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The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
March 2011
Edition Date: 
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Cover Image: 

Letter to the Editor: Additional Protocols as a Condition of Nuclear Supply

John Carlson

Fred McGoldrick (“The Road Ahead for Export Controls,” January/February 2011) notes that an important outstanding item for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is to reach agreement on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) additional protocol as a condition of new nuclear supply. The additional protocol strengthens the IAEA’s ability to detect undeclared nuclear material and activities by requiring states to provide further information and access for safeguards inspectors. In 1997 the IAEA Board of Governors asked each non-nuclear-weapon state that is a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to conclude an additional protocol. This is an obvious and necessary step to strengthen the nonproliferation regime.

One reason the NSG has struggled to reach agreement is that two members, Brazil and Argentina, have not signed additional protocols. To date, Brazil has refused to do so, and in view of their joint safeguards arrangements, Argentina feels it cannot move without Brazil. The NSG has developed compromise language that appears to meet the Argentina-Brazil situation. Now, however, it seems South Africa is the chief obstacle. This is surprising, considering South Africa was one of the early states to conclude an additional protocol in 2002.

As of December 20, 2010, 135 states—two-thirds of the NPT parties—had signed an additional protocol. This included just less than 90 percent of non-nuclear-weapon states with significant nuclear activities; 74 percent of such states had their protocol in force. So the additional protocol is now well established by international practice as part of the IAEA safeguards system. But the ongoing refusal of states such as Brazil, Egypt, Syria, and Venezuela to sign an additional protocol, as well as Iran’s “suspension” of its protocol, reflects some serious issues: (1) a polarization of attitudes toward safeguards, particularly worrying because it could imply a wavering of support for nonproliferation; (2) the view of some that conclusion of an additional protocol is optional; and (3) the unwillingness to date of major suppliers to require an additional protocol as a matter of national policy.

McGoldrick mentions the Nonaligned Movement’s opposition at the 2010 NPT Review Conference to a consensus statement that having an additional protocol in place is the NPT safeguards standard. This is an example of issue 1. The IAEA has emphasized that, without an additional protocol, it is unable to provide credible assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. It seems many nonaligned countries have lost sight of the importance of safeguards as a technical verification mechanism that benefits not the West or the “North,” but every state. Safeguards are an essential tool to resolve suspicions, to help states demonstrate to neighbors and the international community that they are meeting their treaty commitments. Opponents of the additional protocol are compromising their own national interest, which is to have a safeguards system that is more, not less, effective. Refusal to accept the most effective form of safeguards erodes the vital confidence-building role of safeguards.

Issue 2 involves arguments too complex to analyze fully here. Suffice it to say, under the NPT, non-nuclear-weapon states have committed to accept safeguards on all their nuclear material; that means they should have no undeclared nuclear material. But absent an additional protocol, the IAEA is unable to provide credible assurance that a state has met this commitment. To argue that the additional protocol is “optional” ignores the point that the protocol is needed to discharge the verification mandate the IAEA has been given by the NPT.

States supporting nonproliferation should be doing all they can to persuade the holdouts to conclude an additional protocol without further delay. This is particularly the case for nuclear suppliers, who have some leverage. The major suppliers are members of the Group of Eight (G-8), whose summits for several years have endorsed the additional protocol as a condition of supply. Yet, a number of G-8 members are considering nuclear supply contracts with states that have no additional protocol and even make a point of refusing it. McGoldrick comments that convincing the few holdouts on the additional protocol condition may require high-level intervention by the major nuclear suppliers. High-level intervention is needed not only within the NSG, but directly with every state that asserts less-effective safeguards are good enough. Maybe a campaign at the heads-of-government level should be considered, similar to the nuclear security summit process that was so successful last year.


John Carlson was director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office until October 2010. He represented Australia in the Model Additional Protocol negotiations and chaired the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation from 2001 to 2006. He now advises the Nuclear Threat Initiative and others on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament issues.

 

Correction

The November 2010 article “Can Washington and Seoul Try Dealing With Pyongyang for a Change?” by Leon V. Sigal said that a 2000 summit accord between North and South Korea had committed North Korea to abide by the Northern Limit Line in the West (Yellow) Sea until permanent borders were drawn. That provision actually was part of a protocol to the 1991 North-South Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, Cooperation and Exchange. On January 29, 2009, after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak backed away from both the 2007 and 2000 North-South summit agreements, North Korea abrogated the 1991 provision.

 

Pakistan’s Nuclear Buildup Vexes FMCT Talks

Peter Crail

Pakistan declared in January that it had strengthened its opposition to negotiating a treaty banning the production of fissile material as it prepared to bolster its nuclear arsenal.

Islamabad’s position threatens to prolong a 14-year stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the United Nations’ arms control negotiating body, which operates on a consensus basis. Pakistan has been the only country blocking the start of negotiations on a so-called fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) at the CD for more than two years, leading some of the body’s 65 member states to search for ways around the Pakistani roadblock, including holding negotiations outside the CD.

Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the CD, reiterated in a Jan. 25 statement that Pakistan opposes opening negotiations on an FMCT in the CD because of a 2008 agreement by the world’s key nuclear technology suppliers to lift long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India. (See ACT, October 2008.) This action, he said, “will further accentuate the asymmetry in fissile materials stockpiles in the region, to the detriment of Pakistan’s security interests.”

Pakistan and other critics of the move by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which now has 46 members, have argued that, because India now has access to the international nuclear market, it can purchase foreign uranium for its nuclear power reactors and therefore keep its limited domestic uranium reserves for its military program, potentially allowing it to field a larger nuclear arsenal.

Islamabad has maintained that a fissile material ban must cover existing stocks of fissile material instead of simply halting future production, a position backed by several other CD members, primarily from the developing world. Most nuclear weapons possessors, including India, insist on a production cutoff that does not address current stockpiles.

Akram added that Pakistan’s opposition was further hardened by a U.S. call for India’s eventual admission to the NSG, a move he characterized as an “irresponsible undertaking” that “shall further destabilize security in South Asia.” (See ACT, December 2010.) According to Akram, because such admission would allow India to enhance its own nuclear arsenal, “Pakistan will be forced to take measures to ensure the credibility of its deterrence.”

Pakistan has sought to counter India’s conventional and nuclear weapons capabilities by expanding its nuclear arsenal and moving from larger highly enriched uranium-based weapons to more compact plutonium-based warheads.

Those efforts reportedly include the construction of two additional plutonium-producing nuclear reactors at Pakistan’s Khushab nuclear complex. Pakistan already has two such reactors at the site, producing an estimated combined total of 22 kilograms of plutonium each year, enough for up to four nuclear weapons. Islamabad began constructing a third reactor in 2006 and, according to satellite imagery analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, started work on a fourth in recent months.

After steadily increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile over a number of years, Pakistan is estimated to have up to 110 warheads, all of which are believed to be maintained in central storage, rather than deployed with their delivery systems. Responding to recent reports of Pakistan’s nuclear buildup, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters Feb. 1, “Pakistan is mindful of the need to avoid an arms race with India,” noting Islamabad’s policy of maintaining a “credible minimum deterrent” against its South Asian rival. It is not clear, however, what such a credible minimum deterrent entails.

Seeking a Path Around Pakistan

During the opening of the CD’s 2011 session, the body’s president, Ambassador Marius Grinius of Canada, said there was no agreement on a program of work for the CD, effectively preventing it from beginning substantive negotiations. The CD last adopted a program of work in 2009 after nearly a decade of disagreement, but Pakistan broke the consensus soon after over the FMCT, preventing negotiations from commencing.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held a high-level meeting last September to help “revitalize” the stalled CD, but diplomats said last fall that the session only retraced existing divisions. (See ACT, December 2010.) Several states expressed frustration with the CD stalemate during that meeting and raised the option of pursuing FMCT negotiations outside the CD if progress was not made in 2011. Pakistan, China, and a number of developing countries opposed such a prospect.

In their opening remarks to the 2011 session of the CD, many delegations, including those from the European Union, Japan, Mexico, and the United States, reiterated the potential for an alternative negotiating process on an FMCT. Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, told the body Jan. 27 that “the longer the CD languishes, the louder and more persistent such calls will become.” She stressed in a press briefing later that day, however, that it is the “absolute first priority” of the United States to seek negotiations inside the CD. She declined to speculate on other options.

Although delegations would not say how much time the CD should be given to resolve the current impasse, Mexico’s ambassador to the CD, Juan José Camacho, proposed in a Jan. 25 statement that members establish a deadline for the CD to adopt a program of work.

Stressing the importance of preserving the function of the CD as the sole multilateral negotiating body for arms control, Ban warned in Jan. 26 remarks to the body, “We must not risk pushing states to resort to alternative arrangements outside the Conference on Disarmament.” He expressed support for starting an informal process on an FMCT in the CD prior to beginning negotiations in order to build trust among members.

The United States indicated that if there was no agreement to start FMCT negotiations, it would back a dual track of formal and informal FMCT talks. “We strongly support the idea of robust plenary discussion on broad FMCT issues, reinforced by expert-level technical discussions on specific FMCT topics,” Gottemoeller said.

Throughout February, CD members held plenary discussions on an FMCT, as well as other issues on the body’s agenda. In addition, Australia and Japan co-hosted a first round of expert-level talks in mid-February focused on the subject of defining key aspects of a treaty, including what would be considered fissile material and what constitutes production of that material. Diplomats from CD members said in February that a second round of experts’ talks on verification is expected this month.

Although several states supported the Australian-Japanese initiative, China and Pakistan said in remarks to the CD Feb. 17 that they did not attend the session. Chinese CD ambassador Wang Qun told the body that conclusions drawn from such informal discussions did not have standing in the CD. Akram raised concerns that such informal talks could undermine the role of the CD as the sole negotiating body for such issues.

In spite of Islamabad’s opposition, “Pakistan has not taken any action to date to seek to block either the plenary discussions or the expert-level talks,” a State Department official said in a Feb. 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today. The official added that although Pakistan could “create some problems on the plenary discussions,” it would not be able to prevent the expert-level talks, which are being hosted on a national basis although they still are linked to the CD.

Diplomats from states supporting the experts’ talks told Arms Control Today that even if the talks are being held on an informal basis, delegations initially opposing them may realize after some time that their interests are served better by participating in them, rather than being left out. They also stressed that such discussions are important for addressing complex technical issues before negotiations begin and could lay the groundwork for eventual negotiations in the meantime.

 

Pakistan has stiffened its opposition to talks on a fissile material cutoff treaty in the UN Conference on Disarmament, prompting some countries to start looking for new ways to make progress on the pact.

N. Korea Judged to Have More Enrichment Sites

Peter Crail

North Korea likely is maintaining uranium-enrichment facilities beyond the one revealed to a U.S. nuclear weapons expert last year, U.S. intelligence officials told a Senate panel Feb. 16.

In testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the scale and level of development of the enrichment facility at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex suggest that the country probably has pursued uranium-enrichment capabilities for some time.

“If so, there is a clear prospect that [North Korea] has built other uranium-enrichment-related facilities in its territory, including likely [research and development] and centrifuge-fabrication facilities and other enrichment facilities,” he added.

Last November, Pyongyang showed former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Siegfried Hecker a newly constructed enrichment plant containing about 2,000 centrifuges after announcing that it intended to build and fuel a small light-water nuclear power reactor. (See ACT, December 2010.)

Such a plant can be used to enrich uranium to the low levels commonly used to fuel nuclear power plants or the high levels used in nuclear weapons. Many enrichment plants, including those in development by North Korea and Iran, use gas centrifuges to separate uranium isotopes, increasing the concentration of the fissile isotope uranium-235.

The U.S. intelligence assessment appears consistent with a recent UN panel report that reportedly concluded that North Korea must have additional enrichment facilities. Last December, the UN Security Council tasked a panel of experts responsible for assessing the implementation of UN sanctions against North Korea with examining Hecker’s claims regarding North Korea’s enrichment efforts. International inspectors have not had access to North Korean nuclear facilities since May 2009. North Korea ejected International Atomic Energy Agency monitors when it withdrew from multilateral denuclearization talks that same month. Diplomatic sources said that China blocked the council’s formal adoption and release of the report, which included recommendations for additional sanctions on North Korea. One diplomat said that China prefers to address North Korea’s enrichment program in multilateral negotiations.

The United States long has suspected North Korea of developing an enrichment program to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear weapons, but intelligence assessments appear to have varied over the scale of the North Korean effort. A 1994 U.S.-North Korean denuclearization agreement collapsed in 2002 after U.S. officials accused Pyongyang of violating that accord by developing a uranium-enrichment capability, a claim North Korea rejected.

For years, Pyongyang denied pursuing uranium-enrichment capabilities despite widespread suspicions and public claims by Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that North Korea received gas centrifuge technology from a nuclear smuggling network run by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. North Korea first publicly admitted to an enrichment program in June 2009, after leaving multilateral disarmament negotiations. (See ACT, July/August 2009.)

Japan and South Korea last month declared that North Korea’s enrichment program violates Security Council resolutions as well as North Korea’s previous denuclearization commitments. “We agreed that the international community’s concerns over uranium enrichment should be taken up at an appropriate forum like the UN Security Council,” Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said during a Feb. 16 joint press conference in Tokyo with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Sung-hwan.

After speaking with Chinese officials in Beijing, however, Wi Sung-lac, South Korean special representative for Korean peninsula peace and security affairs, told reporters in Seoul Feb. 11, “China does not agree with taking the issue to the UN Security Council.”

Beijing has called for a resumption of the six-party talks to address the North Korean nuclear issue. The talks involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States.

The United States, South Korea, and Japan maintain that before those denuclearization talks can resume, Pyongyang must work to improve relations with Seoul following two military incidents last year and that it must demonstrate a willingness to abide by its prior denuclearization obligations.

North-South relations deteriorated sharply last year following the torpedoing of a South Korean naval vessel in March and a North Korean artillery attack on a South Korean island in November. Although a multilateral investigation concluded that North Korea carried out the torpedo attack, Pyongyang has denied it. With regard to the November incident, Pyongyang says it fired artillery in response to South Korean military exercises. Seoul has insisted that North Korea take responsibility for both actions.

For the first time since those two incidents, North and South Korea held military talks at the truce village of Panmunjom Feb. 8-9, but those discussions ended without agreement on an agenda for future, higher-level talks.

 

North Korea probably has multiple uranium enrichment-related facilities, U.S. intelligence officials said, following North Korea’s decision to reveal one such facility last year.

Proposed U.S. Arms Sales Reach New Heights

Xiaodon Liang

Notifications of potential arms sales presented to Congress in 2010 spiked to $102.5 billion, four times higher than the 10-year average from 2000 to 2009 and surpassing the previous record of $75 billion proposed in 2008. (See ACT, March 2009.) Sales to Middle Eastern states represented more than three-quarters of the notifications.

These foreign military sales notification figures do not represent actual deliveries.

By law, Congress is notified when the Department of Defense proposes government-to-government sales of major defense items, articles, and services, as well as construction and design projects if the values of those sales reach minimum thresholds. Once notified, Congress has either 15 or 30 days, depending on whether the recipient is on a shortlist of preferred states subject to less-stringent congressional notification requirements, to block a sale by joint resolution of disapproval. No sales ever have been blocked by this method. Congress also can pass legislation to stop or modify sales at any time up to the point of delivery.

The 2010 total includes a $60.1 billion proposed arms transfer to Saudi Arabia submitted to Congress in October. (See ACT, December 2010.) The package is centered on the sale of 84 F-15SA aircraft and the upgrade of 70 more. Other big ticket items include 70 AH-64D Block III Apache Longbow helicopters, 72 UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, and various light helicopters, along with their equipment and associated missile systems. Neither Saudi Arabia nor the United States is a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which would have barred the sale of Sensor Fuzed Weapon units included in the package.

Elsewhere within the region, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also sought significant arms sales, with a potential purchase of 60 Apache Longbows and other items worth up to $5.4 billion. For four years in a row, the UAE has been among the five largest proposed recipients of military sales, with the total value of requests being $28.2 billion since 2007. In 2008, notifications for the UAE included the first potential foreign sale of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system, for which a final contract may be signed later this year.

In 2010, notifications of potential sales to Iraq included 18 F-16IQ aircraft, the refurbishment of its M113A2 armored personnel carriers, and ammunition for M1A1 main battle tanks, 140 of which are currently being delivered. The total cost of these potential sales is $4.9 billion. Oman proposed spending $3.6 billion reinforcing its air force with purchases of 18 F16 Block 50/52 aircraft and training and logistics support for its C-130J-30 transport aircraft.

Potential sales to Israel consisted of $2.0 billion of jet and vehicle fuels. Last September, Congress simplified future sales to the country by approving an amendment to the Arms Export Control Act adding Israel to the preferred-client shortlist that also includes NATO allies, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

A diplomatic controversy erupted in February after a package of helicopters and Patriot missiles to be shipped to Taiwan was presented to Congress following lengthy negotiations, despite the elimination of the diesel submarines and F16C/D fighter aircraft that were the heart of the original proposal. (See ACT, March 2010.) In reaction, China cut military ties with the United States until this past January.

Notifications of several large military sales to India amounted to $8.0 billion. Among these was a December notification for parts and weapons systems for 22 Apache Longbow helicopters. Unlike many other notifications, this one was made in advance of an official letter of request from India. Instead, it was submitted as part of an international competition so that, “in the event that the…[U.S.] proposal is selected, the United States might move as quickly as possible to implement the sale,” according to the notification. As of early February, India had not announced whether it had accepted the U.S. bid. U.S. leaders, including President Barack Obama, are actively promoting exports to India. The largest near-term military competition consists of an estimated $11 billion contact for multirole medium-range combat aircraft, part of almost $100 billion India is expected to invest in its military in the coming decade.

 

The Obama administration last year notified Congress of more than $100 billion of potential arms sales, shattering the old record of $75 billion. The Middle East accounted for the bulk of the potential sales.

U.S. Moves Forward on Space Policy

Jeff Abramson and Nik Gebben

The Obama administration has made clarifications to its space policy in recent months, but has continued to delay its decision on supporting a voluntary international code of conduct that has recently drawn questions from a large group of Republican senators.

On Feb. 4, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released an unclassified summary of the “National Security Space Strategy.” The document outlines how the defense and intelligence communities will carry out the National Space Policy, released in June 2010. (See ACT, September 2010.) The space strategy, which seeks to address a “strategic environment” that is “increasingly congested, contested, and competitive,” details five interrelated approaches: responsibility, improved U.S. space capabilities, international cooperation, prevention and deterrence, and preparation to defeat attacks and operate in a “degraded environment.”

As with the 2010 space policy, the new document states that the administration will consider “proposals and concepts for arms control measures if they are equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the United States and its allies,” but offered no specifics on what particular proposals those would be. The policy also does not explicitly address space weaponization, an ongoing topic of concern in the international community.

At a news briefing the day of release, Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn responded to questions about placing weapons in space or attacking assets in space by saying the policy “doesn’t address those issues.” He reiterated ongoing U.S. policy that “we retain the right to respond …[with] whatever we would choose to be the appropriate means.”

At the same briefing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Gregory Schulte described the administration’s arms control approach as “promoting what we like to call transparency and confidence-building measures, which tend to be voluntary as opposed to legally binding.” In particular, he highlighted the so-called EU code of conduct “as a potential way to do that.” (See ACT, November 2010.) The voluntary code includes a commitment to refrain from harming space objects, measures to control and mitigate space debris, and mechanisms for cooperation and consultation.

The United States has been considering the code for months. In her Jan. 27 opening statement to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said, “We plan to make a decision in the coming weeks as to whether the United States can sign on to this Code, including what, if any, modifications would be necessary.” A senior Department of State official confirmed in a Feb. 23 interview that no decision had been reached yet.

The official indicated, however, that the code has been reviewed by an interagency team and is now awaiting a decision on whether to move forward with a phase of formal consultation with the European Union.

In her Feb. 8 speech to the CD, EU nonproliferation official Annalisa Giannella said that the EU is considering organizing “a multilateral experts meeting in 2011” to discuss the code in preparation for an ad hoc conference in which the code could be opened for signature. The State Department official indicated that attending such an experts meeting would be an appropriate step for the United States should it decide to pursue the code formally.

Although the code would be nonbinding, a group of 37 Republican senators sent a letter Feb. 2 to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton requesting that the administration “immediately consult” with key Senate committees and interested senators. The letter’s authors, led by Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), said that they were “deeply concerned” that the administration may pursue “a multilateral commitment with a multitude of potential highly damaging implications for sensitive military and intelligence programs (current, planned or otherwise).” In particular, they asked for clarifications as to whether the code would limit deployment of missile defense interceptors in space or development of space-based systems capable of defeating anti-satellite weapons.

The State Department official indicated that an administration response to the letter was forthcoming and that the code is generally consistent with the National Space Policy. As with the strategy policy, the National Space Policy does not explicitly create new limits on space-based systems, including those identified by the senators.

Also, the administration indicated that the release of the space security strategy document marked the end of its space posture review. That review, which was mandated in the fiscal year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, required the administration to provide Congress with various plans and policies, including an assessment of the relationship among military, national security, arms control, export control, and industrial base policies as they relate to space.

 

The Obama administration has clarified its space policy but has not said whether it will join a voluntary code of conduct that has prompted questions from a large group of Republican senators.

NNSA Nonproliferation Spending Slated to Rise

Robert Golan-Vilella and Daniel Horner

President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget request would increase funding for nonproliferation programs in the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by roughly 20 percent over current spending levels, but represents a modest decrease from the administration’s request for the same programs a year ago.

Under the proposed budget, released Feb. 14, two of the largest increases would go to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and the Fissile Materials Disposition program. The former is designed to reduce and secure vulnerable nuclear materials at civilian sites around the world; the latter focuses principally on disposition of surplus weapons-grade fissile materials in the United States. The portion of the request related to disposition activities in Russia dropped significantly from the fiscal year 2011 request.

Because Congress did not approve fiscal year 2011 funding for most U.S. government agencies before last Sept. 30, the end of fiscal year 2010, the federal government is now operating under a continuing resolution (CR), which will fund the government through March. With very few exceptions, the CR funds government programs at the level of their fiscal year 2010 congressional appropriations. Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2011 had called for significant increases for a number of programs designed to improve nuclear security around the world. (See ACT, March 2010.)

The NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation category, which includes both the GTRI and the materials disposition program, would see its spending go from $2.13 billion to $2.55 billion. That represents an increase of 20 percent from current spending levels, but a decrease of 5.1 percent from Obama’s fiscal year 2011 request of $2.69 billion. Funding for the GTRI would follow the same pattern: after receiving $334 million in fiscal year 2010, Obama proposed to increase that to $508 million for fiscal year 2012—a 52 percent rise, but less than the $559 million that he requested last year.

The GTRI is one of the principal contributing programs to the Obama administration’s goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide within four years. (See ACT, May 2009.) From the program’s inception through September 2010, the GTRI removed a cumulative total of 2,852 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium and shut down or converted 72 HEU research reactors, according to the NNSA’s detailed “budget justification” document.

In a Feb. 14 press statement, the NNSA said that Obama’s budget request “provides the resources required to implement the President’s commitment to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” The request’s future-year projections call for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation category to receive a total of $14.2 billion over the next five years, with the annual appropriation rising gradually each year to reach just over $3 billion in fiscal year 2016. Funding for the GTRI in that year would be $740 million under the administration’s projection.

One of the GTRI’s high-profile activities is its ongoing effort to remove fresh HEU from Belarus and Ukraine. These two former Soviet countries have said they will be rid of the material by the time of the nuclear security summit planned for 2012 in Seoul. (See ACT, January/February 2011.) During a Feb. 14 conference call with reporters, NNSA officials said they were confident that the budget request provides sufficient funding to meet that schedule.

Following a Feb. 15 meeting of the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission, the Department of State’s press office said Ukraine had reiterated its commitment to meet that timetable and that the United States “reconfirmed its commitment to provide necessary technical and financial assistance valued at approximately $50 million by the time of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit as part of this effort.”

In a Feb. 15 e-mail to Arms Control Today following up on the conference call, NNSA spokesman Damien LaVera said that “all HEU material has now been removed” from 19 countries (Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, Latvia, Libya, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey). He added that the NNSA is working with 16 other countries (Argentina, Austria, Belarus, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam) “to remove the last of their material.”

Fissile Material Disposition

As with the GTRI and the broader Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account, the proposed budget for fissile materials disposition is significantly higher than its fiscal year 2010 appropriation, but slightly lower than Obama’s fiscal year 2011 request. From $702 million in fiscal year 2010, funding for the disposition program is slated to rise to $890 million in fiscal year 2012; the request for fiscal year 2011 was $1.03 billion.

The bulk of the program is devoted to carrying out a bilateral agreement between the United States and Russia that commits each side to dispose of at least 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. The agreement originally was signed in 2000, but the effort stalled over financial, policy, and legal disputes. During the April 2010 nuclear security summit in Washington, the two sides signed a protocol that amended and updated the accord. (See ACT, May 2010.) According to a State Department statement at the time of the protocol’s signing, the combined 68 metric tons of plutonium represents enough material to make approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.

Under the terms of the protocol, Washington and Moscow aim to begin disposition—loading reactors with fuel made with the surplus weapons plutonium—in 2018. The United States currently is constructing three facilities at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The first is a Mixed-Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility, which will fabricate plutonium oxide into MOX fuel for use in domestic reactors; the other two facilities will perform supporting roles. Savannah River is scheduled to begin producing MOX fuel in October 2016, the NNSA’s budget document said.

The administration is requesting $579 million for construction work on the three facilities for fiscal year 2012, with $385 million going to the MOX fuel-fabrication plant.

According to the NNSA budget document, that project “has had continued difficulty identifying suppliers and subcontractors with the ability and experience to fabricate and install equipment to the requirements of [the] Nuclear Quality Assurance (NQA)-1 standard for nuclear work.” This shortage “has in turn resulted in a lack of competition for the work and higher than expected bids as the inexperienced suppliers are uncertain how much effort is required to meet NQA-1 requirements,” the document said. In some cases, Shaw AREVA MOX Services, the main contractor that the Energy Department has hired to build the facility, has done some of the work itself rather than assigning it to subcontractors, the NNSA said. Another hurdle is that the contractor “is also experiencing significantly greater than expected turnover of experienced personnel due to the expansion of the U.S. commercial nuclear industry,” the NNSA said, adding that “finding experienced replacements has become difficult and expensive.”

The Obama administration’s future-year projections call for roughly $1 billion to be spent on the disposition program in each of the four years following fiscal year 2012. Approximately 48 percent of that money is scheduled to go toward constructing the new facilities.

In anticipation of last year’s signing of the disposition protocol with Russia, the fiscal year 2011 request for work on Russian disposition rose to $113 million (the fiscal year 2010 appropriation had been $1 million), but the fiscal year 2012 request is only $10.2 million. According to the NNSA budget document, the sharp drop “reflects the decision to wait until the United States and Russia have agreed on detailed milestones” for progress in the work that U.S. funds would support. During the Feb. 14 conference call, Anne Harrington, the NNSA deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation, said the agency is “not going to request [money for that work] from Congress until we know we actually have something to apply it against.”

In a Feb. 18 interview, a U.S. official said the United States had given Russia a document proposing a draft set of milestones for Russia’s consideration, but had not yet received a response. The Russian response is taking “longer than the U.S. would have hoped,” but there appears to be “no damage to Russia’s program from the delay,” he said. It “seems clear” that Russia does not see a “programmatic need” to move more rapidly, he said. “People, over time, have realized that this is not a program that’s going to rush itself forward,” he commented.

CTR to Rise, Focus on Biothreats

At the Department of Defense, funding for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program is slated to increase by approximately 20 percent from current spending levels, from $424 million to $508 million. Obama’s request last year called for $523 million to be spent. The CTR program is designed to secure and eliminate weapons of mass destruction and their related materials, particularly in the states of the former Soviet Union.

Within the CTR account, the lion’s share of the proposed increase would go to the Cooperative Biological Engagement program. Formerly known as Biological Threat Reduction, this program works to prevent dangerous pathogens from being used against the United States or its allies by state or nonstate actors, the CTR’s detailed budget document said. Under the 2012 budget request, this program’s funding would rise 53 percent, from $169 million in fiscal year 2010 to $260 million. At this level, the biological engagement program would consume just over half the CTR budget.

The other major programs in the CTR account would see their funding stay generally consistent with current levels, although some would decrease significantly compared to Obama’s fiscal year 2011 request. Most notable in this category is the Global Nuclear Security program, which “renames and consolidates all activities related to nuclear warhead and weapons-grade nuclear material security within selected countries,” according to the CTR’s budget document. Last year, Obama requested a 39 percent increase for this category, from $119 million in fiscal year 2010 to $164 million in fiscal year 2011. This year’s request would eliminate this proposed increase, calling for $121 million to be spent.

 

For the coming fiscal year, the Obama administration is seeking more funding for nonproliferation efforts, especially those focusing on fissile materials disposition and on securing vulnerable nuclear material around the world.

Funding for U.S. Nuclear Triad Set to Grow

Tom Z. Collina

President Barack Obama last month sent Congress a budget request for fiscal year 2012 that would significantly increase funding for maintenance of the nuclear stockpile, modernization of the weapons production complex, upgrades to strategic delivery systems, and deployment of ballistic missile interceptors.

All told, these commitments, which were key to winning Department of Defense and Senate support for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), would add up to almost $300 billion over the next decade. The budget documents add specifics to the earlier commitments.

The administration is requesting $7.6 billion for Weapons Activities at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency within the Department of Energy. This request for fiscal year 2012 represents an increase of $620 million, or almost 9 percent, over the 2011 request and 19 percent more than approved by Congress for fiscal year 2010.

The increased NNSA Weapons Activities budget for fiscal year 2011 was approved as part of the continuing resolution (CR) that Congress passed in December and was one of the few programs to receive an increase above fiscal year 2010 levels. The CR lasts only through March; Congress is working on another CR to fund the government for the remaining months in the current fiscal year.

Speaking Feb. 16 at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va., NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino said that the fiscal year 2012 budget was “the first payment on the $85 billion commitment” that the administration made last November as part of the updated “National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2010 Section 1251 Report.” (See ACT, December 2010.) The November version was an update of a congressionally required report, issued last May, in which the administration outlined its plans to ramp up the weapons activities budget over the next decade.

As a Senate condition for New START’s entry into force, which occurred Feb. 5 (see p. 36), Obama certified Feb. 2 that he would request full funding for two major NNSA weapons-related construction projects: the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) project in New Mexico and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) in Tennessee. Construction projects account for the largest growth area in the Weapons Activities budget, increasing by $477 million, or 26 percent, for a total 2012 request of $2.3 billion.

The CMRR is to be built at Los Alamos National Laboratory to support the production of 50 to 80 plutonium components, or “pits,” per year. The administration’s fiscal year 2012 request calls for $300 million for the CMRR, a 33 percent increase from the fiscal year 2011 appropriation. Facility construction, which is projected to be completed by 2023, is estimated to cost between $3.7 billion and $5.9 billion. The UPF at the Y-12 National Security Complex would replace aging facilities for uranium-component handling. The administration is requesting $160 million for the UPF for fiscal year 2012, a 39 percent increase from fiscal year 2011. The facility is projected to cost between $4.2 billion and $6.5 billion and be completed by 2024. Both facilities could be operational by 2020, although completion could take longer. Cost and schedule for the CMRR and UPF will not be finalized until the projects achieve 90 percent design maturity, which the NNSA says they will achieve in late 2012.

The multibillion-dollar price tags for these facilities have raised the eyebrows of at least one veteran of the nuclear weapons complex, who said in a Feb. 25 interview that budget pressures may force the NNSA to redesign the facilities to make them smaller and more affordable. Otherwise, the large budgets for the CMRR and UPF could “starve the science program,” he said. He said both facilities could be reduced in size and cost if their basic designs were rethought. “You could cut the size of UPF by 50 percent if you rethink what you need to build,” he said.

According to the NNSA, its budget request “reflects the partnership” with the Defense Department “to modernize the nuclear deterrent.” Under the Obama administration’s spending plan, the Defense Department is to contribute a total of $2.2 billion to the NNSA weapons activities budget from fiscal year 2013 to 2016.

Within the weapons budget request, almost $2 billion is for Directed Stockpile Work, which ensures the operational readiness of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. The NNSA is extending the lifetimes of current warheads by 20 to 30 years, without nuclear explosive testing, by refurbishing warheads through the Lifetime Extension Program (LEP). Explosive testing is banned by the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the United States has signed but not ratified.

New Life for B61 Bomb

In the administration’s budget request, funding for the LEP jumps by 93 percent, from $249 million in fiscal year 2011 to $497 million in fiscal year 2012. The bulk of the increase, $224 million, goes to extending the life of the B61 Mod 3, 4, and 7 nuclear bombs, which would be consolidated as the B61-12. Fewer than 100 B61-7 strategic bombs are deployed near B-2 heavy bombers based in the United States, and about 180 B61-3 and -4 tactical bombs are deployed at European bases in NATO, according to public estimates. Obama has announced his intention to seek agreement with Russia to reduce U.S. and Russian stockpiles of tactical weapons.

The B61 “primary” stage would be rebuilt with the existing nuclear pit, according to NNSA budget documents, and the “secondary” stage would utilize reused or remanufactured parts from the B61-4. In modern U.S. warheads, the fission energy from the primary ignites the fusion energy in the secondary, which can produce nuclear explosive yields of hundreds of kilotons. According to the NNSA, the B61 LEP includes consideration of “increasing safety, and improving the security and use control,” and “modifications could be employed to provide greater reliability; and components and materials with known compatibility and aging issues could be replaced, providing better alternatives.”

An LEP for the W76 warhead used on the Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), costing $257 million in 2012, began in 2008 and is scheduled to be completed by 2017, according to the administration’s budget documents. A lifetime extension study on the W78 warhead for the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is also underway, with a budget of $26 million in 2011 and a requested increase to $51 million in 2012. The NNSA is considering reducing the number of warhead types by developing a common warhead to replace both the W78 and the newer warhead on Trident D-5s, the W88.

According to the NNSA budget proposal, “LEPs not only extend the life of weapons, but provide opportunities to enhance surety by installing enhanced safety and security features.” The goal of surety enhancements is to improve the safety (to prevent accidental detonation), security (to increase physical protection), and use control (to permit only authorized use) of the nuclear stockpile, the NNSA says. According to the budget request, “This approach is applicable to other future envisioned refurbishments and stockpile improvement projects needed, meeting both NNSA and Department of Defense…requirements.”

According to the former weapons complex official, the “major driver” of warhead lifetime extensions is the NNSA’s desire to retrofit all warheads to use insensitive high explosives (IHE), which are less prone to accidental detonation than conventional explosives. The B61 already has IHE, but the W78 and W88 do not. When these warheads are rebuilt, they would need to use a different primary design that uses IHE, such as the W87 warhead on the Minuteman III, the former official said. It is likely that Los Alamos would have to produce new pits for these new primaries, he said.

The NNSA’s stated intention to “enhance” existing warhead designs has led some experts to be concerned that, in the name of safety and security, changes could be made that cannot be certified through nuclear testing and thus may lead to reduced warhead reliability. They argue that deviating from already well-tested designs is unwarranted and should be minimized. Seeking to restrain changes to existing warheads, the April 2010 “Nuclear Posture Review [NPR] Report” laid out several principles to guide the life extension effort. (See ACT, May 2010.)

The NPR report states that life extensions “will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.” According to the report, “In any decision to proceed to engineering development for warhead LEPs, the Administration will give strong preference to options for refurbishment or reuse. Replacement of nuclear components would be undertaken only if critical Stockpile Management Program goals could not otherwise be met, and if specifically authorized by the President and approved by Congress.”

The NPR report thus puts a high fence around “replacement.” Replacement is the riskiest approach as it would use new warhead designs that are not currently in the stockpile although they would be based on tested designs. “Reuse” would take parts already in the stockpile and use them in different warheads. “Refurbishment” would use the same parts or rebuilt parts of the same design in the same warhead and thus represents the lowest-risk approach. A warhead design not in the stockpile and not based on a tested design would be considered a “new” weapon and is ruled out by the NPR report.

In April 2010, Senior White House Coordinator for WMD Counterterrorism and Arms Control Gary Samore said, “Replacement would be to make a weapon with a physics package that had been previously tested but is not currently deployed.… I think refurbishment and reuse will be perfectly fine for the foreseeable future.”

The NNSA is considering a currently unused diagnostic tool, called “scaled experiments,” to support life extensions “by providing data on plutonium behavior under compression by insensitive high explosives,” according to the agency’s budget documents. These experiments would explosively test a scaled-down hollow sphere or shell of plutonium, which would not reach criticality and thus would not violate the CTBT, which prohibits all nuclear test explosions. The United States has not conducted scaled experiments “in a long time,” D’Agostino said in a Feb. 18 interview. (The transcript of the interview, which covered a range of NNSA issues, will be published later this month.)

By contrast, since last September the NNSA has conducted three subcritical experiments, which do not use plutonium spheres. Before that, the NNSA had not conducted subcritical experiments for almost four years. In a March 1 e-mail to Arms Control Today, NNSA spokesman Damien LaVera said, “There was a pause in conducting subcritical experiments because NNSA decided to upgrade nuclear safety protocols at the facility in Nevada where they are performed.  That process took longer than anticipated.”

The NNSA has asked the JASON group of senior science and defense consultants to provide advice on the integration of scaled experiments with the ongoing stockpile stewardship program before the agency proceeds with such experiments, LaVera said.

The fiscal year 2012 budget request refers to the study in its description of the NNSA’s planned work in “advanced certification.” The budget document does not specify the amount requested for that study, but LaVera said it was $1.2 million.

Some sources who follow the issue closely say such experiments may be of marginal utility and could necessitate the construction of a large new testing facility in Nevada, possibly raising the suspicions of other countries.

Delivery Systems Get Boost

As required by the Senate’s New START resolution of ratification, Obama certified Feb. 2 that he intends to “modernize or replace the triad of strategic nuclear delivery systems,” including a heavy bomber and air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), an ICBM, and an SLBM and a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine to launch it. These items are included in the $553 billion Defense Department budget request for fiscal year 2012. The administration’s May 2010 report on upgrading the nuclear deterrent states that, over the next decade, the United States will invest “well over $100 billion in nuclear delivery systems to sustain existing capabilities and modernize some strategic systems.”

The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2012 budget request includes $197 million for research and development on a new Air Force long-range bomber, either manned or unmanned, to be fielded in the mid-2020s. The Pentagon plans to spend $3.7 billion to develop the nuclear-capable aircraft over the next five years, with 80 to 100 aircraft ultimately planned.

The Air Force plans to retain the B-52 heavy bomber through at least 2035 for nuclear and conventional missions, with upgrades and life extensions to the fleet. The B-2 fleet is being upgraded as well.

The Defense Department intends to replace the current ALCM with the advanced long-range standoff cruise missile. The Air Force expects low-rate initial production of the new missile to begin approximately in 2025, while the current ALCM will be sustained through 2030.

The budget plan would spend $1.07 billion to develop a new ballistic missile submarine, the so-called SSBN(X), to replace the current Trident Ohio-class subs. The November version of the report on the U.S. nuclear deterrent states that the current subs have had their service life extended by a decade and will commence retirement in 2027. Construction for new submarines would begin in 2019 for first deployment in 2029. The estimated 2011-2020 cost for the new submarine is approximately $29.4 billion.

The November report said the Navy plans to sustain the Trident II D-5 missile, to be carried on the current Trident fleet and the next-generation submarine, through a least 2042.

Regarding ICBMs, the Air Force plans to sustain the Minuteman III through 2030. As stated in the NPR report, preparatory analysis on a new ICBM is underway, although a decision is not expected for several years. The fiscal year 2012 budget, however, does not contain $26 million that the administration pledged in November to spend on studying a next-generation ICBM. The omission is “a sign of things to come,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Feb. 17 at the Arlington conference. He said he saw it as showing “a gradual retreat.”

Ballistic Missile Defense: $100 Billion

Obama certified to the Senate that he would “continue development and deployment of United States missile defense systems” to defend against threats from North Korea and Iran. The certification covers all phases of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, and development of two-stage Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) missiles, originally planned for deployment in Europe, as a technological hedge.

The administration is requesting $10.7 billion for missile defense in fiscal year 2012, up from the current $10.2 billion. This total does not include $995.2 million for the Space Based Infrared System-High satellite program. Annual funding for missile defense is expected to remain roughly at $10 billion for the next decade.

The GMD system, which is meant to protect the United States from limited long-range missile attack from Iran and North Korea, is funded at $1.16 billion in fiscal year 2012, down from the $1.34 billion request for fiscal year 2011. In 2012 the GMD program plans to acquire six GBI missiles and order five more. Thirty GBI missiles currently are deployed in Alaska and California. The missiles have failed in their last two intercept tests, in January and December 2010. The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has established a Failure Review Board to investigate the causes and recommend fixes. The next test, called FTG-06b, is planned for fiscal year 2012. The MDA plans to have 47 GBI missiles by 2016.

The fiscal year 2012 budget request asks for more than $2 billion for the phased approach, which calls for deployment of interceptors in Europe, starting this year, to establish a limited capability to intercept missiles from Iran. (See ACT, March 2010.) The MDA plans to deploy SM-3 missiles on Aegis ships and on land in Romania in 2015 and Poland in 2018. In fiscal year 2012, the MDA plans to procure 46 SM-3 Block IB interceptors and deliver the final six SM-3 Block IAs and 12 additional SM-3 Block IBs. The MDA is requesting funds to continue development for the SM-3 Block IIA and SM-3 IIB. By 2016 the MDA plans to have 113 Block IAs, 223 Block IBs, and five Block IIAs, for a total of 341 SM-3 missiles and 41 Aegis missile defense-capable ships. The SM-3 Block IIB, which would cost $1.7 billion through fiscal year 2016, is not scheduled for deployment until the fourth phase of the planned approach, called Early Intercept and Regional ICBM Defense, in 2020.

The requested budget for directed energy research, including the Airborne Laser (ABL), is $469 million through 2016. According to the 2010 “Ballistic Missile Defense Review Report,” this program has experienced repeated schedule delays and technical problems since its start in 1996; the aircraft-based laser has been shifted to a technology demonstration program. (See ACT, July/August 2009.) In 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the ABL “has significant affordability and technology problems and the program’s proposed operational role is highly questionable.”

The Pentagon announced that it would not support the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a joint program with Germany and Italy, past 2013. The system is intended to protect battlefield troops from short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and aircraft and was slated for delivery in 2018. The program failed to perform within time and cost projections, despite some notable progress, the Pentagon said Feb. 14. “Our partners may go forward with some MEADS, but it is not our plan to do so,” Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale said at a briefing for reporters on the budget request. The German government said Feb. 15 that it would abandon MEADS as well.

 

The fiscal year 2012 budget request would boost funding for maintenance of the nuclear stockpile, modernization of the weapons production complex, upgrades to strategic delivery systems, and deployment of missile defense interceptors.

New START in Force; Missile Defense Looms

Tom Z. Collina

Two years after pushing the “reset button” on their relations, the United States and Russia on Feb. 5 exchanged the instruments of ratification for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), officially bringing the treaty into force. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signed the treaty documents in Germany during the annual Munich Security Conference.

“With the exchange of these instruments,” Clinton said in Munich, “we commit ourselves to a course of action that builds trust, lessens risks, and improves predictability, stability, and security.” She said the two countries will immediately begin notifying each other of changes in their strategic forces, as required by the treaty. Starting March 22, the countries will exchange full data on their strategic nuclear forces for the first time since July 2009. These data exchanges will include information on the numbers, locations, and “unique identifiers” (serial numbers) for deployed and nondeployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers; the numbers of warheads, aggregated by operating base, on deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, and counted for deployed heavy bombers (under New START, each deployed bomber is counted as one warhead although it can carry more); the numbers and locations of deployed and nondeployed launchers of ICBMs and SLBMs; and operating bases and test ranges where strategic arms may be located.

With the Feb. 5 entry into force, the United States and Russia, which have not conducted bilateral nuclear inspections since the original START expired on Dec. 5, 2009, can resume inspections in April. New START allows each side to conduct 18 on-site inspections per year and limits each side to 1,550 warheads deployed on 700 strategic missiles and bombers. In addition, the sides are limited to 800 deployed and nondeployed missile launchers and bombers. New START lowers treaty limits on both sides’ deployed nuclear warheads by about 30 percent from previous treaty restrictions.

The U.S. Senate approved New START Dec. 22 after a lengthy debate. (See ACT, January/February 2011.) Russia’s Federation Council, the upper house of the parliament, approved the treaty Jan. 26.

Further U.S.-Russian Reductions?

Resolutions on the treaty passed by both legislatures, as well as recent statements by senior officials, indicate that the next round of bilateral arms reductions may be more complicated. Since New START was signed last April, the Obama administration has reiterated its interest in a follow-on round of negotiations with Russia to address further reductions in strategic nuclear weapons and, for the first time, tactical weapons and warheads in storage. When the Senate approved New START, the resolution of ratification conditioned entry into force on a presidential pledge to seek negotiations with Russia within one year “to secure and reduce tactical nuclear weapons in a verifiable manner” and not to include missile defense in those talks. President Barack Obama made this certification Feb. 2, along with five others required by the Senate.

On Feb. 5 in Munich, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher said that the administration had begun talking with Russia about the full range of post-New START issues. Senior U.S. officials say, however, that they are in no rush to begin formal negotiations because the administration needs six to nine months to formulate its negotiating positions and that the Russians are not ready for new talks because of their concerns about U.S. missile defense plans.

For its part, Russia has been slow to embrace new talks. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov said Feb. 5 in Munich that further arms reductions cannot be achieved without “paying due respect” to factors that could harm strategic stability. He cited the possible U.S. deployment of weapons in outer space, U.S. plans to design nonnuclear strategic missile systems, the U.S.-NATO buildup of strategic missile defenses, and the growing disparity in conventional arms between Russia and NATO. Missile defense, he said, tops the list of Russia’s security concerns. “Any attempt to build a shield inevitably provokes creation of a better sword,” Ivanov said, in reference to U.S. missile defense plans and a possible Russian response. “We can break this vicious cycle only through coordinated efforts,” he said.

Using diplomatic language aimed at lowering expectations for near-term negotiations on tactical weapons, Ivanov said, “[W]e are ready to discuss this very complex topic in the framework of a comprehensive approach to strategic stability.” Referring to the estimated 180 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons based in Europe, Ivanov said that all tactical weapons should be based only on national territory and that “future hypothetical negotiations on tactical nukes must take into consideration not only Russia’s or NATO’s nuclear arsenals, but weapon systems of all nuclear and threshold states.”

North Korea, China, Pakistan, Israel, they are all our neighbors, they are not American neighbors,” Ivanov said, “so we think differently on this balance of strategic power.” Russia is believed to have roughly 3,000-5,000 tactical nuclear weapons; some are operational, and others are in storage.

“Cooperation” on Missile Defense

On missile defense, the respective resolutions of ratification approved by the U.S. and Russian legislatures highlight the challenges ahead. The U.S. resolution expresses opposition to negotiated limits on U.S. missile defenses. But the Russian resolution states that if the United States or “a group of states”—a reference to NATO—deploys a missile defense system “capable of significantly reducing the effectiveness” of Russia’s strategic forces, that would be grounds for Moscow to withdraw from New START and, presumably, reject any future arms reduction treaty.

In other words, the U.S. Senate would likely oppose any future treaty that limits U.S. missile defenses, while Russia’s legislature would not be likely to approve any such treaty unless there were meaningful limits on U.S. defenses. U.S. officials hope this conflict can be at least managed through greater transparency and “cooperation” on missile defense.

The object of Russia’s concern is the U.S.-NATO plan to deploy hundreds of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) theater missile interceptors in Europe and, within a decade, a new version of the SM-3 with limited capability against strategic ballistic missiles. Called the European Phased Adaptive Approach, the plan calls for interceptor deployments in four phases of increasing range and capability to counter the evolving Iranian missile threat.

At its November 2010 summit in Lisbon, NATO agreed for the first time to deploy a territorial missile defense, based on the U.S.-supplied SM-3. (See ACT, December 2010.) Moscow is primarily concerned about the last of the four phases, called Early Intercept and Regional ICBM Defense, to be deployed around 2020. The Obama administration says the interceptors deployed during that phase would be capable of intercepting possible future ICBMs from Iran. Lavrov said in Munich that if the last stages of the phased approach are implemented, they would directly infringe on the efficacy of the Russian nuclear deterrent.

To defuse this brewing conflict, NATO has invited Russia to cooperate on missile defense. According to a Dec. 18, 2010, letter from Obama to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), this cooperation “could lead to adding Russian capabilities to those deployed by NATO to enhance our common security against common threats.” The letter points out that a cooperative system with Russia “will not be a joint system, and it will not in any way limit [the] United States’ or NATO’s missile defense capabilities.” The United States has stated repeatedly that its missile defenses pose no threat to Russia.

Russia apparently remains unconvinced. “We want to be reassured that whatever you do there doesn’t undermine the stability of deterrence, because deterrence is still with us,” Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, said Feb. 16 at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va. “We haven’t reached a state...between our two countries that would allow us to abolish it. We would like to see it happen. But that’s going to be a long way [off],” he said.

NATO and Russia agreed in Lisbon to explore ways to cooperate on missile defense and to issue a progress report in June. Clinton, speaking in Munich, said that the United States is talking with Russia about missile defense. “[W]e are eager to begin a joint analysis, joint exercises, and sharing of early-warning data that could form the basis for a cooperative missile defense system. We will work together to ensure that our missile defense systems are mutually reinforcing,” she said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently formed a working group within the Russian government to develop ideas for missile defense collaboration with NATO, according to a Feb. 21 Interfax report. “I hope that by this June, when a meeting of defense ministers of the Russia-NATO Council takes place, the Russian delegation would reach certain progress towards agreements with NATO under which the [missile interceptor] system does not put into question our strategic nuclear potential, which is the basis and guarantee of our sovereignty and independence,” said Russia’s NATO envoy, Dmitry Rogozin, who is leading the effort.

“Living Separately in Different Apartments”

Russia has made clear that it has in mind a deeper type of “cooperation” than NATO does. Rogozin told journalists after a Jan. 25 meeting of the NATO-Russia Council working group on missile defense that NATO’s proposals “could not be called cooperation. It’s not even a marriage of convenience. It’s like living separately in different apartments.”

Moscow has called for a combined “sectoral” missile defense in which NATO and Russia each assumes responsibility for countering missile threats over a specific part of Europe. Russian-NATO missile defense work “must be a joint system with shared responsibilities, information exchange and decision-making in order to make us an equal and responsible member,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Feb. 7, according to the Associated Press.

“If two separate networks are built, things won’t change for us and we will see a situation when the NATO system could potentially be used against Russia’s security interests. Cooperating on such a system would mean hurting ourselves,” Ryabkov said.

Russia apparently wants to prevent NATO’s interceptors from being aimed at Russian ICBMs, which could reduce Moscow’s ability to respond to a first strike.

“The principle ‘take it or leave it’ does not work here,” Lavrov said in Munich. “If our concerns are not taken into account, if no equitable, joint work is achieved, then we will have to compensate for the emergent imbalance,” he said, referring to the possibility that Russia could build up its offensive missile forces.

U.S. and European officials, however, say that Russia’s concept of a “joint system” is unrealistic because NATO must retain responsibility for its own defense and, in any case, Russia does not have operational missile interceptors capable of defending European territory. Meanwhile, they say, the eastern European states that formerly were in the Warsaw Pact and now are in NATO want to be defended by NATO, not Russia. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller, the top U.S. arms control negotiator, told the Arlington conference that Obama has decided that “NATO will protect NATO, and that’s the bottom line as far as we’re concerned.”

Alternative to Turkey

Meanwhile, the first phase of the European interceptor deployment, scheduled to be operational later this year, calls for SM-3 interceptors to be based on Aegis ships in the Mediterranean Sea and for a forward-based radar in southeastern Europe. Turkey, the United States’ first choice to host the radar, reportedly has not granted its consent out of concern that information from the radar, called the AN/TPY-2, might be shared with Israel.

In a Feb. 3 letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Republican Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), James Risch (Idaho), Mark Kirk (Ill.), and James Inhofe (Okla.) said they were opposed to Turkey’s conditions and that the United States should consider turning to Georgia to be the host country. “We believe that the Republic of Georgia’s geographic location would make it an ideal site for a missile defense radar aimed at Iran, and would offer clear advantages for the protection of the United States from a long range missile as compared to Turkey,” the senators wrote. “What’s more, the Republic of Georgia should be a significant partner for future defense cooperation with the U.S.Georgia is not a member of NATO, and a proposal to deploy missile defense assets there would likely meet with fierce opposition from Russia.

Delay in finding a suitable host for the AN/TPY-2 radar is just one factor that could cause the schedule for the phased approach to slip. According to a Jan. 26 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the deployment schedule is not adequately synchronized with acquisition, infrastructure, and personnel activities. As a result, the GAO found that the Department of Defense “is at risk of incurring schedule slips, decreased performance, and increased cost as it implements the phases” of the planned approach.

 

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty entered into force February 5, but Russia and the United States appear to have difficult negotiations ahead on tactical nuclear weapons and missile defense.

U.S. Updates Iran Assessment

Peter Crail

Iran is keeping open the option of developing nuclear weapons eventually, but it is not clear that Tehran will decide to do so, U.S. intelligence officials told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Feb. 16. The briefing, which was part of an annual intelligence community overview of threats to the United States, coincided with a long-delayed formal update of a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program. Intelligence officials held briefings on the revised judgments with administration officials and members of Congress in February.

Unlike the 2007 NIE, in which the intelligence community prepared a public summary of “key judgments,” an unclassified summary of the updated assessment is not expected. Many of the key conclusions from the 2007 assessment were reiterated in a Feb. 16 written statement by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to the Senate panel.

Clapper said that Iran is keeping open the option of developing nuclear weapons through the pursuit of various nuclear capabilities but that the intelligence community did not know if Iran eventually would decide to build nuclear weapons.

He also said that the advancement of Iran’s nuclear capabilities strengthened the intelligence community’s assessment that Tehran has the capacity to produce nuclear weapons eventually, “making the central issue the political will to do so.”

Moreover, Iran’s decision-making on the nuclear issue “is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran,” Clapper said.

Among Iran’s nuclear capabilities, Clapper specifically cited Iran’s advances in uranium enrichment. Uranium can be enriched to low levels commonly used in nuclear power reactors or to high levels for potential use in nuclear weapons. Clapper said that the intelligence community judges that Iran “is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium [HEU] for a weapon in the next few years, if it chooses to do so.”

The 2007 NIE said that Iran would be technically capable of producing HEU between 2010 and 2015, although it noted that the Department of State’s intelligence bureau judged that Iran was unlikely to do so before 2013 due to technical and programmatic hurdles.

One central judgment from the 2007 NIE that Clapper’s statement did not address was the intelligence community’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear warhead development and covert uranium-conversion and -enrichment activities. In 2007 the intelligence community judged “with high confidence” that Iran suspended such efforts in the fall of 2003 and concluded “with moderate confidence” that Iran maintained that halt through mid-2007. (See ACT, January/February 2008.)

Statements from senior intelligence officials over the past year have suggested that Iran has engaged in research on nuclear weapons designs at least since the 2007 NIE. “I think they continue to work on designs in that area,” CIA Director Leon Panetta told ABC’s This Week June 27.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has sought explanations from Iran regarding the agency’s “concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” according to a February 2010 IAEA report. (See ACT, March 2010.) Those concerns stem from intelligence information provided to the agency over the past several years, including digital documentation reportedly smuggled out of Iran. Tehran has rejected much of that information as forgeries and has not cooperated with the IAEA probe.

The public disclosure of a previously secret uranium-enrichment plant under construction near the city of Qom in September 2009 also raised questions about Iran’s renewed pursuit of covert enrichment facilities. U.S. intelligence officials said at that time that although the facility had been under construction since 2006, it was not until early 2009 that the intelligence community was able to determine that the site was a uranium-enrichment facility. (See ACT, October 2009.)

Although the new assessment is a more formal update of the previous intelligence judgment, policymakers have likely received revised intelligence assessments of Iran’s capabilities in various forms for some time. “I expect that numerous judgments have been flowing all along over the last couple of years from the intelligence agencies to the policymakers with regard to this topic,” Paul Pillar, former CIA national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, said at a Nov. 22 briefing hosted by the Arms Control Association.

Negotiations Hit Roadblock

The updated intelligence assessment followed an inconclusive Jan. 21-22 meeting between the “P5+1”—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany—and Iran on Iran’s nuclear program. The parties did not arrive at any substantive agreement during the two-day meet in Istanbul, nor did they agree to further talks.

In a Jan. 22 statement, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, who represents the P5+1, expressed disappointment with the outcome. “We had hoped to embark on a discussion of practical ways forward,” she said, noting that the six countries went to Istanbul “with specific practical proposals which would build trust.”

Those proposals included an updated version of a nuclear fuel swap arrangement first put forward by the United States in 2009 and additional transparency measures to improve IAEA monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program. (See ACT, November 2009.)

P5+1 diplomats said that the updated fuel swap offer entailed removing a larger amount of low-enriched uranium (LEU) from Iran than the 1,200 kilograms initially proposed. Iran has produced about an additional 1,400 kilograms of 4 percent LEU since the original offer. The new proposal also would remove Iran’s smaller reserves of 20 percent-enriched uranium and halt any further enrichment at that level, which Iran initiated in February 2010.

Diplomats also indicated that the transparency measures proposed were consistent with those sought by the IAEA.

Ashton said that rather than discussing these proposals, Tehran established two preconditions for any progress: recognition of Iran’s claimed right to enrich uranium and the lifting of international sanctions.

With regard to enrichment, she reiterated the P5+1’s recognition of Iran’s right to civil nuclear energy, stressing that it was Iran’s responsibility to demonstrate that such a program is exclusively peaceful.

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, of which Iran is a member, recognizes a state’s “inalienable right” to a peaceful nuclear energy program as long as non-nuclear-weapon state members abide by their commitment not to pursue nuclear weapons. The treaty does not reference specific nuclear activities such as enrichment.

Ashton noted that the conditions for lifting international sanctions are specified in the UN resolutions and that “those do not exist today.” She indicated in particular that the removal of sanctions would accompany the re-establishment of international confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Although the P5+1 have rejected Iran’s preconditions, they stated their willingness to continue to engage in negotiations over the proposals they forwarded.

Iran also indicated that it was open to further talks. Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told reporters Jan. 22, “We are still prepared for further negotiations with the P5+1, based on common issues.”

Jalili’s willingness to engage in further discussions appeared to contradict claims by other key Iranian officials that the Istanbul talks might present the final opportunity for negotiations. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, told reporters in France Jan. 12 that “the Istanbul meeting might be the last chance for the West to return to talks,” because Iran would install its own fuel rods in the Tehran Research Reactor rather than import them as part of the proposed fuel swap.

However, Iran is not believed to be capable of safely producing fuel plates for the reactor in the near future. Former IAEA Deputy Director-General for Safeguards Olli Heinonen said during the Nov. 22 briefing that Iran still needed one to two years to manufacture the reactor fuel safely.

 

Iran is keeping open the option of pursuing nuclear weapons but apparently has not yet decided to take that route, U.S. intelligence officials told Congress in an update of a 2007 assessment.

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