"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
May 2012
Edition Date: 
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
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Osirak and Its Lessons for Iran Policy

By Bennett Ramberg

As the international community seeks to stave off an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program, policymakers would do well to draw lessons from the first attack to destroy a nuclear facility, Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981. At the time, the attack drew near-universal condemnation, but it soon came to be seen as a milestone in nonproliferation, demonstrating that force could be a practical option to halt a suspected nuclear weapons program without harmful repercussions for the attacker.

More recently, however, the pendulum has begun to swing back, as postmortems coupled with recent reporting of Iraqi archival material captured by the United States during the occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion tell a different story.[1] They reveal the Osirak reactor did not provide the foundation for a nuclear weapon but rather for an illusion that misled Iraq and Israel. The illusion prevailed because of the peculiar personalities of each country’s leader and because of misperceptions about Osirak’s bomb-making capacity.

Unwilling to gamble that deterrence could cope with a nuclear Iraq, Israel applied a multipronged strategy to halt the reactor’s construction—diplomacy, a media campaign, sabotage, and assassination. The failure of all these left two approaches—watchful waiting, preferred by some who did not see Osirak as an imminent threat, and military action, promoted by Prime Minister Menachem Begin. In the end, the force of Begin’s personality drove the cabinet’s decision to bomb Osirak. However, rather than putting a stake into the ambitions of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Israel’s strike stimulated Iraq to pursue a secret uranium-enrichment program dedicated to producing a nuclear weapon.

But for Hussein’s megalomania, Iraq might have had a nuclear weapon by the mid-1990s. Not satisfied with the eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988, Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 and thus saved Israel from the challenge of destroying his weapons program. Iraq’s defeat at the hands of the U.S.-led coalition destroyed much of Hussein’s military establishment, but the bombing campaign, which was undertaken with incomplete knowledge of his hidden enrichment program, missed significant portions, leaving it to international inspectors to destroy the remainder and prevent rebuilding.[2]

The Osirak saga and legacy have much to teach present-day decision-makers about the need for solid intelligence and the limitations of diplomacy, public relations, sabotage, and assassination. If Israel and others resort to the use of force against Iran, they will find that unless Tehran agrees to the transparent elimination of its remaining suspect activities and eschews rebuilding, international inspectors must do the job. Failing that, concerned countries must prepare themselves to repeat their military action, perhaps multiple times, once they have chosen this course.

The Iraqi Nuclear Program

In 1976, Iraq signed a contract with France for the Osirak reactor, also known as Tammuz 1, a 70-megawatt “swimming pool” light-water reactor to be fueled with a 12-kilogram loading of uranium enriched to 93 percent uranium-235, and for the 500-kilowatt Tammuz 2 training reactor. A party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) when it entered into force in 1970, Baghdad bowed to Paris’ insistence that it accept Osirak in lieu of a heavy-water plant better suited to maximizing plutonium production. By placing the reactors under safeguards, Iraq agreed to regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), management of the reactor by French personnel through 1989, automatic cameras to record activity around the reactor core, and lead seals on fuel rods. France pledged to halt reactor operations by withholding new fuel if evidence pointed to reactor misuse.[3]

Yet in private meetings with aides in 1978-1981 and later, Hussein repeatedly declared the need to acquire nuclear weapons to confront Israel.[4] Osirak, however, was unlikely to produce the necessary feedstock. Thus, Hussein’s hopes of getting a nuclear weapon by the mid-1980s were either misinformed or delusional.

The reasons were simple. Diversion of spent fuel from the plant would have required a reactor shutdown appropriately timed to maximize plutonium-239 harvesting, then rearrangement of the core to mask fuel rod removal, reduction of reactor performance, and falsification of the operating records, all under the noses of French monitors and international inspectors.

An alternative, lifting the reactor’s reflector to insert uranium elements into the core or placing a uranium blanket around it to secretly breed weapons-grade plutonium in between IAEA inspections, was impractical. In a 1983 postattack analysis, the CIA concluded, “We strongly believe that building a blanket…would be difficult for Iraq to do without being detected by the IAEA or the French.”[5] Alternatively, Iraq could have pilfered its IAEA-monitored cache of highly enriched uranium fuel provided by France to make a nuclear weapon. As it turned out, Iraq tried that in the period prior to the start of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, but failed.[6]

Hussein’s 1979 and 1980 arrests of two senior scientists, Hussain al Shahristani for his alleged connection with the outlawed Dawa party and then Jafar Dhia Jafar for complaining about the arrest, further complicated matters. Then Iraq’s war with Iran, prompting a September 1980 Iranian air strike on the nuclear complex where Osirak sat, drained Baghdad’s resources, threatening the Baathist regime’s survival.

Both acts exacerbated the problems of an already dysfunctional program. On the eve of the Israeli Osirak strike, Iraq’s nuclear program was in a state of “drift,” according to a Norwegian scholar who interviewed Jafar and other scientists after the 2003 U.S. occupation. The undertaking required larger facilities “not subject to external oversight and safeguards,” more consistent political direction, and basic organizational resources. “As a result, Iraq’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability was both directionless and disorganized.” [7]

Run-Up to the Strike

When Israel contemplated striking Iraq in 1980-1981, much of the information above remained opaque, was not understood, or was dismissed. Rather than a program adrift, Israel saw an emerging existential threat. Feeding that view were Iraq’s decades-long calls and actions to eliminate Israel. Just three years before Baghdad and Paris finalized the Osirak deal, Hussein had marshaled hundreds of tanks on Israel’s Syrian doorstep in the Yom Kippur War. After the war, Iraq supported and harbored Palestinian guerrillas. Next to Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya, Begin saw Iraq as “the most irresponsible” adversary Israel confronted.[8]

Israel knew the tricks of nuclear dissimulation, having relied on the tactic in building the Dimona weapons reactor. Begin and his colleagues plotted a series of steps to halt Osirak. Their first move was a genuine attempt at diplomacy, but they were prepared to abandon that approach if it proved to be a dead end. That turned out to be the case, as France was not swayed by repeated Israeli arguments to terminate the Osirak export.

The next step was to embarrass France publicly. Israel leaked information to the media that characterized Osirak as a nuclear weapons Pandora’s box. In time, Israel ominously warned, failed diplomacy could bring “other actions.”

As diplomacy stalled, Israel turned to sabotage and assassination. On April 6, 1979, in the French Mediterranean town of La Seyne-sur-Mer, explosions rocked the warehouse that housed the reactor core awaiting shipment to Iraq. Threats followed by bombings directed at offices of Italian and French companies providing laboratory equipment for the nuclear program also failed to hold back exports. The assassination of three scientists working on Osirak likewise did not stop the project.

By the fall of 1980, Begin had had enough. To avoid the possibility of a radiological release, he decided to attack Osirak before operations commenced. Yet, he still had to convince senior Israeli colleagues.

On October 14, he convened his security cabinet. In the intense debate that followed, Deputy Prime Minister Yigael Yadin, military intelligence chief General Yehoshua Saguy, and others questioned Iraq’s ability to build a nuclear weapon and the feasibility of a successful strike while forecasting serious negative political consequences of an attack in and outside the Arab world. However, the decision ultimately was Begin’s. Author Rodger Claire captured the moment:

After the hours of debate and squabbling, Begin stood and looked down the table, his dark eyes flickering from the face of one cabinet member to the next. Some of these men he had known for four decades, had fought next to against the British in ’47. He put both hands on the edge of the table and leaned in toward the general and minister…and announced, “There will be no other Holocaust in this century! Never. Never again!” The ministers remained silent. No one dared oppose him—at least to his face.[9]

On June 7, 1981, eight F-16As carrying 16 bombs destroyed Osirak.

The raid on Osirak did not work out as Begin anticipated. Rather than stopping Iraq’s nuclear program, the raid stimulated it. For Hussein, what at first blush seemed to be a disaster turned out to be a liberation of sorts. Ridding the country of French government oversight, contractors, managers, and monitors while feigning NPT fidelity, he embarked on what became a decade-long secret quest to build a uranium bomb. He settled on electromagnetic isotope separation and centrifuge technologies and, by the time the Gulf War started, was within a few years of fulfilling his ambition.[10]

Echoes in Iran

The Osirak story, before and after the attack, has much to teach today’s leaders as they attempt to fashion policies against Iran. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge distinctions.

Iran has in place a program that is far more advanced and sophisticated than Iraq’s was, even at its 1991 peak. It is better hardened and has generated significant quantities of uranium enriched up to 20 percent. Unlike Hussein, however, who called for an Arab nuclear weapon, Iranian leaders repeatedly declare their opposition to nuclear weapons.

Yet, some of the similarities are uncanny. Like Hussein’s Iraq, Iran frequently calls for Israel’s elimination. Iran funds and arms surrogates. Iran has failed to provide the IAEA with full nuclear transparency. Many Israeli decision-makers believe that Iran, like Iraq, poses an existential nuclear threat, although, as before, there is no unanimity.[11]

Osirak suggests the following cautionary points and strategies that bear on Iran.

•   Do not allow emotion and fear to trump objective intelligence assessment. Iran’s bombast and its documented progress in generating enriched uranium naturally make Israel nervous. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose public remarks currently sound much like Begin’s, should be careful to ensure that his decisions are based on fact rather than emotion.

•   Intelligence must be vetted over and over again. Israel’s intelligence clearly failed to assess the Osirak risk adequately, and the same was true of U.S. and Israeli intelligence on Iraq’s enrichment program.

•   Assassination of nuclear scientists will not retard nuclear progress. Israel’s presumed use of assassination in Iraq had no material impact on the Iraqi program. It does not appear to have had a material impact on Iran.

•   Public diplomacy to halt Osirak had no consequence. Its effect on Iran remains murky.

•   Sabotage may slow nuclear development, but it must be critically significant as well as successful. Israel’s effort to destroy the Osirak reactor core as it awaited shipment failed. Had it succeeded, it would have delayed commencement of reactor operations by years. By contrast, cyberattacks on computer systems managing Iran’s centrifuges seem to have had only months-long impacts. Clearly, the longer the interruption of normal operations, the better the opportunity for other events to intervene that could reduce the proliferator’s intention or capability to build a nuclear weapon.

•   Air power can retard nuclear development. Israel’s successful bombing of Osirak did that in part because Osirak was a solitary, soft target, but it also stimulated Iraq to mount an even more intense effort to get nuclear weapons. Likewise, when the United States bombed elements of Iraq’s nuclear program, it again retarded the enterprise, but bad intelligence allowed portions of the infrastructure to survive. Only the insertion of inspectors with authority to dismantle and destroy the enterprise eliminated the risk. Israel’s 2007 bombing of Syria’s North Korean-engineered Al Kibar reactor offers a caveat: military action can halt nuclear ambitions if the target country does not have the scientific capacity to rebuild. Clearly, Iran has that capacity.

In sum, Iraq provides many lessons for dealing with Iran today, but some distinctions remain. The international community never subjected Baghdad to the sanctions or IAEA cajoling Iran has faced. That is understandable because the community believed Iraq was complying with its NPT obligations.

Although the Osirak episode tested other modes to constrain proliferation, its legacy lies in the use of force. The lesson is that air power alone will not stop a country determined to get nuclear weapons. Repeated attacks may retard progress, but without an epiphany that leads the attacked country to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons, it takes personnel on the ground to finish the job.

Bennett Ramberg is a foreign policy writer and consultant based in Los Angeles. He served in the Department of State in the administration of George H.W. Bush.


1. Dan Reiter, “Preventive Attacks Against Nuclear Programs and the ‘Success’ at Osiraq,” Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 12, No. 2 (July 2005): 355-371; Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer, “Revisiting Osirak,” International Security, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Summer 2011): 201-132; Hal Brands and David Palkki, “Saddam, Israel and the Bomb,” International Security, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Summer 2011): 133-166.

2. For conflicting official accounts of the damage, see Eliot Cohen, Gulf War Air Power Survey, Vol. 2, 1993, pp. 316-317; Charles Duelfer, “Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD,” Vol. 2, “Nuclear,” September 30, 2004, p. 4, www.cia.gov/library/reports/general-reports-1/iraq_wmd_2004/index.html.

3. Shlomo Nakdimon, First Strike (New York: Summit Books, 1987), pp. 149, 295.

4. Brands and Palkki, “Saddam, Israel and the Bomb,” p. 134.

5. Directorate of Intelligence, CIA, “The Iraqi Nuclear Program: Progress Despite Setbacks,” June 1983, p. 13, www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/iraq19.pdf.

6. Duelfer, “Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD.” See Reiter, “Preventive Attacks Against Nuclear Programs and the ‘Success’ at Osiraq”; Richard Wilson, “Incomplete or Inaccurate Information Can Lead to Tragically Incorrect Decisions to Preempt: The Example of Osirak,” February 9, 2008, www.physics.harvard.edu/~wilson/publications/pp896.html.

7. Braut-Hegghammer, “Revisiting Osirak,” pp. 109-110.

8. Nakdimon, First Strike, p. 132. For the Mossad’s psychological assessment of Hussein, see “Begin on the Eve of the Osirak Raid,” Jerusalem Post, June 1, 2006, www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=23541.

9. Rodger W. Claire, Raid on the Sun (New York: Broadway Books, 2004), p. 100.

10. Dhafir Selbi, Zuhair Al-Chalabi, and Imad Khadduri, Unrevealed Milestones in the Iraqi National Nuclear Program 1981-1991 (self-published, 2011), p. 116.

11. For a review of Israel’s existential concerns, see Jim Zanotti et al., “Israel: Possible Military Strike Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities,” CRS Report for Congress, R42443 (March 27, 2012), pp. 9-11.

As the international community seeks to stave off an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program, policymakers would do well to draw lessons from the first attack to destroy a nuclear facility, Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981. At the time, the attack drew near-universal condemnation, but it soon came to be seen as a milestone in nonproliferation, demonstrating that force could be a practical option to halt a suspected nuclear weapons program without harmful repercussions for the attacker.

U.S. Chemical Arms Schedule Extended

Daniel Horner

Destruction of the last elements of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile could take two years longer than previously planned, the Army’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program said in an April 17 press release.

Under the new schedule, destruction would be completed at Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado in 2019 and Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky in 2023. The so-called life-cycle costs of the program are now estimated at $10.6 billion, an increase of about $2 billion, the ACWA release said.

The materials to be destroyed at the Pueblo and Blue Grass depots represent the last 10 percent of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile. The ACWA program said it might not need the extra two years if it is able to draw lessons from the work to date.

The potential schedule slippage “comes as no surprise,” Paul Walker, director of security and sustainability at Global Green USA, said in an April 19 e-mail. “The most important goal in abolishing our enormous Cold War weapons stockpiles is not any deadline, but rather that no one be hurt in the process,” he said.

Under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), possessors of chemical weapons were supposed to eliminate their stockpiles by April 29, 2012, the 15th anniversary of the treaty’s entry into force. Libya, Russia, and the United States did not meet the deadline.

In a document adopted at their annual meeting last year, CWC parties essentially recognized that the three countries would miss the deadline, but said they should complete the work “in the shortest time possible.” The document also spelled out reporting and monitoring requirements for the destruction work. (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

Destruction of the last elements of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile could take two years longer than previously planned, the Army’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program said in an April 17 press release.

Arms Dealer Viktor Bout Gets 25 Years

Farrah Zughni

International arms dealer Viktor Bout was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison for crimes related to arms trafficking.

The sentence, handed down April 5 by Judge Shira Scheindlin, was the mandatory minimum; prosecutors had asked for a life sentence.

Last November, a federal jury in New York City found Bout, a Russian national, guilty of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals; kill U.S. officials; acquire, transfer, and use anti-aircraft missiles; and provide material support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). (See ACT, December 2011.)

Bout was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008 by Thai authorities working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Bout agreed to sell millions of dollars’ worth of weapons, including surface-to-air missile systems and armor-piercing rocket launchers, to undercover agents he believed to be FARC arms buyers, according to a March 2008 press release from the Department of Justice.

“Viktor Bout has been international arms trafficking enemy number one for many years…. Today’s sentence is a fitting coda for this career arms trafficker of the most dangerous order,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said in an April 5 press release.

At an April 11 press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he had discussed Bout’s case with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during a meeting in Washington earlier that day. “Without going into further detail, we are definitely concerned with the fate of our people, no matter what they are accused of. We want them to be in the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said.

Since Bout’s arrest, Russian officials repeatedly have protested U.S. handling of the case and requested that Bout be turned over to their custody.

International arms dealer Viktor Bout was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison for crimes related to arms trafficking.

South Korea Unveils New Missile

Peter Crail

A week after a failed North Korean long-range rocket launch, South Korea on April 19 announced its deployment of a new cruise missile capable of hitting targets anywhere in North Korea.

“Now, our military has indigenously developed and deployed a cruise missile with the world’s top precision and striking capabilities that is capable of hitting all areas of North Korea promptly,” South Korean Defense Ministry policy planning chief Maj. Gen. Shin Won-sik told reporters the same day.

He said Seoul’s new missile capabilities would be used to retaliate against “another reckless provocation” by Pyongyang. Tensions flared between the two countries in 2010 when North Korea shelled a South Korean island and is believed to have sunk a South Korean naval vessel.

The cruise missile South Korea unveiled, called the Hyunmu-3C, is believed to have a range of 1,500 kilometers carrying a 450-kilogram payload. Such a capability appears to exceed the range limit on which South Korea and the United States had agreed in 2001 when Seoul joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a grouping of countries aimed at preventing the spread of missiles capable of delivering nonconventional warheads. The MTCR currently has 34 members.

Before joining the MTCR, Seoul already was subject to a 180-kilometer-range cap on its ballistic missiles under a 1979 agreement with Washington, but the two countries agreed to increase the cap to 300 kilometers in 2001 after years of negotiations. The agreement’s range limit on cruise missiles is believed to have been higher, at 500 kilometers.

South Korea is already believed to have deployed a 1,000-kilometer-range Hyunmu-3B cruise missile.

Missiles that can deliver 500 kilograms to distances of at least 300 kilometers, a capability often associated with nuclear delivery systems, are designated Category I systems under the MTCR and are subject to the group’s strictest rules on transferring technology. The payload of a missile affects its range, with heavier warheads decreasing the potential range of the missile.

The MTCR governs the transfer of missiles and missile technology and does not place limits on countries advancing their own missile capabilities. Since 1993, however, the United States has had a policy of requiring that countries joining the group adhere to MTCR Category I missile restrictions for their own missiles as well.

Over the past several years, South Korea has lobbied the United States to extend the agreed missile range limits. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told reporters March 21 that he believed bilateral discussions on the issue would produce an agreement “soon.”

“The 300-kilometer-range [limit] was set many years ago, predicated on the assumption that any fighting would be around the Demilitarized Zone” separating North and South Korea, Lee said.

Noting that North Korea has extended the range of its missiles and long-range artillery to cover the southernmost South Korean territory, Lee added, “South Korea is in need of expanding its defense posture in case of any contingencies.”

Diplomatic sources said that although there are no formal ongoing talks on extending the missile range limit, South Korea and the United States coordinate closely and are holding informal discussions.

A week after a failed North Korean long-range rocket launch, South Korea on April 19 announced its deployment of a new cruise missile capable of hitting targets anywhere in North Korea.

Banning Long-Range Missiles in the Middle East: A First Step for Regional Arms Control

By Michael Elleman

Although the goal of ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is receiving increased attention, it remains a distant prospect. Achieving such an ambitious goal will require a series of incremental steps even to begin the process. An agreement that bans the development and possession of ballistic missiles capable of flying more than 3,000 kilometers and includes members of the Arab League, Iran, Israel, and Turkey is a reasonable first step toward a WMD-free Middle East.

Pursuit of a regional ban on these long-range missiles naturally would begin with negotiations, a process that by itself could help ease tensions, generate better understanding, and build trust across the region. An agreement on the ban, although modest in its aim, would yield a tangible result that sets a precedent and breaks some of the taboos surrounding arms control in the region. More importantly, perhaps, the successful implementation of the agreement would create new bureaucracies that advocate for disarmament and institutions that assume responsibility for the implementation of arms reduction measures. At a minimum, the region would be one step closer to ridding itself of the world’s most dangerous weapons.

The proposed ban is achievable principally because it would not impinge on the core security interests of any country in the region. No state would be asked to relinquish its capacity to defend against or deter a regional rival, and few states in the Middle East face threats from outside the region. The one exception might be Iran, with its concerns about the United States. Yet, the United States has key interests, allies, and military bases throughout the region that could be held at risk by Tehran’s current missile arsenal.

Moreover, outside powers are likely to embrace and promote the regional missile ban and may go as far as pressuring reluctant regional actors to agree to the prohibition because it serves their individual and collective national security interests. The ban eliminates the threat to Europe posed by missile proliferation in the Middle East. In addition, the absence of intermediate-range and intercontinental missiles capable of reaching major portions of Europe would reduce NATO-Russian tensions by obviating the need to deploy the latter two phases of the European Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense, which Moscow fears could degrade Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.[1]

A regional ban necessarily would consist of two complementary components. The first implements measures to prevent the development of intermediate-range missiles in countries within the region that do not already have them. The second verifiably eliminates current stocks of missiles that exceed the proposed range limit.

Presently, only three countries in the region have the technical wherewithal and industrial capacity to develop intermediate-range missiles. Israel, according to media reports, already fields the medium-range Jericho-2 and possibly the intermediate-range Jericho-3 missiles that are believed to have been manufactured domestically.[2] Iran is actively developing the Sajjil-2, which has a range of 2,000 kilometers.[3] The experience and knowledge accrued in developing the Sajjil-2 provide Iran with the means to build viable, long-range missiles in the future.[4] Turkey could create the capability if it invested the proper money and time into the effort. Egypt, Iraq, and Syria have pursued short-range ballistic missile development programs in the past. Yet, there is no evidence to suggest they seek to create longer-range systems in the near to medium term, nor do any of these countries have the technical capacity to support development of an intermediate-range missile for the foreseeable future. Finally, one country, Saudi Arabia, has purchased intermediate-range missiles from a foreign source, in 1988 when Riyadh imported DF-3 systems from China.[5]

Preventing New Capabilities

Countries wishing to create new ballistic missiles, with or without foreign assistance, must undertake extensive flight-test programs as part of the development process to validate performance parameters, verify reliability under a wide range of operational conditions, correct inevitable design flaws, and train military forces to operate the missile. Flight tests, which cannot be concealed, provide outside observers the data needed to characterize missiles under development and to forecast future capabilities with considerable confidence.

An in-depth review of ballistic missile development programs undertaken worldwide over the past seven decades, most notably those conducted by China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, the former Soviet Union, and the United States, reveals that flight testing involves at least a dozen launches, often many more.[6] Germany, for example, flight-tested more than 300 A-4 (V-2) missiles before it began firing them at targets in western Europe during the closing months of World War II. France averaged about two dozen test launches when developing each of its ground- and sea-based strategic missiles. The United States and the Soviet Union/Russia test-fired considerably more for a majority of the missile systems they made operational during and after the Cold War. China used 18 flight tests during the development of the JL-1 missile. Even Iraq, during its war with Iran in the 1980s, when striking Tehran was viewed as an immediate strategic imperative, tested the 600 kilometer-range al-Hussein missile 10 times over a two-year period before using it against the more distant cities in Iran. The al-Hussein was not even a new missile, developed from fundamentals. Rather, it was a modified missile made from Soviet-produced Scud components.

Historical data also show that flight-testing campaigns associated with the development of new missiles require three to five years to complete. There were exceptions, but they were rare, involved minor modifications to existing systems, included multiple tests per month, and were performed by countries with rich experience developing missiles. These conditions do not exist in Iran, Turkey, or other countries in the Middle East today and will not exist in the coming decade. In any event, when the few exceptions did transpire, the minimum time, regardless of circumstances, was still about two years.

The need to conduct flight-test programs to develop an operational system suggests that if the countries in the region could be persuaded to forgo such activities, no country could create and field longer-range systems without assuming considerable if not excessive technical and operational risk. There is nothing in Iran’s history of missile development, for instance, to suggest that it would accept such risks. Tehran did not induct the Shahab-3 into military service until 2003, five years after receiving Nodong missiles from North Korea and initiating test launches. Modifications to extend the range of the Shahab-3, resulting in the 1,600 kilometer-range Ghadr-1, required three to five additional years of testing. Development of the Sajjil-2, which continues today, has been ongoing since it was first flight-tested in late 2007. The caution Iran has exhibited while developing conventionally armed missiles suggests convincingly that if it were to fashion a small nuclear arsenal, it would not fit the highly prized payloads to missiles with unproven performance or reliability. In addition, there is no evidence to suggest Israel, Turkey, or any other state in the region could defy the history experienced by others.

The testing requirement should be exploited to promote a regional flight-test ban on intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The range-payload characteristics of an intermediate-range missile would have to be defined by all of the parties involved in the final agreement, although an envelope of 3,000 kilometers and 500 kilograms seems reasonable.

Space launch vehicles, which Iran, Israel, and others, including North Korea, are unlikely to relinquish, would not be included in the proposed regime. Although it is certainly true that space launchers and ballistic missiles are founded on similar technologies, there are fundamental differences between the two systems. Space launchers are prepared for flight over a period of many days, if not weeks. Components and subsystems can be checked and verified prior to launch, and the mission commander can wait for ideal weather before initiating the countdown. If an anomaly is encountered during the countdown, the launch can be delayed, the problem fixed, and the process restarted. Ballistic missiles, on the other hand, must perform reliably under a variety of operational conditions and with little advance notification, like any other military system. These operational requirements must be validated through an extensive test program before a missile can be declared combat ready.

Although space launch activities offer an opportunity to accumulate some of the experience and data that could aid efforts to develop long-range ballistic missiles, the results have limited application to ballistic missiles. Only a fraction of the overall development issues can be addressed when operating the system as a satellite launcher. Converting a proven space launcher into a ballistic missile would still require two to five years of additional testing in the ballistic missile mode. In fact, the universal trend has been to convert ballistic missiles into space launchers, not the opposite. The Soviets, for example, used the R-7 intercontinental missile to launch its first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Likewise, the U.S. Redstone missile was modified and used to place into orbit the Explorer-1 satellite a few months after the unprecedented Soviet success. The Chinese CZ-2 launch vehicle was founded on the DF-3 ballistic missile technology and components.

Space launches, however, cannot be ignored and must be closely monitored by states within the region, as well as outside powers, precisely because they could contribute to a missile development program by offering validation of fundamental concepts, such as those for propulsion systems, stage separation, and testing procedures. Consequently, countries that insist on developing and operating space launchers must conduct these activities with maximum transparency to avoid suspicion. The protocols established under the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation could serve as an initial foundation for promoting transparency and trust among all parties adhering to the regional ban on intermediate-range missiles.

States in the Middle East could go further and establish a monitoring authority to oversee space-related activities within the region and perhaps facilitate reciprocal visits by member states to observe launch activities. To ensure compliance by member states, Russia and the United States could share data from their respective sensor networks with the monitoring authority. Indeed, the monitoring authority could serve as a verification center for the broader ban on intermediate-range flight tests. Participation by Russia and the United States would be key, as they are the only two countries with the suite of space-based sensors and ground-based radars capable of detecting and tracking ballistic missile tests or space launches from the Middle East.

Reaching agreement on a regional prohibition on flight-testing intermediate-range missiles is not an insurmountable task. Iran has publicly declared that it has no interest in developing a missile capable of distances of more than 2,000 kilometers. As recently as July 2011, Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aerospace division, insisted to Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency in Iran that “the range of our missiles has been designed based on American bases in the region as well as the Zionist regime,” adding that “the Americans have reduced our labours.… [T]heir military bases in the region are in a range of 130, 250 and maximum 700 km in Afghanistan which we can hit with [our presently available] missiles.”[7] Of course, there are valid reasons for doubting Hajizadeh’s words. Yet, when one considers Iran’s strategic priorities, his claims seem reasonable. Iran’s most distant strategic target is Israel, about 1,000 kilometers from launching points near Iran’s border with Iraq. Operational security and prelaunch survivability, however, demand deployment zones far from the border. Extending the minimum range requirement to roughly 1,600 kilometers, as Iran has achieved with the Ghadr-1, facilitates the launch of missiles from secure locations in the heart of Iranian territory. The Sajjil-2, once developed fully, will have a similar range capability when carrying significantly heavier payloads of up to 1,300 kilograms.

Iran might dismiss or reject a ban on intermediate-range missile tests as an infringement on its sovereign rights. Taking such action, however, would turn the country’s nuclear diplomacy on its head. Iran already is the only country to have pursued development of a 2,000 kilometer-range missile, the Sajjil-2, without first having acquired nuclear weapons. Seeking still-longer-range delivery vehicles only would increase existing doubts about Iran’s nuclear intentions.

Iran might attempt to hedge or delay acceptance of a regional test ban by insisting that Israel and Saudi Arabia first verifiably eliminate their respective Jericho-3 and DF-3 missiles. Convincing Israel and Saudi Arabia to accept such plans will not be easy and cannot be assured. Nevertheless, success could be achieved if the incentives and diplomatic pressures were sufficient.

Israel and the Jericho-3

Surprisingly, persuading Israel to relinquish its intermediate-range ballistic missiles might be easier than convincing Saudi Arabia to part with its DF-3s. Israel presently has little strategic imperative for deploying missiles with a range greater than 3,000 kilometers, as the primary threats to the country reside within the Middle East. The whole of Iran, for instance, can be covered by Israeli missiles with a range of 2,800 kilometers. Moreover, Israel maintains a range of delivery options for its strategic payloads and need not rely on ballistic missiles to deter distant rivals.

Israel’s fleet of advanced fighter-bomber aircraft, which consists of roughly 80 F-15s and 300 F-16s, has no war-fighting rival in the Middle East. The aircraft are operated by the best-trained pilots in the region and carry sophisticated avionics packages that can defeat the air defense systems of any adversary in the region. Its airborne refueling capacity enables Israel to strike targets well beyond the combat radius of the F-15s and F-16s. The long-standing strategic U.S. commitment to the country ensures that Israel will not have a conventional military peer within the region. Washington’s promise to transfer to Israel its most advanced aircraft, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, once available, is one example of the pledge.[8]

Israel also maintains a second-strike force consisting of submarine-launched cruise missiles.[9] The fleet includes three diesel-electric powered submarines built in Germany for the Israeli navy. Each submarine is believed to carry a handful of Popeye or Popeye-Turbo cruise missiles. There is considerable debate about the performance capabilities of the Popeye-Turbo, but it appears certain that the missile has the capacity to deliver the small 200- to 300-kilogram nuclear payloads Israel is believed to have manufactured.[10] Two more submarines are under procurement, with scheduled deliveries of 2013 and 2014.[11] Once all five submarines reach operational status, Israel would have at least two boats on patrol at any given moment.

Ballistic missiles afford Israel a third weapons delivery option, but there is some uncertainty about what systems have been deployed and how they perform. The Jericho-1 was designed, developed, and tested by the French firm Marcel Dassault Aviation in the late 1960s, and either the missiles, the technology, or both were transferred to Israel for deployment in the early 1970s.[12] The Jericho-1 is thought to have a maximum range of 480 to 750 kilometers, with a reported payload capacity of 500 to 1,000 kilograms.[13] A technical assessment of the Jericho-1 suggests the missile has a 500-kilometer range when carrying a 750-kilogram payload.

The Jericho-1 missiles are likely obsolete. There are persistent reports that Israel replaced them with the two-stage, solid-propellant Jericho-2, whose development likely began in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Flight testing commenced in 1986, with initial deployment around 1990. Reports claim the Jericho-2 has a maximum range of 1,500 kilometers when fitted with a 1,000-kilogram warhead. However, based on the Jericho-2’s dimensions and the likely propellant loads and type, the missile should have a range of roughly 2,500 to 2,800 kilometers. Israel’s Shavit space launcher appears to be derived from Jericho-2 technology and components.

Some reports suggest that Israel has worked to create a three-stage Jericho-3 missile. Such a missile would significantly extend Israel’s strategic reach to well beyond 3,000 kilometers. Two flight tests of the Jericho-3 have been reported, one in 2008 and another in 2011.[14] The minimal number of flight tests suggests that the Jericho-3 is not combat ready. Adding to the mystery surrounding the Jericho-3 is the possibility that the two firings were satellite launches and not missile tests. Whether the Jericho-3 exists is somewhat irrelevant, as Israel certainly has the technical and industrial wherewithal to develop the missile.

As discussed above, the diverse mix of strategic delivery options offers Israel considerable flexibility, and subtracting intermediate-range ballistic missiles is unlikely to degrade the country’s nuclear deterrence capabilities. Israeli acceptance of a regional ban on intermediate-range ballistic missiles seems feasible, especially if it is sold as a first step in a comprehensive effort to halt the Iranian nuclear program through the more ambitious WMD-free-zone concept. A U.S. offer of increased financial and operational assistance to Israel’s extant missile defense programs and continued supply of advanced military technology, including the F-35, should help induce Israel’s acceptance of the regional prohibition.

Convincing Saudi Arabia

As explained above, neither Iran nor Israel appears to hold compelling military or strategic imperatives that demand intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The strategic calculus in Riyadh, however, is less clear. Convincing the Saudis to relinquish their DF-3 missiles may prove to be the most difficult challenge to achieving the ban.

In 1988, Saudi Arabia purchased 30 to 50 conventionally armed DF-3 (CSS-2) intermediate-range missiles from China. Negotiations with Beijing reportedly began soon after the United States refused in 1985 to supply the Saudis with short-range Lance ballistic missiles and an additional 40 F-15 fighters. The DF-3 was not intended to fill a gap created by the U.S. refusal to supply the Lance, a battlefield missile with a range of about 100 kilometers. Rather, as the Saudis claimed at the time of purchase, the DF-3s were acquired to deter Iran and other potential adversaries in the Middle East. Given Saudi fears at the time of purchase that Iran would widen the war with Iraq by attacking targets in the kingdom or one of its Gulf Cooperation Council allies, this rationale is not implausible. The Saudi decision may have also been driven by country’s pattern of acquiring advanced weapons, both symbolic and militarily useful systems, to enhance its international status and establish itself as a major regional power.

The single-stage, liquid-propellant DF-3 has a maximum range of roughly 2,600 kilometers when carrying a warhead weighing slightly more than 2,000 kilograms. When armed with a 1,000-kilogram payload, however, the range grows to about 3,100 kilometers, which exceeds the proposed limit.

Saudi Arabia is rumored to have recently acquired two-stage, solid-propellant DF-21 or Shaheen-2 missiles from China or Pakistan, respectively.[15] The DF-21 and Shaheen-2 missiles are more accurate and reliable than their DF-3 counterparts, they are easier to maintain and operate, and they offer greater mobility, which enhances prelaunch survivability. Upgrading the arsenal with the more modern missiles also bestows greater prestige on Saudi Arabia, although the newer missiles have a reduced range capability. Nonetheless, if the rumors are accurate, it seems reasonable to conclude that Saudi Arabia is in the process of replacing its obsolete DF-3s with 2,000 kilometer-range DF-21 or Shaheen-2 missiles, in which case Riyadh could painlessly decide to scrap the DF-3s altogether, unilaterally or in conjunction with the proposed intermediate-range missile ban.

If the rumors are inaccurate, Riyadh may hesitate to accept a deal that does not yield a replacement capability. Because the DF-3s are old and likely no longer serviceable, even with continued Chinese maintenance efforts, the Saudis might be convinced to eliminate the missiles if they are promised additional fighter-bomber aircraft and advanced missile defense systems. A military assistance package that includes the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system and the Aegis Ashore system, with its Standard Missile-3 interceptors, might prove too tempting to refuse. Yet, even with such inducements, Saudi Arabia may be reluctant to forfeit the DF-3 because of its symbolic value.

Moving Forward

The international community, perhaps led by China, Russia, the United States, and key member states of the European Union, should seek to persuade countries in the Middle East to negotiate and agree to a verifiable regime that prohibits the possession or flight testing of intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. As outlined above, a combination of incentive packages and diplomatic pressure almost certainly will be required, but the precise nature of the inducements will not become clear until the key parties from the Middle East begin negotiations and define their objectives and concerns.

Russia and the United States could begin by offering to create jointly the foundations of a regional monitoring authority whose initial purpose would be to house data on missile and space launches from the region. At first, the database would consist of information gathered by Russian and U.S. sensors and might later be augmented by voluntary submissions to the monitoring authority from countries within the region. The transparency created by the monitoring authority could be used to build a minimal level of trust, from which negotiations on the basic parameters of a ban on long-range missiles could begin.

In addition to the diplomatic benefits of contributing to the successful conclusion of a sensitive negotiation, Russia and the United States could gain security benefits from participating. A verifiable ban on long-range missiles would remove most or all of the basis for the planned deployment of the later phases of the U.S.-NATO missile defense system in Europe. U.S.-Russian disagreements over European missile defense currently are an irritant to U.S.-Russian relations and, in particular, are a major obstacle to further arms reductions.

The negotiations on a Middle Eastern missile agreement undoubtedly will be difficult, as many issues bedevil relations in the Middle East beyond ballistic missile inventories. The lack of peace between Israel and Palestine, historical enmities, territorial and sectarian disputes, and asymmetries in military capabilities are just a few of the issues that could derail progress on a missile agreement.

The United States and the Soviet Union also faced seemingly insurmountable challenges during the height of the Cold War, yet both parties found it in their respective interests to work together on arms control. Sharing their experiences in negotiating arms control measures is one contribution that Russia and the United States could make to the WMD-free zone, although the lessons learned during the Cold War have limited application to the conditions and dynamics of the Middle East. Indeed, the additional complexities underline the importance of finding a measure that does not collide with long-standing security tenets of any of the affected states and therefore can serve as a first step in what undoubtedly will be a long and tortuous path to a WMD-free Middle East.

Michael Elleman is senior fellow for regional security cooperation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and is principal author of “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment” (2010). He spent 20 years developing ballistic missiles at Lockheed Martin Corp. before joining the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission as a missile expert for weapons inspection missions in Iraq. From 1995 to 2001, he led a Cooperative Threat Reduction program in Russia aimed at dismantling obsolete strategic missiles.


1. For an analysis of the Phased Adaptive Approach and its effectiveness against the current and future Russian deterrent, see Dean A. Wilkening, “Does Missile Defence in Europe Threaten Russia?” Survival, Vol. 54, No. 1 (February-March 2012): 31-52.

2. Andrew Feickert, “Missile Survey: Ballistic and Cruise Missiles of Foreign Countries,” CRS Report for Congress, RL30427, March 5, 2004.

3. There is no internationally recognized missile classification scheme. For the purposes of this article, ballistic missiles are categorized into four classes: short-range missiles are capable of traveling distances of 1,000 kilometers; medium-range missiles, between 1,000 and 3,000 kilometers; intermediate-range missiles, between 3,000 and 5,500 kilometers; and intercontinental ballistic missiles, more than 5,500 kilometers. For the purposes of this article, “long-range” missiles are those that exceed the proposed limit of 3,000 kilometers.

4. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment,” 2010.

5. Jim Mann, “U.S. Caught Napping by Sino-Saudi Missile Deal,” Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1988, p. 1.

6. For details, see IISS, “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities,” ch. 3.

7. Parisa Hafezi, “Iran Fires 14 Missiles in 2nd Day of War Games,” Reuters, June 28, 2011.

8. Alon Ben-David, Amy Butler, and Robert Wall, “Israel, U.S. Strike F-35 Technology Deal,” Aviation Week, July 7, 2011.

9. James Hackett, ed., The Military Balance (London: IISS, 2010).

10. Uzi Mahnaimi and Matthew Campbell, “Israel Makes Nuclear Waves With Submarine Missile Test,” London Sunday Times, June 18, 2000.

11. “Germany Sells Israel More Dolphin Subs,” Defense Industry Daily, February 6, 2012, http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/germany-may-sell-2-more-dolphin-subs-to-israel-for-117b-01528/.

12. “Dassault Lève Le Voile Sur Le Missile Jericho” [Dassault lifts the lid on the Jericho missile story], Air & Cosmos, December 6, 1996, p. 36.

13. See, for example, GlobalSecurity.org, “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” July 24, 2011, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/israel/missile.htm; Nuclear Threat Initiative, “Israel: Missile,” November 2011, http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Israel/Missile/index.html.

14. Yuval Azoulay, “Missile Test ‘Will Improve Deterrence,’” Haaretz, January 18, 2008; Anshel Pfeffer and Reuters, “IDF Test-Fires Ballistic Missile in Central Israel,” Haaretz, November 2, 2011.

15. GlobalSecurity.org, “Saudi Arabia Special Weapons,” July 24, 2011, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/saudi/index.html; Jeffrey Lewis, “Saudi Missile Claims,” Arms Control Wonk, June 8, 2010, http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/2761/china-and-saudi-bms.

Although the goal of ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is receiving increased attention, it remains a distant prospect. Achieving such an ambitious goal will require a series of incremental steps even to begin the process. An agreement that bans the development and possession of ballistic missiles capable of flying more than 3,000 kilometers and includes members of the Arab League, Iran, Israel, and Turkey is a reasonable first step toward a WMD-free Middle East.

Controlling Proliferation: An Interview With Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman

Interviewed by Kelsey Davenport, Daniel Horner, and Daryl G. Kimball

Thomas Countryman took office as assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation on September 27, 2011. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1982. While serving in the U.S. mission to the United Nations in the mid-1990s, he was the mission’s liaison with the UN Special Commission investigating Iraq's unconventional weapons programs.

Arms Control Today spoke with Countryman in his office on April 10. The interview focused on a recent event—the nuclear security summit that took place in Seoul March 26-27—and two upcoming events: the May summit of the Group of Eight (G-8), where the countries are expected to endorse plans for the second decade of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, and the July conference at which countries will undertake negotiations on an arms trade treaty (ATT).

The interview was transcribed by Kelsey Davenport. It has been edited for clarity. A condensed version appeared in the May 2012 issue of Arms Control Today.

ACT: Thank you very much for sitting down with us. I know that your portfolio covers a broad range of issues. We are going to focus on just a couple of them, dealing with weapons-usable material and conventional arms.

First, in what ways did the Seoul nuclear security summit meet your expectations, and in what ways did it fall short?

Countryman: I’ve seen a lot of summits. In general, summits can be dramatic or successful, or both, or neither. In my view, the Seoul summit was not dramatic, but it was certainly successful. Unlike summits that make a ringing declaration of a new policy, the Seoul nuclear security summit was about reviewing a very successful record of accomplishment by a number of states acting individually and in concert, in rededicating themselves to the goals of the 2010 summit [in Washington], and in making specific commitments to continue to meet those goals. So in that sense, it had more substance than a number of other summits I can think of.

In particular, the various agreements announced—whether it was the completion of the removal of highly enriched uranium [HEU] from Ukraine and from Mexico, whether it was the cessation of the use of highly enriched uranium to produce nuclear medical isotopes in Europe, whether it was the extension and building-up of cooperative frameworks to combat nuclear smuggling—all of these are accomplishments in the real world, not just in the policy frame, not just in terms of a declaration. So in that sense, I think it was fully successful.

There remains work to be done, and that is why the parties have agreed to focus on a summit two years from now to review the progress, to review the commitments that we made in Seoul. And I expect to see a similar amount of progress in the real world when we get to the Netherlands two years from now.

ACT: Okay, any areas [in which] you might have hoped for more, but it didn’t quite come through?


Countryman: We still consider a couple of areas where there is progress possible. First, there are a couple of countries that still have significant stockpiles of fissile material beyond any peaceful use, any peaceful requirement that they may have. We hope to convince those countries to continue the process of reducing and ultimately eliminating those stockpiles. Second, we would still like to see in general, across the world, additional steps on nuclear security, on the physical means to guarantee that access to fissile material and radiological sources is limited to those who need it and not open to terrorists or criminals. And third, we would still like to see a more concerted effort worldwide to phase out the use of highly enriched uranium as a reactor fuel and convert all those reactors to low-enriched uranium. So these are tasks for the next two years. There has been progress in the last couple of years, but we need to keep going on those.

ACT: In some of the discussions in the run-up to the Seoul summit, it was indicated that the summit would produce a communiqué that had firmer commitments than the 2010 document. Do you think that the 2012 communiqué accomplishes that?

Countryman: I haven’t read the 2010 document for the last year, but I think that the 2012 document is firm in making commitments. It is not an international treaty, nor is this summit process intended to result in a binding international treaty. But the success of the process so far has been because President [Barack] Obama convened world leaders at this level to focus this level of political attention and devotion of resources to these issues; that has been the key to success, rather than making sweeping commitments that would be binding on all the participants.


ACT: You mentioned the use of highly enriched uranium and some of the things that still need to be done. The communiqué calls for an announcement of specific voluntary actions by the end of 2013, rather than completion of actions by that time. So can you explain how that is consistent with the four-year goal that President Obama announced in 2009 and the summit participants endorsed in 2010? It seemed that you were working toward completing it by 2014 as opposed to having announcements in 2013.

Countryman: We are well on track to meet the target that President Obama established of a four-year lockdown of vulnerable nuclear materials. We made great progress in the last two years. There is still hard work to do, [but] we have confidence that existing fissile stocks should be in a secure situation by 2014. That is not exactly the same question as eliminating all of those fissile material stocks, which we would like to see, which we are working on with specific countries. The minimum requirement is to make sure that those stocks are secure while we progress on the path to eliminating them.


ACT: So by 2014, we just want to have them secure, but not necessarily removed from countries? That would include having them in secure storage within the country rather than having them removed from the country?


Countryman: The goal is security of those materials. It is a country-by-country situation. And I think that we want to work quietly with those countries that need the assistance or the political cover to complete the process of removing those stocks.


ACT: Before, during, and after the summit, there were various lists of what different countries would do by certain dates. One list had seven countries that were planning on removing their HEU by 2013, and that list included Belarus and South Africa. Some reports indicate that those countries are moving more slowly. So could you bring us up to date with what is going on with those two countries, because they are two key ones?


Countryman: They are two key countries, and they are at very different places in terms of their standing in the world. You can’t compare the very positive relationship we have with South Africa on a range of issues with the very difficult relationship that we and the European Union have with Belarus. In the case of South Africa, we will continue to work with them on alternatives to maintaining the [HEU] stockpile, trying to find a solution that is economically beneficial to South Africa, for what it correctly considers to be a valuable resource.

In the case of Belarus, we’ve done our best to isolate this issue from the general political difficulties between Belarus and the rest of the world. That’s been one of the successes of the nuclear security summit, to avoid having this issue trip over every other issue in a country’s bilateral relationship. But there are both political and technical issues still to work with Belarus [on]. It remains our goal to finish the removal of HEU stocks from Belarus by 2014.


ACT: Okay. Is there any sign that that process is going to be re-engaged from the sort of the limbo that it is in now?


Countryman: I would not say that it is in limbo, but these things do take time.


ACT: Then on South Africa, as you said, the relationship is much more friendly. So given that, were you perhaps expecting more from [the South Africans]? Because their statement at the summit seemed to assert a right to use material at whatever enrichment level they choose as long as they took the necessary steps. [See sidebar 1 below.] And they seem to tie a phase-out of civilian HEU to completion of a fissile material cutoff treaty, which clearly is not happening anytime soon. So in the context of that friendly relationship, is that an area where perhaps more was hoped for?


Countryman: Well, first the nuclear security summit process is not about abridging the rights of any nation under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It is, rather, making a common commitment that [governments] choose not to exercise certain rights in the name of protecting the security of [their] people in individual countries and worldwide. And that is the context in which we have our discussions with South Africa and with everybody else. So it is not a question of rights; it is a question of making a choice that is rational both in terms of economics and in terms of security. They did make a connection to the fissile material cutoff treaty. We remain interested in seeing those negotiations commence soon. It is frustrating to us, as to the rest of the world, that [they have] not been able to begin. Whether that connection is valid and whether it should persist when there are valid security reasons for proceeding with down-blending this material are questions better addressed to the South Africans.


ACT: Many independent experts have said they are concerned that, despite the important progress made in the nuclear security summit process, there are still no internationally agreed binding standards for nuclear security. What is the Obama administration’s view regarding the international instruments in place regarding nuclear security? Are they sufficient to meet U.S. goals to improve global nuclear security standards, or is there a need for something more?


Countryman: Well first, it’s a process. The summit is not intended to be an end in itself, but is intended to lead to greater responsibility on the part of all states. Part of that process, from the beginning, has been to give greater authority and resources and encouragement to the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] to help develop a framework for commonly understood international standards on nuclear security. The IAEA is moving forward on that front. That’s not the same as development of a new legal standard or new legal requirements, but that was not ever the purpose of the summit.


ACT: So do you feel that the standards that are established through the IAEA, those are sufficient? It is just a matter of implementing those standards?


Countryman: I am not sure that we have seen them yet, so I’m not sure I will say they are sufficient, but it is the logical next step in developing the sense of responsibility that every country needs to have when it comes to securing nuclear materials.


ACT: In the context of what you have just said about IAEA standards, and looking ahead to the Netherlands summit in 2014, what can you say about what the United States goals are for that summit and especially beyond? You say it’s a process, there will be work to be done, I’m sure, after 2014. What can you tell us about how the United States sees the process beyond 2014?


Countryman: So you couldn’t just let us relax after Seoul? You want to know what’s next, two years from now?


ACT: Inquiring minds want to know.


Countryman: I know they do. And I think perhaps we are getting ahead of it. The first part of the answer is easy. We want to be able to two years from now say that we have substantially accomplished the lockdown of vulnerable nuclear material that was in the president’s original target. Whether we will be discussing new international mechanisms beyond the summit, beyond the political commitments, frankly it’s too early to say. I couldn’t tell you today.


ACT: And do you have a more general sense of 2014 and beyond? Will that be the last of the summits?


Countryman: Again, it’s too early to say. You heard the diversity of views in Seoul, with a number of delegations praising the value of the summit so far, giving the opinion we should go to 2014 and beyond. You heard a couple of delegations that expressed doubt that we needed to go past 2014. So I would say it’s an open question at the moment. Our intent is to gain as much value from the next two years as we possibly can before we make a decision on that.

ACT: I am going to move on to the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. Last year, the Group of Eight announced that the Global Partnership would continue beyond its original end date of 2012.[1] But the announcement left open many specifics, perhaps most notably the funding level. Could you give us a quick summary of what the partners already have agreed? And what kind of additional details will be discussed ahead of the [May 18-19] G-8 summit at Camp David?


Countryman: First, I think it’s a good moment, 10 years after the G-8 summit that set up the Global Partnership, to evaluate positively how much it has accomplished. Spending $22 billion in 10 years substantially reduced the risk of proliferation of weapons and materials from the former Soviet Union. It was generously funded by G-8 members and others, and its accomplishment is huge. It’s natural, last year and this year, to look into a couple of new dimensions, to look beyond only nuclear materials and consider other proliferation challenges, including biological hazards. It’s also natural to look beyond the former Soviet Union to other regions of the world that confront some of the same issues, in the nuclear, biological, or other fields. So the redirection of the G-8’s focus for the Global Partnership from being centered on the former Soviet Union, centered on nuclear and chemical weapons issues, is, I think, a very positive development. We have tasks to complete in those areas, but we also have new tasks, new partners around the world, who appreciate the importance of providing security against these particular challenges.

President Obama made clear in 2010 that we will continue our level of funding. He has committed at least $10 billion in a 10-year period to this task. And we are spending that money wisely, but also well, through my bureau, through the National Nuclear Security Administration, through the Department of Defense and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and we will continue that funding stream into the future. Even in difficult economic times, this is, for us, an investment in national security rather than a foreign assistance program. We leave to other partners in the G-8 the funding levels that they believe they can afford. So it would not be accurate to try and give you an estimate of the total G-8 spending on this. I would note that we continue to expand the Global Partnership. We’ve added Kazakhstan as the24th member just a couple of months ago. And the sources of funding go beyond the G-8 itself.


ACT: So will there be some further detail on the financial aspect at the upcoming summit? Will there be some sort of announcement? You said that the U.S. made this commitment to a specific number; will other countries publicly state what their commitments are at the summit? Is that something we can look forward to?


Countryman: We don’t know yet.


ACT: Okay. Will the U.S., as the chair of the summit, be encouraging countries to do that? Either publicly or privately, to make these kind of commitments to specific numbers?


Countryman: I think we will be pressing countries to make commitments; whether we will press them to make commitments to specific numbers, I think we’ll see.


ACT: What other kinds of commitments then?


Countryman: To make general commitments to continue their generosity. It’s tricky to get into the game of setting a number and then setting some of our partners up for public criticism if they are unable to meet that number. We were successful in setting a specific number back in 2002, and we were successful in spending and exceeding that on valuable programs that contributed to global security. It is a different moment in time today economically. And I would be hard pressed to say that there is the same value in setting a specific number target at this moment.


ACT: You mentioned that there were some new programmatic goals for the second decade of the Global Partnership. Can you expand a little bit more on that, in terms of the vision for how this might evolve? And you mentioned Kazakhstan as a new partner. Obviously, beyond the G-8, there are the G-20 countries. Are there some of the G-20 countries, particular countries that the United States and the other G-8 countries want to partner with in this broader effort in the next several years?


Countryman: First, we are happy to partner with just about anybody who shares our goals and is able to bring money and expertise to the table. Or even just money. We don’t think, to be honest, in the context of the G-20, which is a group instituted for a particular economic purpose—and you could say the same thing, that the G-8 started that way, it was only about economics, and now it is into proliferation and a number of other issues. But we don’t think about the G-20 in that particular context.

What do we do in terms of new fields? I guess I would talk about biosecurity first. It’s not only a question of preventing the proliferation of technology that can contribute to a biological weapons program. Our entire concept of how the world defends itself against the threat of biological weapons rests upon the capabilities of the world community and individual nations to detect, deter, and respond to biological attacks. The detection and the response is the same for a natural or an accidental outbreak as it is for a deliberate release of a biological weapon. And we have already seen that pathogens crossing from the natural environment into the human environment have had health and economic consequences in many parts of the world. It is being able to monitor that, detect, and react rapidly—this is where the United States has built up its capabilities for national biodefense in such an event and is working hard with partner countries to develop the same kind of detection and response capability, provid[ing] a double insurance policy against both natural and deliberate introduction of disease into the human environment.

So, for those countries that have seen this phenomenon before, of animal viruses entering the human population, particularly in Southeast Asia and Africa, we’ve been working intensively on joint research projects, developing monitoring mechanisms, detection mechanisms, [and] helping to plan responses, both immediate responses and medium-term production of vaccines. I think that these are the kind of biosecurity programs that are not only a public health program, but also help to deter anybody from thinking that biological weapons are an effective weapon to use against human populations.


ACT: So is there a sense that the original mission in Russia and the other former Soviet republics has largely been accomplished at this point? Or is [the Global Partnership] going to continue to do that while doing these other things, given, as you said, the financial constraints?


Countryman: There is still work to finish in the former Soviet Union, and we will finish it in partnership with the Russian Federation and with others, in the G-8 and in the region. But with the amount of funding that we hope to have available, we need to look well beyond the region.


ACT: Part of what I was getting to was that when the G-8 was established in 2002, there were a number of goals in terms of programs and in terms of pledges that were not met over the course of the 10 years. Does that give you some pause about setting too ambitious of an agenda for the coming 10 years?


Countryman: I think everybody in government, and for that matter in your personal life, ought to set an ambitious agenda for the next 10 years. But year by year, you have to be realistic about the resources available and make intelligent decisions about your top priorities for the year. But I’ve never been opposed to ambitious agendas.


ACT: Before we shift topics, if you could just give our readers a more specific sense of what these G-8 Partnership programs are dealing with, and let’s take Kazakhstan in particular. Can you tell us a little bit more about what is planned with Kazakhstan? Does it have to do with some of the security issues, strategic materials that are still at the former Soviet test site there? What kinds of work do you anticipate doing with Kazakhstan? Some work has already been done before, but looking forward?


Countryman: Our cooperation with Kazakhstan in the nonproliferation field has been excellent. In fact, immediately after this meeting I will be talking with the deputy foreign minister of Kazakhstan. We will have a team there this month to review the broad range of cooperation that we have. They’ve been a model partner in this area, and they are also an example of a country that has accomplished so much with the assistance of the Global Partnership program, that they now have the resources and the expertise to share those accomplishments and that experience with other countries in need of the same kind of work.

On specific accomplishments, you saw the announcement at the Seoul summit by Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and the United States of substantial completion of cleanup at the Semipalatinsk site. [See sidebar 2 below.] Cleanup may be too strong a word—securing of vulnerable materials at that site. That’s huge. This was one of the greatest concentrations of vulnerable material in the world. And as we close in on completion of that task, it has been a substantial success for the goal of nuclear security. We have cooperation in the biosecurity field as well, with Kazakhstan, both through the State Department and through other agencies.

One area that Kazakhstan is interested in is serving as a center of research, whether you call it a center of excellence or a successor to the International Science and Technology Center in Moscow. And so they are willing, as somebody who has benefited from the Global Partnership, to give back.


ACT: I just wanted to follow up on the point that we made about diversifying the membership. When we mentioned the G-20, it was not so much as a function of the group, but as one that is somewhat more diverse than the G-8, which is wealthy, advanced, industrialized countries, that has a more representative cross-section of countries. Is there an ongoing effort to get major countries that are not currently included as part of the Global Partnership?


Countryman: Yes, I did not mean that the G-20 are not important countries. I just meant that when we look at potential donors, we don’t do it by categories by G-20 or EU, or someone else. We look at the countries that have demonstrated an interest, and an expertise, and a willingness to spend some money to work cooperatively to reduce global threats.


ACT: Are there any particular countries that are on your radar at this point?


Countryman: Sure.


ACT: But you are not going to name them?


Countryman: I would not make an appeal like that in public.


ACT: For the last part, we are going to go to the arms trade treaty. Since 2006, efforts have been under way to pursue a treaty to deal with the transfer of weapons across international borders, and this July there will be negotiations to try and conclude a treaty text. Could you just start out by explaining from the U.S. perspective what the U.S. government’s view is on the humanitarian and security challenges that an arms trade treaty can help address? And then second, why did the Obama administration announce that it would proactively engage in that process?


Countryman: Well, there is a lot there. First, you should look simply at how the United States administers its own export of weapons. And that is, we have a detailed mechanism for considering exports that takes into account security situations in the region, takes into account the human rights situation, takes into account economic dimensions, as well as the usual elements of national interest that go into an arms sale to a friend anywhere in the world. This process is rigorous, it’s exhaustive, and we think that it compares favorably to that of any other country in the world. So by our own actions, we have demonstrated for decades that we believe countries have a responsibility to take into consideration a wide range of criteria before exporting weapons anywhere.

The Obama administration believes it is valuable, that each country in the world should have a similar process. Not an identical process, not identical mechanisms, but a similar process of considering all of these relevant criteria before the export of weapons from one state to another. In our view, this will simultaneously serve to address certain humanitarian [and] human rights concerns and offer the potential to reduce the level of conflict in a number of regions in the world. But at a minimum, what it accomplishes, even if none of those goals are accomplished overnight with a new arms trade treaty, [is that] there is a new sense of responsibility upon every member of the United Nations that you cannot simply export and forget, that the consequences of export of weapons last in the region where they are received, and that has to be in the consciousness of every country that exports weapons.

We have agreed to participate in the arms trade treaty negotiations that will take place in July, in New York, because we believe that there is now a readiness on the part of the world community to embrace a similar concept and to create a set of criteria that will have real meaning for every arms-exporting country. We also believe that the format is such that it will address our concerns, that the requirement to adopt a treaty by consensus is an important way to ensure that the United States’ principles are protected in this process.

Now, what are those principles? Just to mention a couple of key ones. First, that trade in conventional weapons is a legitimate commercial activity and one that states have the obligation to regulate. Second, that there must be international criteria, but there must be national mechanisms, national processes, at the state level, to make these decisions. That is within the sovereignty of the member states of the United Nations, to make these decisions. Third, that a treaty needs to be floor, not a ceiling, that these should be high, but still minimum, criteria for countries to decide, and that if other nations, such as the United States, wish to have still stronger criteria, the treaty does not prevent us from doing so. And finally, I think that it is important to keep in mind that this is a treaty about trade between states. It cannot, it should not, create an international mechanism that seeks to regulate this trade, although it should offer international assistance to states that want to establish this system. And it must not seek to regulate domestic trade, nor can it touch upon the important rights under the Second Amendment of the Constitution enjoyed by American citizens. So these are some of our basic principles. I think there is a wide consensus among members of the United Nations about this framework, and we are hopeful that within a framework, in respect of these simple concepts, an arms trade treaty negotiation can be successful this year.


ACT: So you spoke about the principles, the redlines, that the United States is going to be seeking in these negotiations with respect the right of individuals to possess arms within the United States. I mean, is it even a possibility, given the mandate of the treaty that was established at the UN? If you could just clarify, there are some here in the United States that charge that this is a UN treaty that could affect Second Amendment rights. Is that even a realistic possibility given the mandate, and given the stated positions of the U.S. and other countries in that regard?

Countryman: That’s a very good question. And I agree with you that the mandate of the conference does not encompass that as a possibility. But even if I am wrong about that, the negotiators from the United States will ensure that no such treaty that abridges the rights of U.S. citizens is adopted.

ACT: You spoke about some of the basic requirements. Could you elaborate a little bit more on what are the key elements that the United States thinks must be in the treaty in order for it to be robust enough, in order to be effective, to address the humanitarian, the economic, the development, and the security concerns that the states that are engaged in this want to try and address?

Countryman: I would break it down into kind of three dimensions. One is that it must be relevant to a wide range of weapons, everything from pistols to aircraft carriers; it must apply to a wide range of actions, whether it is direct export, licensing, brokering, or defense industrial export, that is, setting up weapons factories in other countries; and it must include a number of criteria. As I said before, our own process includes considerations of regional balance, regional stability, active internal and external conflict in a country, human rights, humanitarian issues, legal issues, economic. I don’t want to prescribe at this moment that an arms trade treaty must include all of the same criteria that the United States’ system does. But clearly, to be effective, there have to be a number of criteria that states are required to take into account in their national decision-making on arms exports.


ACT: You just mentioned some of the items that need to be part of the scope. One of those items potentially is ammunition, as well as the weapons themselves. U.S. export controls address the transfers of ammunition as well as weapons. So from the United States’ perspective at this point, how might the ATT address the issue of ammunition, which is often, as you know, responsible for the perpetuation of armed conflict as much as the actual sale or transfer of weapons in some cases?


Countryman: I’m not certain I agree with your premise in the last sentence. I am not disagreeing, but I am not positive I agree. Ammunition is different from weaponry. You are right that the United States has a similar process on decisions on export of ammunition. And it is important for us to take that into account and make decisions according to similar criteria. But it still is a different case for a number of reasons. One, ammunition is inherently dual use, between military, law enforcement, and recreational use. Second, the quantities of ammunition involved are just huge. Third, it is more difficult by far to track what happens to ammunition as opposed to any other weapon that might be exported. And fourth, it’s a big administrative burden just to keep track of all of these exports of ammunition. We are not interested in creating in this treaty an obligation that is so financially onerous that states choose to ignore it rather than to honor it. For all those reasons, ammunition is one of the difficult questions that will come up. And at this point, it is hard for us to see how a successful conclusion to the arms trade treaty could include ammunition.


ACT: Let me ask a brief follow-up on this. The United States, as we noted, implements controls over ammunition, where it goes, not tracking it in what happens after the original transfer. How is the United States solving this potential problem of other states making ammunition transfers that undermine the spirit or the intent of the ATT? Or are there some other solutions that might address this, much in the same way that U.S. export controls of ammunition try to do?


Countryman: Well, look, we are always open to good ideas. I’ve outlined some of the reasons that controlling ammunition in the ATT poses a special problem. If there are good ideas, good solutions out there, of course we are prepared to listen to them.

I would not expect the arms trade treaty in its first year of implementation to solve all the concerns about arms transfer around the world. We don’t look at the ATT as a disarmament treaty; it is a treaty that regulates a commercial activity. And we don’t expect that all the conflicts in the world will evaporate as soon as this is put into place. But we do expect it to begin a process of leveling the playing field, and of course, I mean that in a commercial sense, so that exporters from different countries face the same considerations, but I also mean it in a humanitarian sense. It gives advocates of restraint a stronger leg to stand on in making arguments about export of weapons from this country or that country. But will everyone instantly honor it to the same extent? I don’t expect that. But I do expect it to be a solid basis on which to build towards a less conflict-ridden world.

ACT: Final question. Just to kind of put that in perspective, because I think our readers and others need to be reminded of particular situations, I mean, today, in the headlines, conflict in Syria, Mali, Darfur, of course, other states in the Middle East, so how might the arms trade treaty, if it is put into effect, help the United States and other countries leverage the kind of behavior that it is seeking in these particular situations where there are debates over whether weapons should be sold to states in which there are ongoing civil conflicts, human rights violations? I am asking you to be a little bit speculative, but also a little bit more specific about how this might help U.S. and international interests in these tough situations.

Countryman: Well, to speculate specifically, what we would expect is that after adoption of an arms trade treaty, we would expect other arms exporters to consider factors similar to those that we consider, and for the world community, including the United States, to have an additional point to argue against the export of weapons to an active conflict zone. Will that in itself be enough to end such conflicts? Perhaps not. But will it contribute to restraint on the part of external parties and perhaps on the part of the conflicting parties at the same time? That is something that you could hope for, whether it’s Syria or Mali, or anywhere else.


ACT: All right; thanks a lot.


Countryman: My pleasure.


1. The Group of Eight (G-8) countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—created the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction in June 2002 at their summit in Kananaskis, Canada. The countries pledged $20 billion toward the effort over 10 years, with half of the amount to come from the United States. The roster of the partnership has expanded to include countries outside the G-8.

Sidebar 1: S. Africa Seoul Statement Affirms Rights on HEU

South Africa is not required to limit itself in the enrichment level of the uranium it uses in its nuclear program, as long as the purpose is peaceful, the country’s leader said March 26.

In a speech at the Seoul nuclear security summit, President Jacob Zuma declared his country’s right to “the enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes only, irrespective of the enrichment level.” Zuma acknowledged that “special precautions” are required for highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium, but said that South Africa had these measures in place.

Uranium with enrichment levels greater than 20 percent of uranium-235 is considered HEU. Urging states to minimize their use of HEU was a principal agenda item at the Seoul summit.

The Seoul communiqué, a consensus document endorsed by the summit participants, called for states “in a position to do so” to announce by the end of 2013 “voluntary specific actions” to minimize the use of HEU. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak referred to this provision of the communiqué as one of the summit’s “core accomplishments.”

Lee also highlighted the need to convert reactors producing medical isotopes to use a low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. South Africa has played a lead role in this area by commercially producing a key medical isotope through the use of LEU rather than HEU. (See ACT, January/February 2011.)

Zuma went on to say that focusing on minimizing the use of HEU for civilian purposes should “come to fruition” in the negotiations for a fissile material cutoff treaty. Conclusion of that accord, which would ban the military production of fissile material, is seen as a distant prospect, as the start of negotiations has been blocked for years in the Conference on Disarmament.

Experts estimate that South Africa currently possesses between 600 and 750 kilograms of HEU. That figure includes quantities from the country’s abandoned nuclear weapons program.—KELSEY DAVENPORT



Sidebar 2: Materials Secured At Former Soviet Test Site

Kazakhstan, Russia, and the United States have made significant progress in a previously secret cooperative effort to secure nuclear materials at a former Soviet nuclear test site, the three countries said in a March 26 joint announcement at the nuclear security summit in Seoul.

At the Semipalatinsk site in eastern Kazakhstan, 456 nuclear devices were tested between 1949 and 1989, according to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. The site also includes the largest underground testing infrastructure in the world, consisting of 181 tunnels in Degelen Mountain.

A U.S. official said in an April 24 e-mail to Arms Control Today that “[t]he majority of nuclear tests [at Semipalatinsk] resulted in the infusion of fissile material in tons of melted rock, but some types of nuclear tests can leave readily recoverable fissile material.” The trilateral project, which began in 2005, has filled the test tunnels with a special cement that chemically bonds with the residual material, rendering it unusable for nuclear weapons, the official said.

In a March 27 statement at the Seoul summit, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said that the joint effort of the three governments resulted in “rehabilitation of the test site” and “destruction of the infrastructure.” According to Kazakhstan’s national progress report, a document submitted for the summit describing the country’s progress on strengthening nuclear material security since 2010, the “main part” of the project, which included eliminating the site’s infrastructure, is complete. Cooperation continues on “physical protection of sensitive areas,” which the statement described as “nearing completion,” the report said.

The trilateral effort began when it became apparent that previous measures taken by the three countries to secure the site were insufficient, Ben Rhodes, U.S. deputy national security adviser for strategic communication and speechwriting, said at a March 27 press conference. According to Rhodes, scientists estimated that “more than a dozen nuclear weapons’ worth of nuclear materials” remained in the tunnels. He said that “scavenger activity” in the area and a focus on preventing nuclear terrorism led the countries to reopen some of the underground testing tunnels to “secure and eliminate residual nuclear material.” The prior effort to secure the site ended in 2000, Rhodes said.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Thomas Countryman took office as assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation on September 27, 2011. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1982. While serving in the U.S. mission to the United Nations in the mid-1990s, he was the mission’s liaison with the UN Special Commission investigating Iraq's unconventional weapons programs.

The NATO Summit: Recasting the Debate Over U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe

By Oliver Meier and Paul Ingram

During their April 18-19 meeting, NATO foreign and defense ministers agreed on the draft text of the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review report. According to diplomatic sources, the draft contains several elements to enable continued discussion toward a new consensus on the role of nuclear weapons within the alliance.

For example, the allies are prepared to offer Russia a substantive dialogue to increase transparency with regard to tactical nuclear weapons. NATO also is likely to revise its nuclear doctrine to make it more consistent with the postures of the United Kingdom and the United States. The report—provided that the heads of state and government at the May 20-21 Chicago summit approve it—could therefore establish important guidance for future debate over NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements and for a stronger role for the alliance in nuclear arms control and disarmament.

Yet, some still maintain that the forward deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe should not be reconsidered, citing worsening relations with Moscow, the ongoing Iranian nuclear crisis, and the constraints on defense budgets as a result of the global economic and financial crisis. In reality these developments only highlight the need for a long-overdue revision of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements and for further reductions in the role of nuclear weapons.

In October 2009, the German government triggered an unprecedented debate within the alliance on the value of nuclear sharing arrangements by expressing a desire for withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany. For political, technical, and financial reasons, maintenance of the nuclear status quo is not feasible. Yet, consensus solutions to this problem were elusive at NATO’s Lisbon summit in November 2010 when a new Strategic Concept was adopted. The allies therefore agreed to conduct the posture review. The underlying debate continues, clearly exposing the problems and contradictions associated with NATO’s current nuclear weapons policy. The report that is to be adopted at the summit covers “the range of NATO’s strategic capabilities required, including NATO’s nuclear posture, and missile defence and other means of strategic deterrence and defence.”[1]

As observers have pointed out, the review for some time had been “proceeding with little real political engagement from national capitals and with almost no reference to the wider conditions of economic crisis and reduced defence resources.”[2] If the review were simply to reconfirm the formulaic compromise agreed at Lisbon, NATO would appear inflexible and stagnant, and the alliance would have fallen short of its self-proclaimed goal of encouraging the “creat[ion of] the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.”[3] Certainly, one recent paper argued, NATO could consider options to evolve its nuclear policy in the interests of NATO cohesion and contribution to global disarmament.[4] The leaders in Chicago need to demonstrate their leadership by moving in that direction.

NATO would be well advised not to skirt a debate over its nuclear posture. Below are some proposed elements for an agreement in Chicago to frame a meaningful discussion of nuclear issues within the alliance beyond the summit.

A Good Time to Talk

Some observers argue that “[t]he time has now come to reaffirm and for the time being [leave] alone” the conclusions reached in the Strategic Concept.[5] Yet, none of the arguments that “[t]his is not the right time to let down the nuclear guard”[6] stands up to scrutiny.

Deepening conflicts with Russia. Under NATO’s new Strategic Concept, changes in the alliance’s nuclear policy must be reciprocated by Russia. Reflecting particularly the concerns of central and eastern European countries, the document states that “[a]ny further steps” on NATO tactical nuclear weapons “must take into account the disparity with the greater Russian stockpiles of short-range nuclear weapons.”[7]

Since the Lisbon summit, NATO-Russian relations have deteriorated. One year later, in November 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed exasperation at the lack of progress by NATO and Russia in exploring cooperation on missile defense. Seeing NATO’s developing strategic missile defense plans as an emerging threat to Russia’s nuclear strategic deterrent, he said that Russia would have to respond, possibly by deploying “offensive weapons systems” such as the Iskander short-range missile in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.[8] He again voiced his displeasure just prior to meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in March 2012.[9] Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s return to the Russian presidency may reinforce this uncooperative approach.

Some believe that, in such an environment, cuts in arsenals would show weakness. From this perspective, nuclear sharing shows forthright unity of purpose and continuing faith in nuclear deterrence, thus reassuring NATO members. Removing U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe therefore would be a “concession” to Russia “that would put U.S. and allied interests in Europe and around the world at risk.”[10]

Yet, even without the 180 or so tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe, NATO will keep its vast military, political, and economic supremacy vis-à-vis Moscow. The military disparity will widen despite Russian intentions to increase defense spending and the implications of the financial crisis for NATO defense budgets. In 2010 the combined military spending of NATO countries was 20 times higher than Russia’s. Roughly the same ratio exists for procurement of military equipment and military research and development.[11] Russia’s declared intention to close the gaps with the West will remain an illusion.

NATO hedging against a resurgent Russia reinforces a confrontational NATO-Russian relationship and is self-fulfilling. At the most basic level, “tactical nuclear arms at military combat bases on both sides create uncertainty and concern about possible intentional use under unforeseen circumstances.”[12] This will be intensified by the planned modernization of NATO forces in the coming years. The new B61-12 smart bombs delivered by stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighters represent a significant improvement in the alliance’s nuclear war-fighting capabilities that could be seen by the Russians as intentional or used as an excuse to modernize its own tactical nuclear weapons.[13]

The presence of Russian nuclear weapons near NATO borders makes it easier for central and eastern European states to veto a more cooperative NATO approach toward Russia. Conversely, the continued presence in Europe of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons on foreign soil—a unique situation today—hands Russia a diplomatic advantage when it demands U.S. nuclear withdrawal as a precondition for including tactical nuclear weapons in talks for a follow-on agreement to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The two sides are trapped in a deterrence relationship characterized by implicit threat.

Dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. Some observers question the wisdom of withdrawing tactical nuclear weapons from Europe when Iran appears to be pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.[14] U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe could deter a nuclear-armed Iran, according to this line of thinking. In addition, it is argued that Turkey’s involvement in nuclear sharing reduces the temptation for Ankara to develop its own nuclear weapons capability. Yet, Ankara has already retired its own dual-capable aircraft, indicating a lack of commitment to nuclear sharing. In any case, Turkey “would have enormous political problems in being seen as going along with” a NATO decision to employ nuclear weapons against Iran or Syria.[15] Turkish objections at the Lisbon summit in November 2010 even to referencing the Iranian missile threat as a justification for NATO’s missile defense plans suggest a preference for engaging its neighbor Iran rather than dropping into a deterrence posture.

The Turkish elite and public appear to be split on the security value of nuclear sharing arrangements. Turkish analysts and officials themselves argue that unless there is a breakdown in Turkey’s security relationship with the United States, “[n]ot even the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is likely to push Ankara to develop its own nuclear weapons.”[16] A recent opinion poll, however, suggests that around half of the Turkish public believes that Turkey should consider developing its own nuclear weapons if Iran does, rather than relying on NATO for protection.[17]

Moreover, U.S. nuclear weapons based in Turkey under NATO nuclear-sharing arrangements could become an issue at the international conference to be held in December on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. States in the region might be less willing to sign on to legally binding prohibitions of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons if potential competitors on their borders continue to host U.S. nuclear bombs.

The new Strategic Concept correctly finds that NATO “is affected by, and can affect, political and security developments beyond its borders” and states that the alliance wants to contribute “actively to arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament.”[18] It is precisely because of this impact beyond the alliance’s borders that NATO’s continuing commitment to nuclear deterrence undermines its nonproliferation objectives. Justice arguments play strongly in the debate about the legitimacy and effectiveness of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Iranians challenge what they see as double standards practiced by the nuclear-weapon states and within NATO, in particular, in seeking the benefits of nuclear deterrence while denying that presumed comfort to others. Even proponents of nuclear deterrence concede that as long as Iran has not developed nuclear weapons, “visibly putting Iran on the NATO agenda might reinforce [Iranian] hard-liners’ rhetoric that ‘the West is after us.’”[19]

Nuclear sharing and the financial crisis. The U.S. military footprint in Europe will shrink, both to rebalance the U.S. “global posture and presence, emphasizing the Pacific and the Middle East,”[20] and as a result of budgetary pressures. At the same time, European allies are contemplating their own reductions in defense spending. Worrying about Russia’s intentions, central and eastern European leaders are made uneasy by these two factors. Some observers argue that U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe offer good value for money because they are already deployed and “[t]he cost for the U.S. Air Force of the European nuclear mission, and of a nuclear capability for the successors to the fighter-bombers currently in service in European air forces will be limited.”[21]

Twenty years after the Cold War, these arguments are likely to gain little traction in those parliaments debating the necessary funds, in part because NATO itself has avoided public debate on the wisdom of further investment in nuclear sharing. Development of the F-35, assigned to replace most of the aging nuclear-capable aircraft in Europe, has run into serious delays and cost overruns, also affecting the nuclear version of the aircraft. The total cost estimate for the life extension program (LEP) of the 500 or so remaining B61 bombs has also recently grown from $4 billion to $5.2 billion, a considerable portion to be spent on the B61s deployed in Europe. Even the U.S. Congress is conducting a review of whether the scope of the B61 LEP is appropriate.[22]

The Obama administration has repeatedly stated its desire to increase reliance on non-nuclear means to accomplish regional deterrence. Consequently, some European governments in NATO also believe that advanced conventional capabilities and missile defenses “imply a reduced salience of nuclear weapons in the overall range of NATO capabilities.”[23] European NATO allies who share this view would expect their contribution to NATO’s emerging strategic missile defenses to be “balanced” by reduced spending on the nuclear elements in NATO’s defense posture. A curtailed debate on how spending for conventional weapons, missile defense, and nuclear elements of NATO’s defense posture should be balanced is likely to result in unnecessary investments in nuclear sharing arrangements that might be phased out in a few years anyway.

Implications for the Review

NATO leaders meeting in Chicago will be preoccupied with discussions on how to contain the quickly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan before, during, and after the pullout of NATO forces and with managing NATO-Russian relations against the background of Putin’s decision to stay away from Chicago. Yet, it would be a mistake to sweep the nuclear issues under the carpet. The posture review presents an important opportunity to put NATO’s nuclear policies on a sound footing by revising those aspects of NATO’s nuclear posture that are particularly divisive and chart the way into the future. Three principles should serve as a yardstick for a continuing review of NATO’s nuclear posture beyond Chicago.

Do no harm. A reaffirmation of the continued value of nuclear sharing for alliance cohesion and defense is not only unnecessary but also potentially harmful to alliance cohesion and to the current diplomatic round of the NPT. As former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) recently argued, “[M]aintaining the nuclear status quo in Europe…runs a high cost and unacceptable risk.”[24] A repetition of the pledge contained in the Strategic Concept to “ensure the broadest possible participation of Allies in collective defense planning on nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces, and in command, control and consultation arrangements” would ignore the broad opposition to current nuclear practices in a number of NATO states, including the ones in which some of the weapons are deployed, and is bound to provoke future conflicts over the modernization of nuclear hardware. Instead, to defuse such conflicts, NATO leaders at the Chicago summit should declare a moratorium on the modernization of the B61 bombs deployed in Europe and the procurement of new dual-capable aircraft.

Be coherent. NATO should declare that it will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states. NATO’s current declaratory policy resembles that of France, which does not restrict the possibility of nuclear retaliation against any state. Yet, Paris is the only NATO nuclear-weapon state that does not contribute any nuclear forces to the alliance’s integrated nuclear posture. By contrast, the two states that do assign nuclear forces to NATO—the United Kingdom and the United States—announced in 2010 that they would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that comply with their nonproliferation obligations. “For most member states,” this situation “makes a new NATO declaratory policy necessary, so that the policies of the Alliance reflect those already adopted by these two states.”[25]

Because France is increasingly isolating itself within the alliance by opposing any changes to NATO nuclear policy, some in Paris have suggested that only those NATO members that participate in the alliance’s Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), that is, the 27 members other than France, should declare “at 27” a more restrictive nuclear posture. This would only highlight French isolation, undermine cohesion, and weaken the nonproliferation benefits of strengthened negative security assurances while failing to satisfy proponents of change, such as Germany. Berlin openly supports “the transfer of the principles contained in the [British and U.S.] negative security assurance to the Alliance context and will continue to do so, including in the context of the current NATO Deterrence and Defence Posture Review” and views the U.S. assurances as “an important step towards strengthening non-proliferation.”[26]

Be forward-looking. Most importantly, the nuclear posture arising from the review has to be sustainable and has to support NATO’s goal of “reinforcing arms control and…promoting disarmament.”[27] At a minimum, NATO should give its explicit blessing to U.S. negotiators as they propose reductions or elimination of tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe in their talks with Russia, but NATO can do more. The alliance’s new arms control body, the WMD Control and Disarmament Committee, has developed a set of potential transparency measures on tactical nuclear weapons, and the Obama administration would like “to use these ideas as the basis for detailed discussions with Russia on concrete steps we can take in this area.”[28] As a concrete transparency measure, NATO could unilaterally declare its total arsenal of nuclear weapons deployed in Europe and in which countries they are deployed. Going one step further, releasing information on all weapons assigned to NATO, including British and U.S. strategic warheads on submarines, could help “to convince those NATO members looking for nuclear reassurance that NATO has a credible, flexible and survivable nuclear posture beyond the heavily disputed B-61 arsenal.”[29] NATO also should be more ambitious with regard to withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. Nunn has recently proposed “[t]o proceed with further reductions of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, with the announced target of completing the consolidation of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to the United States within five years, with the final timing and pace to be determined by broad political and security developments between NATO and Russia, including but not limited to their tactical nuclear posture.”[30]

Finally, institutional issues matter. As Acting U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller recently pointed out, “the process of adapting the Alliance to a changing world will be on-going,”[31] and the political review of nuclear policy therefore should not be terminated in Chicago on the basis that agreement is elusive. If the issue is simply sent back to the NPG and its senior advisory body, the High Level Group (HLG), for implementation, officials will let the issue drift. The guardians of the arsenal at NATO headquarters in Brussels certainly cannot be expected to be a force for change. A continual review of NATO nuclear policies beyond Chicago must take place at the political level and include clear milestones for decision-making. The Chicago summit could decide that the North Atlantic Council, meeting at the level of foreign and defense ministers, should annually receive a report based, for example, on contributions from the new WMD committee and the NPG/HLG on possible changes to NATO’s nuclear posture. The meeting could take place in conjunction with a public seminar on NATO nuclear policy to which major stakeholders are invited and where findings of the reports are debated.

The indications are that NATO leaders in Chicago will be agreeing on a text that frames a continued debate on the role and posture of nuclear weapons within the alliance, based on the principles outlined by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2010, and opens up the opportunity to discuss these issues with the Russians. The leaders would do well to recognize that it is not discussion of nuclear issues that causes rifts and strains but resistance to change and evolution. Even if the posture review does not live up to the hopes many have had for it, it can create the framework for a constructive process that takes into account opinion from across the spectrum and helps the alliance break free from the Cold War legacy holding it back.

Oliver Meier is a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg and international representative of the Arms Control Association.

Paul Ingram is executive director of the British American Security Information Council. The authors would like to thank the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for its support, which made research for this article possible.


1. NATO, “Lisbon Summit Declaration,” November 20, 2010, para. 30 (adopted November 19, 2010).

2. Simon Lunn and Ian Kearns, “NATO’s Deterrence and Defence Posture Review: A Status Report,” ELN NATO Policy Brief, No. 1 (February 2012), p. 22.

3. NATO, “Active Engagement, Modern Defence,” 2010 (hereinafter 2010 Strategic Concept).

4. George Perkovich et al., “Looking Beyond the Chicago Summit: Nuclear Weapons in Europe and the Future of NATO,” The Carnegie Papers, April 2012.

5. George Robertson, “The Chicago Summit Has More Urgent Priorities Than Nuclear Theology,” ELN Chicago Forum Papers, March 21, 2012.

6.  Bruno Tertrais, “Defining the Right Mix of Capabilities: The Irreplaceable Role of NATO Nuclear Arrangements,” in Managing Change: NATO’s Partnerships and Deterrence in a Globalized World (2011), p. 9.

7. NATO, 2010 Strategic Concept, para. 26.

8. Dmitry Medvedev, “Statement in Connection With the Situation Concerning the NATO Countries’ Missile Defence System in Europe,” November 23, 2012, http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/3115.

9. Dmitry Medvedev, “Speech at a Conference Organised by the Russian Council for International Affairs, Euro-Atlantic Security Community: Myth or Reality?” March 23, 2012.

10. Baker Spring and Michaela Bendikova, “The United States Must Not Concede the Russian Position on Tactical Nuclear Weapons,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo, No. 3491 (February 8, 2012).

11. Michael Brzoska et al., “Prospects for Arms Control in Europe,” Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, November 2011, p. 6, http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/id/ipa/08718.pdf.

12. Global Zero NATO-Russia Commission, “Removing U.S. and Russian Tactical Nuclear Weapons From European Combat Bases,” February 2012, p. 3.

13. The B61-12’s accuracy is secret, but its tail kit is similar in design to that of the Joint Direct Attack Munition, which has an internal navigation system that is aided by a global positioning system. See www.fas.org/blog/ssp/2011/06/b61-12.php.

14. Oliver Thränert, “Raketentest: Atommacht Iran? Der Preis wäre hoch” [Missile test: Nuclear power Iran? The price would be high], Tagesspiegel, January 3, 2012, http://www.tagesspiegel.de/meinung/raketentest-atommacht-iran-der-preis-waere-hoch/6013448.html.

15. Edmond Seay, “NATO‘s Incredible Nuclear Strategy: Why U.S. Weapons in Europe Deter No One,” Arms Control Today, November 2011.

16. Sinan Ülgen, “Turkey and the Bomb,” The Carnegie Papers, February 2012, p. 1.

17. “Turks Favor Nukes If Iran Have Them Too, Reveals Poll,” Al Arabiya News, March 28, 2012, http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/03/28/203822.html. In the poll, only 8 percent appeared to have faith in the NATO strategic umbrella for Turkey in relation to Iran, calling into question the commonly held assumption that the presence of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Turkey discourages Turkey from developing its own nuclear weapons program.

18. NATO, 2010 Strategic Concept, para. 4c.

19. Bruno Tertrais, “A Nuclear Iran and NATO,” Survival, Vol. 52, No. 6 (December 2010-January 2011), p. 57.

20. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense, “Statement on Defense Strategic Guidance,” January 5, 2012, www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1643.

21. Tertrais, “Defining the Right Mix of Capabilities,” p. 6.

22. Project on Government Oversight: “POGO to Panetta: U.S. Taxpayers Shouldn’t Bear the Cost of B61 Bombs Deployed in Europe,” February 1, 2012, http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/letters/nuclear-security-safety/nss-dod-20110201-pogo-panetta-taxpayers-shouldnt-bear-cost-of-b61-bombs-europe.html.

23. Rolf Nikel, “The Future of NATO’s Nuclear Weapons,” Nuclear Policy Paper, No. 9 (November 2011), p. 2, http://tacticalnuclearweapons.ifsh.de/pdf/Nuclear_Policy_Paper_No9.pdf, p. 2.

24. Helmut Schmidt and Sam Nunn, “Toward a World Without Nukes,” The New York Times, April 13, 2012.

25. Malcolm Chalmers, “Words That Matter? NATO Declaratory Policy and the DDPR,” in Reducing Nuclear Risks in Europe: A Framework for Action, ed. Steven Andreasen and Isabelle Williams (Washington, D.C.: Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2011), p. 57.

26. “Further Developing German Nuclear Disarmament Policy—Strengthening and Developing Germany’s Role in Non-proliferation,” Bundestag printed paper No. 17/7226, February 29, 2012, http://tacticalnuclearweapons.ifsh.de/pdf/BT%20120228%20Drs%20177226%20English.pdf.

27. NATO, 2010 Strategic Concept, para. 26.

28. Rose Gottemoeller, “European Security and the Next Steps in Arms Control,” February 29, 2012, www.pism.pl/files/?id_plik=9611.

29. Karl-Heinz Kamp, “NATO‘s Nuclear Weapons in Europe: Beyond ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’” NATO Defense College Research Paper, No. 61 (September 2010), p. 12.

30. Sam Nunn, “The Race Between Cooperation and Catastrophe” in Reducing Nuclear Risks in Europe: A Framework for Action, ed. Steven Andreasen and Isabelle Williams (Washington, D.C.: Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2011), pp. 21-22.

31. Gottemoeller, “European Security and the Next Steps in Arms Control.”

Oliver Meier is a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg and international representative of the Arms Control Association. Paul Ingram is executive director of the British American Security Information Council. The authors would like to thank the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for its support, which made research for this article possible.

In Memoriam: Stanley R. Resor (1917–2012)

Daryl G. Kimball

Stanley Rogers Resor, who served as a soldier, lawyer, secretary of the Army, arms control negotiator, and chairman of the Arms Control Association (ACA) Board of Directors, died April 17 at his home in Washington, D.C., at the age of 94. Stan touched the lives of many over the course of his long and illustrious career.

Resor was raised in New York and Connecticut by his parents, Stanley B. and Helen L. Resor, who were both prominent advertising executives. Stan, however, chose to become a lawyer.

His law career was put on hold, however, while he served as an officer in the Army’s 10th Armored Division, which saw action in Europe and was engaged in the Battle of the Bulge and siege of Bastogne, where Resor was wounded. Among other honors, Resor was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart.

After the war, Resor rejoined Jane Pillsbury, whom he had married in 1942. They raised seven sons in New Canaan, Connecticut, and Washington. Jane died in 1994.

After receiving his law degree from Yale in 1946, Resor joined the New York law firm of Debevoise and Plimpton. In March 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Resor undersecretary of the Army; later that year, he was named secretary of the Army. He remained in that post under President Richard Nixon, until June 1971.

As Army secretary, Resor was primarily responsible for the soldiers’ welfare and the challenges of the growing force during the escalation of the U.S. war in Vietnam. He helped develop a plan for replacing draftees with an all-volunteer Army by 1973, although he expressed concern that it could lead the United States into more wars. In 1970, Resor was the first service chief to promote female officers to the general officer rank. In 1971 he moved to end discrimination against African-American soldiers in off-base housing.

Resor did not always see eye-to-eye with his superiors on the conduct of the war in Vietnam. Following the massacre of nearly 500 unarmed civilians at My Lai on March 16, 1968, Resor ordered an investigation and pursued the prosecution of dozens of U.S. soldiers involved. Over Resor’s protests, Nixon succeeded in persuading the CIA to refuse to allow its agents to testify as witnesses, and key congressional leaders denied the prosecution access to the testimony of other key witnesses by putting it under security classification. This forced the Army to drop the charges for all but Lt. William Calley, who was found guilty but was pardoned in 1974.

A few weeks before his resignation on May 23, 1971, Resor expressed doubts about the war in Vietnam in an interview with reporters. He said, “I think it is clear now in hindsight that the cost[s] of Vietnam…were not anticipated, or at least were underestimated. We have learned as we’ve gone. We came to a much more mature recognition that…not just military power but a strategy involving economic and political measures was necessary.”

In 1971, Resor resumed his law practice, but was soon called upon to lead negotiations with the Soviets on conventional arms reductions in Europe. From 1973 to 1978, he served with the rank of ambassador to the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) talks in Vienna.

NATO’s initial proposals called for phased removal of soldiers with a limit of 700,000 ground forces and 200,000 air forces combined. The Warsaw Pact countered that the two sides should reduce troop levels proportionally rather than to an equal level and that military equipment, including nuclear-capable aircraft, should also be reduced. Progress stalled over estimates of Warsaw Pact forces and the decision in 1979 to deploy U.S. intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe.

Although concrete limitations on forces were not achieved through the MBFR talks, which continued through the 1980s, the process deepened the East-West security dialogue and laid the groundwork for the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. Following his work on the MBFR talks, Resor served briefly as undersecretary of defense for policy under Harold Brown from 1978 to 1979.

In 1979, Resor rejoined Debevoise and Plimpton and became concerned about the worsening trajectory of U.S.-Soviet relations and the nuclear arms race. He joined the ACA board in 1983. Following his retirement from law practice, he served as ACA board chairman from 1992 to 2000 and was an outspoken advocate of verifiable, mutual nuclear arms reductions.

During his time on the board, Resor mentored dozens of ACA staff and oversaw the significant expansion of ACA’s program and policy work. In 1997 he enlisted the support of 50 military and diplomatic experts for a joint letter to President Bill Clinton opposing the expansion of NATO as needlessly provocative to Russia. Over the past decade, he continued his lifelong interest in international security. He remained a steadfast friend of ACA and holds the unofficial record for best attendance at ACA events.

Resor is survived by his second wife, Louise Mead Walker—an arms control advocate in her own right—his sister Helen Hauge, his seven sons and seven daughters-in-law, 20 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Stanley Rogers Resor, who served as a soldier, lawyer, secretary of the Army, arms control negotiator, and chairman of the Arms Control Association (ACA) Board of Directors, died April 17 at his home in Washington, D.C., at the age of 94. Stan touched the lives of many over the course of his long and illustrious career.

Russia Back Below Treaty’s Warhead Limits

Tom Z. Collina

Russia is back under the nuclear warhead limit of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), according to the third data exchange with the United States under the treaty.

According to the Russian-supplied figures, released April 6 by the U.S. Department of State, Russia had 1,492 deployed strategic warheads, 494 deployed delivery vehicles, and 881 total deployed and nondeployed launchers as of March 1. In the previous data exchange, from September 2011, these numbers were 1,566 strategic warheads, 516 deployed delivery vehicles, and 871 launchers.

For its part, the United States deploys 1,737 warheads, 812 delivery systems, and 1,040 launchers, according to the most recent data.

New START’s agreed limits are 1,550 deployed strategic warheads, 700 delivery vehicles, and 800 launchers. Under the treaty, neither side is required to meet these limits until 2018. The data are to be updated every six months.

The September 2011 Russian numbers raised eyebrows among some Republicans on Capitol Hill, as they indicated that Russia had increased the number of its deployed warheads above treaty limits and above the level reported in the first data exchange. That exchange, in June 2010, pegged Moscow at 1,537 warheads, or just below the limit. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)

Although Russia’s deployed warheads are once again below the treaty limit, it is unclear if this will remain the case. According to experts, the number of deployed warheads can fluctuate depending on which delivery systems (missiles, submarines, and bombers) are undergoing maintenance at the time. Once a delivery system is removed from active service, it and its associated warheads are no longer counted as “deployed” under the treaty.

For example, experts speculate that the recent drop in Russian deployed warheads was due in part to the December 2011 fire onboard the nuclear-armed submarine Yekaterinburg while in port. The Russian military first claimed the submarine was unarmed, but later confirmed that nuclear weapons were still on the vessel. The submarine would typically have 16 strategic missiles and 64 warheads onboard.

Some members of Congress have suggested that the United States should not reduce its nuclear forces any further until the Obama administration provides additional funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) nuclear weapons production infrastructure. (See ACT, April 2012.)

Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), two of the 13 Republicans who voted for the treaty in December 2010, wrote an April 17 letter to Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) asking for oversight hearings. Corker and Isakson, who are members of the committee, said they were concerned that “the administration has not requested the funding required to meet our nuclear modernization needs.”

Similarly, Senate Armed Services Committee member Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who also voted for the treaty, sent an April 17 letter to his colleagues on the panel stating that “if modernization efforts to ensure the safety, security and reliability of a smaller stockpile are not sustained, then further reductions to the stockpile should not be considered” until New START expires in 2021.

The administration’s fiscal year 2013 request for NNSA weapons activities is $7.6 billion, 4 percent lower than projected in 2010, during the New START debate in the Senate. However, the 2013 request is 5 percent higher than the 2012 enacted budget.

Condition 9 of the New START resolution of ratification states that if Congress does not provide funding for the nuclear arsenal at the levels projected in 2010, the president is required to submit a report detailing how the administration would address the resource shortfall and whether “it remains in the national interest of the United States to remain a Party to the New START Treaty.”

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs Madelyn Creedon testified before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee April 17 that the administration would provide the report “soon.” At the same hearing, Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, said, “I wouldn’t want to suggest that the [nuclear] force that’s deployed today is not safe, secure, and effective. It is. I believe it can achieve its deterrence responsibilities as we sit here today. In fact, I’m extremely confident in that.”

Russia is back under the nuclear warhead limit of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), according to the third data exchange with the United States under the treaty.

Hurdles for Arms Trade Treaty Underscored

Farrah Zughni

U.S. officials last month emphasized the need for an arms trade treaty (ATT) while acknowledging its possible limitations and the obstacles to agreement on the pact, which is to be negotiated July 2-27 at the United Nations.

The officials made their comments April 16 at a forum convened by the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) at the forum challenged the U.S. approach to the treaty, saying it did not go far enough in holding governments accountable for sales of arms and ammunition to countries with poor human rights records. The treaty would regulate international trade in conventional weapons.

In his keynote address to the Stimson Center gathering, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman said that “providing defense equipment to reliable partners in a responsible manner actually enhances security, stability, and promotion of the rule of law.”

He argued that a successful treaty would compel countries without adequate export controls to improve their national systems, but he cautioned that even a robust treaty would “not fundamentally change the nature of international politics nor can it by itself bring an end to the festering international and civil conflicts around the world.”

Countryman also spoke about U.S. policy on some of the more contentious issues surrounding an ATT, including whether ammunition should be included within its scope. Although the United States already licenses its own import and export of ammunition, he said that the Obama administration had resisted incorporating ammunition because the logistics of monitoring end use through the ATT would be “hugely impractical.”

“We have asked our international partners, who proposed this inclusion, to lay out some specific means where such a fungible and consumable commodity could effectively and practically be accounted for,” said Countryman, adding that he was skeptical that a workable proposal for addressing ammunition through an ATT was at hand. Countryman gave a similar response in his interview with Arms Control Today (see page 21).

Echoing criticisms from countries and other NGOs in favor of regulating ammunition, Paul O’Brien, vice president for policy and campaigns at Oxfam America, said that failure to address ammunition adequately would mean the treaty would bring little improvement to countries “already awash in firearms.” More than 100 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, have expressed strong support for the inclusion of ammunition within the treaty’s scope, according to a tabulation by the NGOs Control Arms Alliance and Reaching Critical Will.

Speaking on the same panel as O’Brien, Ann Ganzer, director of the Office of Conventional Arms Threat Reduction at the Department of State, said the United States supports the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in the treaty. Only four countries—China, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Iran—have publicly objected to this proposal, according to the NGO tabulation.

On the issue of ammunition, Ganzer added, “We do not have a problem with the regulation of ammunition. The United States licenses the manufacturing, import, and export of ammunition. The issue comes in with some of the other requirements of the treaty—reporting requirements.” According to experts familiar with the ATT negotiations, her comments suggest a possible shift in the U.S. position that could help open the way to agreement on the issue.

Countryman and Ganzer emphasized that, in order to gain U.S. approval, an ATT should only spell out principles for implementing effective arms export control but not limit a country’s ultimate authority to proceed with a sale, even if the recipient had a poor human rights record.

In explaining this position, Ganzer said that “the question of who is violating human rights…is not always as straightforward as it seems.” She also said that a country’s own citizens, as well as the international community, could still challenge a government’s sales on humanitarian grounds.

O’Brien countered that some proposals for the treaty language, which ask only that countries “take into account” an arms recipient’s human rights record when evaluating a possible sale, were too weak and “like asking Coca-Cola to take into account…that people have a sweet tooth.” By setting low standards for countries, O’Brien argued, the treaty makes it more difficult to hold governments accountable in a meaningful way.

When questioned on this point, Ganzer twice conceded that the “language in the [ATT] chairman’s paper is rather weak” and said U.S. negotiators have talked to other countries about ways to strengthen it. ATT Committee Chairman Roberto García Moritán of Argentina has produced a draft text during preparatory committee meetings, but delegates have not yet agreed on an official draft treaty text.

Ganzer said that although there was concern over “the treaty not being strong enough to make a difference,” the United States would not sign on to an agreement “that was not strong in terms of demanding export controls and national decisions made at a sufficiently senior level that the government has to take responsibility for those arms transfers.”

Ganzer admitted that if passed, the ATT was unlikely to alter sales to countries such as Syria, which has violently suppressed popular uprisings for more than a year, if an exporter chose to go ahead, as Russia has done in recent months.

“All I can tell you about that specific situation is that Russia has a very good export control system…. Were an arms trade treaty in place, I don’t know that it would change Russia’s sovereign decision; it is their decision to make,” she said.

Although many in the international community maintain that the ATT might not go far enough to protect human rights, Countryman said countries that are already experiencing difficulty purchasing weapons because of poor human rights records “will not be eager” to see a treaty that codifies human rights concerns as criteria for sales.

Countryman also said that although he did not believe the ATT would put an onerous financial burden on countries, he did expect the subject of implementation costs to come up in future discussions.

To address these and other concerns, the United States has been contacting key countries in preparation for the July negotiations, Ganzer said. She said the United States was making a particular effort to talk with the 20 countries that abstained from voting on UN General Assembly Resolution 64/48, the mandate under which the July conference will be convened.

U.S. officials last month emphasized the need for an arms trade treaty (ATT) while acknowledging its possible limitations and the obstacles to agreement on the pact, which is to be negotiated July 2-27 at the United Nations.


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