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Retooling Efforts to Stop the Proliferation of WMD Expertise

Sharon K. Weiner

As part of its nonproliferation agenda, the United States has given an increasing role to programs focused on the scientists and engineers who make weapons of mass destruction (WMD), with a particular emphasis on reducing opportunities and incentives for scientists to disseminate their skills and knowledge. Terrorist access to nuclear weapons knowledge became the focal point of U.S. nonproliferation policy after the September 11 attacks.

The United States also has worried about the fate of WMD experts in war-torn states such as Iraq and Libya, as well as in Pakistan, where there are concerns about anti-U.S. sentiment and the activities of retired weapons scientists. More broadly, working with scientists has been proposed as a way to create dialogue with North Korea, eventually on nuclear weapons issues. Some U.S. policymakers argue that collaborative research with scientists can help create transparency and raise confidence that biotechnology and nuclear energy programs are not also engaged in weapons work.

Such scientist engagement efforts are not new. U.S. and Soviet scientists worked together on arms control verification measures during the Cold War. However, the focus on WMD expertise as a central component of U.S. nonproliferation policy dates from the early 1990s. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the subsequent dismal economic conditions in its successor states led to a variety of proliferation fears. In response, Russia and the United States worked together on several efforts that collectively became known as Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR), or Nunn-Lugar, after Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who championed this agenda. Parts of the CTR work focused on helping Russia dismantle and destroy unconventional weapons; other programs sought to improve the security of WMD-relevant materials.

Yet another set of efforts focused on the scientists themselves. Because of concerns that poverty-stricken WMD experts would be tempted to sell their skills to rogue states, especially Iran and North Korea, this part of the CTR agenda focused on creating jobs for former Soviet WMD scientists and engineers. Programs with this mandate were created in the U.S. departments of Defense, Energy, and State.

The job creation programs started in response to the Soviet collapse have provided the basis for current knowledge-nonproliferation efforts. Their activities, procedures, and assumptions will continue to influence this policy agenda as it expands beyond the former Soviet Union. Therefore, it makes sense to understand the successes and failures of these programs and the problems they encountered as these efforts were being put into place. Certainly, past antagonisms from the Cold War created problems for the U.S.-Russian cooperative nonproliferation agenda, as did diverging policy priorities and Russian attempts to reassert a more powerful role in international relations. Yet, the history of this knowledge-nonproliferation agenda also points to another source of problems: bureaucratic politics.

U.S.-Russian nonproliferation efforts were significantly affected by relations between different programs and the assumptions and routines the programs developed for implementing their efforts. These bureaucratic issues often created or reinforced problems that could have been mitigated or even overcome. Because current policy efforts have evolved from these earlier U.S.-Russian programs, they have inherited some of the same bureaucratic problems and tendencies. Therefore, successfully curbing the proliferation of WMD expertise beyond the former Soviet Union depends on heeding the lessons of this past experience.

Shifting Program Goals

The Soviet Union had a massive WMD complex that included multiple redundant facilities. After the country’s collapse, parts of this complex were inherited by each of the successor states. This dispersal raised fears about the proliferation of WMD expertise, as did the weakened economy and internal security in many of the newly independent states, but especially Russia. In response, the United States created five programs, each of which shared the goal of retraining WMD experts and helping to create permanent nonweapons work for them. The U.S. Defense Department was home to two such programs: the Defense Enterprise Fund and an unnamed set of efforts to convert former Soviet weapons facilities. The State Department managed U.S. participation in two multinational Science Centers, one in Moscow and one in Kiev. The Energy Department also had two programs: Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (IPP), created in 1994, and the Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI), which dates from 1998.

Although some of these programs had additional goals, each had as a central mission the creation of nonweapons jobs as a means of combating the potential proliferation of WMD expertise. Over time, however, each program came to adopt different goals. Some focused on goals that were easier to measure; others shifted to outcomes that were more likely to demonstrate success.

For example, the Science Centers and the IPP shifted back and forth between “engagement,” which seeks to use cooperative research projects to provide short-term income to scientists, and the more difficult task of “redirection,” which aims to create jobs for WMD workers outside the weapons complex. The IPP also came to argue that engagement was useful because it helped the United States better understand the state of the Russian nuclear complex and activities there. Engagement made sense as an initial strategy because establishing the business connections and training necessary for job creation took time and former Soviet WMD experts already were in desperate economic straits.

Although both programs did develop job creation strategies, they persistently focused on measuring progress toward engagement. The IPP, for example, measured the number of WMD experts involved in any type of project, counted the dollars invested by business partners, and recorded the number of licenses and patents that resulted from its efforts. The Science Centers also counted the number of scientists involved in research projects, but neither program kept an accurate record of the number of jobs created nor took steps to discover how many of those jobs remained in existence after several years.

Focusing on engagement rather than job creation solved certain problems faced by the Science Centers and the IPP. First, engagement was simply easier. Converting facilities and scientists from defense to civilian functions is inherently difficult, much more so in a country with little experience with market forces. Second, measuring the number of scientists engaged allowed these programs to demonstrate success to a U.S. Congress that at times was quite skeptical of this nonproliferation agenda. These programs could report that they had “engaged” tens of thousands of former Soviet experts. The number of jobs created, however, never exceeded a few thousand, if that.

Both the NCI and the Defense Department’s conversion efforts did count the number of jobs they created, but their goals shifted in other ways. The NCI was faced with limited funding from Congress and increasing constraints imposed by internal security forces in Russia. The U.S. national laboratories, which provided the scientific expertise and collaborators for NCI and IPP projects, also were disgruntled because they had less clout than NCI headquarters in decisions on project choices. In response to the increasingly hostile environment, NCI managers chose to focus on a few key projects, rather than broader job creation efforts. When those projects failed, the NCI strategy was called into question, and the program shut down.

Like the NCI, Defense Department conversion programs faced externally imposed problems. The most serious was that most of the Russian institutes interested in conversion made conventional weapons. Rather than search for more appropriate institutes, the Defense Department settled for converting facilities that had little or no relevance to unconventional weapons. This, in turn, made Congress skeptical of the national security benefits of continuing these programs; one was ended in the mid-1990s, and the other saw significant funding reductions before it also was terminated.

Although each of these programs shifted goals for different reasons, the consequences were similar. Some Russian political leaders were committed to the goal of defense conversion, but others were skeptical of U.S. motives. The lack of new jobs reinforced domestic political concerns, especially among the internal security forces, that U.S. programs really were more interested in spying than in nonproliferation. As a result, Russia became less and less cooperative. This, in turn, seemed to confirm the suspicions of program skeptics in the United States who worried that U.S. funding was allowing Russia to spend its own resources on rebuilding its military rather than on nonproliferation.

The shift from redirection to engagement also had another important consequence: U.S. programs came to include WMD experts who were not the primary proliferation concern. As part of redirection, the Science Centers and the IPP were supposed to focus on older WMD experts who had been part of the Soviet complex. These experts were seen as a proliferation risk because they experienced a sharp decline in salary and living standards when the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia was downsizing its complex, and these scientists lacked the skills to get market-oriented jobs in the new Russian economy. In contrast, the goal of engagement meant that U.S. programs could bypass these older scientists. Instead, they engaged younger experts who often had skills that were more relevant to the new economy and were interested in temporary research collaborations, but who had every expectation of remaining in the Russian WMD complex. In other words, engagement meant U.S. programs were more inclined to fund experts who would remain gainfully employed in Russia’s nuclear complex and thus were not a proliferation risk.

Bureaucracies often stray from the policy objectives they have been given and come to adopt goals that are easier to measure or more likely to demonstrate their success. Such changes can result in new or better ways of achieving desired policy outcomes or lead to new policy priorities. This was not the outcome for the programs described above. Their shifting program goals exacerbated underlying tensions between Russia and the United States and within the United States and caused resources to be spent on scientists who were not a priority. As a result, although fighting the proliferation of WMD expertise through job creation remained a top U.S. policy objective, programs found it increasingly difficult to achieve this goal.

Standard Operating Procedures

U.S. nonproliferation efforts traditionally have focused on international legal regimes, such as the one built around the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Fighting proliferation with job creation was a novel approach that arose from a unique event: the sudden collapse of the Soviet state. As a policy goal, job creation also was at odds with the normal tasks given to the Defense, Energy, and State departments, none of which had significant experience with converting military facilities, creating commercial jobs, or working with Russian WMD experts. As a result, they did what all bureaucracies do: they implemented the programs they were given using their own standard operating procedures. Unfortunately, some of these routines actually made nonproliferation goals more difficult to achieve.

The Defense Department, for example, needed U.S. commercial partners to help convert Russian defense facilities. Businesses were invited to bid for such opportunities, and the Pentagon chose the winner by using standard rules that give contracts to the lowest bidder when there are no established suppliers with which the department has a relationship. The lowest bidder, however, did not necessarily have any experience in defense conversion or working in Russia. As a result, U.S. commercial partners often were ill-prepared for the difficulties they would face, and many conversion projects failed. Consequently, the managers and employees of some Russian facilities became less interested. More problems arose because Russia had been promised high-tech conversion projects that built on the skills found in employees at key defense facilities. Instead, many of the commercial partners selected made low-tech consumer goods. Some Russian facilities were disappointed; others felt they had been misled. As one scientist explained, it was as if the United States had asked nuclear weapons scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory to make baby diapers.[1]

Standard operating procedures had a different effect at the State Department, which was in charge of U.S. participation in the Science Centers. The department’s normal task of diplomatic relations led to an emphasis on maintaining harmonious relations among countries that contributed to the centers. In other words, the department focused on creating a project selection process that would ensure consensus among Science Center funders rather than developing rigorous procedures for identifying proliferation-prone scientists or conversion projects that were likely to lead to commercial success. As a result, few projects led to job creation.

Similarly, when the Science Centers sought more funding for job creation efforts in the late 1990s, the State Department led the way in creating a process that made it easier for other U.S. government agencies to fund collaborative research with former Soviet WMD experts through the centers. The centers were very successful in this respect. At the Moscow science center, for example, more than 90 percent of funding for its new Partner Project job creation effort came from U.S. government agencies,[2] but the vast majority of these agencies were interested in short-term research contracts, not job creation for the WMD experts they engaged.

At the Energy Department, the standard operating procedure that proved most problematic was the decentralized power structure.[3] Congress tried to help remedy problems with insufficient coordination and information sharing by creating the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency within the Energy Department that is responsible for military-related nuclear functions. Yet even under the NNSA, which was established in 2000, the U.S. national laboratories retained significant decision-making authority. To help Russian WMD experts design, implement, and carry out job creation projects, both the IPP and NCI used experts from the U.S. national labs. Thus, both programs had to contend with these problems.

The independent power of the labs had some advantages. Because of their mutual scientific backgrounds and interests, U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons experts proved eager to work with each other. In turn, they pressured their respective governments to remove some of the barriers that initially made U.S.-Russian cooperation difficult or slow.

Unfortunately for the IPP, however, the decentralized power structure in the NNSA also created problems. The labs bickered with each other over projects and funding. The seven smaller labs often accused the “three gorillas” of Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories of skewing the IPP toward their own preference for big projects that were unlikely to lead to job creation. The big labs, in turn, argued that the “seven dwarfs” lacked the WMD-relevant skills necessary to engage the Russians and were involved in the IPP only to boost their budgets.[4]

Further, the allocation of project funding often was determined more by the preferences of the individual labs than by the overall strategy developed by IPP headquarters. The labs also refused to heed the pleas from headquarters for more precise record keeping. As a result, the program could not definitively prove its impact. Moreover, periodic external reviews criticized the IPP for spending more money on U.S. lab experts than on Russian ones and for giving money to Russian institutes that were also involved in work with Iran.[5] Some of these criticisms were justified, but others were exaggerated in order to make broader political points.

The NNSA’s decentralized structure had a different impact on the NCI. The decision-making authority for that initiative was concentrated in a central headquarters, giving the labs much less say over program activities. Further, in contrast to the IPP, the NCI’s early projects involved community development and the creation of low-tech jobs for anyone living in Russia’s nuclear cities. The labs did not find much of a role for their expertise in such projects, often arguing that NCI efforts were misguided or counterproductive. Deprived of strong support from the U.S. labs and at times actively criticized by them, the NCI found it difficult to marshal the political and financial resources it needed.

It is only natural for bureaucracies to implement new programs according to their standard operating procedures. As the previous examples show, however, U.S. nonproliferation policy toward Russia suffered because some of these routines made it more difficult to create jobs. Other routines provided ammunition for domestic political forces in the United States and Russia that questioned the value of the threat reduction agenda.


Despite their common goal, there was very little coordination among the five programs that the United States created during the 1990s to convert former Soviet WMD experts to nonweapons work. They did not share lessons learned from past success and failure, nor did they engage in collective public outreach to build support for their policy agenda. With the exception of some program personnel who focused on working with former biological weapons experts and facilities, these programs never developed a joint list of Soviet WMD experts or institutes to help them target or prioritize their efforts. The U.S. programs also did not develop sufficient means to share information about project funding; thus there was no guarantee they did not fund the same scientists for the same work or fund the same project twice.

Coordination also was a problem within agencies. The Energy Department’s IPP and NCI, both of which involved U.S. national labs, did little to coordinate their activities. This remained true even after the two programs were merged in 2002 to form Russian Transition Initiatives. Within the NNSA, some labs also persistently refused to share information with the others. As for the Moscow and Kiev science centers, there was little coordination or communication between them, and at times, they followed different policies for job creation. The Defense Department was an exception in this case; its conversion effort did share some project ideas and personnel with the Defense Enterprise Fund.

In addition to causing waste and inefficiency, the lack of coordination created problems with Russia. U.S. programs tended not to coordinate their visits to Russia. As would be expected, Russian officials were sensitive about giving U.S. government personnel access to the country’s nuclear weapons complex. When IPP, NCI, and Science Center project managers each requested access to the same facilities and experts, this confirmed for some in Russia that the United States was more interested in “nuclear tourism” and spying than in nonproliferation. Those fears were reinforced when U.S. programs repeatedly failed to create many jobs.

Fixing Bureaucratic Problems

Each of the problems described above is an example of standard bureaucratic behavior. Unfortunately, these bureaucratic issues created significant problems for U.S. nonproliferation efforts. Fewer jobs were created for former Soviet WMD workers because the programs in charge of this policy agenda came to pursue slightly different goals, used implementation routines that created inefficiencies or other problems, and refused to coordinate with each other. These bureaucratic tendencies, in turn, exacerbated existing fears in Russia and domestic political debates in the United States. As a result, programs faced not only additional hurdles to job creation, but also uncertainties about their funding and future. They became less inclined to take risks, be innovative, or push for the re-examination of job creation as a nonproliferation strategy.

Such problems need not be a fact of life. Some can be anticipated and mitigated. In the case of U.S. knowledge-nonproliferation efforts, three relatively simple fixes would have helped, either by increasing program efficiency or by limiting the degree to which bureaucratic problems were allowed to reinforce political ones.

The first such fix is to have external stakeholders periodically review the assumptions, goals, processes, and outcomes of nonproliferation programs. Doing so can help identify places where program activities have strayed from policy goals for bureaucratic and other reasons.

Although Congress at times provides such oversight, in general it lacks the expertise and electoral incentives to engage in program review on a regular basis. Moreover, congressional oversight can be problematic when there are partisan or other domestic differences over a policy agenda.

Individual members of Congress, for example, can request investigations by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and use the scope of inquiry and timing to try to influence the outcome. The NCI was the subject of two GAO investigations during its first few years, before its projects could reasonably have been expected to produce significant results. Similarly, in its 2008 review of the IPP, the GAO criticized the program for overstating its accomplishments, keeping records sloppily, and funding institutes that also were engaged in work on Iran’s Bushehr reactor. Critics seized on the latter point and used it, inaccurately, to argue that the United States was funding Iran’s weapons program and to bring up old concerns that threat reduction was really a subsidy to the Russian defense complex and being used for weapons that would eventually be aimed at the United States.

For these reasons, external review is more likely to be helpful if it is performed by external stakeholders, such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs either have or have access to the expertise to undertake even technical reviews. Because they are outside the bureaucracy, they are more likely to be able to see the influence of bureaucratic preferences on program activities and thus help analyze whether these help or hinder the pursuit of the original policy goals. Moreover, NGOs can be deterred from skewing their reviews to support their own partisan positions because Congress also can ask for competing reviews from other NGOs or threaten to leave partisan analysts out of such activities in the future.

External reviews could be further improved if the programs published and periodically updated not only their results, but also the metrics and decision-making criteria used in program implementation. Among the U.S. efforts aimed at former WMD experts, the Science Centers had the best track record of making their results publicly available. Eventually the IPP followed suit, but it reported and measured its metrics inconsistently and in some cases inaccurately. None of the programs published its decision-making criteria for external review. Sometimes this information was not even shared with the people in charge of engaging WMD scientists or carrying out job creation projects.

Publishing program metrics and rules would help clarify the assumptions behind program choices and make external review easier. Such documentation also would increase uniformity of the effort within programs. The U.S. Army, for example, publishes field manuals and makes many easily available to the public. In addition to providing detailed information for service members to use in implementation, the manuals give external stakeholders a basis for analyzing how the Army deals with uncertainties and how it can be expected to respond to external constraints. Moreover, the manuals help provide a basis for judging whether the policy the Army implements is overly influenced by the Army’s own bureaucratic interests.

Another area for improvement is program coordination. Indeed, one of the most persistent suggestions for improving U.S.-Russian threat reduction activities was that a cabinet-level “czar” be appointed to oversee this policy agenda. After almost two decades, the first such official was appointed by the Obama administration although that official is responsible for a much broader set of policies.

A high-profile presidential appointee could have helped troubleshoot problems with Russia and raise political awareness in the United States, but many significant coordination problems arose at a much lower level. It probably would have escaped the czar’s notice, for example, that the U.S. labs did not share lessons learned in implementing IPP projects or that the Moscow and Kiev science centers had different criteria for the number of WMD experts required in a project. At such levels, better coordination is a function of the power of program managers, who need the authority to create interagency connections and to overcome barriers to cooperation and information sharing within and among programs.

Beyond the Former Soviet Union

The scientist redirection efforts that formed part of the threat reduction program with the former Soviet Union are winding down. As some programs seek to close down, however, others are looking to expand to new areas. For example, five years ago the IPP changed its name to Global Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (GIPP) and now has programs in Iraq, Libya, and other areas. Older State and Defense department efforts that focused on biological weapons expertise have been rejuvenated. Engagement of scientists from North Korea is seen by many as a step to creating a broader dialogue with Pyongyang on nuclear issues.

As a means of discouraging proliferation, these new efforts are embracing engagement as a way to encourage transparency or establish the basis for a dialogue that eventually will include more-sensitive national security issues. Some policy experts even have suggested funding long-term research collaborations as an inducement to scientists to refrain from working on unconventional weapons.

Whatever strategy is chosen for future efforts to prevent the spread of WMD expertise, it is foolish to allow programs to perpetuate bureaucratic tendencies that created significant hurdles for past nonproliferation efforts. Providing program managers with more authority, requiring programs to report not only outcomes but also program metrics and decision-making rules, and making the managers subject to periodic review by external stakeholders can help ensure that future nonproliferation efforts are less likely to be hindered by bureaucratic politics.

Working with foreign scientists has the potential to help the United States discourage proliferation in a variety of countries besides the former Soviet Union. Moreover, cooperation between scientists can be productive even when higher-level political negotiations are stalled. To realize the benefits of such efforts more fully, however, it is necessary to improve on past experience. Even if bureaucratic politics cannot be eliminated, a few simple steps would help reduce its more damaging consequences.  ACT

Sharon K. Weiner is an associate professor in the School of International Service at American University. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is author of Our Own Worst Enemy? Institutional Interests and the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Expertise (2011), from which this article is adapted.



1. Adi Ignatius, “U.S. Stirs Russian Resentment With Plans for Defense Conversion,” The Wall Street Journal, September 19, 1994.

2. Sharon K. Weiner, Our Own Worst Enemy? Institutional Interests and the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Expertise (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011), p. 180.

3. For a history of these problems, see President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, “Science at Its Best, Security at Its Worst: A Report on Security Problems at the U.S. Department of Energy,” June 1999.

4. See Weiner, Our Own Worst Enemy? pp. 232-234.

5. A 1999 investigation by the U.S. General Accounting Office found that less than 40 percent of project money was actually going to institutes in the former Soviet Union; most was going to the U.S. labs. See U.S. General Accounting Office, “Nuclear Nonproliferation: Concerns With DOE’s Efforts to Reduce the Risks Posed by Russia’s Unemployed Weapons Scientists,” GAO-RCED-99-54, February 1999, p. 4. In 2008 the IPP was criticized for funding scientists at a Russian institute that also did work on the Bushehr reactor in Iran. See House Committee on Energy and Commerce, “Department of Energy Program Funds Russian Nuclear Work in Iran,” February 6, 2008.

As part of its nonproliferation agenda, the United States has given an increasing role to programs focused on the scientists and engineers who make weapons of mass destruction (WMD), with a particular emphasis on reducing opportunities and incentives for scientists to disseminate their skills and knowledge. Terrorist access to nuclear weapons knowledge became the focal point of U.S. nonproliferation policy after the September 11 attacks.

Prospects for Global Restraints on Cyberattack

John Steinbruner

The Obama administration has issued four documents dealing with issues of cybersecurity. Two are concerned with protecting the United States against the many real and imagined forms of cyberattack,[1] one announces an effort to establish protective norms of behavior among “like-minded” countries,[2] and one accuses China and Russia of stealing economic information by cyberintrusion, making it evident that they are not included among the like-minded countries.[3]

The documents feature basic principles and generally worded aspirations with very little specification of plausibly effective operational policy. At the level of computer code, there is a world of intricate operational detail to which the documents refer, and that level of detail is validly considered to be too abstruse and too sensitive for public discussion. Yet, in declaring that policy actions are required to deal with significant vulnerabilities that cannot be decisively removed, the documents implicitly reveal a prevailing judgment that robust protection of the many activities that now occur in cyberspace cannot be achieved by mastery of computer code or by any other technical means. The beginning of wisdom on the subject is realization that the issues in question are essentially unprecedented and for that reason very imperfectly understood.

The Basic Problem

As is well recognized, the basics of the situation arise from the spontaneous emergence of the Internet, which surely counts as one of history’s more remarkable events. The Internet itself is simply a set of protocols for transferring files between addresses assigned to individual computers. The transfer occurs without examining the content of the files and without identifying the persons involved. At the time the arrangement was formulated, the network to be created was expected to involve on the order of 100,000 computers worldwide, all of them mainframes. It was not imagined that the network would grow to encompass billions of individual computers, most of them substantially more capable than mainframes of the early 1970s, nor was it foreseen that the network would be able to exchange an exabyte (1018) of data daily as it currently is doing. The unanticipated Internet has become in effect a global utility vital to the operation of most institutions and to the daily lives of a substantial portion of the human population.

The consequences of that development have been enormously beneficial on balance but not entirely benign. The transfer protocols have enabled anonymous predators to operate with global reach and have created a constantly evolving problem of protecting legitimate services from exploitative or destructive intrusion. Up to this point, spontaneous actions to defend against predators have been sufficiently effective to support progressively extensive use of the Internet. There have been occasional instances of malicious software propagating to the extent of commanding global attention and similarly occasional episodes of prominent denial-of-service attacks, in which a Web site is deliberately overloaded.

There is, moreover, a constant daily barrage of limited but troublesome intrusions. Nearly everyone with an Internet connection has experienced some irritating episode. Nonetheless, many imaginable disasters have not occurred. Power grids have not collapsed, aircraft have not been diverted, nuclear reactors have not exploded, and the amount of fraud the financial system has suffered has not been sufficient to preclude the daily flow of money, stocks, and commodity trade running in the trillion-dollar range. It is conceivable that this experience reflects inherent limits on the level of Internet predation, but it also is possible that some catastrophe is incubating.

The fact that the possibility of catastrophe cannot be precluded with confidence gives policymakers a compelling reason to consider how the underlying risks might be minimized even if they cannot be entirely eliminated. That, however, has to be a judiciously limited aspiration. Not every conceivable disaster can be actively prevented. If there is to be a standard of protection more reliable than what individuals, organizations, and states can provide for themselves, it will have to be based on globally accepted priorities and would not include all concerns.

It is extremely unlikely, for example, that organized global protection would be extended to espionage in its many forms. The Internet has been a bonanza for intelligence agencies, marketing organizations, and all manner of busybodies. The practice of exploitation, as unauthorized access to information is commonly termed, is too widespread and too deeply entrenched to be included in any categorical restriction. Whoever exposes information to the Internet has to rely on whatever degree of protection he or she personally can devise or what commercial protective services can provide.

Similarly, military operations that selectively serve their own societies and threaten others would not qualify as a category eligible for protection. Military organizations will have to protect their use of the Internet as best they individually can. Nonetheless, globally organized protection might be extended to infrastructure that performs functions widely acknowledged to be vital to the legitimate operations of any society. Power grids, air traffic control systems, financial transaction clearing houses, emergency response teams, ship navigation systems, and hospitals are all plausible candidates frequently mentioned.

The Case of Power Grids

Among the candidates for status as a protected category, power grids loom as the most significant test case. They are yet more vital to the functions of society than the Internet itself, which depends on power to operate, and in principle, they are vulnerable to Internet predation. Power grid operations depend on computer codes that could be penetrated and maliciously altered. Doing so would require extraordinary sophistication and sustained effort that would itself be subject to exposure, but it is technically conceivable. The recent episode of the Stuxnet worm, apparently designed to attack Iranian gas centrifuges, gives pointed warning in that regard. Many organizations could do similar things, and if belligerent impulses are legitimized, some of them will.

If one admits that it could happen, then one has to admit the possibility of lengthy power outages extending over large areas. Informed opinion at the moment does not consider absolute protection to be feasible and concedes that significant trade-offs between exposure and operating efficiency keep the realized level of protection below its technical potential.

The consequences are necessarily speculative. Societies can adapt to intermittent power service and continue to support minimal needs, even if simultaneously burdened with ongoing civil conflict. Iraq would be a prime current example. No advanced society has encountered the complete termination of power grid service lasting weeks or months, however, and there are intuitive reasons to worry about social coherence in urban industrial areas under such a circumstance. Power grid disruption offers an apparent means of inflicting massive damage, and the opportunity to do so anonymously might be attractive to a terrorist organization dedicated to maximum social disruption or to a dissident state facing an inherently superior military establishment.

The most essential feature of any arrangement for organized global protection that aspires to be effective is a legally binding, categorical prohibition of destructive cyberattacks directed against power grids and other essential social services. That principle would have to be accompanied by monitoring and enforcement measures, but the viability of those measures would depend primarily on the degree to which the basic principle had been established. If a categorical prohibition were to be universally accepted, monitoring and enforcement measures could be devised that would provide a much higher standard of protection than currently prevails, but the defection of any major state would critically weaken the arrangement. Therefore, as a practical matter, China, Russia, and the United States would have to be committed and assertive participants, and that unavoidable fact significantly complicates the problem.

To accept a categorical prohibition, the United States would have to overcome its recent aversion to any legal rule that would restrict its freedom of action. In doing so, Washington would have to absorb the implication that attacks on power grids in particular are generally illegitimate. That implication would be resisted by advocates of coercive air power. Assaults on Iraq in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War and on Serbia during the crisis over Kosovo in 1999 featured attacks on power grids with conventional munitions. Prohibition of power grid attacks by cybermethods would not directly extend to attacks by kinetic means, but would implicitly undermine their legitimacy and therefore require judgments of the relative balance of interest in establishing the protective rule of law on one hand and exercising coercive force on the other.

Similarly, China and Russia would have to make relative balance-of-interest judgments regarding their reliance on cyberattack methods to compensate for inherent disadvantages in conventional force capability as well as their concerns about exposure through the Internet to external political influence and internal dissent. Any discussion of Internet protection will pit U.S. commitment to the free flow of information against Chinese and Russian concerns about maintaining political control.[4] Those are fundamental matters for all three countries. On the other hand, all three should be able to recognize the devastating effect that an attack on their respective power grids would have. Notwithstanding their fundamental differences in other aspects of cybersecurity, they might be able to agree to certain stringent restrictions on that type of attack.

The real interest in mutual protection is strong enough in principle to motivate accommodation, but political systems of all varieties have difficulty with judgments of relative interest and will predictably attempt to construct any inconvenience as a categorical objection. As a practical matter, organized protection, for power grids especially but for other infrastructure assets as well, cannot be detached from the basic issues that determine fundamental security relationships. That is both an impediment and an opportunity.

Visualizing Opportunity

The impediments to any significant policy innovation are substantial. Because there has not been an action-forcing incident that was too destructive to be ignored, there has been as yet no serious effort to organize global protection of vulnerable infrastructure. The major protagonists—China, Russia, and the United States—have suspected each other of clandestine intrusion, mostly in unofficial and indirect comment, and have alluded to the preparation of retaliatory measures, but have made no attempt to negotiate mutual restraint. That is a familiar story but not an excuse for general resignation. If national governments are too mired in traditional attitudes to organize a constructive initiative, then the societies they are supposed to serve have reason to explore the possibilities. To its credit, the U.S. government, in the recently issued policy documents, does encourage active public discussion, implicitly acknowledging that current and foreseeable operational practices do not ensure adequate protection.

The fundamental question is the concept of interest to be applied. Legacy security policies are based on a presumption of conflicting national interest, and they at least attempt to assure that national military forces can deter or repulse any assault on sovereign territory derived from fundamentally competing interests. National governments are reluctant to admit to any meaningful reliance on global legal rules for protecting their sovereign territory, but most of them are compelled to do so. Very few countries are capable of repulsing the attacks that could occur. The United States is the primary exception, but that exception has limited scope. Of all the countries in the world, the United States is the least vulnerable to a combined arms invasion, but it shares with all others vulnerability to remote destruction by nuclear bombardment and to terrorist intrusion.

Moreover, all governments are being subjected to a common threat of major proportions emerging from the process of global warming. However reluctant they may be at the moment to acknowledge that threat, it almost certainly will prove to be relentless and will predictably impose an imperative for coordinated action.

The underlying reality is that traditionally separate and mutually contentious national interests are being transcended and harmonized by a globalization process, embodied in the Internet. This situation has created a worldwide economy that must be collectively managed if it is to be managed at all. Under that circumstance, common interests can be expected to dominate, and equity rules can be expected to become far more important than national military power. Self-evident principles of equity are the primary means of establishing enforceable rules across separate sovereign jurisdictions. It may well take a generation or more for political attitudes to adjust, but gracefully or otherwise, that will have to happen.

The immediate implication is not only that common interest in critical infrastructure protection is strong enough to justify serious efforts to develop the idea, but also that there is some potential for such an effort to play a catalytic role in the ultimate reformulation of security policy generally. At the moment, the U.S. political system does not appear capable of undertaking any meaningful initiative on any subject, but one can presume or at least hope that its current paralysis will not be permanent. Even if a serious initiative on critical infrastructure protection might not be possible without the impetus of some specific misfortune, it is important to work out a basic design based on the principle that effective protection must be global in scope and therefore equitable in order to be effective.

The ingredients of such a design are reasonably apparent. A categorical prohibition of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure assets would have to be imposed by a universally ratified treaty if it is to be strong enough to be enforced. In addition, there would have to be institutionalized arrangements with global reach developing protocols for protection, actively monitoring illicit intrusion efforts, and prosecuting any party that attempts to violate the prohibition.

Protocols for protection would involve mandatory standards for the operators of infrastructure assets.  For example, these operators might be required to register their operational codes and periodically to compare the current versions of those codes to the authenticated registry. The authenticated standards would have to be guarded with rigor comparable to, say, the protection of gold reserves or nuclear explosives, but high standards of protection are feasible if they are universally imposed. The problem arises when the costs of protection are pitted against operating efficiency in an unregulated market. In addition, the operations of at least some infrastructure assets, most notably power grids, would probably have to be disconnected from the general Internet to assure robust barriers to intrusion—a requirement that is feasible in principle but would need constant monitoring to accomplish in practice. Those provisions would not assure absolute protection, but they would establish a much higher standard than currently prevails or is currently projected.

As with many things in life, however, visualizing a rational outcome is much easier than accomplishing it, and in this case, that is especially true. The three principal protagonists whose active sponsorship of a global protection arrangement is essential—China, Russia, and the United States—have not been able to establish the presumptions on which meaningful security collaboration is necessarily based. As the enduring result of legacy policies, they remain locked in an active confrontation of their respective nuclear deterrent forces that defines the basic character of their security relationships even though they are usually polite enough not to mention it. The three governments cannot or, at any rate, will not discuss the Internet without entangling themselves in the disposition of nuclear weapons, the deployment of ballistic missile defenses, the balance of conventional forces, the regulation of space activities, the status of Taiwan, and many other contentious issues. Their respective societies, however, are less constrained than the governments; as a practical matter, they will have to carry the initial burden of initiative.

If there is to be organized global protection of Internet functions critical to daily life, those involved in the provision of services and those engaged in the social interactions the Internet has enabled will have to respond in a serious and sustained way to the call for public discussion.

Arms Control Implications

For the arms control community in particular, it is important to recognize the situation as an opportunity to pre-empt the perverse interaction that looms as an imminent danger. The policy document issued in July by the Department of Defense emphasized the development of defensive measures, but at the press conference releasing the public version of the document, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright made it clear that he believed the U.S. approach would have to include offensive measures.[5] British Foreign Secretary William Hague recently declared, “We will defend ourselves in every way we can, not only to deflect but to prevent attacks that we know are taking place.”[6] To the extent that China and Russia perceive that the United States and its allies are preparing offensive operations, they are virtually certain to reciprocate, and all will predictably justify their effort by citing the others. That is a formula for a very destructive arms race driven by mutual suspicion as distinct from real national interest.

The situation is meaningfully reminiscent of the moment immediately after World War II when it was perhaps possible to establish international control over nuclear technology. The Acheson-Lilienthal report issued in the spring of 1946 recommended the formation of an international authority to regulate the entire cycle of uranium production and use in order to prevent application of the technology to the production of nuclear explosives and to promote nuclear power generation.[7] The idea was transformed into the Baruch plan, featuring a veto-free UN voting rule that was categorically unacceptable to the Soviet Union. After the initial presentation of the plan and the Soviet statement of objection, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union made any effort to negotiate acceptable terms. Over the course of the ensuing two decades, massive deployments of nuclear weapons occurred. The world still is living with the consequences and still is struggling to impose adequate restraints.

One cannot know whether a more judicious and more sustained effort to establish international control might have succeeded in preventing or mitigating the Cold War confrontation. One can reasonably judge in retrospect, however, that the failure to make a sustained effort was an egregious error of statesmanship. It also should be acknowledged that ever since that moment, failures of statesmanship have been far more damaging to national and international security than any deficit in the deployment of destructive firepower.

The destructive potential of cyberattack methods certainly does not appear to be comparable to that of nuclear weapons unless there is some intrusion into the command procedures for controlling nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, even if one assumes that this possibility can be and has been reliably excluded, the potential for social disruption by cyberattack is massive, and the practice of the type of deterrence that is widely believed to have so far prevented the actual use of nuclear weapons is dramatically less reliable. Because the parties responsible for a cyberattack cannot always be reliably identified, the threat of retaliation is less credible and less effective.

It does not appear possible to control the capacity for cyberattack in the manner that capacity for nuclear explosives might have been controlled had the Acheson-Lilienthal recommendation been implemented. However, meaningful global protection can be provided if mutual protection has been established as the pre-eminent interest. It is important at least to attempt to establish that principle before it is vitiated by the development of antagonistic offensive programs. By now, the world should have learned that heading off a destructive process before it occurs is vastly more effective than trying to contain it after it has occurred. That makes the response to the call for public discussion of cybersecurity an urgent matter.

Managing Risk

It is not appropriate for public discussion to ponder the details of computer code or the exact terms that might result from official negotiation, but it is vital for it to engage the fundamentals of interest and the operating principles derived from them. Those are matters that can be determined only by broad consensus and therefore require explicit and extensive discussion. The most fundamental of those questions has to do with the management of risk. As the financial crisis of 2008 and the Japanese reactor accidents in 2011 demonstrated, advanced societies are largely dependent on institutions whose narrow conception of interest makes them capable of ignoring evident societal risk that, as in those instances, could have been detected and should have been removed before calamity occurred.

The threat to the open Internet posed by cyberassault clandestinely prepared by major states is a risk of comparable proportions. Granted, it is not possible to reform or to eradicate all the hackers, criminals, and terrorists who prey on the Internet’s vulnerabilities. They are the equivalent of biological pathogens requiring the constantly evolving equivalent of immune system protection. The behavior of states is another matter, and that is where meaningful debate needs to focus. If states become dedicated predators using national protection as justification, then one can expect a classic tragedy of the commons to occur eventually: those who try to win a secret, destructive game predictably will ensure that everyone eventually loses, except perhaps those terrorists dedicated to massive social disruption for whatever reason.

If common interest in global protection is to prevail, it will need more assertive recognition and broader endorsement than has been achieved. Governments need to agree to the principle that protection of legitimate use of cyberspace dominates any interest in hostile exploitation and that there is no legitimate interest in destruction short of legally declared war. That principle has not been established and will assuredly need active discussion. The discussion can be expected to involve a struggle over what the term “realism” realistically means as proponents of national advantage proclaim inevitably looming battles to be won and attempt to marginalize defenders of the commons who warn that the more muscular approach constitutes delusional belligerence.

If the presumptive priority of protection were to be established to the point that it was capable of providing the foundation for global regulation, the demanding problem of setting boundaries on exploitation would arise, and that in turn would pose very demanding institutional questions. In technical terms, intrusion for purposes of exploitation has so much in common with intrusion for purposes of destruction that a categorical distinction is presumably unmanageable and prudent regulation is a necessity. National intelligence and law enforcement agencies have become deeply involved in Internet exploitation for what they consider to be compelling reasons; that poses the problem of balancing their interests against the requirements of global protection. These agencies are the equivalent of Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the Japanese reactors—indispensable but not alone trustworthy.

The world currently lacks institutions capable of establishing and enforcing standards of global protection higher than those that market entrepreneurs and competitive security establishments generate on their own. Indeed, no one has defined or delimited the capacities these institutions would have to develop, nor has anyone determined the characteristics that would make them trustworthy. The global economy so far has flourished without those institutions, but it is foolish to think it can do so indefinitely. Governments will not develop those institutions and will not provide adequate protection until they encounter more insistent and better formulated demand to do so.  ACT

John Steinbruner, who has been studying and writing about international security issues for more than 40 years, is professor of public policy at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. He chaired the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Deterring Cyberattacks. He is chairman of the board of the Arms Control Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author.





1. The White House, “Cyberspace Policy Review: Assuring a Trusted and Resilient Information and Communications Infrastructure,” May 2009, www.whitehouse.gov/assets/documents/Cyberspace_Policy_Review_final.pdf; Department of Defense, “Department of Defense Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace,” July 2011, www.defense.gov/news/d20110714cyber.pdf.

2. Executive Office of the President, “International Strategy for Cyberspace: Prosperity, Security, and Openness in a Networked World,” May 2011, www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/international_strategy_for_cyberspace.pdf.

3. Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, “Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace: Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage, 2009-2011,” October 2011, www.ncix.gov/publications/reports/fecie_all/Foreign_Economic_Collection_2011.pdf.

4. In September, China and Russia jointly submitted a letter to the UN General Assembly outlining a proposed International Code of Conduct for Information Security in apparent reaction to the Obama administration documents. The proposal is focused on their determination to preserve sovereign control of information flows and does not respond to U.S. concerns about Internet vulnerability. See Timothy Farnsworth, “China and Russia Submit Cyber Proposal,” Arms Control Today, November 2011.

5. Julian Barnes and Siobhan Gorman, “Cyberwar Plan Has New Focus on Deterrence,” The Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2011.

6. Tom Newton Dunn, “We’ll Strike First in Cyber Warfare,” The Sun, October 18, 2011.

7. “A Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy,” Department of State publication no. 2498, March 16, 1946, www.learnworld.com/ZNW/LWText.Acheson-Lilienthal.html. Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson chaired the Secretary of State’s Committee on Atomic Energy; the chairman of the committee’s consulting board was David Lilienthal, chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The Obama administration has issued four documents dealing with issues of cybersecurity. Two are concerned with protecting the United States against the many real and imagined forms of cyberattack,[1] one announces an effort to establish protective norms of behavior among “like-minded” countries,[2] and one accuses China and Russia of stealing economic information by cyberintrusion, making it evident that they are not included among the like-minded countries.[3]

The Test Ban and the 1956 Election

Barry H. Steiner

Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956, has been called “the first national political leader to take a clear-cut position for the limitation of [nuclear weapons] testing.”[1] In his 1956 campaign against President Dwight Eisenhower, the former Illinois governor capitalized on widespread fear of radiation from nuclear weapons tests to propose a testing moratorium, but he had not intended to make the tests a major campaign issue at first.[2]

After initially referring to the moratorium in April 1956, he next mentioned it on September 5. Only in October did he establish his proposal as a campaign staple. Starting in September, the Republican camp argued strongly against the moratorium proposal.

Before and after the election, which Eisenhower won handily, leading Democratic officials put forward the view that Eisenhower had rejected a test ban initiative because Stevenson had proposed it. Stevenson’s running mate, Senator Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn.), mentioned in October a rumor that the National Security Council (NSC) on September 11 had considered halting nuclear weapons tests and had decided to dismiss the proposal because Stevenson suggested it.[3] Stevenson himself wrote in a postelection article that “[t]here
was…reason to believe that the National Security Council itself between September 5 and September 19 had voted ‘unanimously’ in favor of a similar superbomb proposal; but this decision had then been set aside for obviously political reasons.”[4]

The historian Robert A. Divine, tracking the U.S. public debate on the test ban, concluded in 1978 that, with NSC records “still tightly sealed, there is no way to know whether the President had indeed rejected a test ban recommendation, and if he had, whether political or security factors [were] decisive.”[5] This article, using declassified NSC and Department of State records, pursues this issue, confirming that

•   Eisenhower received from his closest advisers during the campaign a proposal for declaring a U.S. moratorium on testing and that neither he nor his administration ever acted on or acknowledged it in the course of the campaign;

•   the moratorium recommendation was made outside the NSC machinery and was never formally considered by the council; and

•   Eisenhower’s rejection of the moratorium was political in that he was unwilling to champion what Stevenson initially proposed.

Origins of the Proposal

Divine ascribes to Harold Stassen, who served as Eisenhower’s special assistant for disarmament from 1955 to 1958, the initiative for the administration’s 1956 test ban moratorium proposal. He also states that Eisenhower authorized the NSC “to restudy the whole question of a test ban” in response to a September 11 Soviet message to the president calling for a halt to nuclear weapons tests.[6] However, the proposal emanated from the State Department in late August, prior to the Soviet letter to Eisenhower as well as Stevenson’s September 5 speech, and did not entail any new time-consuming study.

Unlike virtually all arms control and disarmament initiatives of that era, the moratorium proposal did not receive formal consideration and debate in the NSC. Stassen, who was both policy proposer and negotiator, was the primary figure on this subject in the NSC, which under Eisenhower was a highly structured policy organization. As Stassen worked for interagency policy consensus and negotiating authority, his ideas were repeatedly debated and critiqued by other NSC members.

A prodigious worker, Stassen was said to be “playing several chess games simultaneously—one with Washington, one with the Allies, one with the U.S.S.R., and one with the general public.”[7] Appointed by Eisenhower and dependent on the president’s support, Stassen also was a Stevenson ally as the administration’s strongest advocate for nuclear weapons limitation. It would be entirely plausible for Stevenson, despite leading the opposing political camp, to be guided by Stassen when pushing weapons limitations.

Yet the State Department rather than Stassen was the source of the moratorium initiative. On August 31, 1956, Deputy Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Robert D. Murphy wrote to Stassen and argued, “We believe there are political considerations which make it highly desirable that the [United States] take the initiative with regard to nuclear tests. The Soviets have come out for discontinuing tests of atomic and hydrogen weapons independent of general agreement on disarmament.”[8] Murphy noted that the British government also favored discussing the testing issue separately from a general disarmament agreement and that U.S. opposition had isolated the United States politically on that question. He urged a unilateral announcement of a “temporary cessation for a one-year period of thermonuclear and large-yield nuclear tests,” and he provided a draft cessation announcement approved by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.

In the letter, Murphy referred to a shift on the test ban issue by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in July 1956, conceding that “overriding political considerations” could make agreement on limiting nuclear tests advisable.[9] The source of this shift is known to have been AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss, the strongest advocate among the president’s advisers for vigorous nuclear weapons testing.[10]

The origins of the proposal in the State Department indicated the need for a faster track and a different focus than the ones the NSC provided. Although arms negotiation policy was a focus of the council, the proposal was designed to gain a short-term propaganda advantage in the absence of negotiations. The Soviet Union had resumed nuclear testing on August 24, and the administration decided in August to begin publicizing Soviet nuclear tests in order to discredit Soviet support for a test ban. The initiative would have helped to direct negative attention to Soviet testing, if it persisted, or to influence the Soviet Union to cease a testing program that had military importance. At the same time, the moratorium did not restrict any U.S. military program; Murphy noted that the United States had no plans for tests in the Pacific for a period of “well over a year.”[11] The proposal was framed to permit the United States to initiate nuclear weapons testing when it would next be ready to do so.

The Policy Context

The test moratorium proposal also was unusual for being a stand-alone statement and for being a unilateral step. U.S. policy in 1956, approved by the NSC, insisted on a comprehensive disarmament agreement, in which test cessation depended on agreement by all states to halt production of fissionable materials for weapons and on on-site inspection. The conditions, which were publicized in a U.S. statement on April 26, 1956, to the three-power Subcommittee of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, held fast in spite of the State Department’s moratorium proposal.[12] The still-born administration moratorium proposal did not represent a change in this policy. Stassen, taking account of Stevenson’s “endeavor to infer that the administration was considering some different position,” privately denied on October 15 that any policy shift had occurred.[13]

The White House meeting of September 11, 1956, cited by Kefauver, did not focus on the test ban question alone, but reviewed a series of steps in a disarmament program Stassen had proposed in June 1956 for discussion and approval. Stassen now was seeking authority to prepare negotiating documents for that proposal.[14] A declassified summary of this meeting makes it clear that U.S. approval of a nuclear weapons test moratorium would continue to depend on Soviet approval of prior U.S. conditions: “There was spirited discussion regarding the discontinuance of atomic tests. Agreement was indicated that any stopping must be predicated upon an inspection plan for determining whether any tests are conducted, and for observing such further tests as are conducted. It would be necessary to develop an understanding on the part of the non-atomic powers of what the tests are for, and under what procedures they would be conducted.”[15] A second summary indicated that Eisenhower and Dulles believed Stassen’s test ban concept would need to be restudied.[16] Neither summary suggests a decision to propose a test ban publicly.

Eisenhower probably had received the test moratorium proposal by September 11, and the absence of discussion of that proposal at the meeting on that date, by officials who are known to have been aware of its existence, suggests that it had already been rejected. Instead, the more ambitious U.S. approach to disarmament remained in effect.

Response to Stevenson’s Proposal

Eisenhower generally preferred to insulate arms policy from public debate, but in this instance, he acted politically not only to reject the moratorium that his advisers recommended, but also to reject debate over its merits.[17] He did not want to be affected by public opinion in any way, to protect his freedom of action. He sought to avoid language that would “publicly tie his hands so that in the future [he could] do nothing,” and he suppressed his own view that “the need for atomic tests would gradually lift and possibly soon disappear.”[18]

Yet in seeking to affect public opinion on the test moratorium during his re-election campaign, Eisenhower publicly criticized Stevenson’s testing proposal in a way that was inconsistent with the logic behind the test moratorium proposal recommended by his own advisers, and he sought to mislead the public about it. For example, when publicly responding to Stevenson’s proposed moratorium in October 1956, Eisenhower, in spite of his advisers’ private support of such an initiative, maintained that “it would be foolish for us to make any…unilateral [moratorium] announcement.”

His advisers understood that preparations to test could be made during the moratorium period,[19] but Eisenhower, portraying his objection to the moratorium as based on national security considerations, observed that “months and months” were required to prepare for nuclear tests, while the Soviets “could make tremendous advances where we would be standing still.”[20] He portrayed the moratorium as a complex security initiative, even as his advisers privately informed him that it was relatively simple to implement, without cost to the United States. His public statement that debating the moratorium would “lead only to confusion at home and misunderstanding abroad”[21] made sense only on the assumption that the moratorium was a complicated issue.

Most effectively, the administration turned Stevenson’s initiative against him by publicizing on October 21 another Soviet letter to Eisenhower renewing Soviet support of a testing moratorium and noting that “certain prominent public figures in the United States” advocated a similar step.[22]

The Episode in Historical Context

According to McGeorge Bundy, Stevenson’s test ban moratorium proposal “was remembered as evidence of the danger to a challenger in seeming to be soft.”[23] Yet if not for this proposal, Eisenhower probably would have announced the temporary test moratorium that his advisers had proposed. Moreover, by mid-1957 the administration had proposed a two-year suspension of weapons tests in exchange for Soviet agreement to a nuclear weapons production cutoff, and Eisenhower publicly linked a temporary test suspension to disarmament.[24] In 1958 the United States entered into an informal test moratorium with the Soviet Union. Security interests had not changed in the interim to explain this shift.

Stevenson underestimated arms control politics. According to Divine, Stevenson “confronted the American people with vital issues that should have been aired years before,”[25] including the reasons for developing hydrogen bombs and for the emergence of the Soviet-U.S. deadlock over controlling them. However, the administration was determined not to respond, concealing its interest in arms restraint while putting Stevenson on the defensive for his interest in the same thing.

Stevenson’s ties to Stassen also might have hurt him politically. The administration could support and even depend on the Stevenson-Stassen alliance, for insofar as Stevenson believed he was helping Stassen’s hand in the administration, he was more likely to speak out as he did, unwittingly aiding the Eisenhower campaign.[26]

Domestic political controversy also has dogged more recent U.S. debate over a nuclear weapons test ban. Now the issue is whether U.S. adherence to the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty can be broadened by accession to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was negotiated under UN auspices from 1994 to 1996. Since 1992, the United States, a signatory to the CTBT, has been observing an informal moratorium on all nuclear weapons tests that has been virtually unchallenged on security grounds. For political reasons, however, the United States has been unable to turn this restraint into a formal treaty commitment.

When the Clinton administration, calling the CTBT “the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in arms control history,”[27] sent it to the Senate for ratification in September 1997, Republican opposition focused on the difficulty of ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal in the absence of testing and on the problem of ensuring the detection of cheating through existing means of verification. A vote on ratification in October 1999 failed to receive the necessary two-thirds majority in the Senate. One appraisal of this defeat cited inadequate appreciation of the CTBT’s “domestic political ramifications” as a cause.[28]

Since then, the United States has supported the CTBT regime, most notably its global network of test monitoring stations. The Obama administration has made clear that its objective in this support has been not only to deter nuclear weapons proliferation, which is the primary purpose of the treaty, but also to help make the case that strengthening CTBT verification capabilities makes the treaty more worthy of Senate ratification than it was in 1999.

Earlier this year, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said the Obama administration had “begun the process of engaging the Senate” on the test ban.[29] It remains to be seen whether this administration will be successful in surmounting the political hurdles to ratification of a treaty that is central to the international arms control and nonproliferation agenda.




Barry H. Steiner is a professor of political science at California State University, Long Beach, where he has taught since 1968. Specializing in war and peace studies, he has worked on nuclear strategy, preventive diplomacy, arms races, and arms control. He gratefully acknowledges the comments of Lawrence D. Weiler on an earlier version of this article.




1. McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival (New York: Random House, 1988), p. 329.

2. Robert A. Divine, Foreign Policy and U.S. Presidential Elections (New York: New Viewpoints, 1974), 2:138. For an opinion that Stevenson favored a unilateral initiative, see Clinton P. Anderson with Milton Viorst, Outsider in the Senate: Senator Clinton Anderson’s Memoirs (New York: World Publishing Company, 1970), p. 141. Stevenson himself seems to have had in mind a joint Soviet-U.S. moratorium. Adlai E. Stevenson, “Why I Raised the H-Bomb Question,” Look, No. 21 (February 5, 1957), pp. 24-25.

3. Howard E. Frost, “Test Ban Negotiations and the 1956 Presidential Campaign” (unpublished paper, March 16, 1987), p. 2. The paper can be found in Box 127 of the Jerome Wiesner Papers in the Institute Archives and Special Collections at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For a published reference to the September 11 date, which a veteran contemporary journalist cited as being obtained from an “unimpeachable authority,” see Chalmers M. Roberts, “The Case for Harold Stassen,” The New Republic, March 10, 1958. For a reprint of the article, see Robert E. Matteson, Harold Stassen: His Career, the Man, and the 1957 London Arms Control Negotiations (1993), p. A-10. The source of the rumor is still undetermined.

4. Stevenson, “Why I Raised the H-Bomb Question,” p. 24 (emphasis in original).

5. Robert A. Divine, Blowing on the Wind: The Nuclear Test Ban Debate, 1954-1960 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), pp. 91-92.

6. Ibid., p. 86.

7. Matteson, Harold Stassen, p. 37. Thus far, no study of Stassen has utilized declassified NSC and State Department records. For works neglecting Stassen’s role, see Bundy, Danger and Survival; Robert R. Bowie and Richard H. Immerman, Waging Peace (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). For Eisenhower’s policy structure, see Bowie and Immerman, Waging Peace, pp. v-vii.

8. Robert D. Murphy letter to Harold E. Stassen, August 31, 1956, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 20, Regulation of Armaments: Atomic Energy (Washington: Government Printing Office (GPO), 1990), pp. 419-420 (hereinafter Murphy letter reproduction).

9. Ibid., p. 419.

10. A footnote in the reproduction of the Murphy letter cites to this effect a Strauss letter to Stassen dated July 26, 1956. For a larger excerpt from the Strauss letter, which was declassified in 1986 (four years prior to the publication of the Foreign Relations of the United States volume), see Frost, “Test Ban Negotiations and the 1956 Presidential Campaign,” pp. 10-11.

11. Murphy letter reproduction, p. 421.

12. See Harold Stassen letter to Emmet J. Hughes, October 15, 1956, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 20, Regulation of Armaments: Atomic Energy (Washington: GPO, 1990), p. 436.

13. Ibid. At this point, the view that Stassen was taking in private with administration staff members was very different from the one that the Stevenson camp presumed he held and that Stassen knew the Stevenson camp held.

14. “Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Stassen) to the President,” June 29, 1956, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 20, Regulation of Armaments: Atomic Energy (Washington: GPO, 1990), pp. 402-408. An initiative on weapons testing is mentioned in this memorandum (p. 407) as one of many “Courses of Action” proposed by Stassen.

15. A.J. Goodpaster, “Memorandum of Conference With the President, September 11, 1956; 3:45 P.M.,” September 14, 1956. A copy of this memorandum is attached to Frost, “Test Ban Negotiations and the 1956 Presidential Campaign.” Guiding the Frost paper, this memorandum is more explicit about the discussion of the test ban question at the September 11 meeting than is the lengthier summary of this meeting by W.H. Jackson. W.H. Jackson, “Memorandum of a Conversation, White House, Washington, September 11, 1956,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 20, Regulation of Armaments: Atomic Energy (Washington: GPO, 1990), pp. 425-427.

16. Jackson, “Memorandum of a Coversation.” This report was found in the State Department Disarmament Files.

17. According to Bundy, Eisenhower “thought politics was a game only other people played, and he believed it should stop well short of the nuclear issue.” Bundy, Danger and Survival, p. 331.

18. Divine, Blowing on the Wind, pp. 86, 100-101. See Divine, Foreign Policy and U.S. Presidential Elections, pp. 2:156-157.

19. Divine, Blowing on the Wind, p. 90.

20. Divine, Foreign Policy and U.S. Presidential Elections, p. 2:141.

21. Divine, Blowing on the Wind, p. 91.

22. Ibid., p. 98.

23. Bundy, Danger and Survival, p. 330.

24. Divine, Blowing on the Wind, pp. 146, 149; Robert A. Divine, Eisenhower and the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 126.

25. Divine, Foreign Policy and U.S. Presidential Elections, p. 2:161.

26. Divine writes that Stevenson “apparently only raised [the test ban proposal] because he understood that the National Security Council was planning a similar proposal.” Divine, Foreign Policy and U.S. Presidential Elections, p. 2:138. If this is true, then Stevenson must have trusted some authoritative figure in the administration who provided him with this information.

27. Terry L. Deibel, “The Death of a Treaty,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 81 (September/October 2002), p. 143. Background on the CTBT is provided in Keith A. Hanson, The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (Stanford:  Stanford University Press, 2006).

28. Ibid., p. 160.

29. Ellen Tauscher, “Statement to the Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty,” New York, September 23, 2011, http://usun.state.gov/briefing/statements/2011/173911.htm.

Barry H. Steiner is a professor of political science at California State University, Long Beach, where he has taught since 1968. Specializing in war and peace studies, he has worked on nuclear strategy, preventive diplomacy, arms races, and arms control. He gratefully acknowledges the comments of Lawrence D. Weiler on an earlier version of this article.

The South Asian Nuclear Balance: An Interview With Pakistani Ambassador to the CD Zamir Akram

As the Pakistani permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva, Zamir Akram serves as Islamabad’s ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament (CD). He has been a member of the Pakistan Foreign Service since 1978. From 2007 to 2008, he was additional foreign secretary for disarmament and arms control in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Arms Control Today spoke with Akram on October 18 at the Stimson Center in Washington after Akram’s presentation,  “Deterrence and Regional Stability in South Asia.” (In the interview, there are several references to that presentation.) The interview focused on the stalled negotiations at the CD on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and Pakistan’s position that it lags behind India in fissile material production and cannot agree to a production halt until it has closed the gap.

The interview was transcribed by Xiaodon Liang. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: Pakistan has expressed its opposition to fissile material cutoff talks at the CD. Pakistan’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Raza Bashir Tarar, said in an October 11 speech at the UN that an FMCT “should deal clearly and comprehensively with the issue of asymmetry of existing fissile material stocks.” However, independent estimates suggest that India and Pakistan currently have roughly similar stockpiles of weapons-usable fissile material.

Can you be more specific about how Pakistan views the fissile material balance and how Pakistan believes the issue can be “clearly and comprehensively addressed” in an FMCT?

Akram: An FMCT as currently being envisaged is a treaty that will only ban future production and not existing stocks. Now whatever the count may be—and the count varies as to how much fissile material Pakistan has or India has or other countries have—the game changer in this environment has been the NSG [Nuclear Suppliers Group] waiver for India, which was spearheaded by the United States.[1]

As a result of this NSG waiver, India has signed several nuclear cooperation agreements, with the United States, Russia, France, Britain, Canada, and several other countries. Through these agreements, India will be receiving an unknown but obviously high quantity of fissile material, ostensibly for its civilian nuclear program. This would mean that its existing stocks of fissile material, its indigenous stocks, can be quite easily converted to weapons use because it will have the imported material to use in the civilian facilities. At the moment, what India has to do is to divide it up, between civilian and weapons programs. So it will give India a free hand to enhance its weapons capabilities.

That is what we have to look for.

ACT: If Pakistan believes that India has a greater fissile material production potential today, why is it not in Pakistan’s interest to freeze the size of current stockpiles of weapons-usable fissile material by agreeing to a halt in the further production of fissile material for weapons purposes?

Akram: In the time that we can, we need to enhance our own capabilities so that we have sufficient fissile material for what we would then feel is a credible second-strike capability, or credible deterrence capability. So that’s one reason—that if we were to conclude such an agreement, that would deny us the possibility of ensuring that there is no gap between us and India. That’s the first thing.

The other thing is that, with these agreements that have been signed under the NSG with India and with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], the monitoring of civilian nuclear cooperation and the use of civilian nuclear fuel, or fuel meant for civilian purposes, by India is not adequate. There is no real guarantee that material from this particular area will not be diverted for weapons use.

These are some of the factors that cause concern for us that an FMCT concluded now would leave us vulnerable because there would be ways of getting around an FMCT through the civilian nuclear track.

ACT: Accepting for the sake of argument that India is somewhat ahead of Pakistan at this point­—because India’s civilian program is significantly bigger than Pakistan’s and if your concern is the implications of the civil nuclear deal, wouldn’t that mean the gap between the two countries would get larger and larger? Even if there’s a relatively small gap now, wouldn’t it be strategically in your interest to hold that gap as it is rather than allow it to expand as it could if this scenario you’re describing materializes?

Akram: No, as I said, with the program that we have, we are working toward ensuring that we have sufficient fissile material that would give us a more credible assurance of deterrence. So we need to build up to a point that we are assured of that number. Now, what the number is, I can’t tell you because we don’t know how many and what the Indians will be doing. Even if we have an idea where both of us are today, with the fact that they will now get access to very large amounts of fissile material, and how they will use that fissile material, we need to compensate for that now. We need to start working on that possibility now so that even if there is a gap, it’s not a huge, big gap, and that despite the gap, our second-strike, or our deterrence, capability is credible.

ACT: As you said in your [Stimson Center] talk, if a minimum credible deterrent depends to a certain extent on what the other side has, that number is only going to go up in the future as both sides continue to build. As India’s goes up, if it takes advantage of this situation that you’re describing, then yours will have to go up as well, will it not?

Akram: As I said, there are two things. One is potential: their potential for increasing their stocks will go up as a result of the NSG agreements. That’s number one. Number two, we cannot discount the possibility of diversion from civilian to military. So taking these into account, we have to build our own capacity to a point where we feel comfortable with our deterrent.

ACT: Why can’t the issue of existing stocks be addressed once negotiations on an FMCT are under way at the CD? Even if Pakistan itself would not be prepared to join an FMCT in the coming years, once the treaty is negotiated, why prevent other countries from reaching agreement on such an accord by blocking consensus on the agenda?

Akram: Those are two questions. As for the second one, we’re not blocking—okay, we’re blocking in the CD, but they can take it out and negotiate it outside if they want to. The countries that have already declared a moratorium on production of fissile material for weapons, they can convert that moratorium into an international treaty among themselves—the five nuclear-weapon states, or if the Indians want to join them, so much the better. Fine.

As for the other question, we are concerned that the negotiations that are being envisaged right now will be concluded in a way that the major powers want. The major powers have themselves, in informal meetings, very clearly stated, “We are not ready to include stocks.” If you permit me to say, this so-called Shannon mandate is an eyewash. It’s basically what we call constructive ambiguity in the UN. It’s a means of getting around a difficult issue and fudging the problem. That’s what constructive ambiguity is.

That’s not good enough for us at this point. In 1998, 1999, when this issue of an FMCT came up and the Canadians came up with this idea of what was then being called the Shannon mandate, that could work then. But now you have—as I say, the NSG waiver is a game changer. At least for us, it has made a big difference. So now we can’t deal with ambiguity. If we’re going to deal with stocks, it has to be up front. It has to be accepted that, yes, we’re going to negotiate reductions of stocks and a ban on future production. That’s our position.

ACT: Why not start that process, where you can make those points, rather than prevent the process from moving ahead?

Akram: As I say, this process will not take long to complete because they are ready with their commitments. They are ready with what they want. I don’t see this going to be a long, drawn-out process.

But anyway, what you’re saying is, why can’t we talk about it, right? Fine, in the CD they can talk about it. We don’t have to say we are negotiating it, but we can talk about it. And we’ve done this for many years, talked about different things. We talked for several years about chemical weapons before we actually negotiated the Chemical Weapons Convention.

ACT: Some countries have suggested that if the CD cannot begin talks on an FMCT soon, they will seek action in the UN General Assembly on an FMCT. Others, including the P5 [the five permanent members of the UN Security Council— China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States], are holding discussions outside the CD to help sort through the issues that are blocking negotiation of an FMCT. What is Pakistan’s view of any role for the General Assembly in negotiating such a treaty? Why wouldn’t Pakistan welcome the chance to discuss its views on fissile material with the P5 and other states, including possibly India?

Akram: As for our position on the UN’s role, of course, the UN can set up a group of governmental experts to negotiate anything. There’s no way we can oppose that; that’s fine. But it’s not mandatory for anyone to be there, so whoever wants to be there can be there. Fine. On the role of the UN, there is no problem, they can do what they want; the UN can take a decision on this.

As regards the participation by some of these countries in informal talks, like the scientific- and technical-level talks, I was all for scientific- and technical-level talks if they are in the CD, to elaborate ideas about verification, about scope, about definition, all those things. We can talk about these in the CD, we never opposed it. In fact, I told Japan and Australia, the two of them who were spearheading this, that it’s better to do it in the CD than outside the CD. If you’re doing it outside the CD, the CD is not bound by it, so what is the value addition?

As for the P5-plus, the problem is on several levels. First of all, the P5 is not a recognized group in the CD. The P5 can have its own say on whatever it wants to say. But the idea that the five nuclear-weapon states and the three new nuclear-weapon states[2] can get together and decide this issue for the rest of the world is something which we find is a bit presumptuous. This is not the way that we need to proceed with an international treaty. You can’t have five or eight countries decide and basically come and tell [the other countries], “This is it; sign onto it.” That’s not the right kind of approach. If we want to have a discussion on what the issues are, we’re ready for that. We do engage with all of them in an informal setting in the CD itself or outside the CD; we do that. But to have a process called a P5-plus-N3 process on an FMCT, I don’t think the nuclear- weapon states have the authority to do this.

ACT: Given Pakistan’s concern about the further expansion of India’s fissile material stockpiles, has Islamabad raised the issue directly with New Delhi? Is it possible for the two countries to engage in bilateral arms control efforts to slow the current arms race?

Akram: I mentioned in the talk today what we call the “strategic restraint regime.” The strategic restraint regime had three parts—has three parts, because it’s still on the table. One is strategic: that deals with a bilateral commitment not to test nuclear weapons, a commitment not to deploy new technologies such as ballistic missile defense systems or submarine launch systems, those kinds of destabilizing things. On the conventional side, we’ve offered discussions on balanced reduction of forces, conventional forces. And on the third, political side, we’ve advocated dialogue to resolve outstanding issues like Kashmir.

So, there is a comprehensive proposal out there. So far, what we have succeeded in is identifying and agreeing on some confidence-building measures such as early warning about missile tests, prior warning about military exercises, these kinds of small things. But we have not ventured into the critical areas.

This proposal was made in 1998-1999; now we’re more than 10 years after. In that time, a major shift has taken place, what I call the game changer. As a result of this U.S.-Indian nuclear deal and as a result of the NSG waiver and India’s arrangements, agreements with the United States, with Israel, with Russia on conventional arms buildup, plus transfer of ballistic missile technology, transfer of space technology, which can help build intercontinental ballistic missiles, and which also involves now leased Russian nuclear-powered submarines with submarine-launched missiles—all these are developments that have radically altered the strategic environment in South Asia and, at least from our perspective, encouraged a greater degree of belligerence on the part of the Indians.

[In the Stimson Center talk,] I mentioned Cold Start.[3] This has obviously raised concerns in Pakistan about our security vis-à-vis India. We’ve had to respond. We’ve taken measures that would ensure that we continue to maintain a credible deterrent. But we’re ready to talk to the Indians as well.

Unfortunately, of course, the Indians look at this discussion on strategic issues as something that does not involve only Pakistan. They say that, well, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is India specific, which it is. But they say that our nuclear capability is not Pakistan specific.

ACT: “Our” being India’s?

Akram: India’s. The Indians say that Indian nuclear capabilities are not Pakistan specific, so we’re not going to discuss it only with you.

ACT: Meaning it’s also China specific?

Akram: They don’t say that, but they imply it.

So now here too, I’m going back in time, in the early 1990s, before either side had tested in 1998, in the early 1990s when we were making all kinds of efforts to make progress on these things, we had actually convinced China to become a part of the 5-plus-2 discussion, which included the P5 plus India and Pakistan, in a dialogue to address these issues of nuclear buildup and security. That again was not acceptable to the Indians. So these things have been tried. Effort has been made for a dialogue, but you need a partner.

ACT: Some analysts have expressed concern that Pakistan’s development of smaller nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield, potentially in response to an Indian conventional attack, raises the risk of a nuclear war in South Asia. What proposals, if any, has your country recently discussed with or offered to India to reduce the risk of a nuclear exchange?

Akram: I think the most important approach here is to find ways to resolve our differences and reduce the existing tensions. That’s the most effective way of progressing on this front.

As long as that is not something that has been achieved, we need to have efficient, reliable confidence-building systems and measures, like a hotline, which we have, like advance notification of flights and other things, that we have. These are processes that are there. We can improve them, fine-tune them, increase their reliability and all these things, but we also need to be able to use them. Sometimes, situations have arisen where the hotline has never been used. These are very important things that we need to do, but overall, deterrence has to be made credible. That’s the only real way of ensuring, in the absence of anything else, a credible deterrent, which is the only way that we can preserve stability, peace, and security. This is what I said in that five-point plan that I mentioned [in the Stimson Center talk]; it’s just the first thing.

ACT: Part of the concern here is that developing these kinds of weapons potentially lowers the threshold for nuclear use and that it makes it easier for a conflict to escalate to the nuclear level. How do you factor that into the equation?

Akram: It does. But then, you see, we have to look at it from an action-reaction kind of process. What is it that we are trying to do here? We are trying to ensure that our deterrent remains credible. Why are we doing this? Because the situation has changed dramatically over the last five to 10 years, especially as a result of the kind of agreements and understandings that have been reached between the United States and India and some other countries that I mentioned.

This has brought a lot of qualitative change. It’s not just the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement; the nuclear cooperation is just part of a broader strategic engagement that involves transfer of a huge amount of advanced technology including [ballistic missile defense] technology. It involves opportunities for India to purchase the latest versions of fighter aircraft and other kinds of military equipment from the United States, Russia, Israel, and others.

We have to deal with capabilities. Any country will look at its opponent’s capabilities and then will have to assess how it is going to respond to these capabilities in order to ensure that its security is not compromised. This is the way we find is the most cost-effective way to do it. We can’t afford to be involved in a race with India tank for tank, aircraft for aircraft, submarine for submarine. We can look at other ways of trying to find the same solutions.

Yes, it causes a dangerous environment. It does. But both sides have to recognize that there is a shared interest in avoiding such a situation. That’s why I said that confidence-building measures—the best confidence building, of course, is to resolve your problems, so you don’t have any reason to be concerned. But short of that, you need to find ways to ensure that both sides are assured that nothing is happening that can cause alarm, and that requires effective confidence-building measures.

ACT: You already mentioned Pakistan’s and India’s nuclear tests in 1998. Subsequently, each country pledged not to be the first to resume testing. Has your government discussed how this mutual test moratorium might evolve into a legally binding, verifiable ban on nuclear test explosions? For instance, is Islamabad willing to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty if New Delhi does so?

Akram: Yes, we have said so. If India does, we will too.

ACT:  Is there any discussion about moving that ahead?

Akram: Between India and Pakistan? No, unfortunately we have not had a discussion on this, whether or not to move forward, on how to move forward. I think there is no real incentive for the Indians to move forward, actually. If you have been reading some of the work that’s coming out, George Perkovich [of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace] actually wrote that, with the kind of deal that’s been given to it, the NSG and the other things, the incentive for India to move toward the CTBT is even less.

ACT: What kind of incentives would be required, do you think, to move India to that position?

Akram: Not giving them more fissile material through preferential treatment. What more can I say? Our position is very clear.

ACT: Pakistan has linked its position on FMCT negotiations to its receipt of a waiver from the NSG so it can participate in global nuclear commerce, as India now can. How would the waiver address Pakistan’s concerns about the fissile material imbalance it sees?

Akram: It would give us access to civilian-use fissile material that we would be able to use for our civilian technology and for producing energy and whatever we need it for. But more important than the nuts and bolts of it is the principle of it, that Pakistan needs to be treated as a country which has as much of a legitimate right as India does to have a nuclear capability.

ACT: So it’s not on the substance of the fissile material issue, because the issue of your concern is fissile material for weapons. This wouldn’t address that, certainly not directly. Even indirectly, as we discussed earlier, it wouldn’t help Pakistan in the same way it helps India because India has a much larger program, and I don’t think you have the same shortfall of uranium that India does. It wouldn’t seem that this would have the same impact on Pakistan’s ability to produce fissile material for weapons as it would, under your scenario, for India.

Akram: But it would place us on a par. More than that, it would give us access to civilian nuclear technology that is being denied to us under these restrictions, allow us to engage in nuclear cooperation with other countries, and there is a whole host of things. If that requires us to be able to be a part of these negotiations on an FMCT, we are willing to pay the price to start these negotiations. There has to be some kind of a trade-off. We’ve been cut out of this whole business, even though Pakistan was not the one that started this nuclear race in South Asia in the first place.

So we are ready to be a part of this process if we are given equivalence, if we are treated on par with India.

ACT:  Just to clarify, if Pakistan had an NSG waiver like India, Pakistan would be willing to enter negotiations on an FMCT?

Akram: Yes.

ACT: Even with ambiguity about the mandate?

Akram: Yes. I mean, we would like to have a clearer mandate, but with the kind of situation that exists now, I don’t think that is something that is likely to happen.

ACT: How much support is there, do you think, within the NSG for such a Pakistan waiver?

Akram: I think there are very few countries—the thing is that it just takes one country to block in the NSG, because it’s by consensus. We feel that a case needs to be made in Pakistan’s favor just as a case was made by the United States in India’s favor. The argument that India has a better nonproliferation record than Pakistan was one of the issues that was cited. But I can show you statement after statement after statement, and sanctions after sanctions imposed on India by the United States itself for nonproliferation misdemeanors.

That’s not the argument. One of these Indian journalists was saying, “Well, what about [Abdul Qadeer] Khan?” I said the issue of A.Q. Khan is something which has been used again and again to deny us this kind of status. There are several examples of proliferation activities by India which were basically brushed under the carpet when it was decided to give the Indians this deal. So that is what is needed; you need basically a political decision that we have to move on and we have to change the game now. That’s what is required.

ACT: Is there a country in the NSG that is willing to do for Pakistan what the United States did for India? Do you have someone who is willing to make the case for you within the NSG?

Akram: I can’t speak for any other country. All I will say is that we have civilian nuclear cooperation with China. And that’s under IAEA safeguards; these nuclear reactors at Chashma, Chashma-1 and -2, are in operation; now we are working on [Chashma-]3 and -4. We do have nuclear cooperation. This is under a grandfather clause that the Chinese used when they joined the NSG.[4]

But we need to move beyond this. There are three countries that are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but have nuclear capability. You’ve given only one of them a special dispensation. There needs to be a criteria-based approach that would make all three eligible, if they want to engage in this thing. This is something that you can’t roll back. It’s like toothpaste out of a tube. What can you do? You have to deal with this reality.

ACT: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much; we appreciate it.



1. In 2008, the NSG agreed to exempt India from the group’s general rules by allowing India to receive nuclear exports from NSG members although New Delhi does not apply so-called full-scope safeguards, that is, does not open all its nuclear facilities to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. See Wade Boese, “NSG, Congress Approve Nuclear Trade With India,” Arms Control Today, October 2008.


2. The five countries recognized by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as nuclear-weapon states are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (Because those are the same countries that make up the P5, the term “P5” often is used to refer to those countries in their role as NPT nuclear-weapon states.) Three additional countries—India, Israel, and Pakistan—have never joined the NPT and operate nuclear programs that are unsafeguarded.

3. “Cold Start” is an Indian military doctrine that involves quick, limited strikes in Pakistani territory in response to incursions from Pakistan into India.

4. When China joined the NSG in 2004, the other members of the group agreed that certain Chinese projects in Pakistan could be “grandfathered,” that is, China could continue with those existing projects although Pakistan does not accept full-scope safeguards. China reportedly has argued that Chashma-3 and -4 are covered by that agreement. See “The NSG in a Time of Change: An Interview With NSG Chairman Piet de Klerk,” Arms Control Today, October 2011; Daniel Horner, “China, Pakistan Set Reactor Deal,” Arms Control Today, June 2010.

As the Pakistani permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva, Zamir Akram serves as Islamabad’s ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament (CD). He has been a member of the Pakistan Foreign Service since 1978. From 2007 to 2008, he was additional foreign secretary for disarmament and arms control in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

UN Backs Libya MANPADS Effort

Xiaodon Liang

The UN Security Council on Oct. 31 adopted a resolution calling on the Libyan government to take “all necessary steps” to secure its weapons stockpile and to prevent the proliferation of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). Resolution 2017, authored by Russia and adopted unanimously by the 15-member council, also tasks the Libya sanctions committee established in February with preparing a report on proposals to contain the proliferation of weapons and their components in North Africa.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a Nov. 1 press release that prompt action in line with the resolution would help mitigate “serious risks to regional stability.” Russia called for a “strong barrier” against the proliferation of war materials from Libya and highlighted the risk of terrorist access to those arms.

At an Algiers press briefing Nov. 14, Derrin Smith, an adviser to the U.S. government’s interagency task force on MANPADS, told reporters that there was not “much indication” of the movement of the shoulder-fired missiles out of Libya and into the territory of its North African neighbors. Smith also said that although convoys of retreating Libyan fighters entering Niger had been heavily armed, the Nigerien government had not yet encountered any MANPADS or related components in seized arsenals.

Max Dyck, a program manager of the UN-organized Joint Mine Action Coordination Team in Libya, told a Nov. 1 press conference that, of several thousand NATO air strikes against Libyan targets since March, about 440 of them had targeted munitions storage facilities. At the Algiers briefing, Smith said it was not possible to determine how many of the 20,000 missiles accumulated by the Gaddafi regime are missing until MANPADS stockpiles buried under tons of rubble are excavated and inventoried over the coming months.

The UN Security Council on Oct. 31 adopted a resolution calling on the Libyan government to take “all necessary steps” to secure its weapons stockpile and to prevent the proliferation of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). Resolution 2017, authored by Russia and adopted unanimously by the 15-member council, also tasks the Libya sanctions committee established in February with preparing a report on proposals to contain the proliferation of weapons and their components in North Africa.

IAEA Holds Forum on Mideast Nuclear Arms

Daniel Horner

Participants in a forum at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month proposed that countries trying to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East “identify specific and practical confidence-building measures” and recognize that “declarations of good intentions could be a first step to [breaking] the current stalemate,” according to an IAEA summary of the meeting.

The Nov. 21-22 forum in Vienna drew representatives from 97 states, including every Middle Eastern country except Iran, the agency said.

The meeting, chaired by Norwegian IAEA ambassador Jan Petersen, was designed to draw on the experiences of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones. One lesson, according to the summary, was “the need to strike a balance between the value of prior experience and the uniqueness of each region.” Another was the importance of “involvement from the outset” by the nuclear-weapon states, “notably through the issue of negative security assurances.”

Ridding the Middle East of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is a long-standing nonproliferation and disarmament goal that received a boost at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, where the parties agreed to hold a conference in 2012 on creating a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.

Participants in a forum at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month proposed that countries trying to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East “identify specific and practical confidence-building measures” and recognize that “declarations of good intentions could be a first step to [breaking] the current stalemate,” according to an IAEA summary of the meeting.

Progress Made on SE Asian Nuclear Pact

Peter Crail

Southeast Asian countries reached agreement last month on a process for the world’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states to endorse the region’s nuclear-weapon-free zone, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said in a Nov. 16 statement.

The agreement came after the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met Nov. 14 with China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to discuss ratification by those five states of a protocol to the 1995 Treaty of Bangkok, which established the zone. Under the protocol, the nuclear-weapon states would pledge not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against zone members and not to transport nuclear weapons through the zone.

The world’s five regional nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties all include similar protocols, but none of the nuclear-weapon states have signed the Southeast Asian pact. China has been supportive of doing so, but the other four countries have expressed concern that the Bangkok Treaty includes the continental shelves and exclusive economic zones of the zone’s members. The five nuclear powers have agreed to the protocols of some of the other treaties on nuclear-weapon-free zones.

A Nov. 19 White House summary said that, during the Nov. 18-19 East Asian summit, President Barack Obama and other leaders “welcomed the successful conclusion of a 40-year long negotiation between ASEAN and the Nuclear Weapons States to enable the latter’s accession” to the zone’s protocol. “All sides have agreed to take the necessary steps to enable the signing of the protocol and its entry into force at the earliest opportunity,” it added.

Those steps appear to include further negotiations among the various parties. Agreement on the protocol “cannot be deemed settled until all the matters are agreed upon by the nuclear-weapon states and all ASEAN members,” Indonesian Foreign Ministry Director for International Security and Disarmament Febrian Alphyanto Ruddyard told reporters Nov. 16.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced during the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference last year that the United States would ratify the African and South Pacific nuclear-weapon-free-zone protocols and would work with the members of the Southeast Asian and Central Asian zones toward endorsing those pacts as well. (See ACT, June 2010.)

Southeast Asian countries reached agreement last month on a process for the world’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states to endorse the region’s nuclear-weapon-free zone, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said in a Nov. 16 statement.

U.S. Suspends CFE Treaty Implementation

Daryl G. Kimball

In response to the long-running dispute with Russia over the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty regime, the U.S. Department of State announced in a Nov. 22 press release that Washington “would cease carrying out certain obligations” under the CFE Treaty with regard to Russia, putting the future of the 1990 pact in serious doubt.

At a press briefing the same day, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the decision means that the United States “will not accept Russian inspections of our bases under the CFE [Treaty], and we will also not provide Russia with the annual notifications and military data called for in the treaty.” She added that “it is our understanding that a number, if not all, of the U.S. NATO allies will do the same.”

Nuland said the U.S. action “comes after the United States and NATO allies have tried over the past four years to find a diplomatic solution following Russia’s decision in 2007 to cease implementation with respect to all other 29 CFE [Treaty] states.” Russia claimed its 2007 action was a response to NATO member states’ decision to condition their ratification of the 1999 Adapted CFE Treaty on the resolution of a dispute over Russian military deployments in parts of Moldova and Georgia.

According to the press release, Washington “will continue to implement the Treaty and carry out all obligations with all States Parties other than Russia” and will not exceed the pact’s numerical limits on conventional armaments. The United States would resume full CFE Treaty implementation “if Russia resume[d] implementation of its Treaty obligations,” according to the statement.

Beginning in 2010, the Obama administration sought to resolve the CFE dispute through the development of a draft “framework” for new negotiations to strengthen the CFE Treaty regime. But by mid-2011, the talks stalled as Russia could not agree to the principle of host-country consent or to a resumption of compliance with the original CFE Treaty. (See ACT, September 2011.)

In response to the long-running dispute with Russia over the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty regime, the U.S. Department of State announced in a Nov. 22 press release that Washington “would cease carrying out certain obligations” under the CFE Treaty with regard to Russia, putting the future of the 1990 pact in serious doubt.

Frustration Evident in UN First Committee

Benjamin Seel

Complaints about the stagnation in the United Nations’ disarmament forums were a prominent feature of debates in the UN General Assembly’s First Committee this year, with many countries expressing frustration that multilateral bodies tackling disarmament issues have been dysfunctional.

This displeasure was aimed primarily at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), which has failed to make progress on substantive negotiations for the past 15 years. The CD is intended to be the world’s sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament and operates on a consensus basis. For the past several years, Pakistan has been the only country blocking consensus for agreement on a program of work.

During this year’s session, which lasted from Oct. 3 to Nov. 1, the First Committee considered several resolutions intended to place pressure on the CD’s 65 members to agree on a program of work and begin substantive negotiations next year. The failure of the CD to adopt a program of work has stymied movement on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), a key disarmament and nonproliferation goal.

A Canadian resolution addressed that issue directly, urging the CD to adopt and implement a comprehensive program of work that includes starting FMCT negotiations in early 2012. Under the Canadian proposal, the First Committee would “consider options” for negotiating an FMCT next year if the CD once more failed to reach consensus on a program of work. The resolution also encourages all member states to continue working to move negotiations forward by having meetings with scientific experts on the technical aspects of a proposed FMCT. Those meetings would take place inside and outside the CD.

The resolution initially called for the establishment of a group of governmental experts to consider options “including the necessary legal and procedural requirements” for an FMCT. That provision ultimately was removed due to opposition.

The resolution passed by a vote of 151-2, with 23 states abstaining. North Korea and Pakistan were the two “no” votes. Diplomatic sources said in November that the 19-member Arab Group abstained in response to Canada’s opposition to the Palestinian bid for membership in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Pakistan said it opposed the measure on national security grounds, stating on Oct. 13 that such a treaty “would allow the major nuclear powers to continue producing nuclear weapons even if such a treaty were to be negotiated successfully” because major nuclear states could continue to draw from large existing nuclear stocks even after an FMCT entered into force.

Shared Concerns

Canada’s unhappiness with the lack of progress in the CD was echoed by other delegations in statements and resolutions. Speaking at the First Committee on Oct. 4, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said the U.S. frustration with the CD and the lack of movement on an FMCT is “shared by many countries,” according to a transcript of the statement.

The United States has previously stated its growing weariness with the CD’s impasse and has indicated that its patience with the CD “is not unlimited,” said Gottemoeller.

The frustration with the “disarmament machinery,” as the various UN forums on that topic are collectively known, was especially evident in an Oct. 24 statement by Christian Strohal, the Austrian permanent representative to the UN office in Geneva, who introduced a resolution co-sponsored by Austria, Mexico, and Norway.

Strohal said that “since joining the CD in 1996, Austria has never seen one day of substantive negotiations.” The resolution, which was withdrawn without a vote, was intended to “stimulate a shift” from purely procedural matters to more substantive issues, according to Strohal.

The withdrawn resolution called for the CD to adopt and implement a program of work in 2012 “to enable the immediate commencement of negotiations” on disarmament matters. Should the CD fail to reach such an agreement, the First Committee, the UN body designated for disarmament and international security matters, would consider “alternative ways of taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations” during next year’s session.

Alternate approaches would be led by open-ended working groups exploring issues of disarmament such as a fissile material ban, culminating with a report to the UN General Assembly in the 2013 session.

Many countries expressed concern that such a step would undermine the CD. In an Oct. 11 statement, Pakistani Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Raza Bashir Tarar blamed the body’s failure to commence with substantive disarmament work not on its “working methods” but on “the continued lack of political will” among member states. Indonesia, speaking on behalf of the Nonaligned Movement on Oct. 3, echoed Pakistan’s belief that the lack of political will is the “main difficulty of the disarmament machinery.”

In contrast, Austria’s resolution described the international political climate as “conducive to the promotion of multilateral disarmament.”

Resolution L.39, sponsored by the Netherlands, South Africa, and Switzerland, also expressed “grave concern about the current status of the disarmament machinery.” Adopted without a vote by the First Committee, it calls for states to “intensify efforts aimed at creating an environment conducive to multilateral disarmament negotiations.” The resolution also encouraged the CD to approve and begin a program of work early in its 2012 session.

A resolution sponsored by Cuba, “Report of the Conference on Disarmament,” passed without a vote. It too called for more-intense efforts and shared the goal of the CD adopting “a balanced and comprehensive” program of work early in its 2012 session.

The UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) received limited mention, but was specifically addressed in an Iraqi resolution. Resolution L.20 “reaffirmed the mandate” of the UNDC as the “specialized, deliberative body within the United Nations…that allows for in-depth deliberations on specific disarmament issues.” Iraq highlighted the importance of increased dialogue and cooperation among the First Committee, the UNDC, and the CD.

The resolution also establishes a three-week period, April 2-20, during which the UNDC is to meet and produce a “substantive report” to the UN General Assembly in the First Committee’s 2012 session.

The measure was adopted without a vote or comments.

Nuclear Disarmament

Although states were largely focused on overcoming the stagnation of the UN disarmament machinery, many also emphasized the need to make progress on the action steps agreed to during last year’s nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. (See ACT, June 2010.)

The New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden) sponsored a resolution on nuclear disarmament with slight changes from previous years, including a statement of deep disappointment with the “absence of progress” in the CD. The 2011 resolution goes further toward emphasizing the “binding” nature of the NPT and calls on all states to “comply fully” with all commitments made at the review conferences.

As in previous years, the measure split members between the nuclear haves and have-nots. It passed with a vote of 160-6, with four abstentions. France, India, Israel, North Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States voted against the measure, while China, Pakistan, and Russia abstained. Those nine countries are known to have nuclear weapons programs. Micronesia also abstained.

In another reprise from past sessions, Iran presented a disarmament resolution that urged NPT states to “follow up” on obligations highlighted at the NPT review conferences in 1995, 2000, and 2010. The resolution specifically cited unilateral initiatives to reduce nonstrategic nuclear weapons, “increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon States,” and a “diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies.” It passed 105-52, with 10 countries abstaining. Iran’s proposal drew opposition from Western members unhappy that Iran, a state they claim is in violation of its NPT obligations, is calling for others to take further action on NPT obligations. The United States, which voted against the measure, explained its vote by saying that “Iran should demonstrate its own commitment to the NPT, in word and deed.”

Japan, along with more than 60 co-sponsors, presented a resolution entitled “United action towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.” Japan expressed concern with the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of the use of nuclear weapons and the growing dangers presented by nuclear proliferation.

The resolution commended Russia and the United States for their implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which came into force in February, and France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States for releasing information on their nuclear stockpile statistics.

Japan also called for North Korea to halt its nuclear program, including the construction of a light-water reactor.

The measure passed by a vote of 156-1, with 15 abstentions. North Korea was the only country to vote against it. China, India, and Israel were among the 15 delegations that abstained.

Other Issues

Egypt’s resolution on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East was adopted without a vote. The resolution follows the Oct. 14 announcement that Finland will host the planned 2012 conference on the establishment of a Middle Eastern zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. (See ACT, November 2011.)

Using language similar to the NPT’s, the resolution affirmed the “inalienable right of all States to acquire and develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” It also emphasized the need for measures to prohibit military strikes on civilian nuclear facilities.

The resolution highlights the importance of mutually verifiable regional security agreements and emphasizes that the United Nations will play a large role in the establishment of the Middle Eastern zone.

Although Israel voted for the measure, it did so with “substantive reservations” about the resolution. In a statement to explain its vote, Israel expressed concern with the “widely acknowledged” cases of “gross non-compliance” present in the Middle East and suggested that any measures toward a nuclear-weapon-free zone should begin with modest, regional confidence-building measures.

Egypt’s second proposal called for confidence-building measures and “practical and urgent steps” to be taken toward implementation of the Middle Eastern zone. The proposal emphasized the importance of Israel becoming a signatory to the NPT and subsequently drew harsh criticism from Israel, which said that the measure was “unbalanced” and unfairly targeted it. The United States sided with Israel and pointed to “the lack of any reference to Iran’s violations” of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

More than 60 states co-sponsored a resolution on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was adopted by the First Committee 170-1, with India, Mauritius, and Syria abstaining.

North Korea cast the lone vote against the resolution, which asks the UN secretary-general, in consultation with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, to prepare a report on the efforts of states that have ratified the treaty to move toward universal ratification and on “possibilities for providing assistance on ratification procedures to States that so request it.” That report is to be submitted to the General Assembly during its 2012 session.

The resolution also recalled UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, which condemned North Korean nuclear testing and offered support for the six-party talks, which involve China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Complaints about the stagnation in the United Nations’ disarmament forums were a prominent feature of debates in the UN General Assembly’s First Committee this year, with many countries expressing frustration that multilateral bodies tackling disarmament issues have been dysfunctional.

Syria Probe Still Stalled, IAEA Says

Peter Crail

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has made “no progress” in recent discussions with Syria on resolving concerns about that country’s suspected attempt to pursue nuclear weapons, Director-General Yukiya Amano told the agency’s governing board Nov. 17.

Last month, the IAEA Board of Governors held its second consecutive quarterly meeting without an updated report on the agency’s efforts to investigate allegations of undeclared nuclear activities by Syria. Amano urged Syria “to cooperate fully with unresolved issues” related to a facility the agency said in June “was very likely” intended to be an undeclared nuclear reactor. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)

The United States has accused Syria of building a reactor with North Korean assistance in order to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. The facility, located at a site called Dair al Zour, was destroyed by Israel in a September 2007 airstrike. (See ACT, October 2007.)

The agency met with Syrian officials in October to seek additional cooperation on Syria’s suspected undeclared nuclear work. Prior to the IAEA board’s finding in June that Syria was in “non-compliance” with its safeguards obligations, Damascus had pledged full cooperation with the agency.

Glyn Davies, U.S. permanent representative to the IAEA, told the board Nov. 17 that “Syrian cooperation would indeed be welcome after three years of empty offers, including most recently the agency’s October meeting with Syria in which no progress was made in obtaining full access to requested locations.”

The United States also said Syria needs to address its violations before developing a nuclear power program.

During a Nov. 14 annual meeting of the IAEA Technical Assistance and Cooperation Committee, Washington raised objections to a proposed feasibility study for a nuclear power reactor in Syria. “In principle, it is our view that a state found in noncompliance with [its] safeguards agreement should also have certain [technical cooperation] projects curtailed or suspended,” U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the IAEA Robert Wood told the meeting.

The stalemated investigation continues despite media reports that the IAEA has identified another Syrian site that was potentially intended to be a uranium-enrichment facility, suggesting Syria considered a second path to producing nuclear weapons using highly enriched uranium. The Associated Press reported Nov. 1 that the agency determined that a facility in the city of Hasakah matches the design of a uranium-enrichment plant Libya sought to construct as part of its then-active nuclear weapons program.

The design came from an illicit nuclear trafficking network led by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. The Khan network is known to have contributed to the nuclear programs of Iran, Libya, and North Korea and had been suspected of aiding at least one additional country. Syria has admitted to being approached by Khan, but claimed that it did not follow up with his network.

However, the Associated Press report says the IAEA obtained correspondence between Khan and a Syrian official proposing scientific cooperation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has made “no progress” in recent discussions with Syria on resolving concerns about that country’s suspected attempt to pursue nuclear weapons, Director-General Yukiya Amano told the agency’s governing board Nov. 17.


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