and deployed SLBMs and nuclear warheads counted for deployed nuclear-capable heavy bombers; and

• no more than 800 deployed and nondeployed ICBM launchers, deployed and nondeployed SLBM launchers, and deployed and nondeployed nuclear-capable heavy bombers.

START was structured for a Cold War adversarial relationship with the Soviet Union, a country that had more than 10,000 nuclear warheads carried on more than 6,000 strategic missiles and bombers, most of them targeted against the United States and its allies. Now, the Soviet Union is gone, and the Cold War is over. Russian nuclear forces and their support complexes are substantially smaller than those of the Soviet Union. Under New START, the United States and Russia each can deploy no more than 1,550 warheads.[2] A report by the Congressional Research Service notes that, over the course of the new treaty, Russia is likely to have 396 deployed launchers.[3]

The Soviet Union declared 70 facilities to be subject to inspection at the entry into force of START, but many of these have been shut down. Moreover, some were located in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, which are not parties to New START and no longer deploy strategic offensive arms. As a result of these changes, Russia provided site diagrams for only 35 facilities that will be subject to inspection under New START. Finally, Russia will likely choose to close down some of these remaining facilities over the life of the treaty.

The new treaty provides for the conduct of up to 18 on-site inspections annually, while START provided for 28 annual inspections. As noted above, however, there are only 35 facilities that will be subject to inspection at the beginning of New START—half the number that was subject to inspection at the beginning of START. In addition, the inspections under New START combine elements of the most commonly used types of inspections and exhibitions under START.[4] Furthermore, some New START inspections may be longer than their predecessors. Conducting fewer and longer inspections and combining inspection tasks mean fewer disruptions to U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear force operations, which is highly desired by military commanders.

Experienced inspectors and weapons system operators served on the U.S. and Russian negotiating delegations for New START. These experts made important contributions that helped us develop a simple, safe, and cost-effective inspection regime for the new treaty. We also worked to develop measures unique to the requirements of this treaty, in particular on-site inspection procedures that will allow the United States to confirm the actual number of re-entry vehicles on each designated Russian ICBM and SLBM. This verification task and inspection right did not exist under START.

The United States will have the right to select, for purposes of inspection, from all of Russia’s treaty-limited deployed and nondeployed delivery vehicles and launchers over the life of New START. It is also important to note that each deployed and nondeployed ICBM, SLBM, and heavy bomber will have assigned to it an alphanumeric code, or unique identifier. The unique identifier will be included in notifications any time the ICBM, SLBM, or heavy bomber is moved or changes status. The treaty establishes procedures to allow inspectors to confirm the unique identifier during the inspection process. The notification of changes in weapons systems, for example, movement in and out of deployed status, will provide more information on the status of Russian strategic forces under this treaty than was available under START. Information provided in notifications will complement and be checked by on-site inspection as well as by imagery from satellites and other assets that collectively make up each side’s national technical means of verification.

The combination of national technical means, a comprehensive database that is constantly updated through notification of weapons system movements and changes in status, short-notice on-site inspections, and exhibitions will enable the United States to continue to gain insight into the Russian strategic forces as was the case under the verification regimes for START and the INF Treaty.

Conducting Inspections

The new treaty provides that, within one hour of a base being designated for inspection by an inspection team, which will occur within four hours of the team’s arrival at the point of entry, pre-inspection movement restrictions begin, and items of inspection (e.g., missiles, mobile launchers, and heavy bombers) present at that base must not be removed from the inspection site. This same requirement existed under START.

Once U.S. inspectors arrive at a base, they will receive a pre-inspection briefing from the Russian side. The briefing will provide much of the same information as those conducted under START, but for an inspection involving deployed missiles and warheads, it also must include:

• the number of re-entry vehicles emplaced on each deployed ICBM or SLBM located at the base;

• a breakdown of deployed and nondeployed launchers at the base, i.e. those that have missiles in or on them (deployed) and those that do not (nondeployed);

• the number of deployed heavy bombers based and located at the base; and

• the number of nuclear armaments loaded on deployed heavy bombers at the base.

This information was not provided under START. New START not only makes all launchers or heavy bombers located at the base at the time of the inspection eligible for inspection, but requires updates on their declared status. The new treaty also requires updates on the number of re-entry vehicles or nuclear armaments emplaced on each deployed ICBM, SLBM, or nuclear-capable heavy bomber located at the base.

At ICBM or SLBM bases, the inspectors will designate for inspection one deployed ICBM or SLBM as well as a nondeployed ICBM or SLBM launcher, if there are any nondeployed launchers at the base. The designated deployed ICBM or SLBM will be placed under continuous observation by the inspection team and then prepared for inspection by the host country. Preparation will include a display of the re-entry vehicle covers that will be used during the inspection so that they are fully visible to inspectors; in some cases, inspectors will measure them. For inspections conducted at air bases, three deployed heavy bombers will be designated for nuclear armaments inspection.[5]

Just as under START, each side will have the right to confirm that covered objects on the front section of ICBMs or SLBMs that are declared not to be nuclear re-entry vehicles are, in fact, not nuclear. This provision is beneficial to both sides because it ensures that additional objects declared by the inspected party (e.g., penetration aids and inert ballast) will not count toward the treaty’s warhead limit.

Radiation detection equipment may be used to confirm that the additional objects are not nuclear. Under New START, the two sides may agree in the treaty’s Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) on new technologies for radiation detection that will be lighter and easier for inspectors to use than those that were available 15 years ago, when START entered into force.

We worked throughout the negotiations to preserve the key verification principle that short-notice inspections must be structured so that the side conducting an inspection has access to the forces present at a facility at the time the facility is designated for inspection. This principle, among others, deters cheating.

If the United States sees an anomaly during inspections that raises concerns about compliance, the U.S. side will raise its concerns first in the treaty’s BCC and then, if necessary, at higher political levels. The U.S. government will treat very seriously any act that appears to violate the obligations of New START, just as it has with respect to the obligations of other treaties.

Telemetry Exchange

The purpose of the exchange of telemetry information under New START is different than it was under START. New START’s telemetry provisions are intended to encourage transparency and predictability. Unlike START, telemetric information is not needed to verify a party’s compliance with the provisions of New START. For example, there is no treaty requirement to ascertain the number of warheads tested on a missile to determine the warhead attribution for that type of missile, because New START counts the actual number of re-entry vehicles emplaced on each missile.[6]

Therefore, the telemetry provisions are transparency rather than verification measures. Such a need was clearly recognized at the time SORT was negotiated. The verification regime of START was still in place, but Bush and Putin called for additional transparency measures to be developed to bolster it. New START has an effective verification regime, which is complemented by an annual telemetry exchange for purposes of transparency regarding strategic missile testing, as agreed by the parties.

The United States and Russia agreed to allow for the annual exchange of telemetric information on an agreed equal number (up to five) of launches of ICBMs and SLBMs, with the testing party determining the launches for which it will provide information. The specifics of the annual telemetry exchanges will be worked out in the BCC.

The U.S. government believes that exchanging telemetric information will prove valuable to both sides. Although such information is not required to verify the specific provisions of the new treaty, it could be helpful in providing information about currently deployed missiles and new missiles under development on both sides.


New START contains mechanisms that will enable the United States to monitor and inspect Russian strategic nuclear forces. U.S. knowledge of Russian nuclear forces will substantially erode over time if the treaty is not ratified and brought into force, increasing the risk of misunderstandings, mistrust, and worst-case analysis and policymaking.

New START sets the stage for further arms reductions. As the treaty’s preamble states, the United States and Russia see New START as providing new impetus to the step-by-step process of reducing and limiting nuclear arms, with a view to expanding this process in the future to a multilateral approach. As President Barack Obama confirmed when he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed New START in Prague on April 8, the United States will seek to include reductions in U.S. and Russian nonstrategic/tactical and nondeployed weapons in future discussions. Ratification of New START will be a key step to engaging Russia on its large stockpile of nonstrategic/tactical nuclear weapons. Without ratification and entry into force of New START, Russia will be reluctant to negotiate reductions or limitations on those weapons.

As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May, the United States is better off with New START than without it. It is the right agreement for today and for the future. New START, quite simply, is in the best national security interests of the United States and of U.S. allies and partners around the world.

Rose Gottemoeller is assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation and was chief U.S. negotiator for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.


1. The United States also had a very experienced interagency team that participated in the negotiation of the treaty, including senior delegation members Marcie Ries, Ted Warner, Mike Elliott, Kurt Siemon, and Dick Trout. They, along with the inspectors and strategic forces experts on the delegation, were essential to the formulation of New START and its verification regime.

2. For more information on all aspects of New START, see www.state.gov/t/vci/trty/126118.htm.

3. Amy F. Woolf, “The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions,” CRS Report for Congress, R41219, June 18, 2010, p. 20.

4. Inspections are conducted on short notice at the request of one party and are conducted for the purpose of confirming the accuracy of declared data provided in accordance with the treaty, as part of the regime to verify compliance with the provisions of the treaty. Exhibitions are scheduled ahead of time between the parties and are used to demonstrate features of new types of strategic offensive arms that distinguish them from existing types and to confirm the technical characteristics of such new types. Exhibitions also are used to show the results of the conversion of the first item of a given type of strategic offensive arms subject to the treaty, including the distinguishing features for the converted system, which are intended to provide the basis for subsequent inspections to confirm the completion of conversion of such systems and that they have not been reconverted.

5. The kinds of covers used to shroud ICBM or SLBM re-entry vehicles and other objects, i.e., soft, hard, or combined covers, are defined in the treaty, and the procedures for their use and inspection are set forth in the Inspection Activities Annex. Such detailed procedures build on those used under START. Inspectors on the U.S. negotiating team helped improve this provision, based on their experience in conducting inspections under START. In particular, the right to observe and measure these covers is expanded under New START.

6. Under START, attribution rules were used to determine the number of warheads counted for each type of ICBM and SLBM. Under this practice, each deployed missile of a given type was counted as if it carried a particular number of warheads, even if the individual missile carried fewer re-entry vehicles than its attributed number of warheads. Under New START, the warhead count used for each missile will reflect the number of re-entry vehicles actually emplaced on each ICBM and SLBM.


NATO's Nuclear Decision

Daryl G. Kimball

Some habits, even dangerous ones, are hard to break. The Cold War is long over, but there are nearly 200 U.S. tactical nuclear bombs on NATO military bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey. Russia, which has an even larger stockpile of tactical nuclear bombs, refuses to enter into talks to limit them, citing the U.S. deployments in Europe.

It is time for a change. Battlefield nuclear bombs serve no meaningful military role for the defense of NATO or Russia. The devastating power and inescapable collateral effects of such weapons make them inappropriate tools against non-nuclear targets, and the possible loss or theft of these weapons poses an unacceptable risk of nuclear terrorism.

As Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright acknowledged at an April 8 briefing in Washington on the new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review Report, NATO nuclear weapons do not serve a military function not already addressed by other U.S. military assets, including its 2,000 deployed strategic nuclear weapons.

Successive U.S. administrations have sought to initiate talks with Russia on substrategic nuclear weapons, but Russia’s increasing reliance on nuclear weapons and NATO’s own nuclear policy inertia have stymied progress. Following ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, President Barack Obama has pledged to pursue further reductions in all types of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons—deployed and nondeployed, strategic and tactical.

To increase the chances of success, the United States must persuade its NATO partners to eliminate the requirement for forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons in the alliance’s new Strategic Concept, due to be completed this November. If NATO can agree to eliminate its nuclear relics, Russia would more likely agree to further consolidate and verifiably dismantle its own stockpile. Otherwise, Russia will continue to use them as cynical justification to refuse to talk.

Earlier this year, five NATO members, including three that host tactical nuclear bombs, called on the alliance to review its outdated nuclear sharing arrangements. There is widespread recognition that there is no military reason to maintain the current NATO nuclear weapons policy, but there is no consensus about how to revise it.

Supporters of the status quo, such as France, still believe in the antiquated notion that U.S. tactical bombs in Europe reduce the incentive for a U.S. ally such as Turkey to pursue a bomb of its own. In reality, U.S. and NATO security commitments make the presence of these weapons irrelevant to Turkey’s defense. Furthermore, Ankara is on record in support of “the inclusion of all non-strategic nuclear weapons” in the disarmament process “with a view to their reduction and elimination.”

In April in Tallinn, Estonia, NATO foreign ministers met to discuss the issue. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton opened the door to change, but provided little helpful guidance. She argued that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance,” while saying that “the broader goal of the alliance must be to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons.”

Clinton suggested that, in any future reductions, "our aim should be to seek Russian agreement to increase transparency on non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe [and] relocate these weapons away from the territory of NATO members.”

Unfortunately, Clinton failed to state the obvious: The original rationale for deploying U.S. tactical nuclear bombs in Europe—to counter a Soviet land invasion—has disintegrated, and the weapons have become an obstacle toward the goal of reducing Russia’s residual tactical nuclear stockpile.

It is time for Washington to lead and for NATO to act. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is expected to circulate a draft of the Strategic Concept by the end of September so it can be finalized at the NATO summit in Lisbon. Rasmussen has a responsibility to ensure the discussion is transparent, open, and thorough.

For his part, Obama should make it clear that he supports the withdrawal of tactical nuclear bombs from Europe as a step toward his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. He can and should underscore that the United States can easily sustain its commitments to the common defense of NATO without forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons. NATO should announce it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons, begin withdrawing its obsolete tactical nuclear forces from Europe, and formally invite Russia to engage in talks with Washington to verifiably account for, consolidate, and dismantle all tactical nuclear weapons held by each side.

If NATO members do not have sufficient time to agree on how to implement a new nuclear policy, they could launch a more comprehensive NATO nuclear posture review in Lisbon aimed at reducing the role and salience of nuclear weapons. NATO is a strong and dynamic alliance that simply does not need to cling to obsolete U.S. weapons of mass destruction to sustain transatlantic unity.



Corrected online September 23, 2010. Original "Focus" stated that four NATO countries hosting tactical nuclear bombs called on the alliance to review its outdated nuclear sharing arrangements. The correct number is three.

Some habits, even dangerous ones, are hard to break. The Cold War is long over, but there are nearly 200 U.S. tactical nuclear bombs on NATO military bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey. Russia, which has an even larger stockpile of tactical nuclear bombs, refuses to enter into talks to limit them, citing the U.S. deployments in Europe.


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