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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Interviews

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies: A Conversation with Michèle Flournoy


July/August 2017
Interviewed by Kingston Reif and Maggie Tennis

Michèle Flournoy (Photo credit: Erin Scott/Erin Scott Photography)Michèle Flournoy is co-founder and chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security. She served as undersecretary of defense for policy from February 2009 to February 2012. The interview was conducted May 25 by Kingston Reif and Maggie Tennis. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

ACT: The Defense Department announced in April that the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) had commenced. Each president since the end of the Cold War has undertaken such a review. President Donald Trump has declared his ambition to “greatly strengthen and expand” U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities, and he has also criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia. Do you think the NPR is likely to set in motion significant changes in U.S. policy or is likely to reflect more continuity than change?

Flournoy: I don’t think we know yet. What we can say is that some of the president’s early statements on these issues are not based in any deep policy review or any in-depth briefings he’s received. He hasn’t really focused on this set of issues yet as far as I know. I think we’ve also learned in other areas that as he dives into an issue, he can evolve his position, he can learn and refine his views. So, I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on some of his initial statements or first gut reactions to topics as they have come up.

That said, I do think this NPR will be very consequential because it’s coming at a time when we face major decisions about how much and how to reinvest in the nuclear triad. So many systems are up for modernization. Do we modernize everything that we have, which is essen­tially the current plan, or do we use the opportunity of the NPR to ask some more fundamental questions about what we need for deterrence in the future? I think this NPR has the potential to be very consequential.

On arms control, the administration will need to decide, along with Russia, whether to extend New START and its monitoring regime for five years beyond its February 2021 expiration date as allowed by the treaty, to negotiate some kind of follow-on agreement, or to go forward without legally binding, verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. What would be the consequences if the United States withdraws from New START or did not seek to extend it? How do you think the administrations should seek to engage Russia on arms control?

If we withdrew or failed to extend New START, it would be an unforced error on our part. An easy win is to pursue an extension of the treaty as is. It buys us predictability. It buys us transparency and verification measures. It buys us a lot that contributes to stability at a time when the other dimensions of the relationship with Russia are both in flux and under tremendous scrutiny. It’s probably unrealistic to expect, based on what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has said and what Russia is actually doing, that we can negotiate a new arms control framework anytime soon. I think politically that would be a tough thing on our side until we get to the bottom of questions like Russia’s role in our elections and in campaigns to undermine other Western democracies. My view is that we should pursue an extension to buy some time and to buy some stability and then see what’s possible in the future.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy testifies with General David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command, at a House Armed Services Committee hearing April 2, 2009. (Photo Credit: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)Shifting to another arms control agreement, the United States has accused Russia of deploying a ground-launched cruise missile with a range prohibited by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Do you think it’s possible to convince Russia to return to compliance, and how should the United States respond to Russia’s alleged violation?

It’s pretty clear that they are violating the treaty. I think we should respond in a multidimensional way. First, press them through diplomatic channels to come back into compliance. I think this could be a multilateral diplomatic effort to put some pressure on Russia to come clean. There’s been some precedent for this. Back in the day when we believed that the Krasnoyarsk radar was violating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, they denied it, they denied it, they denied it for years; and then finally, as the political context changed, they eventually admitted it and stopped the construction. We have some track record of Russia coming back into compliance. Do I think that’s likely anytime soon on the INF Treaty? No. But the last thing we should do is say we’re going to walk away from the treaty because then the failure of the treaty regime would be on us and not them.

The second key dimension of this is that we need to do a clear-eyed analysis of the military relevance of this new system and what are the ways that we can counter it. I think people are too quick to jump to a symmetric response: “Oh, well this means we need to redeploy U.S. nuclear intermediate-range missiles in Europe.” Well, not necessarily. Let’s take a look at how significant these systems are. What is the full range of countermeasures that we might adopt? I suspect there are a range of conventional countermeasures and other asymmetric approaches that might be used to make this militarily not a huge problem for us.

According to some estimates, the United States is on track to spend more than $1 trillion over the next 30 years to sustain, replace, and refurbish nuclear delivery systems, warheads, and supporting infrastructure. Numerous Pentagon officials in recent years, as well as outside experts, have warned about the affordability problem posed by the current approach. Are tough trade-offs going to have to be made in the military budget to accommodate the current modernization plans? Do you think there are options to potentially alter the pace and scope that would be more cost effective while still providing a strong deterrent?

While we need to invest in ensuring we maintain a strong, stable, effective nuclear deterrent, we also have to make sure that it’s one that we can afford and sustain. If you look at the full range of challenges we’re going to face in the future and the need to modernize other aspects of our military, there’s a lot of competition for a limited amount of dollars—limited even under the increases that are being projected by this administration. So, trade-offs do have to be made. I think that rather than automatically modernizing every single nuclear program on the books, we should use the NPR as an opportunity to say, “Can we get to a stronger, more enduring, more sustainable nuclear deterrent with a different mix of systems and capabilities?” I do think we need to debate that in looking at the broad architecture of the triad, but also looking at specific systems and what is the most cost-effective approach to creating a more modern set of capabilities.

(Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)The NPR will almost certainly review the existing U.S. nuclear force structure, which currently includes a triad of sea-, land-, and air-based delivery systems. In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in January 2015, James Mattis, now the defense secretary, raised the question, “Is it time to reduce the triad to a dyad, removing the land-based missiles? This would reduce the false-alarm danger.” What contribution do you believe that intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) make to deterrence today? Has the rationale for the ICBM leg changed since the end of the Cold War?

In the middle of the Cold War when the risk of a bolt-from-the-blue strike was real or we believed it to be real, I think the ICBM leg was pretty critical to deterrence. In the world we live in now and given the advance of other technologies, I think that it’s a question as to (a) whether we need an ICBM leg and (b) if we do need some ICBM leg, how big does it really have to be to serve the purpose. I think that is one of the fundamental questions that the NPR should take on, whether we should move to a dyad and, even if you believe we should stay at a triad, can the balance change. I think everybody agrees that the most survivable leg, where we have the most competitive advantage, is the submarine leg. The bomber force, we’re going to get for both conventional and nuclear purposes.

From a triad perspective, the focus is going to really be on the future of the ICBMs, what’s strategically necessary and what’s most cost effective. In particular, I think the Defense Department should more seriously consider further extending the life of the existing Minuteman III ICBMs as a cheaper near-term alternative to the current plan to build an entirely new ICBM system.

Moving to the bomber leg, Mattis at his confirmation hearing declined to affirm the need for a new fleet of nuclear air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs), stating that he’d have to study the rationale in more detail. Critics argue that retaining nuclear-armed ALCMs is redundant given current plans to build the stealthy, nuclear-capable B21 “Raider” long-range bomber, armed with the upgraded B61 nuclear gravity bomb, as well as to modernize the other two legs of the triad. There is also the growing lethality of conventionally armed air- and sea-launched cruise missiles. In your view, do ALCMs make a unique contribution to the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent?

This is one where, honestly, I am studying the issue because I haven’t made up my mind. I think if the B21 is everything we hope it will be, you may not need this. But if adversary anti-access, area-denial capabilities, particularly sophisticated air defenses, continue to progress—and perhaps there are issues with the ability of our current and future bombers to penetrate those defenses—you might want a cruise missile in your arsenal. That’s not so much from a war-fighting perspective but more from the perspective of an assured ability to hold targets at risk and therefore deter your adversary.

Do you have any indication from your time in government or since that there are questions about whether our submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) or our ICBMs would be able to reach even the most well-defended targets?

No, no, so you do have the options from ICBMs and SLBMs as well. As I said, I’m working my way through this, but I don’t have a definitive answer.

The Trump administration’s NPR may also reconsider the declaration in the 2010 NPR Report that life extension programs for nuclear warheads “will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.” Is there a military requirement for new or, in particular, low-yield warheads that don’t currently exist in the U.S. nuclear stockpile?

I think you have to add to that question, is that unique requirement worth all that that would mean in terms of starting to design, test, build, and deploy new nuclear weapons? Let’s put it this way, I have yet to hear a case for a new nuclear warhead that is compelling enough to take on both the investment costs and the political costs of going down that road.

As you also know, nuclear weapons figured very prominently in the 2016 presidential election campaign. Many Americans relearned or learned for the first time that the president alone has the ability to launch, particularly ICBMs and SLBMs, within minutes of a decision to do so and that the military retains and exercises the ability to launch ICBMs under attack. In your view, does vesting the power to use nuclear weapons in the hands of one person still make sense? Are there steps that you believe could be taken to reform current U.S. nuclear launch protocols?

With the current construct, the potential for your ICBMs to be under attack or taken out within minutes creates enormous time pressure in the decision-making process if you’re going to launch under attack. As a practical matter, it means that the president has to make a decision with very little information and very little time. He has advisers on the call with him to help. But it is, having gone through the rehearsals for these things, a very compressed timeline for a very momentous decision. I would like to see measures taken to increase the decision-making time. This has been part of what has motivated people like Bill Perry, Sam Nunn, George Shultz, and others to question whether we need to keep launch under attack as a practice. This is part of what their concern has been, along with the risk of accident or miscalculation.

I’m not ready to completely rewrite the decision-making structure of our government on this question, but I do think there’s real value to increasing the decision-making time because, by definition, you’re going to have more knowledgeable experts able to advise the president meaningfully if you give him more time in that circumstance.

Michèle Flournoy stands with other senior members of President Barack Obama’s national security team as he speaks about Afghanistan in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building March 27, 2009. (Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)Can you envision a scenario where a president of the United States would make the most consequential decision a president will have ever made in a matter of minutes?

It’s hard to imagine. When I think of the presidents I’ve worked for, like Barack Obama, it would be hard for such a deliberative, careful, decision-maker to make that kind of decision absent being 1,000 percent sure that we were actually under attack and a nuclear explosion was going to happen on U.S. soil. The whole launch-under-attack scenario assumes a president is willing to make that decision in the absence of certainty. I think that’s an open question in some cases. Would Trump make that decision? Maybe. We don’t know. Let’s hope we never find out. But I think we are failing the president, any president, at some level to put them in that position. There have to be better ways to provide more time to verify information and make a fully informed decision. Because of our history with false alerts and mistakes made where training tapes were thought to be real, we have to be very careful not to miscalculate given the consequences.

Last year, it was reported that the Obama administration considered but ultimately rejected changing U.S. nuclear declaratory policy to state that the United States would not be the first to use nuclear weapons. Are there circumstances under which the benefits of first use of nuclear weapons would outweigh the costs, and if nuclear weapons are used by one nuclear-armed adversary against another, what guarantee do we have that such use would not escalate to a full-scale nuclear exchange with the United States or against a U.S. ally?

I think if you have nuclear use by one nuclear power against another, the risk of full-scale escalation is there. The case that has, in recent years, stopped presidents from fully embracing [a] no-first-use [policy] has been the potential for catastrophic weapons of mass destruction [WMD] attacks of a different nature—for example, a successful, massive bio-attack that would have consequences on the order of a nuclear attack in terms of people killed and so forth. It’s that exceptional case that has kept people from making the full statement.

I personally believe that we should emphatically state that the purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter the use of other nuclear weapons. Period. In a real world instance, if a president felt that there was an exceptional case where he had no other option to respond to a catastrophic WMD attack that was non-nuclear, okay, then that’s a presidential decision at that point. But I think there’s benefit to declare that we don’t believe these weapons are for war-fighting and that we stand in opposition and in contrast to countries like Russia who talk in a very cavalier manner about escalating to nuclear use in order to try to stop conventional war, which is incredibly irresponsible and incredibly dangerous. I think there’s room to strengthen U.S. declaratory policy in this area.



'Tremendous Experience'

ACT: One of your first jobs in Washington early in your career was as a senior analyst at the Arms Control Association, working on nuclear weapons policy and defense issues. Could you tell us how that experience impacted your career path?

Flournoy: It was a tremendous experience and opportunity. It was really the first time where I was able to develop a real depth of expertise in a given area and to build a body of work as a young analyst. That became important for a number of reasons. One is, it attracted a very important mentor to me. Based on an Arms Control Today article I had written, Ted Warner reached out to me and introduced himself and said, “I agreed with every word of your article. I’m working on the same thing over at RAND [Corp.] We should meet.” As my career unfolded later, Ted was the person who hired me and gave me my first job in the Pentagon.

The other thing I would say is that there were wonderful mentors within the organization. People like Spurgeon Keeny and Jack Mendelsohn invested enormously in the young people they had working for them and helping ensure that we were developing as professionals. I owe them and the organization a debt of gratitude for helping me get started.

Michèle Flournoy is co-founder and chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security. She served as undersecretary of defense for policy from February 2009 to February 2012. The interview was conducted May 25 by Kingston Reif and Maggie Tennis. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Dealing With Russia and North Korea: An Interview With Siegfried Hecker

November 2016

Interviewed by Terry Atlas

Siegfried Hecker, one of the nation’s top nuclear weapons experts, served as director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1986 to 1997. He organized U.S.-Russian lab-to-lab cooperation on nuclear weapons safety and security issues at the end of the Cold War era, which is the subject of the recent book he edited, Doomed to Cooperate (2016), about that remarkable period of scientific collaboration. He is an authority on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, having visited that country seven times between 2004 and 2010. Hecker currently is a research professor in the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. 

He was interviewed by Arms Control Today Editor-in-Chief Terry Atlas at the Arms Control Association office. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

ACT: What led you to produce Doomed to Cooperate, a history of the cooperation between U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons labs?

Hecker: The idea came from the Russian side. In 2002, on the 10th anniversary of our cooperation, which dates back to 1992 when we had a weapons-lab-directors exchange between the new Russian Federation and the United States, Vladimir Belugin, the former Russian laboratory director at the Institute of Experimental Physics [the Russian Los Alamos] suggested that we capture the history of this cooperation because, in the ‘90s, it was just remarkable. We began to work on it, and then unfortunately, he passed away. So as we were coming closer to the 20th anniversary, I had a discussion with the then-director of the institute. I reminded him that I had intended to write an article with his predecessor. He said, “Oh, there’s much too much for an article. We should write a book.” This was 2010. So that was the origin.

ACT: The lab-to-lab cooperation is quite an unheralded success story, right? 

Hecker: I think so. As the Soviet Union was falling apart, the United States was concerned about four loose-nuclear dangers: loose nukes, the weapons; loose fissile materials, plutonium and highly enriched uranium; loose people, the scientific experts; and loose exports, concerns about illicit nuclear sales. My greatest concern was the security of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials. We quickly began working on these problems with the Russian laboratories. President George H.W. Bush’s primary concern was what he called the “brain drain” problem, namely the fate of the nuclear experts. We worked on all these issues. As we now look back 25 years later, there were no loose nukes, very little nuclear material leakage, essentially no brain drain, and on exports, after a few initial problems in the ‘90s, Russia is a pretty responsible exporter of nuclear technologies today. So it’s remarkable. I think the laboratories, the nuclear scientists, contributed enormously to avoiding a nuclear catastrophe. 

ACT: How is it that Cold War adversaries, particularly the folks in the nuclear complex who were steeped in secrecy and national security, managed to cooperate on these very sensitive issues. Was there a top-down mandate, or was it a bottom-up effort?

Hecker: Absolutely not top down. We were not being told to go do these things in Russia. It was essentially the initiative of the scientists. The primary reason we began to work together is that the nuclear weapons laboratories and institutes were grounded in superb fundamental science. Los Alamos scientists had connections with Soviet scientists during Soviet times, not on nuclear weapons but on fundamental science. What really triggered our ability to work together, however, was the Reagan-Gorbachev Reykjavík summit in October 1986, which led to what was called the “Joint Verification Experiment” [JVE], that is, participating in nuclear tests at each other’s test sites for the purpose of verifying a test ban treaty. At that point, it was actually the Russian nuclear weapons scientists that reached across and said, “Hey look, we want to work together. We have these scientific ideas. We’d like to pursue cooperation.” So, we pushed for cooperation from the bottom up after the governments allowed us to meet for the JVE. The Soviet scientists pushed us. I pushed Washington. Then eventually, because of President George H.W. Bush’s brain drain concern, we were finally allowed to visit each other’s laboratories. When I went to Russia in 1992 with John Nuckolls, then-director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, we toured through their laboratories. What they showed us was remarkable. We looked at these guys, and it was like looking in a mirror.

ACT: Now we fast forward to today, and that kind of cooperation is an increasingly distant memory. What’s the consequence of the current strained relationships in terms of nuclear security issues?

Hecker: I think today the primary problem is isolation. First of all, you can’t do science in isolation, and the Russian scientists know that. So they’re not happy being isolated. However, the [Russian] government and the security services at this point want to restrict access to the Russian nuclear facilities. We had good access for over 20 years, and they also had good access to our facilities. They were in Los Alamos. They were at Lawrence Livermore and at Sandia labs. We knew all along it had to be reciprocal—if we wanted them to accept some of the ways that we do security, we had to show them how we do it in our places. We did that, and now, for the most part, that cooperation is cut off. But quite frankly, part of the cooperation was cut off by the American government. After Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the American government’s approach was, “[I]t can’t be business as usual.” That filtered down to the scientific interactions. Now, interactions between the nuclear scientists on both sides are being held hostage to political differences. 

ACT: You’ve had 20-plus years in which you were able to work on those nuclear safety and security issues. So at this point, is a danger still there? 

Hecker: In terms of loose nukes, first of all, they’ve always had it under quite good control, but they were in a demanding environment. Now they are, let’s say, in as good as shape as we are. As for loose nuclear material, they made enormous improvements by joint cooperation with the United States. They’re in quite good shape as far as that goes. As for the brain drain, there is no real concern. It’s not any worse than for the United States. However, with nuclear safety, nuclear security, you’re never done. So now, the danger is if they go back and they isolate the Russian scientists again, we won’t be there to compare the best practices, compare the lessons learned from each other. That’s the danger.

ACT: There’s now talk about a new arms race as the United States and Russia modernize their systems. 

Hecker: There’s no question, on the Russian side, that they have emphasized the role of nuclear weapons in their security. If you look back at President Vladimir Putin’s statements over the past number of years and as you look at their actions, they are building new nuclear weapons. They are designing new nuclear weapons. Exactly what good that’s going to do them from a deterrence standpoint, quite frankly, is beyond me. I don’t see it as doing much good. On the American side, I know there’s much criticism on the modernization of the American complex. I personally happen to believe our nuclear complex needs to be modernized. We don’t need new weapons, in my opinion, we just need to make sure that we’re actually able to do our job within the nuclear complex. Then we’ll have a deterrent. We don’t need to enter a new arms race.

ACT: What do you make of the latest North Korean nuclear test?

Hecker: By 2010 it became clear that they’re going all out to build a nuclear weapons program and a threatening nuclear arsenal, and that’s what they’re doing. After the latest test, one has to conclude that now they must have the capability to mount those weapons on missiles that can reach Japan and South Korea and then eventually the United States. That’s not what I worry about the most. I worry that when a country builds that sort of capability, it changes the strategic dynamics with its neighbors.

ACT: What’s your best estimate of how many weapons they could have now, and what’s the growth trajectory?

Hecker: It looks like they can produce about one bomb’s worth of plutonium a year and perhaps six per year of highly enriched uranium. They may have the capacity to make approximately six to eight bombs per year. By the end of this year, they have enough material, we believe, for 20 to 25 nuclear weapons.

ACT: What is the implication for proliferation concerns, particularly providing either state or nonstate actors with technology or materials? 

Siegfried Hecker (third from right) with officials and technicians at the plutonium laboratory at the Yongbyon nuclear complex in August 2007. (Photo credit: Siegfried S. Hecker)Hecker: From 2004 to 2007, my greatest concern about North Korea was the possibility of export. At that time, we had reason for concern because the North Koreans were known to have exported uranium hexafluoride to Libya and they had built a plutonium-production reactor in Syria. So it was not beyond them to actually do that. Today, I’m less concerned because, quite frankly, their customer base has sort of dried up, that is, it has fewer potential customers. Now one is concerned about export to [the Islamic State] or [other] terrorists. I don’t believe that North Koreans would sell a nuclear weapon. I don’t think they would sell the plutonium. I am not as concerned today about the proliferation or the export of their technologies, unless they become totally desperate. I’m much more concerned about how it affects their relationships with South Korea and the United States and having an overconfidence in their overall capabilities because they have this nuclear overhang. Also, what if there is real turmoil in the country? When they had a handful of bombs and 30 kilograms of plutonium only, you could see as to how one might be able to take care of that. You’re now talking about 20 bombs and hundreds of kilograms of highly enriched uranium, and you don’t know where it is. That’s what I worry about. I don’t worry anywhere near as much about missiles reaching the U.S. mainland at this time. That’s what all the talk is about right now, and of course, our military has to pay attention to that. But what’s much more dangerous is what’s going to happen in the immediate vicinity.

ACT: What about the administration’s strategy of strategic patience?

Hecker: It’s been a total failure. This isn’t just an Obama failure. There was an enormous failure during the George W. Bush administration. That was, in essence, when we sort of let the cat out of the bag with the altercation in October 2002, accusing [North Korea] of having enriched uranium and then essentially walking away from the Agreed Framework negotiated during the Clinton administration. North Korea then went ahead and proceeded with the first nuclear test [in October 2006]. It didn’t work so well, but that changed everything. When President Barack Obama came in, I think the initial intent was to work with the North Koreans, but they conducted a missile test and then another nuclear test. After that, there was great reluctance by the administration to work with the North Koreans. The policy was dubbed strategic patience, but it was essentially not doing much in diplomacy. During that time then, North Korea went from a handful of bombs to having a nuclear arsenal.

ACT: So your advice for the next president?

Hecker: You have to go back to diplomacy. As difficult as that might be to stomach for the United States, you just have to go back to diplomacy. The United States has been trying to get North Korea to do one big “no”—that is, no nuclear weapons—but that’s just not going to happen right now. So the three “no’s” I have proposed are no more bombs, no better bombs, no exporting. Negotiate that with North Korea, and agree to work with them on their security concerns, energy, and the economy. At least for the time being, don’t let it get worse. Now they’ve got the nuclear arsenal, so it’s going to be much more difficult. You have to roll it back through diplomacy.

ACT: For the first step, a freeze is the best that can be done.

Hecker: Yes. I don’t use the term “freeze,” but “halt.” What’s most important to halt has changed over the years. It was really important to halt nuclear tests five years ago when they only had two under their belt. That was important because there’s no way they could miniaturize a nuclear warhead to put on a missile without additional tests. Now they have conducted these additional nuclear tests. So, halting additional missile launches becomes very important—the solid-fueled missiles, the submarine-launched missiles, and of course, the long-range ones—and no more nuclear tests is still important. You also need to at least halt the production of the fissile materials. Then you work your way diplomatically toward rolling back the nuclear weapons program and eventually eliminating it. 

Hecker discusses his experiences cooperating with his Russian counterparts in the aftermath of the Cold War,  his concerns about the breakdown in relations with Russia, and North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal.

A French View on the Iran Deal: An Interview With Ambassador Gérard Araud

July/August 2016

Interviewed by Kelsey Davenport and Elizabeth Philipp

Gérard Araud was appointed ambassador of France to the United States in September 2014. A career diplomat, his past positions include director for strategic affairs, security and disarmament (2000-2003) and permanent representative of France to the United Nations in New York (2009-2014). Araud served as the French negotiator on the Iranian nuclear file from 2006 to 2009. 

Araud spoke with Arms Control Today in his office at the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C., on May 20. 

The interview was transcribed by Elizabeth Philipp. It has been edited for clarity. 

ACT: France has been involved in the nuclear negotiations with Iran far longer than the United States—over a decade. Why was achieving an agreement with Iran an important priority for France?

Araud: First, the history is that, in 2002, I was assistant secretary for security affairs and disarmament in Paris and we had the idea of a letter from the three ministers.1 So it was a French idea. When I actually drafted the first letter, there was a choice about the terms in the letter about enrichment. We could say we are asking to suspend enrichment or to stop enrichment. If we had “to suspend enrichment,” the Russians were immediately on board, but the British were not. If we had “to stop enrichment,” the British were on board, but not the Russians. It was the choice to have the British on board rather than the Russians on board. 

In 2002 we discovered the program, and the letter was sent during the summer of 2003. Why? If we had the letter signed by France, Germany and Russia, it would have had absolutely no bearing in Washington, D.C. So the idea was to have the British as a sort of bridge toward the Americans, and I presented the letter to the Americans-—the American was John Bolton, the undersecretary at the time. The Americans told us that it was not a green light, but it was not a red light. So we sent the letter with sort of a yellow light coming from Washington, D.C., and on our side with the promise, the commitment, to [be] totally transparent. Because from the beginning, I knew that there would be an agreement only if the Americans were engaging in the negotiation. So that was the beginning of the story. 

Why negotiate? For us, the issue of Iran nuclear power was twofold. First, it was regional. We were convinced that Israel wouldn’t accept the prospect of a nuclear Iran, and that would lead to a military option, with all the political consequences of the region. Secondly, even without an Israeli military operation, it would mean the end of the nonproliferation system. The countries around North Korea—South Korea, Japan—were restrained enough not to follow the suit of North Korea and become nuclear, while, in the Middle East, such restraint was very unlikely.

There was a strong risk that the neighbors of Iran would follow and become nuclear powers. That would have been the end of the nonproliferation system. 

ACT: What do you think it is about this current period, beginning in 2013, that led to a successful nuclear deal with Iran given this long history of negotiations?

Araud: Actually, the negotiation started with the three European countries; and in 2003, there was suspension by the Iranians of their enrichment capability. But everything stopped in 2005 more or less with the election of [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. When I was the French-designated negotiator between 2006 and 2009, I can tell you that there was no negotiation. It was not that our proposals were dismissed as insufficient; it was simply that the Iranians didn’t negotiate. They never entered into a substantial discussion of the terms of our proposals, and really, we tried several formulations, very different formulations. We went to Tehran, and nothing came out of it. It was really the feeling that the Iranians had not taken the decision to negotiate. Eventually they took it in 2013, and it means that the supreme leader made the decision first. I’m convinced—but it’s only a personal conviction, and I have nothing to base it on—that what we were looking at the moment when the regime has decided that the cost of the program was too expensive in terms of the survival of the regime. The sanctions were hurting very much, and the regime has decided at this moment to negotiate. 

ACT: Within the negotiations for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, what do you think that France brought to the table to really help that process along? 

Araud: The fact is that we have, since we have been in the origin of the process, we have been very careful about keeping excellent teams of negotiators. We have been very careful about the choice of the people, about not losing the know-how between the negotiators during all these years, and I do believe that we were a very reliable team of negotiators. I heard several times people saying that, at some moment of the negotiation, really everybody was looking at the French team because we had invested a lot into this negotiation in terms of expertise. 

The second point was that we’ve always had a very consistent line. We have had, between 2003 and 2016, three presidents in France—three presidents of very different orientation. There was a Gaullist. After that, there was a more rightist and pro-American, and now you have a Social Democrat. We have always—these three presidents and the governments and the ministers, and there were more than three ministers—have always kept the same line. We have been extremely consistent in this negotiation.

ACT: Speaking of presidential transitions, the presumptive Republican nominee for the U.S. presidency, Donald Trump, has said he would tear up the agreement, he would seek to renegotiate it. Are you concerned at all about the impact of U.S. elections on the continued success of the agreement? 

Araud: You know all the Republican candidates were saying that they would tear apart the agreement when they arrive in office. But you know it’s an electoral campaign, and if the candidates were doing everything they promised during the campaign, and that is in all the countries in the world and all the parties, it would be terrifying. So we keep cool, and we will see when it happens and if it happens. 

ACT: Iran, though, has expressed some frustrations about sanctions relief under the deal, saying that businesses and banks have been reluctant to do business with Iran. Do you see prospects for European companies returning? Do you think there’s more that the EU 3+32 could be doing?

Araud: We are not in charge of the Iranian economy. But, nevertheless, when there is an agreement, there is a quid pro quo. The Iranian quid is the limitation of their program, and so far, they have implemented their part of the commitment. The quo is the lifting of the sanctions. But the lifting of the sanctions, it is not only an expression saying, “I lift the sanctions.” The sanctions have to be lifted, which means that the Iranians should first have access to frozen assets and secondly should be able to have a trade relationship with the rest of the world. 

The fact is—and it’s a fact—that because of the American secondary sanctions, the Iranians are saying that relief doesn’t happen. Actually, if you look—I don’t have the figures, but I think the proportion of the assets effectively de-frozen or released is really not that big. There is a lot of money, which is still frozen because since you can’t use the dollar, apparently it prevents a lot of financial operations. The fact is the banks don’t dare to go to Tehran. You can call it overcompliance on their side because, after having some trouble in New York City, they are still afraid to go there. The U.S. administration is aware of it and has said publicly that they will do their best. It’s not a question of helping the Iranians, it’s simply to give to our commitments, their whole significance. So the U.S. administration is trying to clarify the roles. The problem is your system of secondary sanctions is so complicated that even the U.S. administration has some problems really to understand it. 

So the Americans have told us and they have told also [the] business community that they are ready to answer to all the questions that the companies may have. For instance we have the example of Airbus and Boeing who want to sell planes to the Iranians. Planes come with a lot of spare parts. The question is whether it’s legal to sell the planes to the Iranians. Airbus is in contact with the U.S. administration to clarify the situation. But what we feel, and it’s public now, [it] is the will of the U.S. administration to deprive the radicals in Tehran from any pretext to say, “Oh you see, the West is not implementing its part of the deal, we have been trapped, it was a trap, so let’s do the same on our side.” 

ACT: So aside from this question of sanctions, do you see any other challenges that the agreement could face in the coming years? 

Araud: It’s such a complicated agreement—159 pages. When you enter an arms control agreement, you can’t foresee everything or every problem. So it’s obvious that we will have every six months a different interpretation between the Iranians and us, maybe between us and the Russians and the Chinese, of the different points. The Iranians, of course, will try to drag the agreement toward their interests, and we will do the opposite. So there will be disagreements down the road, and that’s the reason why we have created this committee, which will be in charge of trying to solve these disagreements.3 But disagreements are not unusual. When the Americans have an arms control agreement with the Russians, or with the Soviets at the time, there were also these bumps on the road. 

ACT: On the U.S. side, one of the areas that members of Congress in particular have voiced concern about is Iran’s continued ballistic missile testing. The UN Security Council resolution endorsing the deal softens the language on missile tests. Under the new resolution, Iran is “called upon” not to undertake any activity on ballistic missiles that are designed to be nuclear capable. Since the resolution came into effect in January, Iran has continued to test missiles. Are you concerned about the continued missile testing in Iran?

Araud: Our choice was to limit the negotiations to the nuclear issue and not to go beyond that. We consider that the nuclear issue in itself should be really the only topic of the negotiation, considering the seriousness of the issue and also considering that it was certainly in a sense the only issue where the P5+1 would agree.4 So it’s on the nuclear issue. 

The second point is, and I said it publicly, I was expecting the Iranians to harden their position on the other issues after this nuclear deal, in a sense to show or to send a message that they have not caved in front of the West, which is a message toward the outside world but also toward the Iranian public opinion, which is dreaming of seeing the end of the revolution. So I guess what we see now as provocations, unfortunately, were more or less expected. 

On the French side, we have always been in favor of reacting strongly against missile testing in the Security Council, but I think you know the Russians and the Chinese have opposed it. We have said that we have expressed our concern about the missile testing, and we would be willing to go to the Security Council if necessary. 

ACT: Do you think there are any particular steps that countries, like the United States and France, could take to stem Iran’s continued ballistic missile development?

Araud: You have the regimes, [Missile Technology Control Regime] and so on, that we have to implement. We have to work with the usual suspects and implement the regimes and controls. 

ACT: What do you think that reaching this agreement with Iran means for strengthening nonproliferation norms writ large? Are there areas of the deal that you think the international nonproliferation regime could build off of? 

Araud: Yes, but during all the negotiations, especially the Russians but the Chinese also have been very keen on avoiding the impression of creating a precedent. When we negotiated the agreement, there was always this concern coming back, with the Russians and the Chinese basically saying, “No, you are not going to create a new regime.” Having said that, it’s obvious that, during the negotiation, we have faced the problem of enrichment, of uranium enrichment. As a military nuclear power, we know that enrichment is the first step toward a weapon. The militarization side is easier to hide, so the enrichment is really the critical step. The Russians have joined in floating ideas of proposing an international regime for enrichment. There were ideas of having an international bank because countries were saying, “Well, if we give up the right to enrichment, we don’t have any assurance that we will get the enriched uranium that we need for our civilian program.” There was the idea of the Russians saying that they were dedicating a plant for an international bank, and there is the [International Atomic Energy Agency] fuel bank in Kazakhstan.5 

ACT: Are you concerned, though, that other countries, particularly in the region, might choose to pursue enrichment, given that Iran has maintained its capacity?

Araud: Of course. There is the risk because some people can argue that we have created a special status, a sort of new status for Iran. After the agreement, there were some neighbors saying, “Oh, you know we would want the same capabilities.” For the moment, we have not seen any step into this direction. But of course, we have to be vigilant, considering the tensions in this part of the world. 

I do remember when I was in Paris, I was interviewed by our parliament hearing committee on foreign affairs and the chairman of the committee told me, “The nonproliferation system is broken, it’s over.” Actually, when I was assistant secretary now 15 years ago, there were two problems, which were North Korea and Iran. Fifteen years later, there are two problems: North Korea and Iran. 

When I was a student, people were saying, “In 2000 the list of the nuclear powers will be Argentina, Brazil,” and so on, and it’s not the case. So in a sense, the nonproliferation system has quite resisted this, and it has been a success. So we have to be vigilant, especially in terms of enrichment. But now that we have this deal with the Iranians, maybe we could come back to working on it. 

ACT: Speaking to the weaponization concerns, the concern over nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles in Iran was a primary driver for deploying U.S. missile defense in Europe. Since that threat has been mitigated by the Iran deal, do you think the plans for keeping Aegis Ashore should be adjusted? 

Araud: That’s a difficult issue because the American administrations have been very insistent on launching this program, keeping this program, and the debate has been raging in NATO for the last 20 years. The Russians have been through the ceiling on this issue. I think eventually we are going to declare the NATO system as operational.6 But my personal opinion would be that what we have done is enough. It’s not really necessary to dedicate so many resources in a situation where we don’t have a lot of resources for such a system for a very hypothetical threat. 

For the French, the starting point is evaluation of the threat, and this is something we should re-evaluate regularly. Given the latest assessment of this threat, heads of state and government decided to move forward with this missile defense, but that doesn’t prevent re-evaluating now or in a few years what is the state of this threat. That’s actually something we, France, would be keen to doing because missile defense is not something we should do out of the blue and not just for itself. It’s to protect us against a threat, and it’s just common sense to link it to the re-evaluation of the threat. That is one of the elements we are looking at. 

There are also few elements which we look at and we said publicly when we agreed to missile defense, for example, the fact that the cost of missile defense should not go overboard. Another element is that, in NATO, missile defense, on a basis of common control, is owned and operated by NATO. These are elements which are important for us in assessing the progress of the missile defense. There are a few other ones, but those are the important ones.

ACT: On that note, France recently withheld its approval from NATO taking control, command and control, of the European missile defense system.

Araud: The problem that we have, and I’m sure it will be solved before the next summit, is we want to have a real, robust NATO command-and-control chain. For obvious political reasons, the Americans want to declare the system operational at the next summit. From the French side, we want to be sure the [command-and-control] system is robust enough. So again, it’s really not a substantial problem. I’m quite sure that it will be solved.

There is an evaluation going on right now actually in NATO on whether the system is sufficient or not. We are in that phase where we see whether or not it is sufficient to declare the system operational at the Warsaw summit. So we are in this phase where we are looking at it, [being] more careful about being sure it’s sufficient, but we are looking at the info right now that NATO is giving us in the next few weeks. 

ACT: Recently in certain disarmament fora, including last year’s [nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, the five nuclear-weapon states received some criticism for not fulfilling their Article VI disarmament commitments from the NPT review conference in 2010. What does France think could be done to accelerate the progress on disarmament?  

Araud: I think that if the U.S. and Russia were decreasing dramatically their systems, it will really be very important and very critical. This has been an ongoing criticism for a long time. We do consider on our side, and if you look at the figures, that we have made significant progress in terms of disarmament. We have given up the tactical weapons. We have also made [a] declaration of transparency.7 We have been more transparent in these terms, and we do consider that our systems are very much smaller than the Russians’ and the Americans’. Before talking to us, you have to talk to the Russians and the Americans. 

ACT: Is there anything that you think that France could do to encourage the United States and Russia to take further steps? 

Araud: The [fissile material cutoff treaty] FMCT and the [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] CTBT are the two main elements we are trying to promote in the international arena, given that it’s very difficult, but we still try to push for it. 

ACT: Are there any particular steps related to either of those treaties that you are hoping to promote or move forward on? 

Araud: There is going to be, in a few weeks, the 20th anniversary of the CTBT. We would like to use this opportunity to promote the CTBT a bit more. For the FMCT, we proposed a draft some time ago, and we are trying to make concrete proposals to promote these treaties. But it’s a slow process. It is a gradual step by step process to go forward. 

ACT: In the United Kingdom, there’s a debate about the salience of its nuclear weapons program and its deterrent. What is France’s view on the UK eliminating its nuclear weapons arsenal, and would that have an impact on France as a sole possessor of nuclear weapons in Europe? 

Araud: No, it wouldn’t have an impact on France. Very often, people don’t understand why France is so much committed to nuclear deterrence. They do believe it’s sort of out of glory. The fact is that, in 1940, when the Germans invaded our country, we were alone. The Americans were not here, and the British were not really here either—they had sent 10 divisions to France. France nearly disappeared. So we have drawn [a] very clear lesson that, to survive, you are alone. So we need nuclear deterrence. 

After this horrendous period for us, when our country nearly disappeared, it has become a sort of ingrained conviction that you are alone to defend your existence. That’s part of our very particular experience that people don’t understand. It’s not because we love nuclear weapons. It’s simply that now the genie is out of the bottle. Nuclear disarmament is difficult because if we get rid of the nuclear weapons you know Kim Jong Un or somebody else may still have the nuclear weapons. What will happen? He will be the master of the world. 

It’s impossible to reach universal nuclear disarmament. What we are trying to do is to limit the numbers of the nuclear-weapon states. Of course it’s unfair for the states which are not. As for the United Kingdom, I would bet everything you want that they won’t get rid of their nuclear weapons. There is a debate, but a debate we don’t have so much in France. Of course there is a fringe left which is in favor of it. But there is not a debate like the British have every decade. The British, maybe there could be debate about modernization, whether you need to modernize or not to modernize, considering the threat. That could be a debate. But on having the weapons, I really don’t see. Compared to the Americans, we Europeans know that history is a tragedy. 

ENDNOTES

1.   Iran’s heavy-water production plant at Arak and its centrifuge plant at Natanz were revealed to the international community in 2002. The first three countries to engage with Iran on the question of uranium enrichment were France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

2.   The EU 3+3 refers to the three EU countries—France, Germany, and the United Kingdom—plus China, Russia, and the United States, that were engaged in talks with Iran on its nuclear program.

3.   The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action established the Joint Commission as a mechanism for resolving disputes.

4.   P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the United States) plus Germany.

5.   See Tariq Rauf, “From ‘Atoms for Peace’ to an IAEA Nuclear Fuel Bank,” Arms Control Today, October 2015.

6.   In April 2016, the United States declared the ballistic missile interceptor it built to be operational in Romania and a second site in Poland to be under construction. NATO claims this system is intended to protect against the ballistic missile threat from Iran while Russia claims it is an attempt to undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent. For more information, see Kingston Reif, “Romania Missile Defense Site Activated,” Arms Control Today, June 2016.

7.   In 2006, France passed the Nuclear Transparency and Security Law. In 2008, under French President Nicolas Sarkozy, France became the first nuclear-weapon state to publicly reveal the size of its nuclear arsenal. For more information, see Bill Richardson et al., “Universal Transparency: A Goal for the U.S. at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit,” Arms Control Today, January 2011.

The ambassador to the United States and former Iran deal negotiator reflects on how that agreement was reached, possible bumps ahead, and dangers posed by Iranian ballistic missile development...

Getting to Know Greg Thielmann

June 2016

Interviewed by Daniel Horner

Read the full transcript of this interview here.

Greg Thielmann has spent four decades analyzing national security issues. For 25 years, he was a U.S. Foreign Service officer. In his last position before he left the State Department in 2002, he headed the Office of Analysis for Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Issues in the department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He then served as a senior staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Since 2009 he has been a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association and will retire this August. 

Thielmann spoke to Daniel Horner on May 10 at the offices of the association, which publishes Arms Control Today. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You served in three pretty different places—Brazil, West Germany, and the Soviet Union. Did that give you some perspective on the U.S. and the way the U.S. interacts with the world?

I think trying to understand how foreigners perceive the United States gave me a lot of insights into threat assessments. One country may interpret something as being very threatening in terms of new weapons development or military actions, but from the other country’s perspective, it is what the first country is doing that is threatening. We’re dealing with perceptions, and because of that, there is often a way in which, through negotiations or realizing the different perspectives, you can actually find a space where both parties can reduce the sense of threat that they feel through a negotiated agreement. 

You observed the intelligence assessment process on Iraq from the inside and the one on Iran from the outside. Are you able to compare the two processes?

I think in many ways the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program was a great triumph in avoiding so much of what went wrong in the case of Iraqi [weapons of mass destruction]. What one had in the Iran document was the intelligence community basically admitting that previous National Intelligence Estimates had not gotten it right on Iran. For example, there was the critical determination on Iran’s nuclear weapons program—and they did have a nuclear weapons program, but it was essentially halted in the fall of 2003. 

What was so conspicuously different than the Iraq intelligence estimate was that [this conclusion on Iran] was a very unwelcome conclusion for the Bush administration, particularly the Dick Cheney wing of the Bush administration. Yet, the estimate was not tailored, shaped, spun in a way that disguised the conclusion. The administration basically allowed it to come out in its all-important, honest bottom line. That made a profound difference. 

In one of your interviews on Iraq [in 2003], you said, “The default setting of the U.S. intelligence community is to over-warn rather than under-warn.” Explain what you mean by that.

Warning is the chief function, one might say, of the intelligence community. To talk historically, this is sort of the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. That was a huge trauma that we haven’t quite gotten over. So there is that still legitimate response of the intelligence community to focus on warning of possible disastrous events. 

The problem is that this often leads us to assuming that a worst-case threat identified is the most likely outcome or that’s the most objective way to predict the future. So that’s why, as an intelligence analyst, I would always look for two different estimates: first, what could happen and what is the probability that that could happen; but secondly, what is most likely to happen, even realizing that judgments about the future are very difficult to make. It seems to me, again and again in the negotiating process, that we miss opportunities to lower the threat in a better way by overestimating what the threat is. 

So given all the political and institutional reasons you just were describing, how do you prevent that? 

One of the ways you prevent it is to make sure that your judgments are labeled for what they are. That means it’s okay and sometimes mandatory to remind people what could happen. But it’s also necessary to remind them what is likely to happen, or if we are wrong about identifying something that could happen one way or another, whether it’s good news or bad news, why might we be wrong. On what assumptions does this conclusion hinge? That’s just part of, it seems to me, responsible intelligence tradecraft. 

The longtime analyst reflects on Iraq, Iran, and “responsible intelligence tradecraft.” 

Getting to Know Carolyn Mac Kenzie

May 2016

Interviewed by Daniel Horner

Carolyn Mac Kenzie has spent much of her professional life in pursuit of radioactive sources that are no longer under the control of authorities. These sources, which are used in medicine, research, and industry, can be dangerous if they fall into the hands of people who do not realize what they are or if people do know what they are and want to use them to make a radiological dispersal device, or “dirty bomb.” Mac Kenzie’s experience in tracking “orphan” sources has included stints at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. 

She spoke to Arms Control Today on April 6 from her office at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is the radiation safety officer. The interview, which was conducted by Daniel Horner, has been edited for length and clarity.

I wanted to ask how you got into this field. Could you lay out the path that led you to be interested in radioactive sources?

I sort of fell into it, but I always thought I would be probably pretty good at this when the issue of orphan sources came up in the late 1990s and early 2000s. 

Why did you think that? What is it about you that makes you good at it?

It’s my adventuresome spirit. I’ve traveled the world a lot, and I understand how radioactive sources are used. When I was 20 years old, I had backpacked across Africa, India, and the Middle East. I knew I could comfortably go to out-of-the-way developing countries and help them find these things. 

The first opportunity came up in 2002 working with Russia and radiological thermal generators that are placed along the Arctic Circle to power lighthouses. Livermore was involved with their removal and replacement with solar units. They are a very large source of strontium-90, and they have a potential to be used as a dirty bomb. My background was in radiation safety, and I knew I could help.

So I got my first taste of this, and I enjoyed it. Some people from the IAEA had heard about that work and called me and were interested in having me come over to the IAEA and help them with their orphan-source mission. So it sort of was fate; things fell together.

Did you have a scientific inclination that led you this way, or you just followed the adventuresome spirit?

Right out of college, I got a job at a cyclotron making radiopharmaceuticals. I was taking some fairly significant radiation doses, and the regulator threatened to shut us down. So I got really motivated to try to figure out how to reduce radiation exposure. I then went back to graduate school in biophysics to learn more.

The big focus at the IAEA in 2004 was on a series of incidents around the world in the late 1990s and early 2000s where scrap metal dealers or illiterate people had found large radioactive sources and wanted to salvage the lead around them. They had not a clue what they were, nor did they recognize the trefoil [radiation] symbol as meaning anything. They saw the lead and knew it was valuable. As a result of removing it, they became excessively exposed to radiation, which caused death or severe injuries. I was tasked with helping to locate these sources and finding a symbol for the sources to prevent this from happening.

Tell me about creating the supplementary symbol.

It was fascinating. The task was to help develop a symbol that anybody, especially illiterate people, would recognize as “Danger. Don’t touch. Leave alone.” The intent was to put the symbol right on the lead, right where you would go to take off [the lead]. With the symbol that we ended up settling on, the vast majority of the people saw that there was a grave danger. 

You visited more than 35 countries to do this work. Did you have to do anything differently because you are a woman? 

Initially, in some of the countries, but we got past it. I had this one experience with the Russian military where I think initially they were thinking, “What? Why is she along with us?” And then by the end of the trip, I would be the one going forward first with the [radiation] meter and measuring the source instead of them just marching right in. Later in the trip, they would say, “Oh, Carolyn, you go on in and tell us if it’s safe to come in now.” So you had to earn their respect. 

Her “adventuresome spirit” led to a love of travel and a career that has focused on hunting for radioactive sources.

Getting to Know Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack

March 2016

Interviewed by Daniel Horner

36_GTK.jpg“Getting to Know” is an occasional series that introduces Arms Control Today readers to interesting people active in the world of arms control.

Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack started out studying veterinary medicine, specializing in microbiology, and ended her career as a senior official with the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, from which she retired last year. She led numerous monitoring and verification inspection missions in Iraq in the 1990s, worked on bioterrorism prevention and response at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, and served as scientific and policy adviser on disarmament and nonproliferation issues at the German Federal Foreign Office.

Kraatz-Wadsack spoke to Arms Control Today on Feb. 11 from her home in New York. The interview, which was conducted by Daniel Horner, has been edited for length and clarity.

As you pursued your studies, did you think about arms control, international security issues as something of interest, or was it essentially a fluke of your career path that you ended up this way?

Well, I’m always a very curious person. So I think the first step was that while I studied veterinary medicine, my professor in microbiology said I should continue to do my dissertation in microbiology. And then I joined the armed forces, which was definitely not in my plan for life originally. But there was interesting work in microbiology, and I joined the military. And that linked me more into the defense area. And then it’s the [field of] arms control and disarmament. It was step by step, more by chance than a planned career. You have setbacks, but I think it’s really rewarding work.

During the inspections in Iraq, did you encounter any particular difficulties from the Iraqis or from your colleagues or from anyone else because you’re a woman?

Never, no. This was interesting to me as well. Iraq at that time was very secular. Some of my counterparts were women, and the main person in the biological weapons program was a woman. She, Dr. Rihab Taha, was the one I met most of the time, and she was the one in charge for the biological weapons program. At least, that’s what the Iraqis told us. But she was always there, and she was explaining how she produced anthrax and botulinum toxin. I was chief inspector, and my Iraqi counterparts treated me normally, neutrally, I would say. 

How would biological weapons inspections that are conducted today be similar to or different from the ones that you carried out 20 years ago, in terms of technology or training or anything else?

Definitely they would be different. [In Iraq] we had a special mandate [under UN Security Council resolutions]—one was disarmament, and one was to establish ongoing monitoring and verification. It was a very robust mandate, for anywhere, anytime, intrusive [inspections]. The mandate was kind of exceptional, part of a cease-fire resolution.

Nowadays, we have a different environment. There is improvement of technology. There are better tools for detection and enhanced analytical methods. You have advanced overhead imagery to support inspections. Much is different than it was in the early 1990s. But also important are the human skills and training.

The human skills as an inspector on the ground to conduct on-site inspections are the most crucial. We had a special training for hundreds of experts to conduct inspections for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The training was not to improve their technical expertise, but to add additional skills.

Another development relates to the capabilities and possible role of international organizations such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In the early 1990s, we didn’t have a chemical-designated inspectorate. So today, you have new mandates for international organizations; you have new international organizations; you have more involvement of international organizations, which also add to international inspection experience. They have accumulated vast experience and expertise, which was not in place in the early 1990s. We really had to do it from scratch in all areas. It was not known. The only entity that had inspection experience was the International Atomic Energy Agency. So at that time, we had to be very innovative and pragmatic, and we needed to know and understand the limits of what could be done.

The former UN official talks about her experiences as a biological weapons inspector in Iraq and her early days as a student of veterinary medicine.  

Lowering Nuclear Risks: An Interview With Former Defense Secretary William Perry

January/February 2016

Interviewed by Daniel Horner and Kingston Reif

William Perry, shown in this March 2015 photo, was secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997. (Photo credit: Glenn Fawcett/Defense Department)William Perry is the Michael and Barbara Berberian professor emeritus at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the university’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He was secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997, having previously served as deputy secretary of defense and undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. He is the author of My Journey at the Nuclear Brink (2015).

Perry spoke by telephone with Arms Control Today on December 8, 2015.Much of the conversation focused on the current impasse in U.S.-Russian relations and the nuclear weapons programs in those two countries.

The interview was transcribed by Elizabeth Philipp. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: In your book, you write that Russia’s ongoing and planned production of new nuclear delivery systems is likely to motivate Moscow to test new warheads for its new missiles and that you expect it to withdraw from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT] soon and begin those tests. Can you elaborate on why you believe that to be the case?

Perry: First of all, let me say that I don’t have any inside information from anybody in the Russian government. That’s not what my point was. It’s just that I know they are developing new nuclear weapons. They’ve said so themselves. I’m confident that that will lead the weapons designers to request new tests. That will put [Russian President Vladimir] Putin up to a decision. He will have to decide whether to allow that or not. I don’t know what that political decision will be, but I do believe that the pressure to test will be strong. So it will come down to a political decision on Putin’s part. Will he accept their recommendations, or will he think the political costs are too high? One of the reasons the political costs will not be as high as they should be is because we have not yet ratified the CTBT. That makes a decision to test easier for him.

ACT: Given that, is there any feasible way to prevent the resumption of Russian testing?

Perry: The best thing we could do is to ratify the CTBT. That would make the political costs substantially higher for Putin. That might lead him to decide then not to test.

ACT: Following up on the issue of U.S. ratification, even if the United States were to ratify the CTBT tomorrow, entry into force could still be years away if not longer. What steps should the United States pursue in the near term to strengthen the global moratorium against nuclear testing, especially in light of your belief that Russia may be on a path to the resumption of testing?

Perry: I think it’s very important to get China to ratify. I do believe that our ratification will put very strong political pressure on them to ratify, and I believe that they would. If that happens, then I think we’ve got a pretty good case to go forward, pushing to bring the treaty into force even if, let’s say, North Korea does not ratify.

I think a good argument can be made that we should not let an outlier like that stop the whole treaty from coming into force, but that decision is still ahead of us. The first step is to get the U.S. to ratify, then put the pressure to China, and then I think we should go forward with a program to try to bring the treaty into force even if the outliers do not ratify. 

ACT: Shifting to another treaty, the United States has accused Russia of being in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Treaty. Russia has denied the accusation and charged the United States with being in violation of the agreement. How do you evaluate the situation?

Perry: I don’t have enough data to make a judgment on whether or not Russia is in violation. That’s what our government has stated, and that’s all I have to go on. But I do not have an independent judgment of that.

ACT: Do you have any thoughts on how to get out of the impasse that the two countries seem to be in with regard to this violation alleged by the United States?

Perry: On that point, as well as other points of contention we have with Russia, what is badly needed is serious and meaningful dialogue with Russia, which we do not have today, at high levels. So I think it’s imperative for the United States to begin serious dialogue with Russia. It’s imperative for both countries to take the political step of high-level and serious dialogue. Even if there is disagreement, the dialogue is not only desirable, but necessary.

ACT: Okay, is there anything specific with regard to the INF Treaty, or is it all part of the larger picture?

Perry: No, it is a part of the larger picture. I think it is very desirable to keep that treaty in force. But the bigger problem is the bad relations between the United States and Russia, of which this is just a symptom, I think.

ACT: In a recent appearance in Washington, you said that any reasonable definition of deterrence would not require intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs], the land-based leg of the U.S. triad. You argue that ICBMs are unnecessary and destabilizing because they are an attractive target and entail a greater risk of accidental launch than other nuclear weapons. How would you propose to phase out the ICBM leg of the triad?

Perry: I simply would not recapitalize it. If we decide to keep the ICBMs in the force, then in a number of years, not very many years, we have to begin to focus on building the replacements for the first ICBMs. So instead, I would simply let the present force phase out.

ACT: What would you say to the senators and representatives of those states in which U.S. Minuteman III ICBMs are based who say that the missiles and associated bases are an essential part of the U.S. deterrent and vital to the economies of their states?

Perry: I don’t believe it. They’re not an essential part of the deterrent. We have ample deterrence from the submarine force, and certainly if you add the bomber force to that, that’s an overwhelming deterrence force. So I cannot understand the argument that we also need ICBMs for deterrence. We might need ICBMs for other reasons, for geopolitical reasons, but not for deterrence. Any sane nation would be deterred by the incredible striking power of our submarine force.

ACT: You have said that a desire to maintain parity with the Soviet Union and later Russia has been and continues to be a main driver of the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and that this approach doesn’t make sense. Why do you believe that parity should no longer guide U.S. force requirements?

Perry: Because I don’t think it has anything to do with deterrence. I think deterrence has to do with our power and our ability to strike. The fact that we need to have, for example, ICBMs in the force, which is a kind of a parity, just doesn’t hold up. I don’t understand the argument that we need to have an equivalent number of weapons and equivalent type of weapons as Russia as an argument for deterrence. That is a political argument, and I understand the political argument. But that’s not an argument for deterrence.

ACT: Do you have in mind a rough number of [warheads], what a U.S. nuclear force should look like, should be composed of?

Perry: Certainly less than the numbers we have now. But I also understand the political argument that as we bring the numbers down, we ought to see if we can find some way of having the Russians come down at the same time, whether that be by a treaty or by some sort of a mutual understanding.

ACT: I want to go back to the larger point about U.S.-Russian relations that you raised before. As you were saying, the relations now are at a very low point. Is there anything that Russia and the United States and maybe other countries could do to improve the situation?

Perry: We have a number of points in common with Russia. So I would think our diplomacy would emphasize trying to strengthen cooperation in the areas in which we feel the need to cooperate, the desirability of cooperating. For example, we did cooperate on the Iranian agreement, and that was a big plus. We certainly have a need to cooperate in the field of terrorism and especially nuclear terrorism, and there are certainly trade areas where we could find a reason for cooperating as well, as we did in the Cold War. We should look at issues of mutual importance—certainly preventing nuclear catastrophe has to be highest on that list—and find a way of cooperating in those areas without having to agree with the Russians or having even political accords with Russians in other areas.

ACT: What would an agreement on nuclear terrorism look like that goes beyond what’s already currently agreed under the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism? What more would they be able to do?

Perry: One of the principal actions would be protecting fissile material on a global basis. The program that the president has initiated, the nuclear [security] summit [process], I think is an excellent example of what we can do along those lines. I certainly applaud the administration for their initiative on the nuclear summit and their continued pursuit of it. I think that all we can be sure of at this point is that there will be one more nuclear summit, the one in Washington next spring. So I would put the highest priority on getting major agreements at that summit meeting, and that could be facilitated by prior discussions with the Russians on what one can mutually hope to accomplish at that nuclear summit. Certainly it’s as much for the security benefit of Russia as it is for the United States to solve nuclear terrorism. So it should be a very powerful argument for working together to get major steps forward on the nuclear summit upcoming this spring.

It’s one thing just to go to the meeting and talk. It’s another thing to go to the meeting with a plan worked out with the Russians ahead of time on what the two of us might be able to accomplish to help get the fissile material controlled in other countries. So I think I would put that number one on the list of areas of cooperation with the Russians that can greatly reduce the danger to both of us of nuclear terrorism.

ACT: Do you believe that that’s realistically achievable in the here and now?

Perry: I certainly do. We have still a few months where we can be meeting and talking with the Russians. So we could have a solid program of accomplishment that we mutually agree on that we would like to see come out of that possibly last summit meeting.

ACT: Switching gears slightly, we understand that you have recently visited a number of U.S. allies in Europe and East Asia to discuss nuclear and other related security policy issues. In your conversations with officials, did they express any concerns about the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent in light of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and increasing Chinese assertiveness in its near abroad?

Perry: No, nobody raised that question with me. It seems clear to me that any informed and objective observer would see that our nuclear deterrent is quite powerful.

The nuclear deterrent, however, does not prevent the Russians from doing many things that are not directly nuclear related. I always have believed and I think events have demonstrated that nuclear deterrence is pretty well limited to deterring a nuclear attack, not deterring many other objectionable actions. During the Cold War, Russia took many actions that were very highly objectionable to us, and our nuclear deterrent did not stop them from taking those actions. Arguably, all that U.S. nuclear weapons have done is stop the Russians from carrying out a nuclear attack on us.

ACT: In any of your conversations, did any officials from allied nations take a position on whether the United States can further reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons in its national strategy?

Perry: The only such issue I have come across, particularly with Japan, is the extent to which our nuclear deterrence is specific to Japan—that is, whether it involved nuclear weapons specifically designed to protect Japan as opposed to general deterrence. That has to do with maintaining shorter-range nuclear weapons. But there’s never been a question that I’m aware of as to whether our long-range nuclear weapons were capable of deterrence. This was an issue we had, as you may remember, back during the Cold War. Even though we had overwhelming capability in our strategic nuclear forces, the Germans felt it necessary to have nuclear forces based in their country to guarantee our deterrence to them, extended deterrence. That was, I think, a misguided judgment on the part of the Germans. But they certainly felt strongly, and as a consequence, we did keep medium-range nuclear weapons based in Germany to give them the confidence of our deterrence. I don’t see that lack of confidence today, though.

ACT: As you write in your book, progress on nuclear disarmament has slowed since the early days of President [Barack] Obama’s first term. How can multilateral disarmament move forward when the forums for multilateral diplomacy, such as the Conference on Disarmament [CD] and the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT] review conference, appear to be in a stalemate?

Perry: I think they are in a stalemate. I would not say that arms negotiations has slowed; I would say it has stopped. I don’t see any significant action between the U.S. and Russia today that has any chance of moving towards another treaty. I know that many people in the U.S. government that would like to do that and are trying to move in that direction. But they haven’t gotten any two-sided discussions that seem to have any significance going forward yet. I’d say this is not the fault of the U.S. officials; it’s just that Russia isn’t showing any interest in moving forward in nuclear arms agreements. So that’s one of the main issues ahead of us, and if we can get a stronger positive relation with Russia on other issues, we should also be working with them to try to get forward motion again on a follow-on to New START [the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty].

ACT: I was also asking about multilateral diplomacy, not just the bilateral U.S.-Russian interaction. Is there any way to stimulate movement in the CD, to deal with the issues that have divided the NPT members at their last review conference, issues like that? Who needs to take action to do that? Is there anyone besides the U.S. and Russia who can move that process or help move that process?

Perry: Probably yes, but I don’t have a good answer to your question.

ACT: In your book, you write that the development of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program over the past 15 years “is perhaps the most unsuccessful exercise of diplomacy in our country’s history.” What could the George W. Bush and Obama administrations have done differently to avoid this outcome?

Perry: Well, we had a negotiation going with the North Koreans in 2000, which was very close to an agreement. When the administration changed, the Bush administration simply cut off any discussions with the North Koreans. That was demonstrated to be not an effective way of dealing with the North Koreans, but it didn’t seem to me to be a wise way even before we saw the outcome. We should have kept the dialogue going, and that was a big mistake, I think.

ACT: With regard to the Obama administration’s approach to North Korea, how would you assess its strategy toward reducing the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program?

Perry: It evidently has not been effective. But I would say, somewhat in their defense, that by the time they got into office, North Korea already had nuclear weapons. In 2001, North Korea did not yet have nuclear weapons. There was an opportunity for a much easier negotiation; it was much more feasible to negotiate with them not to develop nuclear weapons and not to produce nuclear weapons. Once they had nuclear weapons, the negotiation got very much harder. Now the administration had to argue with them to give up what they already have, and so I think the opportunity that was lost was between 2001 and 2008. That was when we had the chance to stop the North Korean nuclear program.

ACT: Given where we are now, what realistically in your view can be achieved at this point to stop and perhaps roll back North Korea’s nuclear weapons program?

Perry: I don’t have any better advice on that than Sig Hecker, the former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, has given. He said that, given that they already have the nuclear weapons, making our position in the negotiations that they must give them up is a very hard negotiation. So he argues instead to put that aside for the time being and take a more limited goal in diplomacy. It’s what he calls the three noes, which is no new nuclear weapons, no more nuclear weapons, and no selling of nuclear weapons or technology.1 Those are the three noes that he states, and he offers some positive incentives we might give for that to happen. He said that should be the basis of the negotiation. If we ever succeed in that, then we can take the next step in trying to get them to roll back their arsenal. But as far as I can determine, we have not proceeded along the lines of those three noes. That was a tactical approach that Sig had that I supported at the time and still do. I think it was a reasonable approach to dealing with the North. 

ACT: I want to go back to the issue of nuclear terrorism, which we touched on briefly a few minutes ago. You wrote in your book that the threat of nuclear terrorism is the “gravest threat of our time.” Why do you think that’s the case?

Perry: The threat of nuclear weapons is the greatest threat of our time, and nuclear terrorism is the most likely form of it. If you consider the deterrent we have to somebody attacking us with nuclear weapons, it’s very powerful. But we have no deterrent to nuclear terrorism, and it’s relatively easy to imagine how such an attack could happen. So it’s not that it’s as catastrophic as a nuclear war; it’s just it has a much higher probability.

ACT: You mentioned the nuclear security summit process. How successful do you think that’s been in addressing this problem of nuclear terrorism?

Perry: I think it’s the most effective thing we can do because the most likely way for a terrorist to get a nuclear weapon is to get the fissile material and then build a crude, improvised bomb himself. So the biggest obstacle to a terrorist getting a nuclear weapon is getting the fissile material, and the nuclear summit process is specifically addressed to putting fissile material all over the world under much better control or eliminating it.

ACT: So as a result of the nuclear summit process, do you feel less troubled or less concerned than you did, say, seven years ago before the process started? 

Perry: Yes, I do. I mean, there are just fewer opportunities now for a terrorist group to get ahold of the fissile material. But I don’t feel by any means relaxed about this because there’s still a lot of it out there not under really good control. That’s why I think this final nuclear summit next year is so important. It gives us an opportunity to take even stronger actions than we’ve taken in the previous summits, including the opportunity for setting an international standard for the control and protection of fissile material.

ACT: What should be done to continue to focus high-level attention on the problem after the summit is completed? 

Perry: I’m sorry to say that the thing that would really give high-level attention to the problem is a nuclear terrorist incident. Then what had once seemed to be a theoretical possibility will become real. All I’m hoping and working for is that we can find the actions to stop nuclear terrorism without having that triggering event.

ACT: On the question of the likelihood, periodically people say within so-and-so many years there’s such-and-such a percentage chance of a nuclear terrorist incident taking place. People have been saying that for the last 30 years or so, and there hasn’t been one. So what do you think is the likelihood and over what time period?

Perry: I’ve never been able to put a number on it. But I would say it is quite feasible for it to happen in the next year, and I don’t see the actions we have now to keep that from happening as strong enough to give me any comfort that it’s not going to happen. It could happen next year; it could happen the following year. It’s a matter of the terrorist group putting the priority on doing that and putting the resources and the effort to making it happen. But I just don’t know how to put a number on it, a probability on it. Certainly, the likelihood of that happening is much higher than any of the other nuclear catastrophes.

ACT: As President Obama enters his final year in office, what more can he realistically seek to achieve with regard to the ambitious agenda he articulated in his Prague speech in April 2009?2

Perry: Number one, he could put a major effort into making this last nuclear summit a big success. That would be my number-one priority, I think, particularly since it addresses the threat I’m most concerned about, which is nuclear terrorism. Secondly, if he can get a renewed serious dialogue with the Russians, I would try to get a follow-on to New START under way. Third, a major push on the CTBT, however he could go about doing that, to try to get that ratified before he leaves office. That is a very steep uphill climb, and I don’t want to be optimistic. But as I recommend things to the administration, I do recommend that they make a major effort still to try to push that through, not to give up on the ratification of the CTBT. Many people will say that’s an impossible dream, but I would like a major push to achieve ratification.

ACT: Thank you very much for your time; we really appreciate it.

ENDNOTES

1.  See, for example, Siegfried S. Hecker, “North Korea Reactor Restart Sets Back Denuclearization,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, October 17, 2013, http://thebulletin.org/north-korea-reactor-restart-sets-back-denuclearization.

2.  Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Barack Obama, Hradcany Square, Prague, Czech Republic,” April 5, 2009.

The former Pentagon chief says intercontinental ballistic missiles are not essential to the U.S. deterrent, worries about the risk of nuclear terrorism, and advocates a “major push” on the [CTBT].

Getting to Know Cheryl Rofer

January/February 2016

Interviewed by Daniel Horner

Cheryl Rofer speaks about the Iran nuclear deal at Ripon College in Wisconsin on September 30, 2015. (Photo credit: Becky Bajt/RiponCollege)“Getting to Know” is an occasional series that introduces Arms Control Today readers to interesting people active in the world of arms control.

Cheryl Rofer, a chemist, retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2001 after a 35-year career in which she worked on projects dealing with environmental cleanup at Los Alamos and in Estonia and Kazakhstan, disassembly and decommissioning of nuclear weapons, and chemical weapons destruction, along with many other issues. Nowadays she spends a good part of her time writing for the blog Nuclear Diner, which she and two fellow Los Alamos alumnae, Molly Cernicek and Susan Voss, founded in 2011.

Rofer spoke to Arms Control Today from her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The interview, conducted by Daniel Horner, has been edited for length and clarity.

When most people think of Los Alamos, they think of physicists, but you’re a chemist. Tell us about that role.

Los Alamos employs lots of different kinds of scientists—chemists, physicists, biologists. Physicists need chemists to make things happen.

Is that a motto among chemists, or do physicists agree with that, too?

Well, it’s the truth. [laughs] Back in the Manhattan Project, early on, the physicists thought, “Oh, we can do this pretty quickly.” Then they found out that they had to process the plutonium and uranium and that they had to deal with explosives, cast the explosives, formulate them. All that’s chemistry. The fact is, if you’re a good chemist and you’re doing anything real in that area, you learn some physics; if you’re a good physicist and you’re doing something real, you learn some chemistry.

How did you develop an interest in science and chemistry?

I just always loved science. I wanted to be a scientist after I gave up wanting to be a fireman. Sometime early on, I’m guessing I was seven, eight, nine, I got a book for Christmas called All About Atomic Energy. I also read every book on dinosaurs in the public library. So I have been a science nerd pretty much all my life.

A pretty broad range of people, from William Perry to Donald Trump, are saying that nuclear terrorism is the greatest global threat, or words to that effect. But you seem [from your writing on the Nuclear Diner blog] to be a bit more skeptical. Could you explain your skepticism, your views on that?

Nuclear terrorism is a high-consequence, low-probability event. And it’s really hard, particularly in a popular way, to talk about high-consequence, low-probability events. The question is, “How would the terrorists get a nuclear weapon?” That’s where the low probability comes in. There have been a number of articles that talk about a “market” in nuclear materials. Now in order to have a market, you need a seller and a buyer. And as far as I am aware, there are not any buyers out there. 

So the threat is somewhat overblown?

Yeah, if nobody wants the material—and in any case, if a terrorist group could get, say, sufficient enriched uranium to make a bomb, would they be able to make it? There are lots of things that can go wrong.

You’ve been writing a fair amount about the Iran nuclear deal.

I think it is a really good deal, and I’m glad that it was made. And I am very impressed with the people who negotiated it on both sides. I’m also pleased that [Energy Secretary] Ernie Moniz acknowledged the participation of the national lab people. I think that the [International Atomic Energy Agency] can do the verification, and I hope they get the money.

How would you characterize your general philosophy or frame of reference? Some of the opinions you’ve expressed aren’t always found together.

I think that’s an interesting facet of the way I’ve learned the field and the things I’ve done. The national laboratories are almost like universities for developing these ideas and policies. I think that my viewpoints are maybe more grounded in physically doing some of these things than some of the ideas that are out there in the think tanks where people may not have had the experience of figuring out how to contain plutonium in a can.

The former Los Alamos chemist explains why “[p]hysicists need chemists to make things happen” and how she came to her views on topics such as the Iran nuclear deal and nuclear terrorism.

Getting to Know Ryan Gariepy

Interviewed by Jefferson Morley

Ryan Gariepy, shown in this 2014 photo, is co-founder of Clearpath Robotics. (Courtesy of Ryan Gariepy)“Getting to Know” is an occasional series that introduces Arms Control Today readers to interesting people active in the world of arms control.

Many people are worried about the prospect of lethal autonomous weapons systems, popularly known as “killer robots,” entering the battlefields of the world’s many armed conflicts. But not many of the critics of lethal autonomous systems know how to design and build high-tech robots. Enter Ryan Gariepy, the 28-year-old co-founder and chief technical officer of Clearpath Robotics, based in Kitchener, Canada. Last year, the fast-growing firm, with a workforce of 100, established a company policy of not accepting any work related to the building of robotics for lethal autonomous systems. In June, Gariepy was among 1,000-plus people from the world of artificial intelligence research and design, including famed physicist Stephen Hawking and inventor Elon Musk, who signed a statement calling for a ban on lethal autonomous systems. Gariepy is perhaps the first high-tech entrepreneur to make that position part of his business plan.

Arms Control Today caught up with Gariepy by telephone at his office in Kitchener. The interview, conducted by Jefferson Morley, has been edited for length and clarity.

Where did Clearpath come from?

From the University of Waterloo, a very strong engineering and math school in Ontario. Three of us were on a student robotics team, and we just saw a lot of potential in the things we were building. So after we graduated, we started a company.

It says on your website “The Future is Autonomous.” What are you getting at there?

The promise of unmanned systems, or autonomous systems or artificial intelligence systems, is to really free people from what is known, in the robotics community, as “dull, dirty, and dangerous” jobs.

Is the future of warfare autonomous?

We recognize the value that unmanned systems can bring to service members and keeping people out of harm’s way. The question is, can we not make sure that there is always an element of human involvement when a system decides to take lethal force?

How did you get interested in this issue?

We are always out there trying to extol the benefits of autonomous systems to companies and governments worldwide. But sometimes you run into a use case where you say, “Maybe this isn’t the best place for robotics.” It might not make business sense; or in this case, it may not be a humane thing to do, and it may be an incredibly risky way to deploy autonomous systems. Just like we look at the impact of our systems in a positive aspect, we also look at the negative aspect.

We saw the issue coming up more and more. In 2013 there was the “Losing Humanity” report by Human Rights Watch. Previous to that, you had Peter W. Singer’s book “Wired for War.” Before that, you had Ron Arkin’s textbook, “Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots.”

We are also seeing that robotics research is no longer being primarily driven by the military. People are approaching the issue as if the governments have the most say on what research is done. But robotics these days is quickly being dominated by private industry.

So if governments do not recognize the potential, good or bad, for this technology, then you might see that the technology is going to exist in a short time frame, certainly shorter than the international community can act on.

Does Clearpath have contracts with the U.S. or Canadian military?

We do work with the Canadian government and with the research arms of the U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force.

What do you think of the term “killer robots”?

The term certainly brought the public’s eyes to the issue. The impact of that should not be underestimated. Personally, I prefer to say “lethal autonomous weapons systems,” but that’s because I’m an engineer.

What has been the reaction to Clearpath’s position on lethal autonomous systems?

Many of the skilled people, the engineers applying for jobs with us, have expressed interest in the issue, and we weren’t expecting that. We are expecting that the company might have a partial loss in military contracts at some point. We didn’t expect the level of public support we’ve gotten.

No Third Use: An Interview With Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue

July/August 2015

Interviewed by Daniel Horner

Tomihisa Taue was elected mayor of Nagasaki in 2007 and began his third term in April. He is vice president of the international organization Mayors for Peace. Taue spoke by telephone with Arms Control Today from his office on June 15. In the conversation, which was conducted through an interpreter, he spoke about the possibility of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Nagasaki, the concept of a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone, and the need for the world to know and remember the facts of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

The interview was transcribed by Nathaniel Sans. It has been edited for clarity.

Buddhist statues lie among the rubble of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, in this photo from the fall of that year. (Photo by Cpl. Lynn P. Walker, Jr. (Marine Corps))ACT: Thank you very much for doing this interview, Mr. Mayor. When you spoke before the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT] Review Conference on May 1, you noted that the average age of the survivors of the atomic bombings of August 6 and August 9, 1945, is 80 years. You said that “we have a responsibility to show these survivors the path to the abolition of nuclear weapons while they are alive to witness it.” As the vice president of Mayors for Peace and the mayor of Nagasaki, what specific steps do you think are necessary in the near term to put the world on the path to the abolition of nuclear weapons?

Taue: During the NPT review conference, we were not able to bridge the gaps between the nuclear-weapon states, who insisted on a step-by-step approach, and the non-nuclear-weapon states, who insisted on a comprehensive approach. We need to continue with the dialogue in order to fill in this gap.

ACT: Are there specific mechanisms that are needed? For example, you have referred in the past to creating a new and continuing conference that would be open to all countries. Is that something that should be pursued?[1]

Taue: Yes, I think that these conferences will be needed. When I visited Washington this May and met with officials of the U.S. government, I made a proposal. For example, we should set up a working group at the UN General Assembly to consider effective measures to fill in the legal gap in order to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.

ACT: And what was the response? How did they receive the proposal?

Taue: I’m not allowed to disclose details of the discussion. However, the U.S. officials said that they would like to make every effort to adopt a final document at the NPT review conference. They were inclined to work something out at the NPT review conference to advance nuclear disarmament. Regrettably, we were not able to reach a final agreement, but they were determined to bring the conference to a successful conclusion.

ACT: At the review conference and since then, do you believe the key states have shown the necessary commitment to the abolition of nuclear weapons and established a path toward that goal?

Taue: By “the key states,” do you mean the nuclear-weapon states?

ACT: Right, the nuclear-weapon states and other states that would be part of the effort to push them, but primarily the nuclear-weapon states.

Taue: When the first proposal for the final document was reported, it was a good one. However, after the second and the third drafts had been submitted, I think the countries went a little backward. As the draft was updated, the contents were degraded. I believe that one of the reasons for this is that the nuclear-weapon states insisted on a step-by-step approach and that, as a result, the final document draft has been degraded. I think that the nuclear-weapon states need to have in mind that we need to speed up nuclear disarmament as a whole. 

ACT: So, the step-by-step approach is not sufficient, in your view?

Taue: I do not believe that the step-by-step approach is insufficient. However, there is a reality that while we were not able to proceed with the step-by-step approach, other states have obtained nuclear weapons. There is also an emerging danger that terrorists might obtain a nuclear weapon. The step-by-step approach and a comprehensive approach do not contradict each other. We can proceed with them in parallel.

ACT: In his address to the NPT review conference, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida invited world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki when they gather in Japan for the Group of Seven summit in 2016. Why would a visit to Japan by President Obama and other world leaders be meaningful to the people of Japan, and how could such a gathering be designed to catalyze action by these leaders on the next steps on nuclear disarmament?

Taue: Foreign Minister Kishida is originally from Hiroshima, so he has a strong passion for his hometown. We have continually appealed for world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki because I believe that when we discuss nuclear weapons issues, it is important to know the facts about what the use of nuclear weapons will bring about. So, with an open mind, we should first know the facts before we go into this discussion. So, I think it is important for the leaders to know what happened under those mushroom clouds.

When I met with the U.S. government officials last month, I also made a request for the president to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The reason for this is that if the U.S. president visits these atomic bomb cities, the other leaders will likely follow. The second reason is that we would like to have President Obama convey a message to the world that Nagasaki should be the last site on earth to suffer from nuclear devastation. I think that this message will be a very strong appeal to the world in continuance with the speech he made in Prague. Third, this will be a productive collaboration by President Obama and the city of Nagasaki toward nuclear abolition, which would be a great honor for us.

ACT: Are there specific steps that Japan and other middle powers, including the other members of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative,[2] can take to spur multilateral progress on nuclear disarmament? What steps can the government of Japan take to accelerate progress toward nuclear disarmament and reduce its own reliance and other states’ reliance on nuclear deterrence?

Taue: The steps that Japan could take are to establish a security policy that does not rely on nuclear deterrence, promote trust building in the region, and establish a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region. To be precise, three states—Japan, South Korea, and North Korea—should establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone, and the neighboring nuclear-weapon states—that is, the United States, Russia, and China—will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, and they should guarantee this. 

This idea of a comprehensive security arrangement in Northeast Asia is something that the Japanese government could implement. And this March, the Nagasaki University Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition has made a proposal of a concrete, comprehensive approach toward a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone. This has been done with the assistance of Dr. Morton H. Halperin, and I think that their proposal is something that should be considered.[3] 

ACT: So, under this proposal, Japan would no longer rely on the so-called nuclear umbrella of the United States? Is that correct?

Taue: Yes, exactly. We will not be relying on a nuclear umbrella, but spreading a non-nuclear umbrella for the region. 

ACT: In August, the people of Nagasaki and people around the world will mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing that caused some 150,000 casualties in your city. What is the legacy of the bombings in Nagasaki today?

Taue: The atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still suffering from the aftereffects, and this is a negative legacy for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, nuclear weapons were made by humans, and humans can conquer, can abolish nuclear weapons. I would like to make this legacy a positive one, and that is what we are continuing to do.

ACT: In the weeks and months and years that follow the commemorations of the bombings, what should be done to ensure that the experience and lessons of August 1945 are passed on to future generations in Japan and around the world?

Taue: The most important thing is to know the facts, what the use of nuclear weapons will bring about to human beings. To know the facts is important because what we see around the world is that there are still many people who do not know about the atomic bombings. So, I think it is important for the people to know about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

In the United States, there is a widespread belief that the use of nuclear weapons was justified, that it was the right thing to do to use atomic weapons to end the war. Even if that were true, there’s a question if the United States really needed to use the second atomic bomb in Japan. So, I think the people should not be influenced by preconceptions and should first learn the facts. We would like them to think if the use of nuclear weapons to end a war is the right thing to do so that we can prevent the third use of nuclear weapons. The third thing I would like to say is that the appeal made by the atomic bomb survivors is not a message as the victims of the atomic bomb. They are conveying a message as members of the human race. They are trying to send out the message not as victims, but as human beings, on what the use of nuclear weapons will bring about to all human beings.

ACT: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. We very much appreciate it. 


ENDNOTES

1. Tomihisa Taue, Speech on behalf of Mayors for Peace, 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference NGO Session, New York, May 1, 2015, http://www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2015/statements/pdf/individual_10.pdf. 

2. In addition to Japan, the members of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative are Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. 

3. Satoshi Hirose et al., “Proposal: A Comprehensive Approach to a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone,” Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University, March 2015, http://www.recna.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/recna/bd/files/Proposal_E.pdf. 

The mayor talks about the idea of a Northeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone and the need for the world to know and remember the facts of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

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