“[My time at ACA] prepared me very well for the position that I took following that with the State Department, where I then implemented and helped to implement many of the policies that we tried to promote.”
– Peter Crail
Business Executive for National Security
June 2, 2022
April 2012
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
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Stemming the Spread of Missiles: Hits, Misses, and Hard Cases

By Aaron Karp

Twenty-five years after it was publicly announced on April 16, 1987, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) has overcome uncertainty and hostility to become a major force in global nonproliferation. Supported by the 2002 Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation and the 2003 Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), it is the principal mechanism of the international regime against the spread of long-range ballistic and cruise missiles and their technology.

In the late 1970s, news and intelligence reports revealed a rising tide of ballistic missile and space-launch projects, many coinciding with efforts to acquire nuclear capabilities. More than two dozen countries were moving into long-range rocketry. Many relied on Soviet-supplied Scud missiles, while others, such as Iraq and Libya, were acquiring rocketry technology from Europe. Persuaded of the need for multilateral coordination but initially suspicious of new treaties, the Reagan administration authorized the negotiations that eventually culminated in the MTCR.[1]

Like the earlier Nuclear Suppliers Group, the MTCR is not a treaty but an agreement to coordinate national export policies. The members agree to implement export controls based on the Technology Annex, which lists ballistic and cruise missile-related technologies, accepting an “unconditional strong presumption of denial” against exports of highly sensitive technologies and “exercis[ing] restraint” in approving export of others.[2] The MTCR has grown from seven original parties in 1987 to 34 with the acceptance of the latest in 2004, and several other countries unilaterally committed to abide by the rules but not formally join the regime. The Technology Annex—the heart of the regime—has been updated repeatedly, most importantly to cover any missile capable of delivering nuclear, biological, or chemical armaments.

Silver anniversaries are for celebration but also reappraisal. During the 25 years since the birth of the MTCR, the number of countries with active programs to develop long-range rockets (ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles) has declined significantly, although the number investing in cruise missiles has grown. Acute worries today focus mostly on two emerging missile powers—Iran and North Korea—although this is partially because the MTCR members have accepted, to varying degrees, the missile capabilities that other emerging powers such as India and Pakistan refuse to abandon. Conventionally armed missiles also are much more of a priority today.

Through its intermittent plenary meetings and routine intersessionals, the MTCR has created a large network of national agencies directly engaged in the daily work of missile nonproliferation. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the MTCR and the broader missile nonproliferation regime is creation of a cultural expectation of nonproliferation. Many missile programs that previously seemed unstoppable are long gone, and survivors have been slowed sufficiently to permit neighboring countries to adjust to changing regional dynamics, especially the introduction of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. As a result, the international system is much less fragile than it seemed in the 1980s, when the possibility of a single country’s—virtually any country’s—dramatic advances in missilery threatened the stability of entire regions.

This restraint reflects much more than technical barriers. As rocket technology ages—this year also marks the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the German V-2—developing long-range missiles becomes simpler and cheaper due to electronic, component, and manufacturing improvements. As technical barriers to entry continuously erode, normative and strategic considerations gain importance in efforts to suppress missile proliferation and its effects. Normative elements of the global ballistic missile regime are growing more important. Countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Libya, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, and Ukraine did not give up their long-range missile programs because the programs were technically unsupportable. On the contrary, several of those countries continue to develop space-launch capabilities. Instead, their retreat testifies to the powerful principle of missile nonproliferation.

Hits and Misses

The MTCR never was intended to prevent countries from acquiring all types of missiles. Rather, it was crafted as a barrier to long-range military missilery. In the 1980s, there was growing fear that many countries would work incrementally, starting with sounding or artillery rockets and gradually accumulating self-sufficient capabilities to make much larger weapons. This has not happened.

The MTCR and the broader missile nonproliferation regime cannot take all the credit for the brightening international picture—the end of the Cold War and the decline of state-to-state conflict played major roles—but neither can the MTCR be denied credit for its contribution. Among its accomplishments:

Establishing the principle of missile nonproliferation for ballistic missiles. Most governments accept the principle that governments have an obligation to combat the spread of ballistic missile technology. This principle subsequently was codified in the Hague Code of Conduct, which was opened for signature in 2002 and now has been signed by 134 countries, all pledging not to aid ballistic missile proliferation.

Narrowing threat list. Few countries are interested in acquiring long-range rocketry. In the late 1980s, roughly a dozen countries were actively considering intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) development.[3] Today, there are four candidates: Iran and North Korea are in this category, as noted above; India is developing an introductory ICBM capability with the Agni-5, which has a range of about 5,000 kilometers; and Pakistan cannot be excluded

Reducing the number of countries trying to export destabilizing technology. When the MTCR was created, the worst offenders were Western European countries willing to supply larger booster engines to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Now the remaining suppliers are North Korea and, to a lesser degree, Iran. China and Russia may continue to export ballistic missile technology, although neither appears to sell complete, large ballistic missiles (described below).

Eliminating most of the randomness of ballistic missile proliferation. Few countries are able to import major rocket technologies, and fewer are serious about ballistic missile development. Instead of the possibility that major rocketry projects could appear anywhere at any moment, the international community faces a handful of more-predictable priorities. The list of countries arousing concern has shrunk to a hard core of difficult cases, led by Iran and North Korea.

In place of the old game between proliferators and controllers, cooperation for nonproliferation became normal. More and more governments came to see ballistic missile control as an element in their broader strategic interests, and what used to be a strategic exception to other rules of cooperative restraint has become part of those same cooperative assumptions.

The MTCR became a potent incentive for any government interested in global acceptance, better relations with its neighbors and the West, easier high-tech trade, and security cooperation with the United States and its allies. The regime helped cement governments into the global security system. Because MTCR obligations control their most dangerous sales, exporters found their other technology sales easier to expand. Recipient countries found that nonproliferation adherence facilitates their imports of more-advanced technology, civilian and conventional military. This is export control at its best.

The great accomplishment against missile proliferation cannot be separated from larger transformations of international politics. Above all, the decline in state-to-state war made large missile forces strategically dubious and their cost more difficult to justify. With less of a role to play, they became vulnerable to cutting and were stopped or were redirected toward peaceful purposes.

Unfortunately, the appraisal cannot end there. The MTCR was born with limitations. Even before it was announced, negotiators had given up on stopping the further spread of Soviet Scud missiles, which were in the hands of about a dozen countries in 1987. The rules were written to avoid confronting Scud capabilities, if only because Scud technology already was so widely available. Not surprisingly, Scud technology became the most difficult problem of missile proliferation, spreading to more countries and used in many armed conflicts since that time. There were other, more general shortcomings.

The regime’s effectiveness against ballistic missile technology was not matched against cruise missiles. In contrast to the rising barriers against the ballistic missile trade, the barriers to cruise missile proliferation declined, eroded by simplification of the technology, the rise of new uses for it, and legitimation of cruise missiles by leading MTCR parties.

The MTCR failed to make ballistic missiles less important in strategic affairs. If anything, they gained importance in some countries. This is clearest in China and especially in Russia, where the ICBM and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) programs are the most favored of military procurement projects, lavished with financial support and public recognition while virtually all other military programs wither. Although Soviet/Russian-U.S. strategic arms reduction treaties prove that ballistic missiles are not weapons of the future, these weapons cannot be dismissed as relics of the past.

The MTCR has slowed but cannot halt countries that have no interest in joining international society. Reducing the breadth of the ballistic missile proliferation problem came at the cost of being left with the most challenging cases.

Trapped by Rising Expectations

Even an inconspicuous security regime requires constant massaging to remain effective. Nothing happens by accident—not reaffirming first principles, getting intelligence where it is needed, continuously updating rules, or ensuring that governments act quickly. The day-to-day work of the MTCR requires deliberate effort by the foreign ministries of all 34 member countries.[4] Only the undiluted commitment of the parties makes it sustainable.

Behind this success lies active diplomacy by key governments. Although the MTCR rarely makes the news, its work affects vital multilateral issues of commerce and security and a complex skein of bilateral relationships.[5] If it did not exist, this cooperation would have to be re-created in a much more ad hoc and unsatisfying form. Inattentiveness is a constant danger.

The MTCR also suffers today from its own success. In the past, the basic test of the MTCR was relative effectiveness—how many programs could it stop or starve into immobility? Most of the countries at which it was directed quit the ballistic missile field, trimmed their ambitions, switched to peaceful uses, or persuaded the United States and its allies not to see them as threats and were dropped from the list of major targets.

It is tempting to dismiss past accomplishments as easy cases, but a careful reading shows that every success required concerted effort. Most missile control victories were anything but inevitable. Bringing countries into the regime often involved negotiations adapting MTCR standards to permit smaller missile projects, typically within MTCR thresholds, or allowing continued progress on civilian space launch projects. For example, Brazil joined in 1995 after winning access to U.S. technical assistance for its space launch program. South Korea joined in 2001 only after winning assurances it could proceed with MTCR-compliant ballistic missiles and larger space-launch boosters.[6]

Although criticized by purists, these deals were not exceptional nor were they concessions. Rather, they were essential to wider compliance. Deals do not undermine the regime; they are the basis of its expansion and success. Every new country that joins the MTCR brings change in the form of its own agenda and priorities. The great strength of the regime is its ability to accommodate this diversity while enhancing progress toward basic goals.

Sometimes, the trade-offs were judged unacceptable, most spectacularly in 2004 when the Bush administration vetoed Chinese membership. The Bush administration took this step partially because of residual distrust from Chinese transfers of ballistic missiles to Pakistan in the early 1990s and concern that even a reformed China would necessitate diluting MTCR standards.[7] An opportunity to bring in a major power was lost, as was a basic truth: making room for virtually every new member required adjusting the regime to accommodate its distinctive needs.

By adapting, the regime gained an extraordinary degree of control over government-to-government transfers of missile technology. Yet, with much of the original task done, the test of regime effectiveness shifts to outliers, the cases that eluded the MTCR throughout its past 25 years. Instead of being judged on its relative success, the regime now is evaluated in terms of absolute standards. Above all, can it stop or slow Iran and North Korea? If those countries continue, can the regime stop their neighbors from responding in kind?

Enigmas in Iran and North Korea

At the heart of contemporary proliferation worries are not the most advanced countries feared in 1987, but technological laggards, distinguished by their isolation and truculence. Iran and North Korea are on the road to creating nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. Although their rocketry programs originated before the creation of the MTCR, these programs continue to be veiled in obscurity.

A series of reports in the last year showed that the process of missile proliferation still is not understood as well as one might think. Enormous ambiguities surround the ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles of both countries, revealing important gaps in outside knowledge and ability to enforce export controls. These uncertainties go to the heart of MTCR effectiveness.

North Korea’s rocketry program emerged as the missile counterpart to the Abdul Qadeer Khan network, supplying launchers to complement the nuclear wherewithal exported with abandon by the former head of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. North Korea is widely acknowledged to be the world’s most important international source of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, especially Scud versions and Nodongs supplied to Iran and Pakistan. Even so, an assessment of public intelligence reports led one analyst, Joshua Pollack, to conclude that North Korean missile exports have declined dramatically since the early 1990s. Export controls, especially the PSI, are important, but Pollack concludes that declining demand is a bigger factor: there are fewer buyers for North Korean rockets.[8]

The state of North Korean progress is highly controversial, culminating in the recent debates over whether North Korea will deploy a mobile ICBM in the next five years. Pyongyang has tested delivery systems with ICBM potential and launched a space launch vehicle, but without success, leading analysts such as David Wright to regard alarmist claims skeptically.[9]

No less surprising, previous assumptions about the source of North Korean missile technology have come under question. For many years, it was widely believed that North Korea’s rocketry was largely indigenous, based on Scud technology acquired through Egypt around 1980 and progressively developed to create the Nodong and more-capable systems such as the Taepo Dong-1 and -2. This conclusion was shaken by the display in October 2010 of the Musudan, a ballistic missile apparently derived from the Soviet R-27 SLBM. A subsequent analysis shows that North Korean reliance on Russian missile supplies and technology extends to the Scuds and Nodong rockets it has exported (or re-exported) in recent years.[10] In light of these discoveries, MTCR compliance by Russia, a member since 1995, looks dubious or its law enforcement comical.

The allegations about North Korea’s continuing dependence on Russia cast doubt on previous conclusions that Iran is largely self-sufficient. A recent UN report noted “conflicting views regarding the impact of sanctions on Iran’s missile program.” Indeed, Iran also appears to be dependent on foreign assistance.[11] U.S. diplomatic cables reveal allegations that Chinese-made rocket parts—graphite exhaust vanes—continued to reach Iran as of 2010, shipped through North Korea.[12]

After supplying short-range M-11 missiles to Pakistan in 1992-1993, Beijing appeared to recede from the global missile trade. In 2004, when it was being considered for MTCR membership, China went to great lengths to show it had reformed its export control policies. The Iranian exhaust vanes are small compared to whole rockets, but contradict this image. The transfers support the conclusion that Iran’s ballistic missiles, despite distinctive designs, continue to rely on imported technology.[13] This view is contested. Uzi Rubin maintains that Iran’s domestic infrastructure has reached a threshold beyond which export controls cannot stop its further progress.[14] Imports seem most significant, he suggests, as an accelerator rather than a determinant of progress.

These reports and analyses show that international trade remains important and inadequately controlled. Although Russia is an MTCR party and Chinese officials maintain that their country upholds international nonproliferation standards, both countries either allow exports of ostensibly forbidden technologies or are unable to enforce their laws.

Dilemmas of Interconnectedness

The MTCR needs reinforcement, but even an airtight export regime would not solve missile proliferation. Never simple, the problem has grown in complexity. Testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in January, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted that “it is the multiplicity and interconnectedness of potential threats—and the actors behind them—that constitute our biggest challenge.”[15] As much as it transformed economics, globalization is transforming international security, making it impossible to separate dangers or isolate problems for special treatment. If policymakers focus on one technology, a synonym is certain to cause new trouble. Penalties imposed on one country surely will create problems with others. Interconnectedness weakens the effectiveness of single-purpose arms control regimes, making it more difficult for them to target particular programs or countries.

The interchangeability of ballistic and cruise missiles has long been recognized. Both are addressed in the MTCR, but cruise missile controls have been getting weaker. There are greater dual-use justifications for cruise missile technologies, including manned and unmanned aircraft. As less-risky versions of tactical aircraft, cruise missiles never have lacked for legitimacy. Beginning with the 1991 Persian Gulf War, they have become a stalwart of armed conflict. It is no wonder that missile diplomacy resists grappling with cruise missile issues. The Hague Code of Conduct, which forbids ballistic missile proliferation but not ownership, avoids cruise missiles altogether in its normative language. Dennis Gormley correctly calls this oversight “regrettable.”[16] It is no mere slip; it acknowledges the seeming impossibility of restricting a technology that is so widely accepted.

Further complicating nonproliferation diplomacy is the rising tempo of missile defense deployments. Previously understood as alternatives, missile nonproliferation and missile defense apply to the same countries and threats. Although they are implemented by different agencies, address different points in the proliferation cycle, and differ radically in cost, they are directed at the same targets. They share pessimism over the prospects for cooperation with determined proliferators. There is uncertainty over the effectiveness of both; neither is a panacea. In this respect, missile nonproliferation and missile defense increasingly resemble each other. The future of missile proliferation cannot be understood without considering the interrelated effects of the MTCR and missile defense.

At the component level, many missile defense technologies are themselves subject to MTCR control.[17] More fundamentally, missile nonproliferation and missile defense affect each other operationally. The separation between the two has become increasingly arbitrary and unsustainable. When the U.S.-Soviet balance was paramount and everything else a sideshow, the division made sense. After President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty on June 13, 2002, the situation was altered forever. Bush tried to maintain the distinction by reassuring Moscow and emphasizing bilateral counterterrorism cooperation instead.[18] Instead, more cooperation is necessary in all areas.

Further muddying the distinction, missile defenses designed for one situation generally have the flexibility to be used in others. After the collapse of Bush’s provocative central European ABM system, mercifully terminated by President Barack Obama in September 2009, the dominant crossover concern is the replacement, U.S. missile defenses in the Mediterranean and southeastern Europe.[19] Unlike the previous system, which was designed to intercept ICBMs,the U.S.-NATO approach to missile defense initially will counter Iranian medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missile developments.[20]

Russian officials, including President Dmitry Medvedev, have maintained that the new system still would undermine Russian security. They have made U.S.-NATO missile defense the dominant issue of Russia’s transatlantic diplomacy.[21] Their strenuous rhetoric elevated strategic policy to a prominence not seen since the Cold War. Missile proliferation has reversed older strategic relationships, as emerging missile threats, the traditional secondary priority, increasingly lead the agenda, forcing the U.S.-Russian relationship to adjust.

The same confusion affects other regions. Sea-based Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) missile defenses deployed primarily against Iran or North Korea are inherently capable against China’s DF-21D, the missile seen as China’s greatest deterrent to U.S. naval action in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The effectiveness of the SM-3 against the Chinese missile is unknowable in the absence of experience.[22] This uncertainty affects planning for both sides. China already has to consider the effectiveness of the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, with interceptors at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Designed to counter a North Korean ICBM breakout, the GMD system is ideally located to intercept a Chinese attack. Chinese strategists therefore are considering expanding their deterrent forces to make them capable of larger salvos to saturate defenses. The GMD system undoubtedly plays a role in the gradual expansion of China’s ICBM force, now numbering perhaps 72 missiles.[23] The absence of an all-out East Asian arms race testifies to Chinese and U.S. mutual restraint in the face of significant structural dangers.

The tendency to connect strategic and regional capabilities is further illustrated by the temptations of pre-emptive strikes. A statement of this trend is U.S. proposals to use ICBMs for prompt attacks on small targets, creating uncertainty about the possible targets of long-range rockets.[24] These innovations make the missile forces of the United States and other countries even more ambiguous and unpredictable. No longer can observers look on long-range missiles as they did 25 years ago, when they exclusively were weapons of strategic deterrence.

The rising salience of artillery rockets has broken precedents and inhibitions that previously restrained ballistic missile attacks. As artillery rockets grow larger—unguided rockets or guided versions with ranges up to 300 kilometers are increasingly common—they equal crucial performance capabilities of ballistic missiles. Some artillery rockets are in fact fully guided, such as the U.S. Multiple Launch Rocket System, making artillery rockets and ballistic missiles truly interchangeable. Missile defense already has had to adjust to this confusion.

A final element of this issue is the impact of short-range artillery rockets on strategic stability. Tactical weapons such as ubiquitous 107-millimeter Katyushas have become consequential in strategic balances. Hezbollah’s estimated 200,000 rockets—some much larger than 107 millimeters—are part of the Iranian-Israeli strategic equation.[25] The new asymmetries go even further. Iranian rhetoric, for example, routinely suggests that alternative forms of violence, possibly suicide bombings, radiological attack, or effective closure of the Strait of Hormuz, can be used to deter ballistic missile attacks. Such interconnectedness is creating strategic problems that stretch far beyond the reach of the MTCR or any export control regime.

Toward Conflict Resolution

Although regimes such as the MTCR must play crucial roles for years to come, they increasingly are understood as parts of an orchestra, working to support a larger diplomatic process to reduce tensions and promote conflict resolution. To be sure, the easiest way to advance missile nonproliferation in the next few years is by strengthening the MTCR, which means bringing in new members and improving enforcement by current ones. However, there are limits to what the MTCR can accomplish by itself.

Much can be done to improve the regime. Further membership growth is essential. No country has been admitted since Bulgaria in 2004. By failing to move forward, the MTCR has stagnated, losing its relevance to the most serious proliferation risks and regions. In discussions of potential new members, the countries to stress are not just those that already adhere to MTCR restrictions, but also those most likely to help recipients such as Iran or North Korea. China is the most important potential member; India is the next priority. Others to be considered are Pakistan, countries of the Middle East, and eventually the most challenging countries such as Iran and North Korea.

The regime would be more credible if its Technology Annex were modernized to include long-overlooked issues, above all, cruise missiles. The reasons for avoiding cruise missiles are easy to appreciate. The most vigorous advocates of control are themselves increasingly dependent on cruise missiles and comparable precision-guided weapons, illustrated most recently by NATO’s 2011 intervention in Libya and counterterrorism drone attacks elsewhere. As has always been the case, effective export control requires making nonproliferation a top priority, forgoing sales opportunities, and accepting self-restraint.

Developing the normative foundations of missile nonproliferation requires further progress as well. The Hague Code of Conduct approach, stigmatizing trade but not ownership, probably has run its course. Normative progress requires greater attention to the interconnectedness of all missiles. Normative processes are especially potent in eroding the prestige of ballistic missiles, making them less appealing. Nothing weakens that prestige so much as the sight of nuclear-weapon states destroying their own ballistic missile forces. It is no accident that the greatest milestones of missile nonproliferation came at the very moment the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty were cutting superpower arsenals.

Yet, there are limits to the ability to resolve proliferation issues through norms, especially when the norms do not culminate in comprehensive bans. The normative consensus against chemical weapons or anti-personnel landmines—facilitating complete disarmament—is much weaker against missiles.[26] Stigmatizing ballistic missiles can reach only so far if security fears and symbolic appeal remain, while every use of cruise missiles makes their spread all the more likely.

The greatest value of missile nonproliferation is reducing tensions where it can and buying time where it cannot. That will remain the essential role of the MTCR. The solution to missile proliferation, to difficult cases, lies elsewhere, in policies that apply the time bought by export controls to resolve underlying conflicts. The ultimate answers to missile fears lie less in the distinctiveness of missile technologies and more in the all-encompassing principles of arms control and regional conflict resolution. Interconnectedness is not just a cause of security problems; it also is the basis of security solutions.


Aaron Karp is a senior lecturer at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and co-editor of the journal Contemporary Security Policy. His writing on missile proliferation includes Ballistic Missile Proliferation: Politics and Technics (1996).





1. Richard Speier, “The Missile Technology Control Regime: Case Study of a Multilateral Negotiation” (manuscript, U.S. Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C., November 1995).

2. Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), “Equipment, Software, and Technology Annex,” MTCR/TEM/2011/Annex, November 18, 2011.

3. U.S. Department of Defense, “The Emerging Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States: Report of the Proliferation Study Team,” February 1993.

4. For a remarkably revealing portrait of the MTCR at work, see “Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Reinforced Point of Contact (RPOC) Meeting, April 10, 2008,” 08STATE44438, April 28, 2008, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wikileaks-files/nuclear-wikileaks/8298531/MISSILE-TECHNOLOGY-CONTROL-REGIME-MTCR-REINFORCED-POINT-OF-CONTACT-RPOC-MEETING-APRIL-10-2008.html (retrieved by WikiLeaks).

5. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), “Rumblings Precede 25th Missile-Control Meeting,” Strategic Comments, Vol. 17, No. 14 (March 2011).

6. Wyn Q. Bowen, “Brazil’s Accession to the MTCR,” The Nonproliferation Review, Spring-Summer 1996, pp. 86-91; Alex Wagner, “S. Korea, U.S. Agree on Missile Guidelines, MTCR Membership,” Arms Control Today, March 2001

7. Niels Aadal Rasmussen, Chinese Missile Technology Control: Regime or No Regime? (Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies, 2007).

8. Joshua Pollack, “Ballistic Trajectory: The Evolution of North Korea’s Ballistic Missile Market,” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 18, No. 2 (July 2011).

9. See David Wright, “A North Korean ICBM?” 38 North, February 12, 2012, http://38north.org/2012/02/dwright021212/.

10. Mark Fitzpatrick, ed., North Korean Security Challenges (London: IISS, 2011), ch. 6.

11. “Panel of Experts Established Pursuant to Resolution 1929 (2010): Final Report,” 2011, p. 26, www.scribd.com/doc/55737041/Leaked-UN-Panel-of-Experts-Report-on-Iran-Sanctions-May-2011.

12. “Post Requested to Follow Up on Ongoing Matters of Proliferation Concern Raised at APEC by President Bush,” State 152317, November 3, 2007, www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/128567.

13. Mark Fitzpatrick, ed., Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities (London: IISS, 2010), p. 75 (retrieved by WikiLeaks).

14. Uzi Rubin, “Showcase of Missile Proliferation: Iran’s Missile and Space Program,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2012.

15. James R. Clapper, “Unclassified Statement for the Record on the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,” January 31, 2012, www.dni.gov/testimonies/20120131_testimony_ata.pdf.

16. Dennis M. Gormley, Missile Contagion: Cruise Missile Proliferation and the Threat to International Security (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008), p. 10.

17. Richard Speier, “Missile Nonproliferation and Missile Defense: Fitting Them Together,” Arms Control Today, November 2007.

18. Wade Boese, “U.S. Withdraws From ABM Treaty; Global Response Muted,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2002.

19. Peter Baker, “White House Scraps Bush’s Approach to Missile Shield,” The New York Times, September 17, 2009.

20. The White House, “Fact Sheet: Implementing Missile Defense in Europe,” September 15, 2011.

21. Tom Z. Collina, “U.S.-Russia Missile Defense Talks Deadlock,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2012.

22. Ronald O’Rourke, “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities,” CRS Report for Congress, RL33153, August 26, 2010, pp. 47-48.

23. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2011,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 2011, p. 82.

24. M. Elaine Bunn and Vincent A. Manzo, “Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Strategic Asset or Unusable Liability?” Strategic Forum, No. 263 (February 2011).

25. Amos Harel, “Some 200,000 Missiles Aimed Consistently at Israel, Top IDF Officer Says,” Haaretz, February 2, 2012.

26. “Landmine Treaty: Progress in Phnom Penh,” Human Rights Watch, December 2, 2011; Paul F. Walker, “Abolishing Chemical Weapons: Progress, Challenges, and Opportunities,” Arms Control Today, November 2010.

Twenty-five years after it was publicly announced on April 16, 1987, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) has overcome uncertainty and hostility to become a major force in global nonproliferation. Supported by the 2002 Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation and the 2003 Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), it is the principal mechanism of the international regime against the spread of long-range ballistic and cruise missiles and their technology.

Band of Brothers Against the Bomb

Reviewed by David E. Hoffman

The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb

By Philip Taubman

HarperCollins, 2012, 496 pp.

On the evening of October 12, 1986, as the Reykjavik summit between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev broke up, a huge crowd of journalists, including myself, waited expectantly, not knowing of the drama that had unfolded over the previous two days. When Secretary of State George Shultz took the podium at the press conference, I noticed the U.S. arms control negotiator, Max Kampelman, standing off in the wings. His face sagged with disappointment. Shultz then went on to describe how the two leaders had come close to the deal of the century—to eliminate all nuclear weapons—before breaking up in disagreement over limits on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative.

Kampelman, a Washington lawyer and conservative Democrat who had worked for Senator Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.), was Reagan’s chief negotiator at the Geneva arms control talks. I recall he was near tears. Many of us jumped to the conclusion Reykjavik was a colossal failure. In the years since, however, it has become clear that what began at Reykjavik eventually bore fruit. The summit was a significant turning point toward the end of the Cold War arms race.

I saw Kampelman again at an October 2006 conference at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution to examine the lessons of Reykjavik. It was a fascinating meeting that brought together many of the players from the Reagan years. Kampelman delivered a short paper, saying the world must get on with Reagan’s vision of eliminating all nuclear weapons. Kampelman pointed out that although the Cold War was over, nuclear terrorism and proliferation remained serious threats.[1]

At the time, Kampelman’s talk seemed a bit irrelevant and woefully idealistic. Yet, I learned from Philip Taubman’s new history, The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb, that Kampelman’s paper was the start of something larger. He had published an op-ed in The New York Times on April 24, 2006, and was discussing the idea of eliminating nuclear weapons with Steven Andreasen, who had served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.

Before the Hoover conference, Shultz kept his distance from Kampelman’s idea. According to Taubman, after hearing Kampelman’s talk, Shultz suddenly declared he was in favor of abolishing all nuclear weapons, “the first time since the Reykjavik summit itself that Shultz had publically endorsed the idea.”

This moment led to an op-ed piece published in The Wall Street Journal on January 4, 2007, headlined “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons.”[2] Signed by Shultz, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), the article called for a new consensus to end global nuclear danger. The piece also reflected the involvement of Sidney Drell, a theoretical physicist and arms control specialist. (Drell and Kampelman did not sign the op-ed.)

The article outlined a series of interim steps, then declared, “We endorse setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.” For those who had followed these statesmen through their long careers, it was a startling shift, a change of direction that demanded some explanation. The core of Taubman’s book provides that explanation.

This is not a dense book about arcane arms control negotiations, but rather an accessible chronicle of each participant’s intellectual journey, based on interviews with all of them. The tone of the book is reflective and explanatory. Taubman reported for The New York Times for 30 years, including stints as bureau chief in Moscow and Washington, and is now a consulting professor at Stanford University.

Getting to Zero

Separate from the wise men but along a parallel track, a broadly based movement known as Global Zero began to galvanize public opinion worldwide toward a phased elimination of all nuclear weapons. The Global Zero movement deserves its own book; Taubman notes it only briefly.[3]

The Global Zero campaign and the wise men’s efforts sprouted from the same conclusion: the time has arrived to retire the Cold War nuclear overhang of weapons and launchers and to prevent other countries from pursuing and enlarging their own arsenals. President Barack Obama’s Prague speech in April 2009 endorsing the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world was in the same spirit, although Obama added, “This goal will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime.”

The truth is that, despite the lofty statements by Obama, the wise men, and Global Zero, Russia and the United States still cling to absurdly high levels of nuclear warheads, far more than is necessary for the security of either country. U.S. military strategists know this, but do not often like to discuss it. Leaders of each country ought to be more frank, but for political reasons are not.

Obama may be proud of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, which reduced the number of operationally deployed warheads on each side to 1,550, but he should be appalled that the United States still maintains another 2,800 or so in a strategic “hedge,” or reserve, not covered by the treaty. The reserve originally was justified by Perry in 1994 as necessary because of a “small but real danger that reform in Russia might fail.”[4]The hedge may have been prudent then, but has outlived its original justification and its usefulness. The size of the reserve could be reduced by half immediately. (The other justification for the reserve was to provide technical backup.) Yet, there is almost no discussion about this in public. As I read Taubman’s book, I kept wishing that the subjects would go beyond their periodic op-eds and speak out more forcefully as a group, as some of them have done individually. These men enjoy great credibility around the globe, and they are uniquely positioned to spread the message that security no longer rests on possession of massive nuclear stockpiles.

In my experience, both Russians and Americans have grown complacent about nuclear weapons, as if they disappeared with the Cold War, when they did not. The election year has frozen U.S.-Russian arms control; a dispute lingers on missile defense; the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty remains unratified by the United States; and the fate of nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea is uncertain.

The White House nuclear weapons implementation study, now being written, might be the next chance for a serious debate in the United States about dramatically lower levels of nuclear weapons, and that will not come until next year. Hopefully, it will not be timid.

Nuclear Mind-Set

Throughout the Cold War, nuclear weapons profoundly changed the lives and thinking of those who worked on them as designers, policymakers, or negotiators. At the dawn of the atomic age, it was the physicists. After the war, J. Robert Oppenheimer, who led the team that built and tested the first atomic bomb, warned of a nuclear arms race, the impossibility of defense against the bomb in war, and the need for international control of the atom.[5] In 1983, a time of deep tensions with Moscow, Reagan watched a made-for-television movie, The Day After, while at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. In his diary, Reagan wrote of the film, “It has Lawrence, Kansas wiped out in a nuclear war with Russia. It is powerfully done...very effective & left me greatly depressed.”[6]

An important question raised by Taubman is whether the men in The Partnership feel any remorse about their past actions. Taubman addresses the subject, but struggles to find a definitive answer. “None of the five men would call their current effort an act of repentance for their leading roles in maintaining the Cold War nuclear balance of terror,” he writes. “Yet there is an undeniable patina of atonement inherent in their effort. Having witnessed the birth of the nuclear age in 1945 and devoted the best years of their lives to sustaining America’s nuclear might, they seem determined in their twilight years to convince the world that nuclear weapons must be abolished before it is too late to prevent the destruction of New York, Washington, London, or some other urban center.”

The evolution of the wise men has been gradual. Nunn is a good example. In his Senate years, he was a strong supporter of deterrence, but was kept up at night by worry about nuclear weapons accidents, and he worked to set up joint warning centers with the Soviet Union to prevent a disaster. Nunn also worried about the nuclear tripwire in Europe, where NATO forces relied on battlefield weapons to stop a potential Warsaw Pact conventional invasion. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Nunn gave a forceful Senate floor speech demanding action on legislation to help secure and dismantle the enormous stock of weapons left over. At first, his fellow senators balked, but Nunn persevered. The Nunn-Lugar legislation, approved and signed into law in 1992, was an example of real congressional foresight in global affairs.[7] Yet on the larger question of nuclear abolition, Nunn “warmed to it slowly,” Taubman says.

Perry “comes closest to a sense of expiation,” Taubman writes. “‘My generation was responsible for building up this fearsome nuclear arsenal,’ he sometimes tells his Stanford students. ‘I helped create these deadly weapons, and therefore I believe that I have a special responsibility to dismantle them.’”

Kissinger is in many ways the most conflicted and the one who seems to harbor the deepest doubts about the initiative. Taubman quotes a Kissinger friend as saying, “He doesn’t really believe it. He’d love to figure a way to get out of it.” Kissinger tells Taubman that he signed on because of his respect for the others and that he “might not have gone all that distance had I done it by myself.”

Taubman writes, “Henry Kissinger, after all, approved the development of multi-warhead clusters that could be loaded atop missiles and aimed at different targets, a fateful step that made the Cold War even more volatile by making land-based missiles vulnerable to attack.” Taubman also recalls that Kissinger “risked nuclear miscalculation when he and [President] Richard Nixon used American nuclear force exercises in 1969 to unnerve the Kremlin about American intentions in Vietnam and again in 1973 to keep Moscow from intervening in a Mideast war.” Kissinger also was the author of a best-selling 1957 book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, that envisioned limited nuclear strikes as a strategy for deterrence or war-fighting. “Nuclear war should be fought as something less than an all-out war,” Kissinger wrote. “Limited nuclear war represents our most effective strategy against nuclear powers or against a major power which is capable of substituting manpower for technology.”[8] Does Kissinger still think that he was right about limited nuclear war?

“They were dedicated Cold Warriors,” Taubman concludes of the men in the partnership. “And by that yardstick, their present effort to eliminate nuclear weapons seems all the more improbable.”

David E. Hoffman is author of The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy, which won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. He was a White House correspondent, Moscow bureau chief, and foreign editor of The Washington Post.


1. Max M. Kampelman, “Zero Nuclear Weapons,” in Implications of the Reykjavik Summit on Its Twentieth Anniversary: Conference Report, ed. Sidney D. Drell and George P. Shultz (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2007), pp. 97-104. See Max M. Kampelman and Steven P. Andreasen, “Turning the Goal of a World Without Nuclear Weapons Into a Joint Enterprise,” in Reykjavik Revisited: Steps Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons, ed. George P. Shultz et al. (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2008), pp. 429-447.

2. George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. A15.

3. See David E. Hoffman, “Global Heroes: How the Cold War’s Wise Men Went Anti-Nuclear,” Foreign Policy, December 2010, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/29/global_heroes.

4. Robert Burns, “Perry Says America Must Maintain Nuclear ‘Hedge’ Against Russia,” Associated Press, September 20, 1994.

5. See Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (New York: Knopf, 2005).

6. Douglas Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), pp. 185-186.

7. For more on the origins of the Nunn-Lugar legislation, see David E. Hoffman, The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy (New York: Doubleday, 2009), ch. 17.

8. Henry A. Kissinger, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1957), p. 199.

On the evening of October 12, 1986, as the Reykjavik summit between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev broke up, a huge crowd of journalists, including myself, waited expectantly, not knowing of the drama that had unfolded over the previous two days. When Secretary of State George Shultz took the podium at the press conference, I noticed the U.S. arms control negotiator, Max Kampelman, standing off in the wings. His face sagged with disappointment. Shultz then went on to describe how the two leaders had come close to the deal of the century—to eliminate all nuclear weapons—before breaking up in disagreement over limits on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative.

A Middle Eastern WMD-Free Zone: Objectives and Approaches of Arab States

By Hossam Eldeen Aly

A key part of the final document of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference is the agreement to convene a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. Preparatory work for the conference, which represents an important phase in efforts to implement the Resolution on the Middle East from the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, has been under way since the appointment last fall of Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava as the conference facilitator and the selection of Finland to be the venue for the event.

The conference is “to be attended by all states of the Middle East,” and the zone is to be established “on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by states of the region and with the full support and engagement of the nuclear-weapon states.”[1] Along with the positions of Iran and Israel, the Arab position will play a key role in shaping the way ahead at the 2012 conference. This article attempts to lay out the details of what might represent the key features of an Arab position at the 2012 conference. While highlighting some essential background on that position, the article also attempts to sketch out some options that could be further developed for consideration at the conference and beyond.

Under any accepted formulation of the geographical boundaries of a Middle Eastern zone, Arab states[2] obviously represent a clear majority. A more detailed understanding of Arab positions is essential in order to have a better perception of potential Arab preferences relating to the procedural and substantive framework required for the 2012 conference and the regional negotiation process it is expected to create. The discussion here will focus on practical policy choices that might be helpful in increasing the array of options pursued in preparing for the conference.

The establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East has been a collectively endorsed Arab-Iranian objective since 1974. This was demonstrated by Iran and Egypt’s resolution presented at the UN General Assembly that year;[3] Egypt has offered the resolution every year since then. The General Assembly always has approved it—by vote from 1974 to 1979 and by consensus from 1980 to date. Arab states also collectively rallied behind Egypt’s initiative in 1990 on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. For a long time, both zones have been on the agendas of various international forums, including in particular the UN Security Council and General Assembly and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors and General Conference.

Arab Priorities

A number of key Arab-sponsored international resolutions identify the operational framework and basic principles perceived by the Arab Group as essential for the process leading to the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone and eventually a WMD-free zone in the region.[4] Arab states also have described their positions with a fair amount of detail at ministerial and summit meetings at various international forums.[5] The increasing frustration of Arab states with the lack of implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East has been documented extensively in relevant international forums for more than 15 years, most strongly expressed in the run-up to and at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

In fact, an Arab working paper at that meeting called for the 2012 conference, although point 8(c) of that paper originally called for “an international conference that genuinely aims, within a specific time frame, to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.”[6]

It is widely believed that, without an agreement on convening a Middle East conference in 2012, agreement on a final document at the 2010 meeting would not have been possible. The prospects for the success of the 2012 conference thus are directly linked not only to chances to address regional security and stability in the Middle East, but also to the future of the NPT review process itself.

One Zone or Two?

Since Egypt’s 1990 proposal for a WMD-free zone, no Arab statement in any international forum has suggested that Arab states have dropped the nuclear-weapon-free-zone initiative or that any of them saw the WMD-free zone initiative as intended to replace the earlier proposal. In fact, both zones are mentioned in a large number of Arab-sponsored international resolutions as well as in the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. The consistent Arab approach in pursuing the proposal for a WMD-free zone indicates that, to Arab states, such a zone represents an expanded version of the nuclear-weapon-free zone in which the nuclear dimension continues to feature prominently, complemented by prohibitions on chemical and biological weapons. The Arab position has clearly gained the support of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM). In May 2011, NAM foreign ministers “reaffirmed the need for the speedy establishment” of a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone as “a priority step” toward the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the region.[7]

Since the adoption of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, some regional and extraregional players have used the terms for the two kinds of zones interchangeably. The mandate from the 2010 NPT conference uses the term “a zone free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.” This article endorses that particular formulation as the most representative of the 2012 conference mandate and for convenience will refer to it using the term “nuclear/WMD-free zone.”

Main Features of the Arab View

Through their consistent support of the annual General Assembly resolution on the Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone, Arab states endorse the call for Israel’s accession to the NPT, to which all Arab states and Iran are parties. To Arab states, Israel’s accession not only would address a major imbalance in commitments in the nuclear area, but also would have practical consequences for verification by providing for the application of IAEA full-scope safeguards on all nuclear facilities and activities in the region, Israeli facilities and activities included. Arab states see the application of IAEA comprehensive safeguards on Israeli facilities and activities as “a prerequisite” for establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone.[8]

The declared preference of Arab states that this zone should acknowledge the inalienable right of states to acquire and develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,[9] as stated in Article IV of the NPT, represents an advance indication of their preference for an arrangement heavily reliant on NPT membership and the rights and obligations of non-nuclear-weapon states under the treaty.

Although Arab states that have refrained from ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), or both have openly linked their accession to the two instruments with Israel’s ratification of the NPT, they also have extended that linkage to their possible ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or conclusion of an additional protocol to their existing comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA. In an October 2010 statement to the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, the Egyptian representative emphasized that accession by Egypt to the CWC and BWC “would further widen the existing gap between the commitments of States Parties to the NPT, which implement all their Treaty obligations, and the sole State outside the NPT in our region.”[10]

Scope and Verification

A 1989 IAEA study defined the geographical scope of the “Middle East” for the purpose of the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone as covering the area extending from Libya in the west to Iran in the east and from Syria in the north to Yemen in the south.[11] A wider concept for the zone was identified a year later in a UN study that considered the geographical delimitation of the zone to include “all States directly connected to conflicts in the region, i.e. all States members of the League of Arab States, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Israel.”[12] Arab states have openly endorsed this concept of the zone and remain consistent in advocating it in relevant forums. Although not necessarily challenging this formulation, Israeli representatives have emphasized on a number of occasions that agreement on the geographical scope of the zone will have to be the outcome of a political agreement among the negotiating parties.

Given the anticipated complexity of setting up a totally independent verification arrangement for a WMD-free zone, an obvious option is to take advantage of the highly efficient and effective international treaty-based verification systems that already exist. This is particularly relevant to nuclear and chemical verification, which at least can represent the backbone of a regional verification system. A regional negotiation process could consider the possibility of combining international verification obligations with additional regional arrangements with regard to biological weapons.

As is the practice for nuclear-weapon-free zones in other regions, a nuclear/WMD-free zone likely will be agreed in the context of a regional legally binding instrument stipulating all rights and obligations of regional states. Accession to the NPT, CWC, and BWC is likely to be a basic requirement for the zone, and the regional instrument establishing the zone likely will set a time frame to address asymmetries in membership of the three treaties. This process is expected to take place in connection with supplementary regional arrangements relating to the resulting verification obligations possibly to include a regional consultation and clarification mechanism or other related regional verification elements.

As with existing nuclear-weapon-free zones, the five NPT nuclear-weapon states will need to commit to upholding the treaty establishing the zone, undertaking not to use or threaten to use a nuclear explosive device against any state-party to the zone or any territory within the zone and not to contribute to any act that constitutes a violation of the treaty establishing the zone.[13]

Possible Options at the Conference

The provision on the Middle East in the 2010 NPT document contains deliberate ambiguity aimed at constructively accommodating regional states, whether or not they are parties to the NPT. Although clearly identifying the objective and its urgency, providing for the practical requirements to convene the conference in 2012, and linking its substantive terms of reference to the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, the 2010 mandate is silent on issues such as the level of participation at the conference, its duration, the nature of its expected outcome, and most importantly, on the structure and substantive details of the process it is to establish. This prudent approach acknowledges the importance of providing regional states with the opportunity to elaborate such details themselves.

The 2010 document does provide, however, for what might represent a new direction, resolving the issue of priorities related to addressing weapons of mass destruction. It “emphasizes the requirement of maintaining parallel progress, in substance and in timing, in the process leading to achieving total and complete elimination of all weapons of mass destruction in the region, nuclear, chemical and biological.”[14]

The Arab states are likely to expect the 2012 conference to reach agreement on a detailed initial declaration of principles. Such a declaration has to be linked to a collective agreement on the form, mandate, and time frame of a regional negotiating framework. To reinforce the credibility of regional declarations, the UN secretary-general and the three depositaries of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East—Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—might choose to oversee, as sponsors, the compliance of all regional states with their pledges through different phases of the regional process. This will require their provision of strong and direct support to efforts by the facilitator to chart common ground to move forward.

With regard to the details of the regional declarations, it is a basic requirement of confidence building that states of the region expressly declare their commitment to refrain from the development, acquisition, or stationing of any weapons of mass destruction on their territories and territories under their control. Although a declared commitment against the use or threat of use of such weapons might appear to be an option worth considering, a declaration to this effect could be counterproductive if the issue is not carefully addressed. No-first-use declarations indirectly acknowledge the acquisition and stockpiling of weapons categories by focusing solely on the “use” aspect of these weapons. This dictates that, if proposed, such declarations must be directly linked to a clear and verifiable commitment to implement plans for the suspension, reversal, and total elimination of the particular WMD capabilities in question within a given time frame.

A declaration by Israel confirming its preparedness to join the NPT in the context of the nuclear/WMD-free zone would significantly help regional confidence building. This could be met with a similarly declared intention by the relevant Arab states of their preparedness to ratify the CWC and BWC as the process of establishing the zone advances. Another step that could help build confidence is a commitment to renounce all research and development related to testing, maintaining, or upgrading WMD systems. Naturally, this approach will require the acceptance, at least in the early phases, of voluntary guarantees holding the states in question accountable for any alleged violations.

The Postconference Process

Although it has long been agreed that nuclear-weapon states are required to “render their assistance in the establishment of the zone and at the same time to refrain from any action that runs counter” to that goal,[15] the 2010 language particularly reaffirms the role of the three depositaries in this regard. The support of these countries also will be crucial in several other ways.

The nuclear-weapon states will have to reaffirm their commitment to providing all necessary support to the process of negotiating the nuclear/WMD-free zone. In addition to security assurances, this could include technical support and possible guidance on confidence- and security-building measures, verification, and legal issues. Furthermore, the nuclear-weapon states can pledge to pursue a UN Security Council resolution welcoming the launch of a regional process at the conference and emphasizing their security assurances and full sponsorship of the terms of reference of the process and the time frame to realize it. This approach is a reminder of the role of “sponsors” in the context of the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) Working Group, established as part of the multilateral track of the Madrid peace process, yet further developed to increase chances for its success.

As with the ACRS process, confidence- and security-building measures are expected to feature in any discussion of a regional process aimed at the negotiation of a nuclear/WMD-free zone. Unilateral, bilateral, or multilateral confidence-building efforts should best supplement actual arms control efforts, however, and not overshadow, in priority or in practical sequence, the goal of actual disarmament in the Middle East.

Furthermore, the relevance of confidence-building measures to the overall objective of the nuclear/WMD-free zone might suggest a higher value for more WMD-related measures rather than traditional ones considered by ACRS, such as those related to maritime cooperation measures, which had little if any relevance to weapons of mass destruction.

The states of the region can consider many options in developing WMD-related confidence- and security-building measures. They might consider a possible exchange of information on the history, scope, and status of nuclear weapons and other WMD programs and WMD means of delivery, where relevant. Specifically in the nuclear field, a temporary moratorium on all uranium enrichment and plutonium separation in the region, pending accession of all regional states to the NPT and implementation of comprehensive safeguards on all regional facilities and activities, could prove very helpful and address concerns about nuclear programs in the region. Israel might also wish to consider exploring interim measures for the voluntary application of IAEA full-scope safeguards on its nuclear facilities in preparation for the regional arrangement to establish the nuclear/WMD-free zone, while states of the region that are not party to the CWC could consider steps to allow voluntary verification missions by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to their facilities, pending their accession to the CWC. A special arrangement of a similar nature might be sought for the voluntary acceptance of verification visits to prove the absence or termination, where relevant, of biological weapons programs under the appropriate modalities.

The negotiation process on the zone could be structured in several ways. For example, the conference might decide to set up three working groups at the senior-expert level that could separately negotiate the zone’s parameters with regard to the nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons dimensions, particularly in terms of required accession to relevant international instruments, additional duties and responsibilities of regional states under a regional instrument, any additional verification arrangements, and the role of nuclear-weapon states in the context of the zone. The conference might decide to reconvene in a given number of months at a senior political level to consider the ideas and plans developed by the working groups. It can then decide to initiate a drafting effort within the working groups and possibly establish an additional working group on WMD means of delivery. In due course, a reconvened conference can combine the working groups into one general drafting committee mandated to prepare a consolidated draft integrating various elements taken up by the working groups. This suggested model is only one example; there exists a wider range of structural options for a Middle Eastern negotiation process on the nuclear/WMD-free zone.


Although not intending to understate the challenges facing the establishment of a nuclear/WMD-free zone, this article aims to provide a forward-looking, more constructive approach highlighting the opportunities and possible practical alternatives that could facilitate movement toward that objective. The 2012 conference undoubtedly represents an exceptional opportunity for states of the region to address their threat perceptions and security concerns through a long-sought and -delayed regional negotiation process aimed at reversing and eventually eliminating serious proliferation risks to which the region is exposed today, more severely than ever. The conference itself does not represent the culmination of such a negotiating process, but it is expected to provide an initial platform for regional states, supported by the UN secretary-general and nuclear-weapon states, to agree on key principles that will rule such a regional process and agree on its objectives, structure, and time frame.

Success will require leadership, political will, compromise, and creative approaches to allow the conference to conclude on a positive note, adopting a clear, process-oriented road map; a clear agenda for such a process; and an agreement on the key principles to guide the process. As with ACRS, the strong support of key external actors such the United States and other nuclear-weapon states will remain essential for the success of any anticipated process.

Although the format of ACRS does not represent a fully importable model in its substantive approach, its structure might inspire several aspects of this process. The identified shortcomings of ACRS, however, which led to the collapse of that exercise in the mid-1990s, should not be overlooked. The process to be created at the 2012 conference should not be based on an ACRS-style seminar-like arrangement, but rather on a formal setting backed by all governments of the region rather than a few. The active participation of Iran, Israel, and all Arab states will be an important requirement for progress. The agenda and structure of this process will have to be identified early, allowing for an effective parallel and comprehensive examination of all key elements of the nuclear/WMD-free zone.

The right balance of a comprehensive agenda, in which the nuclear dimension features prominently from day one, along with the chemical and biological dimensions, will be essential to avoid conflicting priorities down the road. The 2012 conference could represent a significant step forward not only in terms of sustainable long-term regional security and stability, but even more in terms of the credibility of the NPT regime and its sustainable effectiveness in the Middle East. The successful launching of a meaningful postconference process also would significantly contribute to increasing chances for a successful 2015 NPT Review Conference.

Although the appointed facilitator, the sponsors of the resolution on the Middle East, and other key international actors, including the UN secretary-general, will have important roles to play, it will remain up to the states of the Middle East themselves to chart the way forward and provide sufficient vision, political will, leadership, and expertise for real progress to be realized. The journey ahead, through the conference and the process that will pursue the conference’s decisions, is not expected to be easy, but the potential it holds for peace and stability in the region and the security of all states concerned certainly makes it worthwhile.

Hossam Eldeen Aly is an Egyptian diplomat who has specialized in multilateral disarmament diplomacy since the early 1990s. He currently is senior adviser on disarmament and international security to the president of the UN General Assembly. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Vienna. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any institution with which the author is affiliated. The article is based on a discussion paper prepared for the Center for International Cooperation at New York University in March.





1. 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document,” NPT/CONF.2010/50 (Vol. I), June 18, 2010, p. 30 (para. 7(a)).

2. Members of the League of Arab States, namely Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

3. UN General Assembly, Resolution 3263 (XXIX), December 9, 1974 (“Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East”).

4. Most important of these resolutions are the annual UN General Assembly Arab resolution “Risk of Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East” and the Egyptian General Assembly resolution “Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East.” In the framework of the IAEA, the list of the most relevant resolutions would include the almost-annual Arab resolution “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities” and the annual Egyptian resolution “Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East.”

5. These forums include the UN General Assembly First Committee, UN Disarmament Commission, IAEA General Conference, and NPT review conferences and preparatory committee meetings.

6. 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Working Paper on Implementation of the Resolution on the Middle East That Was Adopted at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and of the Outcome of the 2000 Review Conference With Regard to the Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East, Submitted by the Lebanese Republic on Behalf of the States Members of the League of Arab States to the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” NPT/CONF.2010/WP.29, April 13, 2010.

7. XVI Ministerial Conference and Commemorative Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, “Final Document,” NAM 2011/Doc.1/Rev.1, May 2011, para. 158.

8. IAEA General Conference, “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities,” GC(53)/RES/17, September 2009, preambular para. (e).

9. UN General Assembly, “Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East,” A/RES/65/42, January 11, 2011, operative para. 4.

10. Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations, statement to the UN General Assembly First Committee, October 5, 2010, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com10/statements/5Oct_Egypt.pdf.

11. IAEA General Conference, “Modalities of Application of Agency Safeguards in the Middle East,” GC(XXXIII)/887, August 29, 1989.

12. UN Department for Disarmament Affairs, “Effective and Verifiable Measures Which Would Facilitate the Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East,” A/45/435, 1991.

13. Nabil Fahmy and Patricia Lewis, “Possible Elements of a NWFZ Treaty in the Middle East,” Disarmament Forum, Vol. 2 (2011).

14. 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document,” p. 30 (para. 8).

15. UN General Assembly, “Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East,” operative para. 7.

A key part of the final document of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference is the agreement to convene a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. Preparatory work for the conference, which represents an important phase in efforts to implement the Resolution on the Middle East from the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, has been under way since the appointment last fall of Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava as the conference facilitator and the selection of Finland to be the venue for the event.

China’s Cyber Ability Seen As Risk to U.S.

Timothy Farnsworth

China’s cyber capabilities have advanced enough to pose a “genuine risk” to U.S. military operations in the event of a future conflict between the two countries, according to a recent report released by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The report found that the Chinese military has conducted “joint information offensive and defensive operations” that are geared toward disabling communications and logistics command and control systems and that Chinese “information warfare weapons are increasingly being coordinated with conventional weapons units.” They would likely be deployed pre-emptively, that is, prior to any direct U.S.-Chinese conflict, the report said.

The report also found that the United States lacks a policy to determine “appropriate response options” to a large-scale cyberattack in which “definitive attribution is lacking.” China could use this vulnerability in order “to create delays in U.S. command decision making,” the report said.

The report, “Occupying the Information High Ground: Chinese Capabilities for Computer Network Operations and Cyber Espionage,” is a follow-up to the commission’s 2009 report. It includes updates on developments in China’s cyberwarfare strategy and examines new issues related to cybersecurity. Northrop Grumman Corp. prepared both reports on behalf of the commission, which was created by Congress in October 2000 to monitor, investigate, and report to Congress on the national security implications of the relationship between China and the United States.

Several U.S. officials have said the United States needs to improve its cyberwarfare capacity. Last month, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said during a speech in Arlington, Va., that the Pentagon needs to do more to increase its cyberwarfare capabilities and that the United States has fallen behind some other countries.

China’s cyber capabilities have advanced enough to pose a “genuine risk” to U.S. military operations in the event of a future conflict between the two countries, according to a recent report released by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Accord Seen Near on Verifying Disposition

Daniel Horner

Russia and the United States could conclude verification arrangements by the end of the year for their agreement on disposition of surplus weapons plutonium, a U.S. official said last month.

The broader agreement, under which each side commits itself to the disposition of at least 34 metric tons of plutonium removed from its respective weapons stockpile, entered into force last year. (See ACT, July/August 2011.) The two countries originally signed the disposition pact in 2000, but the effort stalled over programmatic, financial, and legal disputes. Moscow and Washington eventually renegotiated a key part of the agreement so that Russia could use fast-neutron reactors instead of light-water reactors to irradiate the reactor fuel it made with the surplus plutonium.

At the April 2010 nuclear security summit in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signed a protocol to make that change and other amendments in the pact. (See ACT, May 2010.)

The disposition agreement names the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the entity to carry out monitoring and inspections. Exchanges on a draft agreement among Russia, the United States, and the Vienna-based agency started shortly after the Clinton-Lavrov signing, the U.S. official said. The key issue still to be resolved is how to manage IAEA access to sensitive sites, but the sides are making progress toward an accord, he said.

“Unless things go awry, we should complete the [verification] agreement this year,” the official said in a March 15 interview.

However, the official indicated that Russia and the United States had not made much progress toward agreeing on a document that set certain disposition milestones for Russia to meet before it was eligible for U.S. funding of the project. The 2010 protocol caps the total U.S. contribution to the multibillion-dollar Russian project at the $400 million the United States had previously pledged.

In anticipation of the signing of the protocol, the Obama administration requested more than $100 million for Russian disposition activities in the fiscal year 2011 budget request, which was submitted to Congress in February 2010. However, because there was no agreement on the so-called milestone document, U.S. support for Russian disposition efforts received only a small fraction of that amount—$25,000 in fiscal year 2011 and $1 million in fiscal year 2012—with all of that money being spent in the United States, according to the detailed budget “justification” document for fiscal year 2013 from the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

The request for fiscal year 2013, which begins Oct. 1, is $3.8 million. The projected cumulative request for fiscal years 2014-2017 is $31.1 million, with none of the money being spent in Russia, the NNSA document said.

During a Feb. 13 conference call with reporters after the release of the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2013 budget request, Anne Harrington, NNSA deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation, said the NNSA request for Russian disposition work in fiscal year 2013 and beyond reflects the current situation. The funding levels could change if there were agreement on the milestones and Russia then met them, she said.

Russia currently is proceeding with its disposition effort at its own expense, she said. At a March 6 hearing of the House Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, she said the Russians are “well on track” with their effort.

Russia and the United States could conclude verification arrangements by the end of the year for their agreement on disposition of surplus weapons plutonium, a U.S. official said last month.

Pakistan Blocks CD Agenda Again

Farrah Zughni

Pakistan blocked the consensus needed to establish a program of work for the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) on March 15, continuing the negotiating body’s 16-year stalemate. For the past several years, Islamabad has been the only country blocking agreement to begin negotiations on a treaty banning the production of nuclear materials for weapons. The CD is the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament.

The proposed program of work called for the establishment of four working groups, one of which would explore elements of negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).

Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the CD, said March 13 he could not accept FMCT negotiations that do not “clearly include the reduction of [existing] stocks of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.” For years, Pakistan has voiced concern over its fissile material gap with India and has said it would not sign an FMCT that would lock the disparity in place.

Akram has said that giving Pakistan a Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver similar to the one granted to India might address this concern. In 2008, India was exempted from NSG requirements that nuclear-export recipients place all their nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

In a Jan. 24 address to the CD, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the forum’s consensus rule was currently being used “as a de facto veto power to stall every attempt to break the impasse.”

A number of countries, including the United States, have raised the possibility of negotiating an FMCT outside the CD if delays continue. (See ACT, October 2011.)

Pakistan blocked the consensus needed to establish a program of work for the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) on March 15, continuing the negotiating body’s 16-year stalemate. For the past several years, Islamabad has been the only country blocking agreement to begin negotiations on a treaty banning the production of nuclear materials for weapons. The CD is the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament.

Books of Note

Arms Control and Missile Proliferation in the Middle East

Bernd W. Kubbig and Sven-Eric Fikenscher, eds., Routledge, 2012, 335 pp.

Greg Thielmann

With contributions from 39 researchers, this collection plows new ground in explaining the daunting challenge of curbing missile proliferation in the Middle East. As the preferred mode of delivery for weapons of mass destruction (WMD), ballistic missiles are expected to be part of the conference on a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone to be held at the end of this year. The authors cover well the historical circumstances setting the stage for this conference, particularly the 1992-1994 Arms Control and Regional Security Working Group. The book renders an important service in breaking down the motives and perspectives of the individual regional states and nonstate actors. The various authors note, for example, that although Israel is the central security concern of Egypt and Syria, the most imminent threat perceived by Gulf Cooperation Council governments is Iran, and Iran’s primary perceived threat is the United States. The book also examines the role of external powers, highlighting complications from the U.S.-Israeli military relationship, the large number of U.S. military bases in the region, and the sales to various countries of Russian and Chinese missiles and missile technology. A chapter on the particular verification needs of a formal limit on Middle Eastern missiles draws heavily on experience from other arms control regimes, suggesting the sponsorship of seminar-like conferences and the pursuit of a regional monitoring agency to build expertise and establish initial trust. The final chapter provides a useful list of findings and conclusions containing such interesting judgments as “[a] security arrangement between the United States and Iran is a central condition for successful missile reduction [in the region].”



No Exit: North Korea, Nuclear Weapons and International Security

Jonathan D. Pollack, Routledge, 2011, 247 pp.

Farrah Zughni

In this concise and approachable book, Jonathan D. Pollack, a senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, tackles the problem of why and how North Korea has been able to defy the international community by successfully developing nuclear weapons. He attributes most of the secrecy, distrust, and defiant struggle for total autonomy that have come to define modern-day North Korean policy to the experiences and philosophies of the two central personalities that shaped it, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung and his successor son, Kim Jong Il. According to Pollack, much of the elder Kim’s political career was shaped by his early dependence on Chinese and Soviet support, which “bred resentment and frustration from which he sought to break free for the rest of his life.” Pollack argues that Pyongyang’s nuclear program was in part an extension of this quest but also shaped by the country’s direct exposure to nuclear weapons as a result of its proximity to three countries: Japan, where the horrors of the bomb were first demonstrated; China, a superpower and nuclear-weapon state; and South Korea, which hosted foreign tactical nuclear weapons aimed at North Korea for years. Outlining strategic choices with regard to Pyongyang for China, South Korea, and the United States, the book’s conclusions are as somber as its title. Pollack concedes that “barring major internal change” on a par with the transformation South Africa underwent following the end of apartheid, North Korea most likely will keep its nuclear weapons for the indefinite future. Therefore, he argues, the United States should focus on minimizing the risks of North Korea’s extant weapons and the potential transfer of any technology or materials beyond its borders.

Arms Control and Missile Proliferation in the Middle East, Bernd W. Kubbig and Sven-Eric Fikenscher, eds., Routledge, 2012, 335 pp.


No Exit: North Korea, Nuclear Weapons and International Security, Jonathan D. Pollack, Routledge, 2011, 247 pp.

Hopes Rising for Mideast WMD Meeting

Anne Penketh

Amid rising optimism about the prospects for convening a 2012 conference on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava is to deliver his first briefing to states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in Vienna next month on his efforts to pull the meeting together.

“We are cautiously optimistic, but one has to keep in mind that events within the region may adversely affect the process,” said a diplomat involved in the consultations. The 2010 NPT Review Conference’s final document mandated the meeting and specified that it should take place this year. Yet, diplomats do not rule out the possibility of a delay owing to the spike in international tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and the continuing political unrest across the Arab world.

The conference would be unprecedented for bringing together Iran, which is an NPT member; Israel, which has an unacknowledged nuclear arsenal and remains outside the NPT; and Arab states for talks on creating a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction. However, Israel, which officially supports the long-term goal of such a zone, has set conditions for its attendance and objects to holding the conference under NPT auspices.

Since his appointment as conference facilitator last October, Laajava and his team have held 65­ to 70 meetings around the region and in Geneva and Vienna with participating states. He has consulted with officials from Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—co-sponsors of a 1995 NPT resolution on a WMD-free zone—and the UN secretary-general’s office. The 2010 document identified the four as responsible for convening the meeting. So far, according to diplomats involved in the consultations, neither Iran nor Israel has refused to attend. “There are a number of good signs, including that nobody has said no,” a UN diplomat said.

At the same time they announced Laajava’s appointment, the organizers named Finland as the host country for the conference.

Laajava has been in “listening mode” until now at formal and informal levels, according to diplomats, and has heard the views of the countries without trying to present his own proposals. The consultations have dealt mainly with organizational questions: the conference’s timing, participants, and arrangements, the diplomats said.

Laajava’s briefing next month, at the April 30-May 11 meeting of the preparatory committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, will be his first opportunity to present his conclusions.

On the issue of timing, the Arab Group has advocated December as the most appropriate date for the conference. It has now emerged that organizers are planning for the conference to be held in December in Helsinki.

“Many factors should be resolved by then,” said Maged Abdelaziz, Egypt’s outgoing ambassador to the United Nations, who played a leading role in hammering out the language in the 2010 final document on the convening of the 2012 conference. In a March 14 interview, he said that, by December, “in Egypt, there will be a new president and power will be handed to civilians.” He also said he hoped the conflict in Syria and continuing unrest in Libya may be resolved by then.

A U.S. administration official said that the date of the U.S. presidential election in November was relevant but not a “central factor.” The official rejected the view of some critics who have said that the Americans had abdicated responsibility for convening the conference because of the election year.

“We are certainly engaged with Laajava and others; we believe that the overall goal is valuable,” the U.S. official said. Referring to other nuclear-weapon-free zones—four of the five existing ones cover the whole of the Southern Hemisphere—the official added, “WMD-free zones are valuable instruments. But the lesson from the others is that you need a somewhat stable region where states are talking to each other in a reasonable degree of peace.”

Asked whether the Obama administration shared the cautious optimism of others involved in preparing for the conference, the official said there was “more caution than optimism” in Washington. “We are concerned that it might not be held this year, primarily because the region is more volatile in 2012 than in 2010. We may not be able to gather all states this year.”

On the question of how the Obama administration could use its influence to persuade Israel to attend the conference, the official said, “It’s not up to the U.S. to make the decision for Israel. It’s up to the region to make the conditions for a constructive dialogue.”

The official added that although the unpredictability of the situation with Iran is a prime concern, the United States also wants to ensure that the conference would not be used as a platform for “Israel-bashing” or for political hype. Abdelaziz said that the level of participation had not been officially discussed but that “ministerial level would be a good level, with follow-up at ambassadorial level.”

However, the administration official cautioned of the danger of political grandstanding. “It’s hard to see how a high level [of participation] contributes to an actual serious discussion of the issues in the region,” he said.

The organizers envisage that the conference would be the beginning of a substantive conversation involving all the parties and lasting for years. “It’s not a one-time event,” said Abdelaziz. “The facilitator will have to follow up, and this will be agreed by participants. States will agree on measures, and they will have to report,” even after the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

Abdelaziz added that “the preparatory process will have to be vigorous and comprehensive. We need to go with a minimum number of disputed issues for success.”

“A compromise is there to be found,” said Patricia Lewis, research director for international security at London’s Chatham House. “I’ve seen signs of optimism that the meeting could take place in a collaborative way forward on substance. But to get there, they need to talk clearly about boundaries, and all sides need to be ready to listen very carefully,” she said.

Amid rising optimism about the prospects for convening a 2012 conference on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava is to deliver his first briefing to states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in Vienna next month on his efforts to pull the meeting together.

Lawmakers Focus on Syrian Weapons

Farrah Zughni

A number of U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern that political instability in Syria threatens the security of the country’s chemical and conventional weapons stockpiles as well as its nuclear material. Administration officials have acknowledged the threat and say they will continue to monitor the situation.

Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. According to a Feb. 22 CNN report, the U.S. military estimates 75,000 troops on the ground will be needed to secure Syrian chemical weapons in the event of regime collapse. The stability of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has become increasingly uncertain as year-long popular uprisings and violent government efforts to suppress them continue across the country.

“We want to ensure that planning is fully underway to address potential proliferation as internal security in Syria becomes more frayed,” said Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in a Feb. 17 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. The senators requested assurance that efforts to monitor stockpiles were a top priority and asked to be kept informed of developments. Shaheen “received an initial response to her February 17 letter and looks forward to hearing more about the Administration’s plans to prevent Syria’s weapons from falling into the wrong hands if President Assad’s regime falls,” said Al Killeffer, Shaheen’s deputy press secretary, in a March 27 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

The senators also stated that Syria’s refusal to allow IAEA inspections of the remains of a suspected nuclear reactor, which was destroyed by a 2007 Israeli airstrike, means that nuclear material in the country “may be subject to proliferation.” (See ACT, July/August 2011.)

In March 7 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Panetta described the situation in Syria as “100 times worse” than the challenge of securing weapons in Libya during its own uprisings last year. “There’s no question that [Syria has] huge stockpiles and that if it got into the wrong hands, it would really be a threat to the security not only of the regional countries, but to the United States,” he testified.

At the same hearing, Gen. James Mattis, the head of U.S. Central Command, said he believed Syria’s chemicals weapons were currently secured but that he would continue to keep “a very, very close eye” on the situation.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing the previous day, Mattis acknowledged that securing Syria’s conventional weapons, particularly shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS), was also a concern. He cautioned that if left unsecured, weapons stockpiles could fall into the hands of militant groups, such as Lebanon-based Hezbollah, “because they’re in close proximity.”

In Feb. 15 comments to reporters, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman said one element of the current U.S. diplomatic effort with regard to Syria was promoting “prudential planning” among the country’s neighbors, including awareness “that a diffusion of these chemical weapons or of MANPADS can be a threat to their security.”

A U.S.-backed UN Security Countil resolution calling for Assad to step down from power was vetoed on Feb. 4 by Russia and China.

In an effort to strengthen the U.S. response to the Syrian crisis, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved the Syria Freedom Support Act on March 7. The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), imposes new sanctions against the Syrian regime, targeting the country’s energy and financial sectors as well as proliferation activities. Ros-Lehtinen chairs the foreign affairs panel.

In the Senate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced the Syria Democracy Transition Act on March 1. “The bill acknowledges the pressing need to account for the huge stockpiles of chemical, biological, and other weapons that threaten our troops and allies in the region,” Alex Conant, Rubio’s press secretary, said in a March 14 e-mail to Arms Control Today. The bill allows the president to “establish a $50,000,000 Syrian Stabilization Fund, to be drawn from amounts made available for [existing programs], to help support opposition groups and provide for the recovery, identification, and destruction of weapons in Syria.”

Some members of Congress have also worked to block military assistance to Syria from other countries. In a March 12 letter to Panetta, a bipartisan group of 17 senators expressed “grave concern” over the Department of Defense’s ongoing business with Russian state-owned arms export agency Rosoboronexport, which they say continues to supply Assad’s regime with weapons. The senators cited Thomson Reuters shipping data indicating that at least four cargo ships have traveled from the Russian port used by Rosoboronexport to Tartus in Syria since December 2011.

The letter calls for an immediate Defense Department review of alternate options to a current purchase of 21 dual-use Mi-17 helicopters from the Russian firm. “U.S. taxpayers should not be put in a position where they are indirectly subsidizing the mass murder of Syrian civilians,” the senators wrote. “The sizeable proceeds of these [Defense Department] contracts are helping to finance a firm that is essentially complicit in mass atrocities in Syria, especially in light of Russia’s history of forgiving huge amounts of Syria’s debt on arms sales.”

According to a March 19 fact sheet from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Syrian imports of major weapons increased 580 percent between 2002-2006 and 2007-2011. Russia supplied 78 percent of Syrian imports over the last four years, the report said.

Russia has not denied that it is conducting arms transactions with Syria. However, in his March 14 address to the Duma, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia was not “providing Syria with any weapons that could be used against protesters” but “only helping Syria to protect its security against external threats,” according to the Associated Press.

Clinton met with Lavrov on March 12 in an unsuccessful attempt to reach agreement on how to address the situation in Syria.

A number of U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern that political instability in Syria threatens the security of the country’s chemical and conventional weapons stockpiles as well as its nuclear material. Administration officials have acknowledged the threat and say they will continue to monitor the situation.

States Make New Nuclear Security Pledges

Kelsey Davenport

Meeting in Seoul last month for the second nuclear security summit, the leaders of more than four dozen countries pledged to take specific actions to strengthen fissile material security and prevent nuclear terrorism.

The summit communiqué, a consensus document endorsed by the 53 countries and four international organizations attending the March 26-27 meeting, encouraged participants to announce “specific actions intended to minimize the use” of highly enriched uranium (HEU) by the end of 2013. Although South Korean President Lee Myung-bak acknowledged during the summit’s closing press conference on March 27 that the statement did not impose a legal obligation, he said the setting of a deadline was of “great significance” and that the minimization of HEU use would be carried on in a “more transparent way” as a result of this agreement.

The communiqué encourages states to “consider” the timely removal and disposition of their nuclear materials if it is “consistent with national security considerations.”

According to the list in a summary document issued at the end of the meeting, six countries—Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, and Poland—declared that they would return HEU to the country of origin, with some of them specifying that they would complete their work by the end of 2013. HEU, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, has applications in research and medicine.

Belgium’s and Italy’s commitments included plutonium, another nuclear explosive material that has civilian applications.

The Seoul meeting comes two years after President Barack Obama convened the first nuclear security summit in Washington in April 2010. At that time, participating countries endorsed the goal of securing all nuclear materials within four years. (See ACT, May 2010).

During the press conference ending the Seoul meeting, Lee said the reduction of HEU and plutonium use was the summit’s “core accomplishment.” About 480 kilograms of HEU has been removed from eight countries over the past two years, he said. Ukraine accounts for about half of that total, as government officials announced in March that 243 kilograms of HEU had been removed from the country over the previous two years and returned to Russia for down-blending into low-enriched uranium (LEU).

Since the 2010 summit, Chile and Mexico also declared that they had eliminated their stockpiles of HEU. At the summit, Sweden announced the removal of its plutonium.

Speaking in Seoul, Obama said that “more of the world’s nuclear materials will never fall into the hands of terrorists” as a result of the summit process. In the statement, Obama warned against “complacency” and said that “dangerous materials are still vulnerable in too many places.”

Building Up the Framework

While renewing the political commitments from the Washington summit on strengthening nuclear security and preventing nuclear terrorism, the communiqué encouraged countries to take further actions to strengthen the global nuclear security framework. Lee described the communiqué as a set of “comprehensive measures” that countries should take to “prevent nuclear and radiological terrorism.”

In addition to the provisions on minimizing the use of HEU and plutonium, the communiqué recommended actions in 10 other areas, including information security, security of radiological sources, and the interface between nuclear safety and security. These issues were less prominently addressed at the Washington summit.

Beyond the actions recommended in the communiqué, 49 of the 53 participating countries offered specific national commitments at the Seoul summit that were included in the summary document. Similar commitments, also referred to as “house gifts,” were made by 30 countries in Washington in 2010. More than 80 percent of those commitments were completed prior to the 2012 summit.

Many of the national commitments made in Seoul were offered by groups of participating countries. These joint statements, or “gift baskets,” were a new feature of the Seoul summit and included pledges of cooperative action in areas such as security of radiological materials; nuclear information security; development of high-density LEU fuel, which is needed for the conversion of some reactors from HEU to LEU use; and HEU use minimization.

Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the United States offered a joint statement on minimizing the use of HEU for medical isotope production. Currently, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands use HEU to produce molybdenum-99, which is a radiological isotope widely used for treatment of medical conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and brain disorders. These three countries produce nearly half of the world’s supply of Mo-99.

In their statement, the four countries pledged to support conversion of all European facilities producing Mo-99 to LEU by 2015, subject to regulatory approval. As part of the pledge, the United States said it would supply the producer countries with HEU to ensure continued production of Mo-99 until they complete the conversions.

Belgium, France, South Korea, and the United States also made a joint commitment, declaring that minimizing the use of civilian HEU advances the “ultimate goal of nuclear security.” Those four countries said they would collaborate on the development of a high-density LEU fuel powder. According to the joint statement, the United States will provide South Korea with LEU, and South Korea, using a technology developed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, will manufacture the powder. Belgium and France agreed to test the fuel in their research reactors. Experts will then assess the performance of the LEU fuel.

The four countries agreed in the joint statement that if the method proves viable, they would share information and provide “necessary assistance” to aid countries in converting reactors to use the fuel. Lee said he expected the assessment to be completed by 2016.

Thirty-one of the countries participating in the summit also endorsed the Multinational Statement on Nuclear Information Security. The statement included 13 proposed actions that countries were encouraged to take to strengthen and protect information relating to nuclear security.

In addition to the six countries’ pledges to repatriate HEU and plutonium, the summary document listed a number of national commitments offered by participating leaders in Seoul. China, Hungary, and Nigeria made commitments to convert reactors to LEU fuel use, while Russia and South Africa indicated that they would consider the feasibility of reactor conversions. Canada indicated that it would identify an “alternate method” to replace its use of HEU for medical isotope production, the document said.

A number of countries pledged to take actions that would increase the security of radiological sources. According to the document, Armenia, Brazil, Morocco, Poland, the United States, and other countries made specific commitments to pass new regulations or update existing laws to increase the security of radiological sources.

Progress Since 2010

An additional objective of the Seoul summit was to celebrate the progress made since the 2010 meeting. Although the summit process did not adopt a tracking system to monitor national progress, many participating countries highlighted their achievements in national statements and the summary document.

Completion of the national commitments included funding contributions for nuclear security activities by eight countries. Nine countries sponsored training activities, conferences, and the creation of nuclear security centers since the 2010 summit. International agreements such as the 2005 amendment to the Convention for the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism were ratified by six countries acting on their national commitments.

The 2005 amendment sets legally binding obligations for member states to protect nuclear materials and facilities and expands cooperation on preventing nuclear smuggling. The Seoul communiqué set 2014 as the goal for the treaty’s entry into force. At the press conference, Lee announced that 55 of the 97 necessary ratifications of the amendment had been completed. The anti-terrorism convention criminalizes the planning or implementation of nuclear terrorism. It entered into force in July 2007.

Among the unmet commitments was the U.S. pledge to complete ratification of the anti-terrorism convention and the physical protection amendment. Argentina and France also have not fulfilled commitments to ratify treaties.

Kazakhstan and the United States pledged to convert reactors using HEU, but did not finish those efforts before Seoul. In both cases, the conversions are contingent on the development of an LEU alternative. Canada also committed to return a “large amount” of spent HEU fuel to the United States, but later indicated that the transfer was not likely to be completed until 2018.

The Netherlands will host the third nuclear security summit in 2014, and U.S. officials have indicated that it could be the final one. (See ACT, March 2012). In his statement in Seoul UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he would “welcome discussions” of the post-2014 nuclear security summit process.

Meeting in Seoul last month for the second nuclear security summit, the leaders of more than four dozen countries pledged to take specific actions to strengthen fissile material security and prevent nuclear terrorism.


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