Login/Logout

*
*  
“The Arms Control Association and all of the staff I've worked with over the years … have this ability to speak truth to power in a wide variety of venues.”
– Marylia Kelley
Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
June 2, 2022
Interviews

Expounding Bush's Approach To U.S. Nuclear Security: An Interview With John R. Bolton

Arms Control Today met with John R. Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, on February 11 to discuss the Bush administration’s strategic nuclear policy, its ongoing negotiations with Russia, and its approach to nonproliferation.

In the interview, Bolton acknowledged for the first time that the United States did not offer Russia amendments to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty before announcing its withdrawal December 13. Bolton also questioned the value of the negative security assurances the United States has offered non-nuclear-weapon states since 1978, but the State Department subsequently indicated that U.S. policy had not changed and that the Bush administration does support negative security assurances. (For more information, see U.S., Russia Agree to Codify Nuclear Reductions.)

Bolton was sworn in as undersecretary on May 11, 2001. Before joining the State Department, Bolton was senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington policy organization. A lawyer by training, Bolton was a partner in the law firm of Lerner, Reed, Bolton & McManus from 1983 to 1999. He has held several government positions, including assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs from 1989 to 1993 and assistant attorney general from 1985 to 1989.

During Bolton’s time as the nation’s top arms control official, the Bush administration has generated controversy by announcing the U.S. intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and by rejecting an internationally negotiated protocol intended to help strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention. Currently, the most prominent arms control debate concerns how to implement President George W. Bush’s proposal to reduce the number of strategic nuclear warheads the United States operationally deploys to 1,700-2,200, as well as Russia’s offer to reduce its nuclear forces. Although the administration recently said it would codify the reductions in a legally binding arrangement with Russia—a commitment not clear in November when Presidents Bush and Vladimir Putin initially announced the cuts—the Pentagon has said that warheads removed from operational deployment will be stored in a reserve force rather than dismantled. This position has been criticized by Russian and American experts, as well as U.S. congressional leaders, who want to see the warheads and their delivery vehicles dismantled in order to make the reductions as difficult as possible to reverse.

J. Peter Scoblic, ACT’s editor, and Wade Boese, the Arms Control Association’s research director, met with Bolton in his office at the State Department. The following is a transcript of their conversation.

ACT: Secretary Powell said last week that he expects the United States and Russia to sign a legally binding accord to reduce the number of offensive strategic weapons that they deploy. In earlier months, the administration had suggested that it would prefer an informal agreement because Cold War-style treaties are unnecessary, given our new relationship with Russia. Why has the administration changed its mind?

Bolton: Well, I don’t think we have changed our mind. I think the point about not wanting Cold War-style treaties remains entirely valid, and the reason for that is that, in many respects, the way those treaties were negotiated reflected the geostrategic environment of the Cold War. That environment is now very much different, and our relationship with the Russian Federation is very much different. In those circumstances, you don’t want to be negotiating a kind of formal agreement that actually exacerbates diplomatic tensions as much as it might have the prospect of relieving them. So, the issue is looking for the right kind of agreement that reflects the new relationship, which could well take the form of a treaty or something other than a political declaration. We’re still in the process of deciding that. We’re having conversations with the Russians. We’ve told them for quite some time we’re open as to form. They have also said they’re open as to form. We’ll have to see how it works out.

ACT: What did Secretary Powell mean by “legally binding agreement”?

Bolton: Well, that would be something that could be a treaty, could be an executive agreement, might be something else that would embody the offensive weapons numbers.

ACT: Is there a preference for a treaty or an executive agreement on the U.S. side?

Bolton: At this point, we’re still open as to form. I’m sure as we get closer to May that decision will be made.

ACT: When we are speaking about a legally binding agreement, are we talking about the numbers of the warheads, are we talking about transparency, are we talking about verification? What exactly is the substance of this?

Bolton: Well, I think we’re still contemplating exactly what we mean by that—what the most appropriate format would be, how it would be structured, and that sort of thing. And I think that’s all part of the negotiating process.

ACT: The administration has indicated that it wants to reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,700-2,200 and that it wants to place many of the downloaded warheads in a “responsive force” that could be reconstituted within weeks, months, or years. The Russians have indicated that they want to make these cuts irreversible by destroying the warheads. Is the United States considering a commitment to destroy the warheads it removes from deployment?

Bolton: Any agreement we reach with the Russians will be consistent with the nuclear posture review that was basically concluded, and what we do with the downloaded warheads would really be a matter for us to decide, and that would follow the same pattern that has obtained in prior strategic weapons agreements, which do not provide, one way or the other, for what happens to downloaded warheads or warheads above the limits of the treaty. We’ve discussed this with the Russians. Secretary Powell has discussed it with President Putin, and I think the fair thing to say is there are a number of different views within the government of Russia on that, and I think, as our discussions go forth, we’ll have a better sense of exactly what their position is.

Let me just say that a lot of these questions you are asking go to the negotiations that are underway now, and therefore there aren’t hard and fast answers to them. That’s the nature of being in this kind of negotiation. I don’t know when you plan to publish this, but if it’s another couple of months from now, it may be that those things have been resolved, that they’ve been announced publicly. It may be that they haven’t been resolved. I just don’t know. I’m just trying to let you know that, when you are in medias res like we are here, it’s just not possible to give necessarily definitive answers to some of these points.

ACT: As you stated, the START agreements did not call for the destruction of warheads, and the administration has said that a number of times. But those treaties called for the destruction of the missiles and the bombers. Is the administration planning on destroying the delivery vehicles that carried the warheads?

Bolton: Well, it’s already part of the Department of Defense’s plans, and it was discussed again in the nuclear posture review, for example, to download four Trident submarines and to phase the Peacekeeper missiles out of operation. What would happen over the course of the life of the nuclear posture review with respect to other platforms would depend on circumstances, but the key—and one of the main differences between this nuclear posture review and prior strategic frameworks—was the focus on operationally deployed warheads, and that’s why this review came to the conclusion it did at the level that it did.

ACT: When outlining the framework for START III in March 1997, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed that the two sides would explore measures relating to “tactical nuclear systems.” Does the Bush administration intend to try and reach an agreement with Russia on tactical nukes?

Bolton: I think we’re certainly willing to discuss tactical nukes with them. It’s a different subject from the strategic subject, and I don’t anticipate that in the run-up to the May summit, we will be looking for an agreement on that issue. But we have raised this issue with them periodically over the past year, and I’m sure we’ll continue to discuss it with them.

ACT: Is it a high priority for this administration?

Bolton: Well, it’s a different circumstance. Our first priority is missile defense, which we have now resolved satisfactorily. The second priority is going to be discussions about the offensive warheads, which we are now engaged in. The next priority is the discussion of Russian proliferation behavior, which we have also raised with them. But the issue of tactical nuclear weapons is obviously still out there.

ACT: In the nuclear posture review, the administration said that we’re not sizing our nuclear force relative to the Russians’, but aside from a prompt counterforce strategy aimed at Russia, what contingency does the administration expect that could require 1,700-2,200 deployed strategic warheads?

Bolton: I think there are a lot of contingencies that are inherent in the planning that underlies the nuclear posture review. I’m not going to get into specifics because that still remains classified, but the issue has never been one just of bean-counting—of how many warheads there are or whether they’re operationally deployed or in the response force. The overall question is whether we think we’ve got a deterrent capability that’s robust enough to prevent a first use against us and also that we’ve got an adequately sized force in the event there’s a need to use it.

ACT: I guess what confuses me is, if we’re not sizing our force specifically relative to the size of the Russian force, what could we possibly aim 1,700-2,200 warheads at?

Bolton: Well, I think it’s in the contingency that you would need to have that number of warheads for the targets that we think would be important. This is not a case where there’s just an abstract decision to pick a certain number, and a lot of planning went in to deciding what the range of operationally deployed warheads would be. That is obviously still very highly classified, and I think what we can say is that we think the numbers that were arrived at were adequate for our defensive purposes, consistent with the president’s stated objective of having the lowest number of warheads possible consistent with that objective.

ACT: Can you give a sense of what specific contingencies require us to keep a responsive force of several thousand warheads that could be reconstituted within weeks, months, or years?

Bolton: Uncertainty. Uncertainty about the world. Uncertainty about the geostrategic circumstances that we might face due to threats that we can’t foresee. I think central to this thinking in the nuclear posture review is the need—while we bring the operationally deployed numbers of warheads down—is the need to retain flexibility in the event that the international context that we live in changes. There is a whole series of other things in the nuclear posture review, in addition to warhead levels, that are also important, such as fixing the deteriorating nuclear infrastructure, making sure that we’ve got scientific and other capabilities to be able to test within a period of 18 months if there is a need to do so. We’re in a very different position from the Russians, who still have a huge nuclear infrastructure left over from the Cold War, and the need to have that kind of assurance is very real, especially if you come down to relatively low numbers of operationally deployed warheads.

ACT: Is one of the unforeseen possibilities—one of the geostrategic contingencies that we are preparing for—a resurgent Russia, a Russia with whom our relations are not as positive as they are now?

Bolton: It’s not a question of preparing for it. It’s a question of acknowledging that the world today is likely to be different from the world 10 years from now and that there are a whole range of uncertainties that are out there that you can’t even necessarily put a particular probability on. But the risk of renewed threat to us from countries that might have nuclear warheads is obviously one of those contingencies. Hopefully, as time goes by, we will see the theoretical size of the response force and even the range of operationally deployed warheads go down. But there’s nothing inevitable in life, and I think that’s what is inherent in the planning assumption.

ACT: There are some analysts who are concerned about a resurgent Russia that could even be overtly hostile to the United States in the future. Given that nothing is inevitable and that we don’t know what to expect from the future, doesn’t it make some sense to try to lock in progress in the U.S.-Russian relationship now by making cuts to our warhead levels as difficult to reverse as possible?

Bolton: I think that is exactly what we’re doing in terms of the president’s decision to take down our number of operationally deployed warheads. But you can’t lock in something if there’s a dramatic political change in another country. And I think it’s that degree of realism that informs our overall approach to the offensive weapons question.

ACT: Wouldn’t it be beneficial to lock in Russia at a lower number so—

Bolton: You’re not going to lock them in if there is a substantial political change. In other words, locking them in—in every one of these treaties there’s a supreme national interest clause that allows somebody to withdraw. We just invoked it to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. You don’t lock anybody in forever as long as there is a withdrawal clause. It is the flexibility to deal with something that we can’t contemplate now that we think is important.

ACT: In 1995—

Bolton: And you disagree with that? I’m just curious. The “lock in” notion seems to me to require treaties—under the theory as I understand what you are saying—to require treaties that don’t have withdrawal clauses. Otherwise, you are not locked in. And then, let me just say, if somebody violates the treaty, what are you going to do? You going to sue them? Let’s be clear about what “lock in” means, and I don’t think the treaty itself, even without a withdrawal clause, is going to lock them in because there is no court you can go to get specific performances.

ACT: I think the question was going to the idea that, if relations do sour and if there is a crisis situation, that a treaty—even if it is possible to withdraw from it within six months or whatever—provides a time frame and a period of stability that would help the United States and Russia, or whatever country, work out their differences before having to respond by building up their deployed warhead levels.

Bolton: I think if there were substantial change in the international environment that would cause us to be concerned about what our offensive warhead level was, it wouldn’t be something that could be worked out in six months. What we’re looking at are big changes over long periods of time. It could go in the other direction as well. It could result in substantially closer, warmer relations with a number of countries, where we could kind of play the operationally deployed number of warheads going down too. The point is not to be precluded, on our part, from relatively rapid change if our security circumstances warrant that kind of change.

ACT: In 1995, Secretary of State Warren Christopher reaffirmed U.S. negative security assurances, which—and I’m going to paraphrase here—say that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-weapon state unless that state attacks the United States or its allies in association with a nuclear-weapon state. Is that the policy of this administration as well?

Bolton: I don’t think we’re of the view that this kind of approach is necessarily the most productive. What we’ve tried to say is that we’re looking at changing the overall way we view strategic issues, and a large part of that is embodied in the outcome of the nuclear posture review. It’s certainly reflected in the ongoing strategic discussions that we’ve had with the Russians and reflected in the discussions we’ve had with a number of other countries as well. So, I just don’t think that our emphasis is on the rhetorical. Our emphasis is on the actual change in our military posture.

ACT: So, right now, the Bush administration would not make a commitment to non-nuclear-weapon states under the circumstances I outlined, that it would not use nuclear weapons—

Bolton: I don’t think we have any intention of using nuclear weapons in circumstances that I can foresee in the days ahead of us. The point is that the kind of rhetorical approach that you are describing doesn’t seem to me to be terribly helpful in analyzing what our security needs may be in the real world, and what we are doing instead of chitchatting is making changes in our force structures, that we’re making in a very transparent fashion. We’ve briefed the Russians, friends, and allies as well about the nuclear posture review, and we’ll let our actions speak.

ACT: Aren’t those commitments also codified in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT]?

Editor's Note:

In this exchange, ACT made a mistake, and Undersecretary Bolton correctly pointed out that in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) the nuclear-weapon states did not commit themselves to refrain from using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states. However, as the follow-up question indicates, the United States made a pledge not to use nuclear weapons, known as a negative security assurance, in the context of the NPT in 1995—a pledge further formalized in UN Security Council Resolution 984.

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance first articulated U.S. negative security assurances in 1978. The United States made a similar pledge in 1995, prior to the NPT review and extension conference, to shore up the non-nuclear-weapon states’ willingness to extend the treaty indefinitely. Secretary of State Christopher said, “The United States reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a State towards which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State.”

That pledge—and similar pledges made at the time by Britain, China, France, and Russia—were then noted in Security Council Resolution 984, which was approved in April 1995. In a 1998 speech to the Arms Control Association, Robert Bell, then-senior director for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council, said that negative security assurances had been “codified” by the Security Council resolution, suggesting that the United States considered its pledge legally binding. Bell also said that the negative security assurances had been “reaffirmed” in 1997 by a presidential decision directive (PDD-60) on U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

Following the public release of this interview, the Bush administration reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to negative security assurances, saying that no change has been made in U.S. policy. For more information, see news article on p. 23.

Bolton: In the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty? Suppose we can get the treaty out and look. What section did you have in mind?

ACT: That is a good question. I don’t have a particular section in mind.

Bolton: Being a lawyer, I like to read sections.

ACT: I can appreciate that.

Bolton: [Examining the treaty] This is about nonproliferation in the sense of technology transfers, and all that sort of thing. I’m not sure really where it goes to the question you’re raising about use.

ACT: Well, part of the 1995 extension and review conference—that was the context within which Secretary of State Christopher made his statement, or reiterated or reaffirmed the U.S. position. So, essentially, I think other members of the NPT look at that as an important commitment by the U.S. as far as the NPT is concerned. So, are you in a sense backing away from that? Does that suggest we are not taking our commitments to the NPT seriously?

Bolton: We take our obligations under the NPT very seriously. In terms of what was said at the 1995 and 2000 NPT review conferences, we’re reviewing all of that in the context of our preparation for the 2005 NPT review conference. And I think those statements, as I said before, were made in a very different geostrategic context, so I think it’s important for us to review them looking toward the 2005 review conference.

ACT: On a more theoretical level, what role do nuclear weapons play generally in preserving U.S. security in the post-Cold War world? Is it strictly a retaliatory deterrent capability, or do we also need a war-fighting capability?

Bolton: Well, I think the nuclear arsenal is central to our ongoing security needs. Hopefully, it will never be used in anything other than a deterrent capability. But in the God-awful circumstance where deterrence failed, where some regime is just not susceptible to deterrent theories, we would certainly want an arsenal that was capable of being used and being used with effectiveness. That has been, I think, the view of every administration since the development of nuclear weapons.

ACT: So the Bush administration’s nuclear doctrine is relatively similar to the doctrine of the administrations that have preceded it?

Bolton: Well, that is a big statement. The whole point of the nuclear posture review was to look at the changed circumstances in the world and come up with a new force structure, new levels of operationally deployed warheads, and new levels of looking at the role of the nuclear arsenal in our overall defense posture. And I think that’s what we have done. Obviously, circumstances change, the conditions under which the deterrent is kept up change, and that’s what we’re trying to implement.

ACT: What I’m getting at is, the administration has suggested that it has a new way of thinking about strategy and a new way of thinking about nuclear weapons. But a deployed level of 1,700-2,200 strategic warheads suggests a counterforce strategy, which is a strategy—as you say—that has been in place for decades now. So, I’m not quite clear what the difference is.

Bolton: Well, it’s a difference of going from just under 6,000 operationally deployed warheads to 1,700-2,200. I think that is a fairly dramatic reduction, which if we are able to achieve would be something, I think, overall very positive for the international environment.

ACT: Is that not still mutual assured destruction?

Bolton: To the extent that there’s a potential opponent that has its own large nuclear capability. The whole point of deterrence theory is not to get to the actual use of the weapons, and it may be that that’s what we will face; it may not be. I can assure you that in terms of the review, people were not sitting around having theoretical discussions. They were trying to determine what the lowest number of warheads would be consistent with our overall security. And this is where they came out.

ACT: You’re emphasizing “new,” you’re also emphasizing that we are going from 6,000 down to about 2,200 to 1,700. But back in 1997, there was a commitment by Presidents Yeltsin and Clinton to go down to about 2,000-2,500. What is radically new about going from 2,000-2,500 down to 1,700-2,200?

Bolton: I think the question is not simply a bean-counting exercise of how many numbers you are talking about. The nuclear posture review looks at a completely different role for nuclear weapons in our overall defensive posture, and, although the number of warheads sounds the same, I think it is actually different. I think operationally deployed is probably different from the kinds of counting rules they were talking about—it reflects a different approach to the nuclear triad and to the new triad that the nuclear posture review refers to.

ACT: Would the United States consider using nuclear weapons in retaliation for a chemical or biological attack?

Bolton: I think that’s a hypothetical question that really doesn’t serve much purpose in getting into. In the Persian Gulf crisis, the administration had already decided not to use nuclear weapons if Iraq in fact used chemical or biological weapons after the actual hostilities broke out. But it was decided not to tell [Iraqi Foreign Minister] Tariq Aziz that in Geneva—to let him worry about what the consequences might be. And I think there was a good reason to take that approach then. I think it’s a good reason to leave it like that now.

ACT: In an interview with Arms Control Today, published in September 2000, then-candidate George W. Bush declared that he would “offer Russia the necessary amendments to the ABM Treaty so as to make our deployment of effective missile defenses consistent with the treaty.” But Russian officials, including President Putin, claim the United States never offered amendments to the treaty before President Bush announced the U.S. intention to withdraw on December 13. Did the U.S. propose specific amendments to the ABM Treaty?

Bolton: We proposed a variety of different ways to deal with the threat of ballistic missiles held by rogue states and the possibility of accidental launch to see if there wasn’t some way that we could reach agreement with the Russians that would be mutually acceptable to move beyond the ABM Treaty as written. And we had extensive discussions with them. I think in the period after the first meeting between the two presidents at Ljubljana that Secretary Powell and Foreign Minister Ivanov met something like 16 or 17 times, and God only knows how many telephone calls they had. We had many, many other meetings at many other levels. I went to Moscow seven times in the fall of 2001 to meet with a variety of Russian officials, and my counterparts at the Department of Defense did the same. The Russians came here. We had a very intense diplomatic effort to see if there wasn’t some mutually satisfactory way to get out of the constraints of the ABM Treaty and allow us to build a limited national missile defense, which is what candidate Bush had committed to. Ultimately, that didn’t work out satisfactorily, but we were as creative as we could be in trying to offer the Russians a whole different series of measures that we hoped we could have reached agreement on. As I say, unfortunately we were not able to do it, and we had to announce our withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, which now allows us, frankly, to go on and focus on other issues like codifying our agreements on reduced offensive weapons.

ACT: So, you are saying that the United States never proposed actual amendments to the ABM Treaty?

Bolton: What we said was we’re not going to get into a line-in, line-out amendment of the ABM Treaty because, in fact, that would have been impossible. The treaty is very well written. It was intended to prevent the creation of a national missile defense system, and that’s exactly what it did and that’s exactly what we wanted to do. But we discussed a whole range of other possible approaches to the problem with the Russians that, for their own reasons—no doubt good and sufficient to them—they declined to follow.

ACT: Excuse me, sir. I don’t mean to press this, but I just want to make sure I’m perfectly clear. So, the answer is that we did not offer Russia specific amendments to the ABM Treaty, is that right?

Bolton: We didn’t do line-in, line-out amendments. We talked about ways possibly with a new treaty that would replace it, or other ways that would give us what we wanted in terms of freedom from the constraints of the ABM Treaty as written. And I think the Russians understood exactly what we were talking about. They have a very sophisticated knowledge of the subject and the treaty, and it was not something they were prepared to agree to—despite, I think, good-faith efforts on their part and on ours—to see if there wasn’t a mutually acceptable way to get beyond the ‘72 treaty.

ACT: Very briefly, could you describe some of those ways you discussed? There was a column, I believe by Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post, a couple of weeks ago where he mentioned that there was an offer to extend the treaty—extend the U.S. remaining within the treaty for a period of two years or so—but by what mechanism would we have done that? What kind of options were we discussing?

Bolton: Well, I think there were a whole range of options that we were discussing that extended over a six-month period. There were a lot of meetings and a lot of discussions looking—and the nature of those discussions is throwing out ideas and seeing who is responding to them. It’s not unusual in those kinds of consultations. So, there were a lot of things we wanted to do in terms of testing and development, perhaps ultimately deployment, of missile defense systems that were not fixed, land-based systems, which is the only provision in the—the only kind of ABM system that the treaty allows. So, it would have required giving us the freedom and flexibility to do that, and, as I say, ultimately the Russians decided that they couldn’t live with that.

ACT: The administration has said that it wants to pursue a limited missile defense designed against accidental launches and rogue states and terrorist ballistic missile attacks. Would the administration consider a new agreement with Russia that would codify limits on missile defenses?

Bolton: I don’t see, at this point, that there is any need or any prospect for an agreement on missile defenses. I think we’ve said from the beginning that we want to be free from the constraints of the ABM Treaty and be able to develop, across the range of possible architectures, a limited national missile defense system, and I think, now that we have given notice pursuant to the ABM Treaty of our withdrawal, that’s what we are going to do once the treaty ceases to exist.

ACT: Are we considering—within the broad framework or the strategic framework, are we considering transparency agreements and confidence-building measures with Russia on missile defenses?

Bolton: Sure. We are considering a lot of—we’ve had discussions. In fact, we are having more discussions next week in Moscow on the kinds of transparency and possibly even joint work that we can do with the Russians, whether bilaterally or in the context of Russia-NATO relations or others on missile defense, because one of the points we made to them is that, in many respects, we face the same threats from rogue states and that if anything, given the geographic proximity of some of these rogue states, it is the Russians who face the greater threat. So, our offer to work with them and to continue to tell them what our activities are, as I say, even to have them join in some of those activities, remains on the table.

ACT: Are we looking at options of cooperating with the Russians on missile defenses?

Bolton: Sure. I think in some respects, particularly with what used to be called theater missile defense, I think there are a number of areas where we can work with them productively. Those are being explored, and hopefully we will continue them. I think one of the useful outcomes of the discussions we’ve had so far is the prospect for greater military-to-military conversations, so that they can each get to know what the other does a little bit better and find joint projects that they might, on both sides, find useful to pursue.

ACT: In the past weeks and couple of months, the administration has made a point of what has been called “naming names”—pointing out instances of specific states that it feels are violating international norms and agreements, culminating obviously in President Bush’s statement in the State of the Union that Iran, Iraq, and North Korea constitute an “axis of evil.” Can you explain to me how naming names furthers U.S. security interests, and what comes next now that we have named names?

Bolton: I think the most important thing, politically, behind naming names is to focus people’s attention on noncompliance with existing agreements. If countries are willing to sign agreements and then lie about their performance, they’re perfectly willing, it seems to me, to sign other agreements and lie about their performance under those. So that by isolating and putting a spotlight on the countries that are clearly violating their existing obligations, I think it focuses people’s attention on what the real problem is. When you have a large multilateral agreement the overwhelming number of states are complying with but a small number are not, the problem is the noncompliers. The problem isn’t everybody else. This is not therefore an agreement really of equals. It’s an agreement that contains people who are abiding by their word and people who are not. And focusing on those who are not seems to me to be the correct thing to do for those who are in compliance with their word. What comes next depends on the behavior of the noncompliant states. Some of them may conclude that it is just not worth the cost to them politically, and perhaps economically, of lying about their international behavior, but part of the answer to the question depends on the noncompliant states. In effect, they have the key to their political jail cell in their hand.

ACT: In discussing noncompliance and naming names, the United States contends that a number of states are pursuing or possess chemical weapons capabilities, including at least one country that is a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC]. Why hasn’t the United States called for a challenge inspection under the Chemical Weapons Convention to help resolve its concerns?

Bolton: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] formally, which is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention, is a very troubled organization for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is its management. There are a whole host of issues raised by challenge inspections that require our attention and require also an effectively operating OPCW. We are thinking about the possibility of asking for challenge inspections, but our focus right now is on the management questions at the OPCW because, if those questions are not resolved, the organization itself will not be able to function effectively, and the whole CWC will not be able to function effectively. So, that’s what our focus is, and I think that until we resolve that—I don’t want to say this absolutely—but until we resolve these management issues, I think it would be risky to put a big burden on the OPCW, which it may fail.

ACT: How are we proposing to resolve these management issues?

Bolton: We are having ongoing diplomatic discussions, and I wouldn’t want to go any further than that at this point.

ACT: Coming back to countries that we feel are not in compliance with their obligations, Clinton administration officials have said that in December 2000 they were close to finalizing a deal with North Korea—

Bolton: It’s not a deal that we would have agreed to.

ACT: It’s not a deal you would have agreed to?

Bolton: And I don’t think they were close anyway.

ACT: Can you explain, assuming for a second that there was a deal to stem North Korea’s ballistic missile production and/or exports, can you explain why that wouldn’t have been a deal that the United States—

Bolton: It was grossly inadequate in its verification and compliance provisions, along the lines they were talking about. My reading of the record is they were still quite far away from agreement. I hope that’s true, because if they really thought they were close to agreement, as I say, in the absence of any kind of effective verification and compliance, it would have been an extraordinarily risky deal for the United States.

ACT: Other than a diplomatic effort like that one, what options do we have for getting rid of the North Korean ballistic missile threat, such as it is?

Bolton: Well, I think the ball is in North Korea’s court. The president said last summer that we were prepared to talk to them. They never picked up the phone. I’m not sure they have any inclination to pick up the phone. In any event, we’ve looked at their active biological weapons program, their violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This really is a state that, as the president said, is one of the most dangerous regimes on the planet, having some of the world’s most destructive weapons. The president said very clearly in the State of the Union that we weren’t going to sit by while this threat remains. He is going to South Korea next week and let’s just hope the North Koreans have read the State of the Union message and act accordingly.

Interviewed by J. Peter Scoblic and Wade Boese

Deadlocked and Waiting At the UN Conference on Disarmament

December 2000

Interviewed by Wade Boese

Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr. has been the U.S. permanent representative to the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) since October 1997. The CD, which convenes in Geneva for several weeks three times each year, has met since 1979 as a forum for multilateral disarmament negotiations.

This year, the 66-member conference successfully passed its agenda—consisting of broad categories that are open for discussion—but was unable to reach the consensus needed to establish a program of work, which is composed of mandates outlining discussions or negotiations on selected topics. For example, the work program could establish an ad hoc committee to conduct formal negotiations on an issue, with the goal of eventually concluding a treaty, or to hold discussions on a topic, aiming simply to explore members' views. Without a work program, the CD cannot formally negotiate or discuss any agenda item.

After completing negotiations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, the conference was unable to reach consensus on a work program in three of the next four years. In 1998, the conference did agree to a work program and began negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) in August, but it made little headway before its negotiating session ended September 9. Though all CD members currently support FMCT negotiations, a few have insisted that those negotiations can only take place if negotiations are also conducted on nuclear disarmament and prevention of an arms race in outer space, a linkage that the United States has opposed.

Prior to heading the U.S. delegation to the CD, Ambassador Grey led the State Department UN Reform Team. He was counselor for political affairs for the U.S. Mission to the UN from 1989 to 1994 and acting deputy director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1981 to 1983. Before holding these posts, Ambassador Grey was the Political-Military Affairs Bureau's deputy office director in the Office of Military Sales and Assistance and the executive assistant to the undersecretary of state for political affairs. He joined the Foreign Service in 1960.

On November 27, Arms Control Association Senior Research Analyst Wade Boese spoke with Ambassador Grey about the causes of the current stalemate at the CD and the possibility of progress. The following is an edited version of their conversation.

 

Arms Control Today: When I interviewed you two years ago (see ACT, October 1998), you expressed cautious optimism that the Conference on Disarmament would begin negotiations in 1999, specifically on a fissile material cutoff treaty. But now, after CD sessions in 1999 and 2000, the conference is still deadlocked and has not agreed on a work program in the last two years. Why?

Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr.: First, the CD actually did get started for a brief couple of weeks on an FMCT a couple years back, in August 1998. That decision to go forward was heavily influenced by international concern over the nuclear weapons tests that India and Pakistan carried out that spring. But since everyone knew that the CD could not really achieve anything in the few weeks left in that year's session, some countries probably went along with the decision to establish an ad hoc committee as a show of their "good faith." In other words, I doubt that all 66 members of the CD really had a strong commitment to FMCT negotiations as an independent endeavor for its own sake.

In January 1999, the situation turned out to be considerably more complicated. Basically, there were two issues that blocked work that year and in 2000. The first one, which I think we may now have worked out, was the interest of the non-aligned countries to get something started on nuclear disarmament in the conference. As we worked with them, it became clear that there was a possible way to accommodate their interests, and we have come up with a proposal to discuss nuclear disarmament in the conference—various aspects of it—but we would not negotiate on it. This seems to be where the consensus has emerged on that issue, and therefore I think that hurdle really is behind us. We have ways to work out the exact wording for discussions on nuclear disarmament, in return for getting FMCT negotiations.

The next issue that arose and became more acute was the Chinese insistence that they wanted outer space negotiations. It started about 18 months ago when the Chinese declared that, if there were to be FMCT negotiations, there had to be a negotiation on banning weapons in outer space. This was a new demand that really came up about the time of NATO's military intervention in Kosovo in March 1999. The Chinese have stuck rigidly to that position ever since. China is still insisting that, if we are to have a negotiation on an FMCT, the conference must also have negotiations on banning arms in outer space along with the negotiations on nuclear disarmament in the CD, which were requested by the non-aligned states. Now I don't think that is a real Chinese position, but that is what they are saying in public.

ACT: Why do you say that's not a "real" Chinese position?

Grey: I don't think China is ever going to agree to negotiations in the CD on nuclear disarmament. I think they are being a little disingenuous on that issue, for they have never shown any willingness to talk about their own nuclear arsenal. But they really do want, and are insisting on, something on outer space.

ACT: Why does the United States not support negotiations on the prevention of an arms race in outer space?

Grey: The United States does not feel there is an arms race in outer space. We think the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans weapons of mass destruction in outer space, is adequate and sufficient. In addition, the treaty permits the use of celestial bodies only for peaceful purposes and prohibits their use for military establishments or maneuvers or for testing any type of weapons.

Nevertheless, we are prepared to discuss outer space in the context of a work program in the conference.

We are not prepared to negotiate a treaty banning outer space weapons at this stage of the game. Our position is very simple. We see no need to negotiate on outer space, but we are willing to talk about outer space in an ad hoc committee. We are also willing to talk about nuclear disarmament. In return, we expect to get FMCT negotiations started.

This package is basically what successive CD presidents have proposed, beginning with the Algerian presidency of the conference in July 1999. It was followed up by the Belgian president and most recently by the Brazilian president this August. That is the package where consensus seems to be emerging. We would have ad hoc committees on outer space and nuclear disarmament to talk about what we could conceivably accomplish. In return, the CD would have active negotiations on an FMCT. With the exception of the Chinese, Pakistanis, and Russians, everyone is prepared to accept that kind of a package.

ACT: If the United States were to compromise on outer space negotiations, do you think any other countries would oppose the start of formal talks on the subject? In other words, is the United States the principal opponent to such negotiations?

Grey: We are prepared to have ad hoc committees to discuss what perhaps could be achieved or couldn't be achieved on outer space and nuclear disarmament, whatever the case may be, in return for FMCT negotiations. Those are both significant concessions on our part, and that's where the consensus has emerged amongst the conference. A fissile material cutoff treaty is the only thing that people have agreed to over the last several years and is ripe for negotiation at this time. Many countries have commented that other topics are not ripe for negotiations now and that a phase of organized discussions would be needed before any such negotiations could conceivably begin.

ACT: At the conference, you have described the pursuit of negotiations on an arms race in outer space as "unwise and unrealistic." Why?

Grey: The United States does not think that negotiations on outer space is a proposal that makes any sense. There is no arms race in outer space at all. Even if we were to deploy President Clinton's proposed limited national missile defense (NMD) system, which we haven't decided to do, that would not involve putting arms in outer space. So, we are just not prepared to entertain outer space negotiations.

ACT: Some countries have argued that it makes sense to address the issue of outer space before there is an arms race there. What is your response to that?

Grey: It's like saying, let's outlaw new conventional weapons. It's impossible to predict with any clarity what is or what isn't going to be a problem in the future.

ACT: Does President Clinton's September 1 decision not to authorize deployment of the proposed NMD system increase the possibility that countries will be less strident in their pursuit of negotiations on outer space or more willing to compromise?

Grey: It is hard for me to say from the perspective of where I am sitting. All I can say is that you would expect that would be the case. But it certainly has not manifested itself in any changed position of the Chinese, the Russians, or the Pakistanis.

ACT: Russia has said that it supports FMCT negotiations and that it also wants outer space negotiations. Have the Russians, like the Chinese, formally linked the two issues?

Grey: Russia supports the Chinese position and made the linkage here—no agreement on a work program unless it includes outer space negotiations. I would say that's fair as a statement of Russia's bargaining position, although it is clearly unrealistic. But Russia has no interest whatsoever in doing anything with nuclear disarmament.

ACT: What impact, if any, do you think Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to hold an international conference next spring on preventing the weaponization of outer space will have on the work at the conference?

Grey: I don't know, it's very hard to say. I mean, it hasn't been fleshed out and there has not been any formal considered reactions to it by delegations represented in Geneva. The CD is currently in recess, so we will have to see as we get closer to January when the conference resumes what various positions are on that. But, as I said, the reality is that three countries, one of whom called for the outer space negotiations, are blocking action in the CD. So it is hard for me to predict what those three countries are going to do in the near future.

ACT: Does Pakistan also support talks on prevention of an arms race in outer space?

Grey: The Pakistani perspective is basically that they are sympathetic to the Chinese and are absolutely wedded to the Chinese position insisting on negotiations on all three issues.

ACT: You have had a number of exchanges with the Chinese ambassador on negotiating priorities within the CD, and you have consistently talked about the danger of linkage within the CD. How do you respond to the Chinese ambassador's charge that the U.S. insistence to drop "linkage" simply reflects Washington's wish to negotiate only on what it is interested in without addressing the concerns or interests of other CD members?

Grey: Very simple. As I said, with the exception of the Chinese, the Pakistanis, and the Russians, every single member of the CD is prepared to accept a work program tomorrow that we could accept. There would be three ad hoc committees: one discussing nuclear disarmament, one negotiating on an FMCT, and the third one discussing outer space.

ACT: Why is negotiation of an FMCT the top U.S. priority at the CD and what does the United States want to accomplish through it?

Grey: The idea would be to negotiate a treaty that would effectively, and forever, bar the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. That would mean the five nuclear-weapon states of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) [Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States] and the three states that allegedly have nuclear weapons which are not members of the NPT [India, Israel, and Pakistan] would forever cease producing fissile material that they could install in nuclear warheads. This prohibition is a necessary step in the long-term process of nuclear disarmament, and it is the only step in this general field that the CD can negotiate now. We believe the treaty's main focus should be on uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing facilities, and that is where it would have real teeth.

ACT: In the final document of the 2000 NPT review conference, the NPT parties agreed to the immediate commencement of negotiations on an FMCT, looking for a conclusion of those talks in five years. How realistic is that given the current state of the conference?

Grey: Obviously, if you are working in an environment in which there has to be unanimity on a work program and there are three countries blocking that consensus, it is hard to imagine you are going to get there in five years if you can't start negotiating now.

ACT: You have mentioned this rule of unanimity a couple of times. Do you think that the rule of consensus needs to be addressed so that the conference can operate more effectively? Should unanimity be abandoned as an operating principle of the conference?

Grey: It's been helpful in the past to require unanimity, because a multilateral treaty negotiated in the face of active opposition by key countries could actually end up undermining international peace and security, instead of enhancing it. Yes, the requirement for unanimity blocked progress in 1999 and 2000, after doing the same thing for all but the last month of the 1998 session. But it is unlikely that the rules of procedure will be changed because you need unanimity to change the rules of procedure. Although any scoundrel can hide behind unanimity, on balance the requirement is a good thing to have.

ACT: In one of your speeches at the conference, you stated that in the U.S. view "holding FMCT hostage to negotiations on outer space is simply a poorly disguised effort to block FMCT negotiations altogether." Why would the Chinese want to block FMCT negotiations?

Grey: I can only speculate. Certainly in the back of my mind—and I'm told in the conference that I'm not the only one who has this suspicion—the Chinese reluctance to get going on an FMCT may suggest that they are having second thoughts about it.

ACT: Why would they have second thoughts?

Grey: Well, I can't speak for them. I just think that, if you look at their behavior, it is a legitimate suspicion. They certainly have not done anything as a number of other countries have, including ourselves, in showing any transparency about their fissile material stocks or in terms of showing people what capacity they have to produce fissile material. We have closed down our production facilities and have shown them to outside visitors, including colleagues from Russia and China. The British and French are very transparent. The Russians are relatively transparent. Only the Chinese have not showed any willingness to engage in transparency. In addition, they have repeatedly declined to declare a moratorium on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

ACT: Does your perception reflect the view of U.S. intelligence reports that China is currently modernizing its strategic forces?

Grey: Well, that's on the public record. They are doing that and have been for a number of years.

ACT: Do you think this would impact their position on FMCT negotiations?

Grey: I don't know if it would impact their position on it per se, but clearly they are the only people who are really engaged in an upgrade of that caliber.

ACT: In the past, other countries, such as Egypt and Pakistan, have really pushed the issue of wanting to include fissile stockpiles within an FMCT. Will that issue be raised again if the conference ever decides to begin work on an FMCT?

Grey: It will certainly be raised. But the first step is to halt the present production, freeze it, and then at some point in time address the existing stocks of fissile material, while reducing the stocks of nuclear weapons. The question of fissile material stockpiles will certainly be hammered hard by a number of Middle Eastern countries, most notably Egypt, and clearly the Pakistanis will raise it. They are very interested in addressing existing stocks in India, but not as interested in getting rid of their own.

ACT: Would it be a powerful enough issue that it would block progress on an FMCT?

Grey: How to address stockpiles will certainly be the toughest issue if we get a negotiation started. It's very clear that it will be the most contentious one and will take the longest time to sort out. None of the five recognized nuclear-weapon states support the idea that an FMCT should include obligations related to existing stocks of fissile material.

ACT: If a compromise is reached on the outer space issue, might general nuclear disarmament still prevent consensus on a work program to begin negotiations?

Grey: I don't think so. I think we have got that one. In broad terms, we have an acceptable compromise worked out there. I think the exact wording will be along lines that we could accept, along with most of the other members. The only question mark would be the Russians, and frankly I think, if that was the only thing between the conference getting a work program established, something would be worked out.

ACT: Why do you raise the Russians in particular?

Grey: They are not terribly enthusiastic about doing anything on nuclear disarmament in the conference. They are much more cautious about it than we are. Until you get to the endgame, you can't tell what their ultimate position will be, but clearly the Russians are not enthusiastic about it. Further reductions in nuclear arms have to be negotiated with the United States on a bilateral basis, and it is not clear that anything said in the CD can contribute to that.

ACT: You mentioned that a mandate for discussion on nuclear disarmament was very close, and at the conference you actually used the term "only a few words remaining" to describe how close the CD was to finding a mandate. Could you explain what those few words are?

Grey: No, not really. I want to politely punt on that. We don't have an exact formulation on the table. We have several words, but clearly if you look at the combinations of them there are ways our concerns could be met without giving away the store, and I think there are ways other peoples' concerns could be met. There are a number of ways one could get around the wording problem. Until we have a final paragraph or piece of paper with the words written down, I can't tell you which words should come in and which ones should go out. We are literally within five or six words of an agreement that satisfies everyone.

ACT: This will only be limited to discussions, not negotiations, correct?

Grey: That is exactly right.

ACT: At the CD, it appears you spend a lot of time defending the U.S. record on nuclear disarmament. Do you think the rest of the world is dissatisfied with the pace of U.S. and Russian progress in reducing their arsenals? And do you feel their dissatisfaction is warranted?

Grey: I think that one of the things we have done here is to try to make the record of what we have accomplished clearer, because this is a little bit like an ivory tower, if you will, in terms of what is really going on. So we have had a senior official from the Defense Department come over and brief on what we have been accomplishing both in NATO and in our bilaterals with the Russians. We have some Department of Energy and Department of State officials come over from time to time discussing the nuclear disposal program and the various ongoing programs the Department of Energy has with the Russians, because these people in the CD need to know what's happening. It's not that we are defending the record; it's that we are trying to make them aware that there is a record and there are things actually happening while they sit around on their duffs over here and do nothing.

ACT: In the final document of the 2000 NPT review conference, the nuclear-weapon states agreed to an "unequivocal undertaking" to accomplish "total elimination" of their arsenals. How will this pledge impact the work of the conference?

Grey: It certainly was warmly received by a number of countries, including the so-called New Agenda Coalition [Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden]. For the first time this year, we were also able to support their resolution on disarmament in the UN General Assembly. That is a considerable step forward, I think, and it reflected the fact that their resolution was largely based on wording adopted by the NPT review conference.

ACT: Why didn't the success of the NPT review conference have an immediate impact on or carry over to the Conference on Disarmament this year?

Grey: I think that's very simple. The question of the ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty and missile defense was not an issue at the NPT review conference because the NPT does not deal with that. It is an issue at the CD because the Chinese have made it an issue. There is something in play here that was not in play at the NPT review conference.

ACT: Do you think the Chinese have a legitimate right to raise the question of the ABM Treaty at the Conference on Disarmament, or do you think because it is a bilateral treaty that they should not be able to do so?

Grey: Well, you know this is a place that operates on unanimity. Clearly, making linkages between subject A and subject B, whatever they are, is not helpful in the context of the conference's work. The ABM Treaty is a bilateral treaty; our position is that we can work this out with the Russians, we don't need any help. Making linkages at the CD is not going to move the process forward.

Traditionally, we used to decide issues on their own individual merits, not on whether someone thinks that something else should be in play at the same time. The latter is an absolutely splendid way to guarantee gridlock. I think we should negotiate on the merit of each individual proposal. If you look at the merits, everybody agrees we should be negotiating an FMCT.

ACT: What are the chances for starting any negotiations or for passing a work program while the United States is pursuing an NMD system? Will this be a continuing roadblock to work at the conference?

Grey: Well, I can say that, out of the 66 conference members, 63 of them are prepared to go ahead on the basis of the proposal I described, which has been put out by successive presidents; three are not. The conference works by unanimity. Are these three countries going to change their minds any time soon? I can't predict that.

ACT: What impact, if any, do you feel the Senate's October 1999 rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT] had on the conference?

Grey: Surprisingly little. I say that because I thought it would have. But the way the executive branch reacted to the Senate's rejection of the CTBT—its strong statements that it is continuing to work on it, the fact that it has been working the issue, and the fact that U.S. representatives continued to show a firm commitment to the CTBT in international bodies—convinced other countries that the United States is serious and sincere. People were disappointed, but they understood what happened and are convinced that over time this is going to change. Fortunately, at least in the Senate, it looks like we are going to have a better environment for some of these issues in the future than we've had in the past.

ACT: What if the next administration is not as active in supporting the CTBT?

Grey: If the position of the executive branch changed in a way that weakened U.S. support for the CTBT, it would obviously have a negative impact on all sorts of arms control.

ACT: The international community seems to be increasing its attention on the issue of small arms. Do you think the CD will eventually play a role on this issue or negotiate a treaty on small arms?

Grey: There is certainly an interest in looking at small arms, but I do not think there is any clear view that it ultimately should be something that is negotiated in the CD. This is not a subject we have spent a lot of time on here, but it seems to me that there are a number of people who are less than enthusiastic about doing it in the CD, most notably the Chinese. There also seems to be a tendency on the part of some that maybe you should deal with small arms at a regional level first and see what needs to be worked out later at the international level.

ACT: Wouldn't the CD, though, as the only multilateral forum for disarmament, be the ideal place for such a treaty to be negotiated?

Grey: It depends on how you decide to deal with the problem. If you decide to deal with it through regional regimes like nuclear-weapon-free zones, that is one way you can do it. The other alternative would be to do it as an international regime. But I don't think people have gotten far enough along in their analyses, studies, and discussions to come down firmly one way or another. There are many ways you can skin this particular cat.

ACT: What impact do you think the expanding lead of the United States in advanced conventional weaponry, precision-guided munitions, electronic warfare, unmanned aerial vehicles, and so forth has on the future of arms control, non-proliferation, and disarmament in general? How are other countries going to perceive and react to our growing lead in advanced conventional weapon technologies?

Grey: That's a complicated question. One of the concerns people have—and I think it's a real concern—is that conventional capabilities are expanding at a staggering rate. This was clear from the outcome in Kosovo and from the fact that this intervention went on without NATO sustaining any casualties. There is an indirect link to missile defense and other questions related to nuclear weapons—at least in the sense that countries may have to reflect whether they can manage two major efforts at the same time. If I try to think about the situation from China's perspective, perhaps the Chinese are wondering whether they can afford all this and can actually bring it off. Another question is whether European countries could work out an appropriate approach to missile defense while they are also developing a conventional army that really is ready to intervene in trouble spots. The Europeans have striking needs in regard to conventional weapons; just look at the astronomical cost of this stuff. Can they meet all these challenges at once?

One possible reaction is to try to outlaw potential weapons or techniques before they've even been invented or at least before they've been adapted for military purposes. For example, the Russians have been pursuing a First Committee initiative on information technology, and their underlying goal seems to be some kind of pledge not to interfere with each others' computers or other facilities involved in the flow of information. In other words, let's outlaw something before we figure out what it is. But outlawing certain kinds of computers or computer techniques is like trying to outlaw telephones. Like telephones, computers have many different functions, and the ways they are used and operated keep changing before our eyes.

Given the complex uncertainties that relate to various defense needs, plus the large amounts of money that may be involved, people come out of the woodwork and say, "Well, let's have a deal not to invent anything." It isn't going to work.

ACT: You mentioned Kosovo again. How much of the Chinese position or advocacy of negotiations on outer space reflects not only their concern about national missile defense, but also their concern about the ability to gather information and how this is used by the United States to operate with superiority in the conventional warfare arena?

Grey: Let me turn it around and say that the Chinese are concerned because one, NATO is expanding to the east and two, because the Kosovo intervention took place without what they thought was the proper authorization of the UN Security Council. If you take those two elements together, plus the fact that the United States has a huge lead in advanced technological capabilities related to a wide range of weapons systems, they believe they have cause for serious concern. They are not worried about Kosovo per se; they are worried about the possibility that the United States might wish to intervene in an area they consider much more important to their security than Kosovo.

ACT: Such as Taiwan?

Grey: Well, or Tibet or whatever. That's what they are afraid of. They thought their seat on the Security Council immunized them from any involvement in their domestic affairs. In a world that's seen the Nuremberg trials and a few other things, the fact of the matter is the world community does take an interest in things that occur in your backyard or in what you say is your backyard. And that's the reality they haven't quite adjusted to.

ACT: Do you think they are using the CD and outer space as another means to guard against possible intervention in their sovereignty?

Grey: They are against "hegemony."

ACT: Do you think the deadlock in the CD reflects a declining interest in arms control and disarmament in general, or is it just because of the specific issues that have arisen at this time?

Grey: I don't think it reflects a declining interest. I think it reflects a frustration with what you described correctly as a technologically expanding, highly innovative international environment where people get concerned about their ability to keep up.

ACT: Are you still optimistic about the future work at the conference?

Grey: Much less optimistic now than I was two years ago.

ACT: So you don't see any quick conclusion or compromise that will help us get around this issue of outer space?

Grey: I don't see anything further the United States can or should do. We have made some significant concessions already. We've agreed to set up an ad hoc committee to discuss outer space in the CD. That is very significant. We have agreed to set up an ad hoc committee to discuss nuclear disarmament in the CD. That is pretty substantial. I don't see us making any new moves.

The reality is that we are going to have a new administration. When the dust settles, there will be a settling-in period that will be somewhat more hectic than most. I would expect the Russians and the Chinese and others will wait and see how a new administration settles in and what initiatives it is prepared to take in the national security area and with regard to arms control. Other countries are also going to assess where the new administration is coming from and what its objectives are, before they decide to play or not in the CD and elsewhere.

ACT: So we shouldn't expect any quick progress next year at the CD?

Grey: I wouldn't expect any white smoke coming out of the chimney for a while, no.

ACT: What do you think must take place for the CD to be productive next year?

Grey: The Chinese have to change their minds.

ACT: Will it only be the Chinese, or do you think the Russians and the Pakistanis would then step forward and say, "No you are not going to hold any negotiations unless you agree to outer space negotiations?"

Grey: I think if the Chinese change their minds it changes the atmosphere. They created the problem; they have to solve it.

Interviewed by Wade Boese

Anticipating Inspections: UNMOVIC Readies Itself for Iraq

 

In January, Hans Blix was appointed executive chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), an inspectorate established to replace the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and assume its task of verifying that Iraq was disarmed of all weapons of mass destruction and missiles with a range exceeding 150 kilometers.

Following UNSCOM's withdrawal from Iraq in December 1998 and amid increasing pressure to ease the sanctions that had been in place since the end of the Persian Gulf War, the UN Security Council heatedly debated how to address Baghdad's continuing noncompliance with its disarmament obligations, originally laid out in Resolution 687. In March 1999, a UN panel headed by Brazilian Ambassador Celso Amorim released a report concluding that while the bulk of Iraq's weapons programs had been dismantled by UNSCOM, a "reinforced, ongoing monitoring and verification" system was needed.

In December 1999, Security Council Resolution 1284 set up UNMOVIC and charged it with monitoring Iraq's weapons programs and identifying any "key remaining disarmament tasks." It stipulated that once Baghdad had "cooperated in all respects," sanctions would be suspended. The resolution also created the College of Commissioners, a group of diplomats and disarmament experts charged with providing "professional advice and guidance" to the executive chairman.

UNMOVIC began operation in March. To date, it has submitted an organizational plan to the Security Council, which was approved, and has met once with the College of Commissioners. The first training session for UNMOVIC staff is set to begin in New York in July, but Iraq has so far given no sign that it will allow inspectors into the country.

Born in Uppsala, Sweden, Blix pursued a distinguished career in the Swedish foreign service, culminating in his appointment as minister of foreign affairs in 1978. In 1981, he assumed the post of director-general at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where he served until 1997. Under Blix's leadership, the IAEA, working with UNSCOM, played a crucial role in dismantling and monitoring Iraq's nuclear weapons program after the Persian Gulf War.

On June 12, Arms Control Today Editor J. Peter Scoblic and Research Analyst Matthew Rice met with Blix at UN headquarters in New York to discuss UNMOVIC's mandate, its preparations for inspections, and the prospects for beginning work in Iraq. The following is an edited version of their conversation.

 

ACT: Former UNSCOM executive chairmen Richard Butler and Rolf Ekeus have expressed concern as to what could have happened since inspectors left Iraq in December 1998. On the other hand, former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter has said that 18 months is too short a time to rebuild programs that took 20 years to set up. What could Iraq have done in this time? How worried should the international community be?

Blix: Well, I do not have any preconceived notions as to what Iraq could have done. But if I take the nuclear area, which I know best, there is no way that they could have built up an enrichment capacity in that period. Of course, it is possible that they could try to buy a nuclear weapon, but the Iraqi path in the past was one of going after enrichment, and that requires a considerable infrastructure that would be seen from satellites. We have no indications of that happening.

An area in which Iraq could have conceivably done more would be the missile program because they are permitted missiles with a range of 150 kilometers and under; so factories producing them are also permissible. A number of missile factories were apparently hit in December 1998 during the airstrikes by U.S. and British forces, but there are reports that they have been rebuilt since then. Now, what has taken place inside, under those roofs, that is not seen by the satellites. I would have to rely upon the people that know much more about missiles to make a determination, but prima facie, missiles would be an area in which Iraq could have done something. It is certainly an area that will require monitoring in the future.

Concerning chemical and biological weapons, I think that is something the weapons experts will have to determine, and we will have a lot of quite competent experts.

ACT: Are you receiving any information on the current status of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs?

Blix: We should try to learn as much as possible, even without having inspections on the ground. Therefore, we have expressed gratitude to the United States for continuing to show us overhead pictures from satellites. That goes on. And of course, we are grazing the fertile ground of the media and collecting what comes from there.

We have no intelligence data, and I don't want to have any until we have our own intelligence expert on board. I've had some contact with national intelligence agencies and have had some discussions, but there has been nothing significant in this regard. What we are also focusing on is for our current staff to work on the substantial dossiers and inspection reports that we already have here. There is a lot to analyze. Clearly, however, work is not at full speed.

ACT: Is there any indication that Iraq is trying to rearm?

Blix: No, I don't think you can say that. Sometimes there are reports in the media from intelligence organizations that they are watching the procurement efforts here and there, but we have nothing to substantiate that.

ACT: Once they are in Iraq, what will be the first task for the UNMOVIC inspectors?

Blix: The first inspections will have to establish new baselines. The weapons-related facilities and weapons-capable facilities have stood there one-and-a-half years now. UNSCOM inspectors had knowledge of what they looked like in December 1998, and UNMOVIC will now go in and see if there have been any changes and, if so, what those changes suggest.

After that, we will develop a work program. Resolution 1284 demands that we come up with a work program to deal with the key outstanding disarmament issues 60 days after we have started work in Iraq. Indeed, the College of Commissioners made the point that UNMOVIC cannot very well come up with a full work program telling the Security Council what it intends to do before it has established new baselines. We need to see that rebaselining. So, work in Iraq cannot mean the moment when you send in the first inspector.

ACT: If the situation in Iraq now were the same as in December 1998, what tasks would remain in order for Iraq to be disarmed? What are the key disarmament tasks that Resolution 1284 asks you to define?

Blix: We don't know yet which particular disarmament points remain to be cleared up. It is generally believed that the biological-weapons sector has the largest number of question marks. Among the others, missiles is the most advanced in terms of being cleared up, and the nuclear is considered to have the fewest question marks. But it will be a sensitive task for us to zero in and say what the important key disarmament tasks are, as we must do under 1284.

We will also use another broader concept contained in Resolution 1284: "unresolved disarmament issues." I have already asked the current staff here what they see as unresolved disarmament issues. It is not the first time this has been done. The Amorim report listed a number of things in a condensed chapter and, in early 1999, Richard Butler issued a large report setting out what UNSCOM had achieved and what remained.

However, I do not think that I will have a final paper on the unresolved disarmament issues until the new staff is on board because the Security Council wants us to look at the issue with fresh minds. I value the experience that is here, but I also want to have new people take a look at what remains to be done. The new staff will define what they consider to be the unresolved issues. Out of those, there will be a distillation process to pick out those that are important—the key disarmament tasks. As to which issues those will be, I have no preconceived ideas.

I am sure that Iraq will be very interested to know where we are going on this matter even before they invite inspections, but as the resolution is written, they cannot. They certainly cannot have the final list. Because the report has to go to the Security Council for approval, what we say could theoretically be modified by the council. But I would imagine that our professional judgment will carry some weight with the council. At least I hope so.

ACT: The unresolved questions that are not deemed key disarmament tasks, will they fall off the work program?

Blix: No, I don't think so. Resolution 687 and its mandate of complete WMD disarmament remain in effect. But all the unresolved questions will not be relevant for the council's determination as to whether they should suspend the economic restrictions, because that only requires testimony from us about "cooperation" and "progress" on key disarmament duties.

If I take an example from the IAEA, which I still know better than the UNMOVIC area, there was a question of whether there was some foreign input into Iraq's design of a weapon. That question, I think, was never cleared up, and it was an outstanding issue for a long time. Now, you can discuss—and I'm not taking a stand on it—whether it was important to know who this foreign entity was even if you have come to the conclusion that Iraq has no nuclear infrastructure, no nuclear capacity, et cetera. Does the question of who helped them still remain a key disarmament issue? You could say that the "full, final and complete disclosure" demand of Resolution 707 is not satisfied if such an issue is still unresolved. But is it a key disarmament issue? I don't know. So, I think that's going to be an illustration of where judgment will have to be exercised.

ACT: Have former UNSCOM professionals applied for positions in UNMOVIC?

Blix: By far, the majority—two-thirds, probably more—have left. After the Baghdad operation collapsed at the end of 1998, most people left. So, a relatively small group remains here. I have said that there will be no automatic transfer of UNSCOM staff to UNMOVIC. They will have to indicate an interest to stay, and then I will have to compare their credentials with those who apply from the outside. Clearly, having been here and being knowledgeable on Iraq's weapons programs is an important factor. But it is not the only one. Some people in some governments have taken the view that we should have fresh minds all over the place, that there should be a clean slate. I have said no, there should be both innovation and institutional memory. This is what we are getting. Overall there will be a good many more people from the outside than those who remain from UNSCOM. One should remember that most of UNSCOM left earlier.

ACT: Does the fact that there could be a long wait before work begins in Iraq make recruitment any more difficult?

Blix: I haven't seen any one candidate so far in New York who has seemed worried about that. If they are sitting here for six months, then maybe it could become a problem. But that is not my hypothesis.

ACT: You have said that you intend to make full use of short-notice inspections without harassing or coercing Iraq. What did you mean by that?

Blix: We do not intend to provoke, to harass, or to humiliate Iraq with our inspections. The word "intend" is important, because I am not leaving it to Iraq to say that we cannot do something because of how they feel about it. It is UNMOVIC that will judge whether an action is provocative or humiliating in the judgment of a reasonable person. And I think I am a reasonable person.

Another adjective I will use is "correct." We don't want to have cozy relations with Iraq. We are an inspectorate, and we have the task given to us by the Security Council to solve the key disarmament questions, in addition to monitoring. This we shall do. In doing so, I would like the organization to be knowledgeable and correct.

I think we will need institutional memories. It will delay things if we were to have an all together new staff, but I want those who go in to display correct UN conduct. I'm not saying anything about the past. I am just saying that for the future, I want effective and correct inspections.

ACT: Concerning the espionage issue, you have placed a premium on maintaining what you have described as a "one-way street" of the flow of intelligence to UNMOVIC. What will you do differently than UNSCOM?

Blix: Well, I am not sure that I can tell you. I'm not exactly sure what UNSCOM did. I am following the pattern that I established myself at the IAEA. Of course, I read many allegations about what went on with UNSCOM, but I have not undertaken any investigation of UNSCOM's practices, and I don't think that I need to. I have the impression that there were many inlets for intelligence and that there were different groups handling what came in.

In our organizational diagram, which UNSCOM did not have, intelligence falls under "outside information sources." That covers both media, anything open, and other outside sources that are not so open. I will try to be firm about keeping intelligence in this area.

I have publicly taken the view that intelligence is valuable. Defectors do not come knocking at UNMOVIC headquarters. They go to governments, and it is valuable to have much of that. It can give you ideas as to where it might be useful to go or about questions that you should ask. But we also know that there is almost as much disinformation around the world as there is valid information, and I would like to have a professional in this area who would be able to assess with a critical eye what is coming in. He may have to have assistance from someone on the biological or chemical side to assess the veracity of something, but we have to be able to give assurances to those who supply us with intelligence that this is the only person who gets it, and that the providers have to decide how much further it will go. I have reserved the right to see it myself, and this person who is in charge of outside information sources should also see it all.

If we want to make use of intelligence for an inspection or for questions during an inspection, then I think the supplier should judge if such use is permissible or if it will jeopardize their source. In part, this is in order to keep the confidence of providers that their information is not going to float around freely. We are being very firm that it stays here. The providers will have to give their permission for any further dissemination. I practiced this in the IAEA, and it worked. We had intelligence from various sources. I don't think where the intelligence comes from really matters—it is the critical examination to which it is subjected that counts.

Another important point is that we are not in the intelligence-trading business. We are not an intelligence organization. We are not giving anything to suppliers in return. We are not an espionage organization, whatever Iraq has said. Now, it is conceivable, of course, that some UNSCOM staff were in double emploi, that they had two positions. That is unacceptable. All I can say is that if I find individuals working for other agencies, I will throw them out, and I think they will understand why.

However, I must also be clear that in order for us to get information that is relevant, it may well be that we will have to describe to intelligence providers what we are interested in. It is not that we are mute and governments come and offer us information. It is not that extreme.

There is an important difference between UNMOVIC and the IAEA in that the IAEA safeguards agreements specify that information that countries give shall be confidential. UNMOVIC doesn't have safeguards agreements with Iraq; we go to the Security Council and report to its members. Nevertheless, our mandate is to look for weapons of mass destruction. It is not to look for where Saddam Hussein is or where Iraq's anti-aircraft artillery is, et cetera. We should not do anything that is outside the parameters of our mandate.

ACT: What does "cooperation" mean in terms of Resolution 1284?

Blix: This may be an issue that we need to discuss with the College of Commissioners because Resolution 1284 simply says that the Security Council shall suspend economic restrictions provided that Iraq has cooperated in all respects for 120 days, and one part of that cooperation is progress with respect to the key disarmament issues. Whether UNMOVIC's judgment on such progress is the final word is a matter still for discussion.

Under Resolution 687, it is true that there was a difference between my view when I headed the IAEA and that taken by UNSCOM. I took the view, interpreting paragraph 22 of Resolution 687, that our determination on Iraq's disarmament did not automatically translate into a lifting of the sanctions, whereas the tendency in UNSCOM was to say that its determination was decisive. I was skeptical of such an attitude. It is for the Security Council to make the determination as to whether Iraq has complied with its obligations.

There will always be a residue of uncertainty, and that was a concept that eventually was accepted by the Amorim report and by the Security Council and I think by most people. There may be computer programs, engineers, scientists, and maybe even a prototype centrifuge lying around. You can never guarantee that such things do not exist. We tell the members of the council how far we have come, and it is then for them to decide whether that satisfies the resolution's articles about neutralizing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Because there will always be that residue of uncertainty concerning Iraq's WMD programs, I do not think it is fair, nor was it supported by the resolution, for the IAEA or for UNSCOM to determine what level of uncertainty should be tolerated. That is for the Security Council to do. I think I am inclined to feel the same way about UNMOVIC, but there I would like to defer until there has been some discussion, because these are matters that could very well be politically sensitive.

ACT: Along those lines, Scott Ritter recently argued that UNSCOM's perceived need to account for all WMD material was partially responsible for its downfall. (See ACT, June 2000.) Are you saying that you are going to move away from that—to not needing to account for every last scrap of material and documentation?

Blix: As I said, it is for the Security Council to determine how much uncertainty they will tolerate. I often draw a comparison between Iraq and South Africa. The IAEA was in South Africa and asked to verify that they had done away with their nuclear weapons. We came in and the South Africans said, "Here is a bunch of documents. And we think they are relevant to you. If you want any other documents, just tell us, and we will give them to you. And here are the sites that we think you should visit, and if you want to go to any other sites, military or whatever, just tell us and we will take you there."

That was, of course, evidence of an attitude of cooperation. They saw inspection as an opportunity to demonstrate and convince the world that they had nothing. I am trying to suggest to Iraq: "You say that you have nothing. Here is an opportunity. Convince us by what you do, and convince us by what you give us that there is nothing left. You do not have credibility." If we are firm, we have credibility. If we are cosmetic, we too have no credibility. So, we will say if we think Iraq has cooperated. But the ultimate judge, I am inclined to think, is the Security Council.

And, of course, I still maintain that we will never come to the last nut and bolt, and I think that is accepted now. But how many missing nuts and bolts are acceptable will be determined by the Security Council. We will describe in as accurate terms as we can what we have done, where we are, and then leave final judgment to the council.

ACT: How would you describe UNMOVIC's relationship with the secretary-general and the Security Council?

Blix: In formal terms, of course, the reports of UNMOVIC are channeled to the Security Council through the secretary-general. He submits them. He can add something. In doing so, he can put his gloss on it if he likes, which was the same with UNSCOM. In addition, I trust that I can continue to look to the secretary-general for advice and discussion. I don't formally have to do that. We have a mandate of our own. However, I personally appreciate [UN Secretary-General] Kofi Annan's judgment very much, and I have an excellent relationship with him. Jayantha Dhanapala [UN undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs] and I are also old colleagues, and I appreciate his judgment too. So, I look on these relationships in practical terms more than in formal terms.

UNMOVIC is a subordinate organ of the Security Council. Therefore, all of our allegiance is to the council; we take our instructions from it. Resolution 1284 is the absolute guideline for me, and nothing else. If any one member of the Security Council wants me to do something other than what is called for in Resolution 1284, I would say that I am not obliged to do so. At the same time, I think there is a clear attitude in the council that they do not want us to come running to them for help and instruction all the time. They have other things to do. I also think that we should have informal contacts with the president of the Security Council. So far, I have met with every monthly president of the Security Council, so we have a channel in that direction. What our relationship with the council will be like if the situation with Iraq gets hot, I don't know.

ACT: Does the Security Council have the political will to push this issue with Iraq, to get UNMOVIC into the country?

Blix: It is more a question that there are different wills in the council. My overall impression has been that when the Security Council stands united, the power and influence it has is considerable, but where they have divided views, even though they might only be expressed in abstentions, the influence is much more limited. This leads me to the conclusion that UNMOVIC should act in such a way as, at the very least, to avoid widening the differing views that exist there and, if possible, to help them converge.

Once again, I refer to Resolution 1284 for absolute guidance. That is a valid resolution. It was accepted—though weakened somewhat by the four abstentions—and we can see how some of the reservations of those who abstained continue to guide their attitudes. The resolution would have been stronger if there had been unanimity. On the other hand, it is still a valid resolution, and it is binding not only on Iraq, but on all of the members of the Security Council as well. So that is what we have to go by.

But for us, there is a great advantage if the members of the Security Council are agreed. I think that the College of Commissioners may be able to help because it has individuals from the permanent five members of the Security Council and other professionals, and it will permit a freer discussion then you can have in the Security Council.

ACT: Describe your interactions with the Russians, French, and Chinese over the past few months. Are they accepting Resolution 1284 as valid, and are you receiving their full support?

Blix: I have no doubt that on two principal points they are united and there is no dissent in the Security Council. One is the wish that Iraq retain no weapons of mass destruction and that it not revive any WMD programs. The other is a view that UNMOVIC shall have all of the rights of inspection that the prior organizations had—that is, immediate, unrestricted, and unconditional access. I don't think they waver on that.

But there are clearly other differences among them on Iraq policy, some not relating to Resolution 1284. There is the view among some that the current bombing [in the no-fly zones] is not sanctioned by the Security Council and should not take place. There is the view of some that the no-fly zones do not have a basis in Security Council resolutions and should not exist. Council members have not yet defined what kind of financial control regime they should have once they determine to suspend the economic restrictions; so there are unresolved matters relating to the full implementation of the resolution.

Resolution 1284 resolved a number of things, but not all, and we should try, if possible, to reduce the number of differences rather than exacerbate them. So far, we have done reasonably well. The organizational plan was successfully approved by the Security Council, with some reservations by the Russians. Nevertheless, they accepted that the plan was in line with the resolution. At this point, the Russians have said that they do not want to pass any judgment until they have seen how UNMOVIC develops and implements the plan. They will hold their card until they have seen that. And there were somewhat softer but similar attitudes by a few of the others.

The Russians also had some reservations because they wanted to have a special group dealing with potential frictions with Iraq, a group of political advisers within UNMOVIC. I have not included such a group in the organizational structure. I have said that I will have a group of senior advisers and that it will include staff that know something about the positions of Washington, Moscow, Beijing, and other places. I will listen to them, but if they are not agreed, clearly I will have to fall back on my own judgment. UNMOVIC is not operating by voting. The same applies to the College of Commissioners. If they seek and come out with some consensus and thereby facilitate consensus in the Security Council, that is fine. But there is no guarantee that they can do this. In the end, I have to do what the resolution puts me in this position to do.

So, there were some reservations over the organizational plan. Some would say that the organizational plan was the design of the ship and that now we are recruiting the sailors and developing the navigational charts. We are now in the process of hiring the crew, and the resolution talks about broad geographical recruitment, and so it shall be. It will be very broad. Of course, there are a number of areas of the world that do not have expertise in weapons of mass destruction, notably Africa. It will be much more difficult to find people from there. But there will be a broad geographical recruitment. The Security Council knows pretty well who the senior officials will be, and I have had no criticism of that. UNMOVIC's top echelon has been accepted, and I hope that we can continue with that and get a crew with good credentials and good geographic representation.

The third step will be defining the operational rules—how we will go about the inspections. We are in the beginning of that process, and we had early input from the College of Commissioners. I hope that in the summer we can go further, and that at the next meeting of the college, which will be in August, we will be able to define that even more and get their advice. Sometime later, we will see if Iraq is favorable at all.

ACT: Let's talk about that for a minute. Iraq has given no indication that they intend to cooperate. Have you seen anything different? Do you expect them to cooperate?

Blix: No, I have not seen anything different, and yes, I expect them to cooperate.

ACT: How does one move them from their present position to one that allows you and your inspectors to begin work?

Blix: I think the Iraqis should move themselves. I think that the most important thing for them is to study and assess what is in Resolution 1284 for them. Resolution 687 is still there, which speaks about lifting sanctions when there has been neutralization of all WMD and ongoing monitoring is in place. Resolution 1284 is an additional path for them to follow. Here, the criteria are different. They can have a suspension of the economic restrictions provided that there is cooperation and resolution of some key disarmament issues. I guess that they are assessing how valuable it would be for them to have a suspension of the restrictions, and exactly what suspension means. I cannot tell them; it is for members of the Security Council to decide, and I am sure that they have had preliminary discussions about that already.

Although Iraq is now rejecting Resolution 1284 and the commission, I am sure they are watching what the architecture of it is. I am sure they are watching to see whether UNMOVIC will be a true international body or if it will be a group of seconded state representatives, which is how they tended to regard UNSCOM. And they are probably interested to see how we will define the inspection procedures. Lastly, they will be interested in what things we consider unresolved disarmament issues and key disarmament tasks.

I think this will take some time. People ask me sometimes if I am trying to initiate any contact with Iraq. The answer is no. My door is open to all ambassadors, including the Iraqis, but why should they make contact at a time when their position is that the commission is irrelevant and they reject Resolution 1284? Discussion with me would not be consistent with that position.

ACT: Iraq has flat-out refused to cooperate, but you seem to be suggesting that Baghdad is considering the ramifications and potential benefits of Resolution 1284. Do you think that their public refusal is simply a ploy and that they are seriously weighing their options and considering cooperation?

Blix: No, I think they probably say to the world what they mean—that they would like to see a termination of the bombing, that they would like to see a termination of the no-fly zones, and that they would like to see a termination of the sanctions. That is their bid to the Security Council. They also seem to say that they could accept some inspections should these things happen. That is their position. What their position will be in two or four months time, I don't know. I am the servant of the Security Council. If the council assumes that UNMOVIC will go in, then who am I to depart from that assessment? I was hired on the assumption that Iraq will allow inspectors into the country, and therefore I assume that myself.

I may add that in my personal view it would be in Iraq's interest to accept 1284. I am sure that they are looking around the horizon. They have one very firm view now, but the waters under this ship will be moving, not standing still.

ACT: You are optimistic. Do you have any sort of time frame?

Blix: We have a time frame. We are moving as fast as we can to do what the Security Council has instructed us to do with the organization, the recruitment, the training, et cetera. We could not possibly do any inspections until the end of August. Toward the end of autumn, we will be up and running, as they say. I hope by that time the government of Iraq will have warmed to the idea that this commission is one with which they are ready to cooperate and they will have found that the economic restrictions will not be lifted except in fulfillment of Resolution 1284.

ACT: Do you think there is any flexibility in the Security Council about amending the sanctions sections of Resolution 1284 to induce Iraqi cooperation?

Blix: I don't see any indication in that direction. I think every comma will remain.

ACT: Do you think you can demonstrate, in the process of assembling and training the UNMOVIC team, that UNMOVIC will be a different organization from UNSCOM and thereby gain the further support of the Security Council and the cooperation of Iraq? Or will that not be apparent until your inspectors begin work in Iraq?

Blix: Well, it's not just organization and recruitment and training. It's also the other two elements we have talked about: the definition of our inspection procedures and of the remaining outstanding disarmament issues. I don't know whether those elements will be enough. I think these are part of what Iraq is going to look at. But I think that Iraq is perhaps even more interested in the paragraphs about suspension of sanctions and the financial provisions, as well as the bombing. They will look at all these things, and then we'll see.

I think it is important that they know in advance what inspection procedures we will want to follow. I don't think that there is any room for negotiation about that because the procedures are laid down by the Security Council. Those are the parameters under which we operate—neither expanding them nor reducing them. We do not expand them to cover anything but the weapons of mass destruction. We are not looking at their anti-aircraft artillery; we are looking for missiles.

But nor are we entitled to reduce and surrender anything that the Security Council has laid down. I've been saying that it is the Security Council's role to implement the resolution, and we are a part of that. It is not my task to persuade the Iraqis in any sense. It is my personal view that it would be advantageous for them, but I have not been asked by the Security Council to sell the resolution, nor am I entitled to give any discount on it. That leaves very little wiggle room to meet them. We will have to tell them how we intend to go about the inspections. The more that they know about that in advance, the better. It might encourage cooperation if they can say, "Well, fair enough, we know what you intend to do." I think that will hopefully be a way to reduce potential frictions.

But clearly, on some minor points, Iraq can suggest that it might be more practical to do something this way or another way—where the Iraqi escorts meet you in Baghdad, what time do you give them a telephone call, et cetera. There are minor points within what the Security Council has laid down, but I do not foresee myself sitting in long discussions with Iraq about how inspections are to be run. The Security Council has laid down our responsibility, and I feel no freedom to deviate from that. And I hope the Iraqis do not feel that I have that freedom.

ACT: The Iraqis have said that the burden of proof is on the international community to demonstrate that Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction. How do you respond?

Blix: This reasoning is misplaced. The argument comes from criminal procedure, where the prosecutor has to prove the guilt of the accused, and if the prosecutor doesn't do that, then there is a presumption of not guilty. However, we are not interested in that here. We are in a situation where the world wants to have confidence that Iraq does not retain or rebuild the capacity for weapons of mass destruction. You do not build confidence by presumptions. You build it by demonstrating cooperation.

It is true that the IAEA, UNMOVIC, and Iraq cannot prove the absence of the smallest pieces of things. But it is less difficult for Iraq, who sits on all of the documentation and all of the personnel, to come up and demonstrate something than it is for UNMOVIC or the IAEA to do so. Therefore, I think it is legitimate to ask them that they do that. And if, unlike in the case of South Africa, you get to a site in Iraq and you see them running out of the site with briefcases of documents, that is not likely to lead to increased confidence.

Iraq cannot prove—no one can prove—that a big country is free of everything that could be relevant. I would agree that this is not feasible. But the name of the game is to re-establish confidence. To do that, Iraq needs to do precisely what Resolution 1284 mandates: namely, cooperate.

Anticipating Inspections: UNMOVIC Readies Itself for Iraq

Prospects for Progress: an Interview with Ambassador Tibor Toth

Ambassodor Tibor Tóth, Hungary's Permanent representative to the UN office in Vienna since 1997, is chairman of a negotiating body known as the Ad Hoc Group, which has met in Geneva since 1995 to draft measures to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The BWC, which entered into force in 1975, outlaws biological weapons and their means of delivery but contains no formal verification mechanisms.

The Ad Hoc Group, mandated by a special conference of states-parties chaired by Tóth in 1994 to improve the convention's effectiveness, has been developing a legally binding protocol to the BWC. Since the summer of 1997, the group has based its negotiations on a rolling text of the draft protocol. The rolling text relies on a tiered system of declarations, visits, and investigations to ensure compliance with the BWC and envisages a regime that offers significant benefits to states-parties in terms of scientific and technical cooperation.

A number of key issues in the negotiations remain unresolved, such as how the protocol should deal with the transfer of biological agents and dual-use equipment and whether the protocol will leave room for existing export control groups, such as the Australia Group. Other points of dispute include the role and scope of visits, exactly which types of facilities should submit declarations, what procedures will be required to launch an investigation, and what terms in the protocol need defining. (See text box, and news story.)

Ambassador Tóth has been chairman of the Ad Hoc Group since its inception, before which he chaired the ad hoc group of governmental experts on verification measures for the BWC. Tóth joined the Hungarian Foreign Ministry in 1977 and served as ambassador at large for non-proliferation from 1996 to 1997 and as deputy state secretary of defense in charge of international matters from 1994 to 1996. He has also headed Hungary's delegations to the UN Conference on Disarmament and the UN General Assembly First Committee.

Seth Brugger, managing editor of Arms Control Today, met with Ambassador Tóth at the United Nations in New York March 24 to discuss the Ad Hoc Group's activities and prospects for progress.

The following is an edited version of their conversation.

ACT: The Ad Hoc Group has been meeting for over five years. Could you describe what the group is trying to accomplish and whether it has been successful in meeting its goals?

Tóth: The group was mandated by the 1994 special conference of states-parties to develop measures to promote compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention. The group's mandate clearly identified areas in which the group should invest its time and energy. As a result, what is emerging after the more than 50 weeks of negotiations since the special conference are measures intended to strengthen compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention and to enhance its implementation-measures such as declarations of biodefense and industry facilities, visits to those facilities, possible investigations, and cooperative arrangements, all of them underpinned by confidentiality, organizational, and other auxiliary provisions.

ACT: Do you feel the group has been successful in meeting its mandate?

Tóth: The group has gone through different stages since January 1995. Between January 1995 and July 1997, it identified the main building blocks for the future draft protocol to the BWC. In July 1997, the first version of the so-called draft rolling text emerged. Between July 1997 and October-November 1998, the group fleshed out that text. To give you an idea, the volume of the draft rolling text multiplied four to five times in that time, and there was a very significant increase in the number of brackets, which indicate controversial issues. So, a peak was reached in October-November 1998 with 3,200 brackets in the rolling text, which meant about 10 brackets per page.

Between January 1999 and January 2000, another phase occurred in which more than 50 percent of the brackets were removed. By the end of the first session in 2000, there were less than five brackets per page, on average, in the rolling text. In the March 2000 session, which is the second session of this year, we saw a slowdown in the clean-up process, which is, in my judgment, a natural part of the negotiating process. This indicates that we will have to add new efforts and new techniques to remove the remainder of the brackets with more formal work, more investment in exploring possible compromises, and probably a more comprehensive set of proposals as well.

ACT: The rolling text is, as you've indicated, pretty far along now. What areas have been largely agreed upon?

Tóth: Roughly speaking, I would say that we have three categories of maturity in the rolling text. First, you will find areas in the rolling text where the number of brackets is insignificant, areas such as confidentiality, national implementation, assistance, legal elements, and organization. On these issues, there is very little room to negotiate because further negotiations might do more harm than good. They might not lead to the removal of the few remaining brackets, but just bring in controversial text to areas that are otherwise clean.

We have other areas where the text is consolidated and difficulties are not so controversial. These areas are the preamble, to a certain degree; general provisions; and the lists of agents and equipment. I would venture to say that even the so-called promotional aspects of scientific and technical cooperation measures are in relatively good status. I should also include investigations in this second category, with the exception of very specific aspects.

The third category relates to declarations, declaration formats, visits, transfers, thresholds, and definitions. In this area, if you take visits, for example, the consolidation of the text is significant; there is a good maturity of the text. But at the same time, there are difficult issues to face: what role should visits play, what should their character be, what should the underlying procedures for visits be, what facilities should be covered by visits. Of course, the answers to these questions depend on how wide the declaration net for facilities will be. There is another question that is very closely related: how to reflect declaration triggers in the declaration formats. On these issues, options are well identified. What is needed is some judgment, a mix of technical judgment and judgment of a more general nature, about the pros and cons these measures might bring to different states-parties. For the regulatory aspects of cooperation, the transfer and export control-related elements, the text is not as consolidated as it is for some of the compliance measures, and there are very serious conceptual differences as well. There are even more conceptual differences on the issue of possible thresholds and certain categories of definitions, which are referred to by some delegations as "basic definitions."

ACT: You've mentioned a number of areas that are considered controversial, such as the role of visits. What do you see as the way forward in this area?

Tóth: I think the first step would be to further consolidate work on declarations. This involves deciding how to define, in practical terms, what is relevant for the protocol and what is not; how to find the right trade-off between catching in the declaration net those facilities that should provide information about their activities, and, at the same time, making the job manageable and meaningful. That is, the declarations should not try to collect data of such volume that it cannot be processed, or the processing of which would not be commensurate with the size of the future BWC implementing organization. Such a mass of data might be more difficult to protect if it is not handled in an appropriate way. That would be the first step.

The second step is to think over in different capitals the role to be assigned to potential measures between declarations and investigations, that is, visits. States need to decide whether the intention is to have a set of flexible tools to provide deterrence without resorting to more heavy and politically damaging acts like investigations. The answer to this question might define the deterrent value different parties give to the so-called randomly selected/transparency visits. It may also clarify the value added by flexible, low-key remedial tools such as the so-called clarification procedures, which include visits.

Of course, the potential pitfalls of visits are relevant as well. First of all, from the point of view of preserving national security information and commercial proprietary information, we need a very careful analysis of what might be included in the visits package that guarantees states-parties that their concerns over national security information and commercial proprietary information will be met. This could be done not by removing major provisions of visits, but by making adjustments that might have a positive impact.

We will need a careful analysis of how much the future organization can afford, administratively and financially, in terms of visits. We will have to adjust either the number of visits or states-parties' expectations, or both, so that a meaningful visits regime can be realized while, at the same time, maintaining a manageable burden on the future organization, one that is within the financial limits being envisaged by the states-parties.

ACT: Another controversial issue has been the role of export controls in the protocol, particularly how the protocol will deal with existing national export controls and export control bodies, such as the Australia Group. How can progress be made in this area?

Tóth: The issue, as you rightly pointed out, remains controversial. My feeling is that there is an understanding that the issue will have to be addressed in the context of the basic pillars of the Biological Weapons Convention, like Article I, which defines what is legitimate under the convention; Article III, which deals with the transfer issue; Article IV, which describes the national obligations of states-parties in areas laid out in Article I; and Article X, which calls for cooperation and exchanges.

The challenge for negotiators is to find a solution within these parameters that does not contradict any of these articles, a solution that is based on the basic pillars of the convention. In line with some well-articulated and often-differing expectations regarding the future protocol, the protocol should not take away anything that is viewed as a functioning element of the regime. At the same time, it should provide elements that add value to the wider regime, and by the regime I mean not just the protocol itself but the wider Biological Weapons Convention regime.

ACT: I understand that there is also difficulty with definitions-what terms in the protocol might need defining. Can you offer a suggestion on how progress can be made on this issue?

Tóth: Not at this stage. I hope I might be able to at a later stage in the light of further consultations on the value different categories of definitions might add to the protocol.

ACT: Can you explain how the protocol's implementing body is likely to be structured?

Tóth: As we discussed, this issue will have to be approached from different angles. One angle is the functional angle, which will depend on the size of the declaration net and how many facilities will be caught in this declaration net, the number of declarations to be filed, the number of visits to be carried out annually, and the number of additional activities that will have to be carried out in the field of cooperation. There will have to be judgment about the possible future size of the organization required to fulfill these jobs.

At the same time, states-parties have certain ideas about how much they will be ready to spend on the new organization. The estimates that were aired in informal discussions were around $30 million. Based on these functional expectations and resource-allocation expectations, one could have a rough idea about what the size of the organization might be. For example, with an organization of about 250 people and a budget of around $30 million, as suggested by some studies, it might be possible to carry out about 100 visits and inspections annually with the necessary administrative support that is needed for the inspectorate to undertake these visits. Those are the numbers that are presented in very comprehensive studies published by Bradford University and the Federation of American Scientists. As I understand, a new study by the Federation of American Scientists will also address this issue. They might provide more details.

As for the structure of the organization, the organization will have to cover the main provisions of the future protocol. The proportions of manpower and financial allocations will require close attention as early as the preparatory committee phase before the protocol's entry into force, when institution-building will start.

ACT: The Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC] has been in force for almost three years now. Are there lessons that can be learned from this convention's implementation that can be applied to the protocol and the negotiations on the protocol?

Tóth: I think so. What is encouraging is that feedback on the lessons to be drawn from the Chemical Weapons Convention is being considered when elements are being incorporated into a future package. Of course one will see differences between the Chemical Weapons Convention and the activities foreseen under the BWC protocol. In certain cases, it is difficult to say whether those differences are derived from what we have learned from the CWC's implementation or whether they are related to the differences between biological agents and chemical agents.

In the area of declarations, an important lesson is to be careful with projections concerning the number of facilities to be declared. In the case of the Chemical Weapons Convention, there is nearly an order of magnitude of difference between some of the estimates that were made earlier on facilities expected to be declared and the results that turned out.

Another area is the lead time needed for implementation stages. In the case of the Chemical Weapons Convention, some of the deadlines for initial declarations, for example, created a situation where the secretariat had some difficulty dealing with tasks because submissions were peaking at the same time and implementation efforts had to be carried out in a relatively concentrated manner. The situation would have been even worse if all the states that possessed chemical weapons joined the Chemical Weapons Convention at the time of the entry into force. Provisions are being drafted in our negotiations to ensure the timely submission of declarations, another requirement identified as a result of the CWC's implementation.

Additionally, drawing on some of the lessons from the Chemical Weapons Convention's implementation in the area of confidentiality, we will probably see an enhanced set of confidentiality measures in the protocol that provide additional safety nets, trying to prevent leaks of information and to provide remedies if such situations arise. So, codification of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the convention's implementation have provided some important benefits to the Ad Hoc Group delegates sitting in Geneva.

ACT: Moving back to the issue of compliance measures, what types of parameters are under consideration for investigations? How much freedom will the inspectors have once they arrive on-site? What type of equipment will they be allowed to bring with them?

Tóth: Some of the major aspects of this issue are still open. For example, in terms of inspectors' freedom, it's still a question of how large the investigation area will be. Provisions on the treatment of the inspectors, to a certain degree, are quite close to provisions in the Chemical Weapons Convention. There are important limitations on sampling in the protocol stating that there will be no removal of samples from the sites and that sampling will be a last resort. Also, the whole question of decision-making on launching an investigation is very much open: whether it will be a so-called green-light procedure where the future executive council will have to vote to permit an investigation, or whether it will be a red-light procedure where the investigation is launched automatically and halting it will result only from an explicit decision of the executive council.

How a field investigation can grow into a facility investigation is also an issue to be explored further. However, the issue of investigations examining the outbreak of disease is, in my judgment, in a relatively consolidated state, which is an encouraging sign.

ACT: Opponents of the protocol in the United States have been concerned about invasive on-site verification measures that they feel could lead to the loss of commercial proprietary information, a topic that you touched on before. In particular, there is concern over the prospect of foreign nationals entering sensitive U.S. facilities. What measures are included in the protocol that might allay these concerns?

Tóth: Since the very beginning of the negotiations, negotiators have been quite sensitive to the concerns of not just delegations, but of industry, as well. One could pinpoint elements in the protocol that are intended to address those concerns.

In the area of declarations, first of all, the intention is to find the right trade-off between the necessary level of transparency and requests for information that is not relevant to transparency or that might be commercially sensitive. You will find a good reflection of that intention in the declaration formats, which do not require the submission of sensitive commercial proprietary information.

In the case of visits, the negotiators are trying to find the right trade-off between providing the necessary insight into some facilities' activities without compromising the facilities' commercial interests. We intend to accomplish this by very clearly defining the purpose and the scope of the visits and by not making visits more intrusive than is really needed.

In addition, the Ad Hoc Group has already elaborated confidentiality rules on how information in the future organization should be handled and how personnel should behave. These are preventive auxiliary measures, which are in addition to measures related to declarations and visits.

Another set of provisions are so-called remedial measures, steps that will have to be taken in case there is a leak of confidential information. These elements have a certain deterrent character as well. Measures like lifting the immunity of not just the personnel, but, as distinct from the Chemical Weapons Convention, the director-general of the future organization. There is even discussion about lifting the immunity of the organization as well, in the event that states-parties unanimously agree that such a decision should be made. So, there are at least four or five mechanisms to address the commercial and national security information concerns of states-parties.

ACT: How will the protocol deal with states that refuse to cooperate with either routine activities or special circumstances, such as investigations?

Tóth: I think we have to divide this issue into two parts. If by routine activities we mean compliance measures, like declarations or visits, these are measures prescribed by the protocol and, of course, the expectation is for states-parties to fulfill those obligations.

Again, based on the lessons of the Chemical Weapons Convention, there are certain provisions built into the protocol to take care of potential problems, like countries not submitting declarations or not submitting declarations in a timely manner. There are complete provisions for the implications of these scenarios, addressing what kind of rights might be suspended for those states-parties that are not fulfilling these obligations.

As for visits, there is a set of provisions on how consultations and clarifications might be handled, starting with the lowest level of interaction, that is political consultation; ending with the highest level of treatment, like holding a special session of the Conference of States Parties; and including well-staged steps to pursue between these two extremes.

In cases that investigations are refused or provisions of the convention are not implemented and the mechanism to take care of such problems is rejected, the issue might leave the framework of the protocol or the convention and might be taken up by the UN Security Council.

ACT: The United States seems to have followed a strategy of seeking to reduce the impact of the protocol on its biotech industry and its biodefense infrastructure. At the same time, some non-aligned states have opposed mandatory clarification visits, believing that they would be subject to more of these visits than Western countries. Some analysts feel that these negotiating strategies come at the expense of developing more robust compliance measures. What are your thoughts on this matter?

Tóth: The degree of intrusiveness of future compliance measures, especially visits, will be defined, to a certain degree, by

functional requirements. But as your question implies, different constituencies are, of course, trying to shape the functional requirement to reflect their own interests.

My feeling is that the emerging visits regime in the protocol is probably second-to-none and is quite comparable to other arrangements, hopefully both quantitatively and qualitatively. Let us compare the number of visits possible under the BWC protocol with those under the Chemical Weapons Convention. We have to be careful here because the protocol is not yet complete, but we have projections. The protocol will focus on relevant facilities, so declarations will probably be nearly an order of magnitude lower than was the case with the CWC. At the same time, the number of visits to be carried out by the future organization will be within the CWC's order of magnitude, at least until the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] focuses on the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles. This facility-to-visits ratio will be achieved with an organization that is intentionally planned to be half of the OPCW's size.

Here, I would like to call attention to the category of clarification visits, which has no comparable equivalent in the Chemical Weapons Convention. These visits are a really flexible tool used to address certain concerns at the lowest possible level of controversy, without resorting to more controversial investigations. This new framework can be traced to some recent arrangements, like the IAEA's Additional Protocol, again, a lesson drawn from another field.

So, if I take these elements into account, I remain optimistic that the visits package, both quantitatively and qualitatively, will be second-to-none. And as I mentioned before, we are trying to take into account both commercial proprietary information-related and national security-related concerns because of another lesson drawn from the Chemical Weapons Convention: the life-cycle of a legal arrangement does not end at the negotiations. It has to be signed, ratified, and implemented by states-parties. For all these stages, it is extremely important to find the right trade-off between the interests of the regime and national interests. The challenge is to balance these interests in a way that will not affect the effectiveness of the future arrangement.

ACT: Until somewhat recently, it is my understanding that the United States did not take an assertive stance during the negotiations. Did the lack of U.S. leadership hamper the negotiations before, and now that the United States is playing more of a role, how do you feel it has impacted the negotiations?

Tóth: President Clinton made a statement in January 1998 about U.S. expectations vis-à-vis the conclusion of this protocol. The extent to which delegations have a prominent role and the success or lack of success in promoting national objectives cannot be measured in terms of articulated positions or how frequently a certain delegation takes the floor.

I think at the end of the day, the expectations of each and every delegation, and the outcome of the negotiations, will have to be compared. My hope is that no delegation will be in a position at the end of the day to say that its expectations have been totally fulfilled. If that is the case, it would mean we had arrived at a balanced package of solutions, which would make no delegation happy, but which each and every one of them would accept.

ACT: My understanding is that the next step in the negotiating process is to move from the rolling text to a chairman's text. What is the purpose of the chairman's text and what criteria need to be met before you can set to work on it? When do you anticipate the release of this text?

Tóth: The process, up until now, has been an incremental one, and my feeling is that it will remain such. My hope is that there will be a natural transition from one stage to another, where, compared to the present stage, we will have even more private discussions and informal, transparent consultations. In the event that these different channels of communication are not just intimate and in-depth, but are efficient as well, it might be possible to identify solutions that could bring together a comprehensive set of proposals. It is too early to speculate exactly when the time will be right for that because it is very much dependent upon the outcome of the different sets of consultations.

ACT: How would the chairman's text serve to further the negotiations? What purpose will it fulfill?

Tóth: I think we have to think not in terms of whether there should be a chairman's text, but in terms of what the functional requirements of the negotiations are. It is important to conclude the negotiations with a protocol of good quality and without prolonged political or technical disputes. Based on these functional elements, the participants of the negotiations will have to judge if the situation has progressed far enough for a comprehensive set of proposals or for a chairman's text, which should be based on very in-depth and intimate preparatory discussions.

ACT: Analysts seem to differ with regard to whether the Ad Hoc Group will be able to conclude its work before the fifth review conference, scheduled for 2001. At the same time, delegations disagree on the need to increase the pace of the negotiations. What are your thoughts on the negotiations' pace and meeting the so-called 2001 deadline?

Tóth: I know we have spent as much time in negotiations as was the case for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT], around 50 weeks of negotiations, though we should keep in mind that in strict physical terms our protocol is more voluminous than the CTBT. On the one hand, as I mentioned, we have made real progress in cleaning up the rolling text. We are in a situation where, compared to the CTBT, we shouldn't be ashamed of the existing situation, in terms of "bracket pollution." At the same time, the time available for the endgame seems to be a bit shorter than it was for the CTBT. In the CTBT's case, there was practically a continuous endgame, with just the Conference on Disarmament breaks interrupting. We are still having three-to-four week sessions; this year, 12 to 14 weeks will be spent on negotiations.

My feeling is that the remaining issues will not necessarily be solved with much more time. At this stage of the negotiations, what we need is a political judgment. If the judgment is made, and if the outcome of this judgment is a positive one, then we will be able to complete the negotiations in the time frame prescribed for us, even if it involves a special conference before autumn 2001. If the political judgment is not as favorable as I would like to see, then we will have to come back to your original question, but I hope we will not need another interview because of this question.

ACT: What do you feel is the final push needed to enter the endgame or to conclude the protocol?

Tóth: The push might be generated by the positive dynamics of the negotiations up until now. What is surprising then is that the push might be provided by further lack of progress because it would indicate that we have to think over the endgame that awaits us. Hopefully, it is not contradictory that there is also a need to make a political judgment.

What might help this political judgment is the "implosion phenomenon." We have invented for these negotiations a new technique called "Part Two" text, a set of new proposals issued each session. These are small packages, small comprehensive sets of proposals or revisions from Friends of the Chair. As a result of this process, unlike in some other negotiations, we were able to significantly reduce the number of brackets. This process might take us close to the implosion of remaining brackets in important parts of the protocol, which might speed up the political decision-making process.

ACT: And if the push doesn't come and the deadline is missed, what are the consequences for the protocol's future, the future of the Biological Weapons Convention, and, more broadly, the global non-proliferation regime?

Tóth: I am quite frequently reminded that I am more optimistic than I should be. Still, I would like to remain within the domain of positive thinking and rephrase the question in a positive way: what kind of advantages will conclusion of the protocol bring forward?

The development and adoption of a verification protocol would in itself demonstrate the determination of the international community to raise further legal, political, and moral barriers against biological weapons and non-compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention. Besides that, the verification protocol would add value to other areas of the wider biological weapons prohibition regime as well.

The recent difficulties for arms control and disarmament further emphasize the urgent need for the conclusion of the negotiations. As the only multilateral disarmament negotiation being held, the Ad Hoc Group's work is the only effort that can send a positive message. It would take any other negotiations three to five years from now to reach a similar level of endgame maturity and ability to make a positive difference. The BWC protocol is the sole current source of reinforcement to faith in cooperative multilateral management of security challenges.

ACT: You had referred to the possibility of alternative negotiating strategies to move the negotiations forward. From what I understand, the European Union has suggested adopting new negotiating techniques. How do you feel about that?

Tóth: I think as we narrow down remaining issues of controversy, it will be clearer and clearer that it might be difficult to find solutions for certain issues in a narrow context. It is a natural phenomenon in the negotiations that countries try to have a balanced give-and-take. Because of that, there is a need to think more comprehensively about this give-and-take and about building blocks for a comprehensive set of proposals. Thus, it will be more and more important to run some of the discussions not in isolation, but to combine the present Friends of the Chair discussion format with a more integrated and more holistic approach. In addition to the ongoing formal work, what might be needed is an increasing degree of private consultations both by the Friends of the Chair and by the chairman, as well as more open-ended informal consultations that hopefully will result in formulations that might be building blocks for the final comprehensive set or sets of proposals.

ACT: The protocol needs to be ratified by Biological Weapons Convention states-parties to be applicable to them. In the event that some states-parties do not ratify the protocol, this could result in a two-tier system. Do you feel that that could be a problem?

Tóth: There are some important aspects to this question. First of all, what will be the entry-into-force formula for the protocol? Another aspect is what will be the provisions in the protocol for solving the relationship between states party to the protocol and states not party to the protocol. Both of these elements might provide different answers to your question.

But independent of the outcome of discussions on these two issues, which are quite complicated, yes, one should not preclude the possibility that there might be different categories: states-parties to the protocol, states-parties to the convention, and states not party to the convention. We probably need incentives to have the widest appeal to states to join the first category, to provide a certain grace period in which countries can move to the first category.

What are some positive incentives to attract the attention of those countries that are not necessarily opposed to the protocol but do not have the political or the public attention vis-à-vis these issues? In that respect, it is extremely important to have a meaningful set of cooperative measures in the protocol because it will be a clear-cut benefit, especially for developing countries, in the area of strengthening public health; public health infrastructure; and disease surveillance, control, and management mechanisms. At the same time, in light of the transnational character of some diseases, be it naturally occurring or man-made, these cooperative arrangements should not necessarily be limited just to developing countries.

ACT: Could you explain what kind of progress the last negotiating session has made on the areas of contention?

Tóth: The progress in this session was slower than in the previous ones, which might be an indication that we have to incrementally adjust our negotiating techniques to the changing situation. By now, we have very well isolated the remaining islands of controversy in a sea of clean text and will have to find solutions to them. At this point, these solutions will have to be more political than technical, based on weighing the pros and cons of the protocol. My sincere hope is that in this final judgment, to be made in different capitals, the positive elements will eventually outweigh the constraints the protocol will impose on all states. If the emerging outcome of the negotiations is making each and every participant equally unsatisfied, that might be a clear sign that a decent compromise is on the horizon.

Interviewed by Seth Brugger

Shifting Priorities: UNMOVIC and the Future of Inspections in Iraq: An Interview With Ambassador Rolf Ekeus


Rolf Ekeus, Sweden's ambassador to the United States and former executive chairman of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), was in the headlines this January when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan nominated him to head the newly created United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). Despite strong support by the United States, his nomination did not receive the approval of the Security Council, whose members finally settled on Hans Blix, former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to lead the new organization. (See ACT, January/February 2000.)

Ekeus led UNSCOM from its inception at the end of the Persian Gulf War until mid-1997, when he stepped down to assume his current post. UN Security Council Resolution 687, adopted at the conclusion of the war, had created the inspection body and charged it with discovering and destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. The organization operated until December 1998, when all inspections were suspended following the U.S.-British airstrikes against Iraq. After a year of negotiations, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1284 on December 17, 1999, replacing UNSCOM with UNMOVIC and opening the door for new inspections and the possibility of sanctions relief. (For the full text of the resolution, see ACT, December 1999.)

On February 24, Arms Control Today Editor J. Peter Scoblic and Research Analyst Matthew Rice met with Ekeus in Washington to discuss Resolution 1284, Iraq's weapons programs, the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and the political climate in the Security Council. The following is an edited version of their conversation.


ACT: How would you characterize the differences between UNMOVIC and UNSCOM?

Rolf Ekeus: Resolution 687 outlined two principal tasks. One was for Iraq to declare, and for UNSCOM to verify and supervise the elimination of, its prohibited weapons. To make it more clear, it was a sort of search and destroy mission. Iraq's capabilities should be found and should be eliminated. That was task number one. Equally important was task number two—to establish some monitoring of Iraq's capabilities so that no new WMD [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities would be created.

The new resolution refers back to 687, so the elimination element is still there, but the emphasis is now on monitoring. Resolution 1284 gives the impression that the matter of past weapons, which was the focus of 687, is no longer as significant. The new resolution doesn't indicate that there are any existing weapons in Iraq. The emphasis is on monitoring, and by implication that gives the impression that the Security Council is no longer concerned with existing capabilities but more concerned about Iraq's intentions.

ACT: Do you think the Security Council is right to make the assumption that the existing programs are no longer a threat? Absent inspections, what do we know about the nature of Iraq's activities?

Ekeus: UNSCOM was highly successful in identifying and eliminating Iraq's prohibited weapons—but not to the degree that everything was destroyed. The loopholes in the presentation by Iraq and the contradictions in Iraq's declarations mean there is reason to be careful. Iraq did not make a coherent presentation in the biological field or in the chemical field. There was a slightly better one in the missile field, and there was a coherent presentation with regard to the nuclear program.

Without inspectors one cannot be sure. But there is recent information that gives one the impression that something is going on. First of all, the UNSCOM inspectors have solid knowledge of the structure of Iraq's programs and the personnel involved. They are also aware of what was not sorted out in the Iraqi presentations.

You then add information from at least two types of sources. First, new information about procurement efforts by Iraq. The procurement efforts at least indicate in which direction Iraq is looking: what type of items, what type of equipment, what type of machinery, and what type of commodities they are buying or asking for. You get a pattern of what the procurement efforts are.

Secondly, there have been a number of people leaving the country, individuals who in their earlier activity have been involved in Iraq's program. Useful information has been picked up from them. These are the two main sources.

To that there can be added more marginal sources—overhead imagery and so on. If we take all of these data together and put good analytical minds to work, then we have at least a pattern that could be interpreted by people with experience.

That doesn't mean that one knows enough. In the long run, it is unsatisfactory, and it is a problem that there are no inspectors inside Iraq. But important conclusions can be drawn from the continued systematic work that UNSCOM has been doing. UNMOVIC, which according to Resolution 1284 is supposed to take over the assets of UNSCOM, will have access to all of this. I hope that UNMOVIC is wise enough to take on these capabilities and assets for the new organization.

In my view, there are no large quantities of weapons. I don't think that Iraq is especially eager in the biological and chemical area to produce such weapons for storage. Iraq views those weapons as tactical assets instead of strategic assets, which would require long-term storage of those elements, which is difficult. Rather, Iraq has been aiming to keep the capability to start up production immediately should it need to.

ACT: Given that assessment of the program, should the new organization have a stronger mandate than simply monitoring?

Ekeus: As Resolution 1284 is written, it is possible to carry out both elimination and monitoring tasks. It is just that the resolution is written in a way that gives the perception that one of the tasks, elimination, is not that important. In doing so, the resolution sends signals from the council to the new chairman indicating he shouldn't worry that much about it. But it is definitely not prohibited for UNMOVIC to search actively for prohibited capabilities. It is just so that the resolution stresses a strengthened monitoring system. The chairman will probably draw his conclusions when the first inspectors have made their first rounds.

ACT: As UNMOVIC begins work, one of the biggest points of contention will be the determination of disarmament tasks for Iraq. What do you think they will be?

Ekeus: The members of the Security Council appear to have different views. Some will say the tasks should be written in very general terms, say Iraq shall declare fully its past and ongoing biological, chemical and missile activities. Others will say that is too general. One should be more precise. The Security Council has had the same quarrel before. Even during my time, there were efforts by some permanent members to demand tasks that were more limited, time-wise and quantity-wise. I resisted a specific definition, which was also what Iraq wanted because it would make the tasks easier to fulfill. The problem with being too specific is that during the inspection process you detect new facts—the landscape changes with your investigation—so you can't say when you start out on your inspection trip exactly where it will lead you. With Resolution 1284, the Security Council is trying to force the organization to be more precise.

ACT: Some analysts have argued that in trying to resolve the Iraq situation we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, while others have said that watered-down inspections are worse than no inspections at all. Where do you fall in that argument?

Ekeus: It is important that high-quality, professional, competent inspectors carry out the work. In other words, one should not be sloppy. And the reason why is that we're talking about some of the most dangerous weapons—long-range missiles and warheads with biological and chemical agents. There is nothing humane in being generous to Iraq. You must have in mind the potential victims—there were victims of Iraqi chemical weapons before—the Iranians and the Kurds. So a humane position and sense of responsibility toward human suffering demands that you be strict and firm with regard to these capabilities. There is nothing won in being loose and incomplete in inspections.

ACT: Do you worry that if UNMOVIC adopts a monitoring posture instead of a search and destroy posture, it could generate a false sense of security that could actually be more dangerous than a stalemate in the Security Council?

Ekeus: Iraq has been stating that it has declared everything, that there is nothing of the prohibited capabilities left, that UNSCOM was 100 percent successful. UNSCOM people do not boast quite as much about what we did. We believe we did a good job, but I don't think that we were 100 percent successful. As I said, Resolution 1284 evokes that perception a little. However, I believe that one can do a full job of inspections within the parameters of the resolution, including search and supervised elimination. I don't think that it is correct to say 1284 is only about monitoring.

UNSCOM's monitoring operations, which were extensive, formed a highly effective system and did not really lead to any confrontations with Iraq. Monitoring had a routine character. You went to a facility you had been to many, many times before. The facility was known in detail. The production records were available, the inspectors had a detailed list of machines and machine tools, they knew the personnel, and they came and checked off that everything was normal. They looked upon the input and the output, they looked at the raw materials brought in as to how they had been disposed, and if they saw some new engineers or some engineers missing, for instance, they would inquire.

The confrontations were related to UNSCOM's search operations. Under these, UNSCOM inspected new facilities not declared by Iraq. When UNSCOM wanted to investigate the correctness of statements and investigate mobile capabilities and undeclared facilities, confrontations with Iraq occurred, as Iraq hindered the inspectors. The complaints and the difficulties with Iraq came out of the search and destroy task, while there were relatively few complaints about the daily monitoring.

So if you avoid those type of investigative inspections, you will probably have few problems, suggesting good cooperation, which will give the impression that the monitoring system is functioning well.

It is striking that 1284 says nothing about investigation and elimination. The words "elimination" and "destruction" don't appear at all. The reference to Resolution 687 in the beginning of 1284, however, means that everything is possible—by implication, all the rights and duties are the same—but 1284 is very polite. If it had mentioned elimination, it would have implied that there was something to be eliminated. The resolution is very careful not to upset and is phrased in a friendly fashion. It is not confrontational. Resolution 687 really implied that there was something wrong that had to be bettered. Resolution 1284 has no indication that there is anything missing.

ACT: Given the different tenor of Resolution 1284 as compared to Resolution 687 and given that the unity in the Security Council that existed at least early on in your tenure has disappeared, how is the role of the new executive chairman going to be different?

Ekeus: The chairman will have a very difficult task to start with because Iraq has not readmitted inspectors, so the key is to convince Iraq to allow inspectors to enter the country. And there I hope he will have the backing from the council—you have to recall that three permanent members abstained from voting on the new resolution. But I understand that they have declared that they intend to support the implementation of the resolution.

ACT: The secretary-general apparently considered some 25 or 30 names when he was trying to pick an executive chairman and either rejected them himself or was told by the Security Council that they would not be acceptable. Obviously your name was on that list. Why was it so difficult to find someone who would be acceptable?

Ekeus: This job, as it has turned out, is one of the most important in the international multilateral scene. It is of great significance to the UN's status and its role in the future. A failure would harm the organization. A wise decision with regard to the post of chairman is the first challenge.

But, secondly, the job is so difficult that no one wants it. With other high posts in the multilateral system—the heads of the World Health Organization, the UN Human Rights Commission or the World Bank—there is a tremendous line of candidates. Governments present their own best names, and they fight to get their choice into that job. With UNMOVIC, there were 25 names, say. Only one was proposed by his own government. Instead, governments pointed to people from other countries. The Swedish government didn't propose a Swede. The Dutch government didn't propose a Dutch. It showed how difficult this task is considered. It's so difficult that you don't want it. There was no candidate stepping up saying, "I would like the job," as you have on all other positions.

It's a special job because of its non-UN tradition, its non-UN culture. Namely, it has an element of enforcement. With the UN, almost everything—even 99 percent of Security Council work—is to serve the membership. For the International Labor Organization or the World Health Organization, your purpose is to help people. You help them with labor, you help them with food, you help them with medicine. What you're doing is positive. Even peacekeeping forces go in because both sides accept the peacekeepers. But UNSCOM was a counterculture operation. You implement and you enforce—that was Resolution 687. Of course, now the hard edges of 687 are taken away with 1284, but still the enforcement idea lingers.

The secretary-general's concern was also in light of the resolution, that he understands how important a successful dealing with the Iraq issue is. And how difficult it is politically, physically and in many other respects. But still it is important to the UN to demonstrate that it can handle this new task, that it can move into the new era that has such difficult jobs. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a threat to international peace and security, and the UN should, in my opinion, have a major role in dealing with this threat.

The secretary-general's step in first proposing such an UNSCOM name was in a sense counter to the style of the resolution. He was trying to demonstrate that he didn't want the new organization to be less than UNSCOM was. Iraq is still a serious problem and must be dealt with in a serious manner. And I think he succeeded. I think people understood that he takes Iraq very seriously.

ACT: Why do you think that your nomination was not ultimately accepted?

Ekeus: Well, it is not for me to identify arguments against something containing my name. I can imagine some arguments that could be advanced. Some arguments were wrong, other arguments one can understand. There were many considerations. There was a new resolution and especially a new organization. Why then go back and take an UNSCOM hat? The nomination of Hans Blix, who was an excellent choice, brings someone very strongly associated with the old UNSCOM, but not totally an UNSCOM personality.

ACT: Would you have accepted the job?

Ekeus: I asked Kofi Annan not to put forward my name. But then he outlined what I just said. He said that it is so important that we succeed. In support of the secretary-general, I would have accepted it if the Security Council went along. But with the nomination of Hans Blix, who did an excellent job as director-general of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and who has also been in Iraq, UNMOVIC got someone who also has been around before and has some battle scars.

ACT: One of the reasons for making Resolution 1284 less confrontational was to create consensus within the Security Council. But France, China and Russia all abstained. Why did they do that, and do you think that abstention is the closest to consensus that the Security Council is going to get?

Ekeus: The abstention was a little odd because since the vote was taken, all of them have said that they support the resolution and that they will assist in its implementation. But I think the main problem for them was not the arms control aspect of the resolution but the link to the lifting of sanctions—it was not clear enough. They wanted to have language that was more distinct with regard to the lifting of sanctions. They had hardly any problem with the weapons part. My conviction is that these three major abstaining states all have serious concerns about Iraq's weapons. The Russian military is concerned—there is no Russian wish to have an Iraq with nuclear weapons. The French are concerned about weapons of mass destruction capabilities in Iraq. And the Chinese, too. The three of them all have a concern with Iraq's weapons. However, they also have a wish to get the sanctions lifted.

ACT: You said that Russia, China and France have said that they will help implement the resolution, but Russia has also said that it's not bound to help enforce the provisions of 1284 and the Chinese have said that, in the end, the Security Council is not going to be able to implement this resolution. Given those attitudes, what is the likelihood that there will be full implementation of Resolution 1284?

Ekeus: Even if you abstain on a Security Council vote, you are still bound by a Chapter 7 resolution. My sense is that their intention is to back it. Then it becomes a question of how strongly. And how much clout do they have in Baghdad—how much will their support matter? We don't know where Baghdad will end up, but it will probably begin bargaining over conditions for entering Iraq, and maybe the countries that abstained can help there.

ACT: So you think that Iraq will work with this resolution, that it will not just flatly refuse to accept 1284, which is what it has done publicly to date?

Ekeus: First of all, I believe that Iraq will accept 1284 after some friendly—or less friendly—persuasion from members of the Security Council. It depends a little bit on how Iraq interprets the idea of working with 1284. There is one distinct advantage in 1284. It takes away the ceiling on oil exports.

But Iraq is still not happy with the sanctions aspects of 1284, which do not speak of lifting sanctions but of suspending them. This will create problems for the Iraqi authorities' ability to plan ahead. The language of suspension injects an element of instability and insecurity. That is probably the major reason why Iraq has been withholding its approval of the resolution. In that respect, 1284 is not better than 687. From an Iraqi perspective, that part of the resolution is more negative than 687, which talked about lifting the sanctions. Now it discusses only suspension.

What is positive from Iraq's view is the softer language on the arms position. But, as I have said repeatedly, it is softened language, but that does not mean UNMOVIC is prevented from doing what is necessary because the references back to the old resolution and to the weapons issues give UNMOVIC considerable rights and capabilities to act.

Iraq is again confronted with a choice: does it get anything for cooperation, and is it worth cooperating if you don't get any positive fallout? If the suspension language is deemed okay by the leadership, Iraq will probably cooperate.

ACT: Hans Blix has said that UNMOVIC will be more of a "UN-style" organization. What does this mean?

Ekeus: I don't understand. UNSCOM was a creation of the UN Security Council after the Gulf War. It was a UN operation. Everything was operated under UN resolutions. The staff was, to a high degree, on loan from member governments. This had to do with not wanting to create a permanent bureaucracy. The Security Council wanted to have an efficient, cost-effective, high-quality operation. The people who came in were contracted by me as chairman and had exactly the same obligations under the contract as all other UN field operations staff. UNSCOM was financed in the beginning by frozen Iraqi assets and later by Iraqi money generated by oil sales. No resources were provided from the ordinary UN budget. And there are still not. UNMOVIC will not see one cent from the UN. Everything will come from Iraqi oil money. The new resolution states that the funding should come exclusively from Iraq—from oil money taken from the escrow account. UNMOVIC is identical to UNSCOM in this sense. So, we can say that it is a UN operation. But one should not say that it is more of a UN operation.

ACT: Earlier you said that the traditional UN culture was more cooperative than the culture of UNSCOM. Could Blix have been indicating that UNMOVIC was going to be more cooperative than confrontational?

Ekeus: Yes. Formally, there is no difference. But politically it can be a whole different thing. UNSCOM had the task to control, supervise and somewhat enforce the elimination of WMD capabilities. UNMOVIC is not directly asked to look for WMD. As I said, the language of Resolution 1284 is the language of no suspicion.

ACT: Do you think that it is important to include current UNSCOM inspectors in the new organization?

Ekeus: It is up to Hans Blix. There are those who are advising him not to take any UNSCOM inspectors, and there are those who are advising him to take all of UNSCOM. I can only say that I know the UNSCOM personnel, and they are of the highest quality imaginable. In talking about how staff is to be recruited, Resolution 1284 mentions experience, which suggests UNSCOM.

ACT: Since your tenure at UNSCOM, there has been an increasing attention to the humanitarian impact of the economic sanctions on the Iraqi population and in the last week, two top UN officials have resigned, saying the sanctions are hurting the Iraqi people. If Iraq does not cooperate with Resolution 1284, will the oil-for-food program and the other humanitarian programs in Iraq be sufficient?

Ekeus: There were a few reasons for the imposition of sanctions after the Gulf War. In 1991, we all felt that it was important that Iraqi oil go back on the market, but on the other side, it was felt that the Iraqis, with their gross violation, could not go on as if nothing had happened.

There was deep concern about the Iraqi weapons capability, and that concern only deepened because the problem turned out to be worse than we had expected. Sanctions were the way to convince Iraq to cooperate with inspectors. Why should Iraq have cooperated with inspectors if there was no carrot and no stick? And in this case it was a combined carrot-and-stick approach. Keeping the sanctions was the stick, and the carrot was that if Iraq cooperated with the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction, the Security Council would lift the sanctions. Sanctions were the backing for the inspections, and they were what sustained my operation almost for the whole time.

But there was care taken in humanitarian respects. Witness the resolutions opening up oil sales for food and medicine. The only problem was that Saddam and the Iraqi leadership didn't go along with it. It was offered, it was presented, it was asked, begged. I really have to salute [former UN Secretary-General Boutros] Boutros-Ghali. During his tenure, he spent several years trying to convince Saddam to accept the system of selling oil to buy food. He succeeded in the end, but the delay was exclusively Iraq's fault. I think it is important to remember that.

Under the sanctions as they function today, Iraq is allowed to sell unlimited amounts of oil, probably even if it has not accepted Resolution 1284. Theoretically, even under the earlier resolutions, it is $5.26 billion per six months, let's say $11 billion per year. But Iraq can get, just by saying yes, unlimited sales, as the market permits. But the thing is that payment for the oil sales goes into an escrow account, and from there Iraq can use money to import with some restrictions. The question is then if you lift the sanctions, and give the funds directly to the leadership of Iraq, does it mean that Iraq will use this for food and medicine for its people? I haven't met anyone who believes that the money will be used for the same purpose as dictated by the UN. And that is the message for those who are critical of the sanctions. They have to make the case that if you lift the sanctions system, the Iraqi people will be better off. That the $11 billion will be used to get food and medicine to the people. That is the problem.

It is a problem to get Iraq back to being a normal country. It is an enormous problem, but in the meantime, it is not humane to cancel the oil-for-food program.

ACT: For years, UNSCOM was held up as a model for what collective security and intrusive inspections could accomplish for arms control. But UNSCOM's use as a model seems to have been tarnished by Iraq's apparent ability to outlast the Security Council just in terms of sheer political will. What lessons can we draw from that and apply to UNMOVIC?

Ekeus: There is a simple reason why UNSCOM was a success. The success was due to the quality of the people and to the political element. So that is how it worked: the combination of high-quality practice methods, high technology, wonderful personnel and science. It was the brainpower, not muscles, plus the political backing that gave results. What in the end created problems was not the professional quality of UNSCOM, but problems on the political side. That is the single, dominant and only reason that it failed.

The unity of the Security Council was the political fact that sustained the UNSCOM operation and helped its success. The failure to maintain that unity undermined it. Now the Security Council members are trying to restore unity. The adoption of Resolution 1284 was a first step. The implementation of it will be the first test.

Interviewed by J. Peter Scoblic and Matthew Rice

Illuminating Global Interests: The UN and Arms Control

In January 1998, Jayantha Dhanapala was appointed United Nations undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs. A career diplomat with extensive arms control experience, Dhanapala is perhaps best known for his skillful handling of the 1995 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review and extension conference, at which he was able to secure unanimous support for indefinite extension of the treaty.

Dhanapala joined the Sri Lankan foreign service in 1965 after spending several years in the private sector. He held diplomatic posts in London, Beijing, Washington and New Delhi until 1984, when he was appointed ambassador and permanent representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations. In 1987 Javier Perez de Cuellar named him director of the Geneva-based United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). Dhanapala returned to Sri Lanka in 1992, where he served as additional foreign secretary and then as ambassador to the United States.

When he retired from the foreign service in 1997, Dhanapala joined the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies as diplomat-in-residence, a post he held until his current appointment. He attended the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka and received a master's degree in international studies from American University in Washington, D.C.

On September 28, Arms Control Today editor J. Peter Scoblic met with Dhanapala at UN headquarters in New York to discuss the United Nations' involvement in a wide range of arms control issues, including the future of the Conference on Disarmament, the prospects for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the disarming of Iraq and the regulation of the conventional arms trade. The following is an edited version of their conversation.

Readers should note that this interview was conducted before both the October 6–8 Vienna conference on the CTBT's entry into force and the U.S. Senate's October 13 rejection of the test ban. However, following the Senate vote, Dhanapala submitted a brief statement to Arms Control Today (see Statement).


ACT: How broad is the scope of current UN arms control activities?

Dhanapala: The United Nations has been involved in disarmament from its very inception. The first General Assembly resolution adopted by the UN was on disarmament, and since 1945 the UN has covered the entire gamut of disarmament issues—weapons of mass destruction, conventional arms, confidence-building measures, regional disarmament. In doing so, it has attempted to develop a consensus among its membership so that there could be commonly agreed goals and action toward the achievement of those goals.

The three special sessions of the General Assembly that have been convened have been able to achieve this consensus, and following the first special session on disarmament in 1978, we have developed a machinery for the UN to work on disarmament that is divided basically into two arms: the deliberative machinery, which consists of the First Committee of the General Assembly and the Disarmament Commission; and the negotiating machinery, which consists of the Conference on Disarmament [CD], which has recently been expanded to 66 members.

In addition, there is the Department of Disarmament Affairs, recently re-established as part of Kofi Annan's reforms; the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, a group of eminent persons in the field of disarmament that advises the secretary-general; and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research. All these elements in the UN system contribute toward not only advising the secretary-general himself on disarmament issues, but also providing assistance to member states on disarmament issues in terms of information and objective data.

We also work in the area of outreach activities with the general public through our regional centers in Katmandu, in Lima, and in Lome, as well as through our headquarters here in New York. We organize conferences; we have public lectures, seminars and symposia; and we produce and disseminate a large number of publications. All this is part of our advocacy of disarmament. We are a norm-based organization, and therefore the propagation of those norms to the general public and to member states is part of our mission.

ACT: The Conference on Disarmament is one of the UN's major arms control institutions, but for the past three years there have been no substantive negotiations, and for two of those years members have not even been able to agree on a working program. Do you think there is a future for the CD?

Dhanapala: I share the concern of the international community over the fact that for three years the Conference on Disarmament has not adopted a program of work nor made any meaningful progress in negotiating disarmament agreements after it negotiated the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT]. But we must, at the same time, recall that during the Cold War, there were many years—many more than three years—when the CD was inactive and unable to make any progress. At that time, I did not hear the same clamor for the abolition of the CD or, as the Tokyo Forum Report calls for, the suspension of the CD. I think those are very extreme and drastic views.

I believe that when there is a forum that has been established for the discussion of multilateral issues and disarmament, we should preserve that forum as far as possible. And we should try to examine why the CD has been allowed to be inactive in these three years. I believe it is a symptom of the international situation, that the deep disagreements among the great powers, the permanent five members of the Security Council [P-5], intensified in 1999. It is no secret that the bilateral nuclear talks between Russia and the United States have made no progress since 1995—we have had agreements, but we have not had treaties signed. START II remains to be ratified, and the CTBT is still unratified by the U.S. There are clearly problems, and in such a situation, the fact that the CD has not been able to make any progress is not a surprise really. I believe that the key to the CD beginning to work successfully lies in the general improvement of the international situation.

ACT: On a more specific level, would it be desirable, or even possible, to amend the consensus rule and move to a different procedure for agreeing?

Dhanapala: That would be difficult to achieve at this point in time. Disarmament touches on the security of sovereign nation-states, and it would be extremely difficult to have disarmament treaties with a few countries being outvoted. It certainly does not augur well for international peace and security if you isolate a minority in a general majority vote in favor of specific treaties. I think the objective should be to try to be as inclusive as possible, and the original purpose of the consensus rule was that it would bring a convergence of views of all states-parties. Unfortunately, the actual operation of the consensus rule has worked differently.

The views on the question of consensus have been very subjective. If countries are in the majority, they would be in favor of abolishing the consensus rule. If you are in a minority, you would be very wary of making such a recommendation. So, I believe that we must still move toward consensus, and decisions that have been arrived at through consensus are more likely to ensure the universality of global treaties on disarmament, and they will also be more likely to ensure their durability—and that is an important factor.

I would therefore advocate caution in rushing to abolish the consensus rule because it might lead to a steamroller majority, which would be counterproductive and which could lead to polarization and a very fractious minority acting against the interests of international peace and security out of frustration that the system is iniquitous or not sufficiently cognizant of its security interests. What we have to do internationally—and the UN provides a forum for doing this—is to try to draw all these different national interests into a global common security interest.

ACT: What are the prospects for the CTBT's entry into force and what do you anticipate in the upcoming conference in Vienna?

Dhanapala: First we must recognize that the CTBT is unique in having an entry-into-force provision in Article XIV that is unprecedented. Article XIV requires 44 specified countries to sign and ratify the treaty before its entry into force. That requirement is not in any other disarmament treaty. So there is an built-in handicap against the entry into force of the CTBT. Having said that, I think it is most unfortunate that we have today only 154 signatories of the treaty and 45 that have ratified it [as of September 28]. And of those 45, many of the countries specified in Annex 2 of the CTBT are missing, including three of the nuclear-weapon states: the United States, Russia and China.

I will be present at the October 6-8 meeting of the states-parties to the CTBT to which the secretary-general as depositary has invited signatory states as well as non-signatory states at the request of the ratifying states. I can see that the meeting will, after three days, end with a declaration, which cannot do very much more than exhort the international community to enable the treaty to enter into force as soon as possible. [See Final Declaration.]

We have very important countries, including three nuclear-weapon states, who have not ratified the treaty, and I do not think that their non-ratification is a function of the international situation that we were talking about, which has led to the general pause in the whole progress of disarmament. I think in certain cases it is domestic issues. In the case of India and Pakistan, we have of course seen the tests in South Asia, but we also have promises of both countries to sign the treaty, and I'm confident that those promises will be fulfilled sooner rather than later.

I think, therefore, in the short term, the prospects for entry into force of the CTBT are not very rosy, but I remain optimistic that if the ratification of the CTBT takes place in the United States, this itself would be a catalyst for others to follow suit.

ACT: If the CTBT does not enter into force in the short term, what effect will that have on the five-year review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] to be held next April?

Dhanapala: Well, clearly it will have a negative effect on the 2000 NPT review conference, but it is more than the non-entry into force of the CTBT that acts as a unfortunate preparation for this important conference, which will be the first review conference since the treaty was indefinitely extended. I believe the fact that there has been inadequate progress in the implementation of Article VI of the NPT, in which the P-5 agreed to work toward disarmament, will be cited by many non-nuclear-weapon states—as indeed they already have in the preparatory process—as being an indication that the promises of the 1995 conference have not been completely fulfilled. The Statement of Principles and Objectives is one aspect of it. The resolution on the Middle East is another aspect. And so there are a number of factors in addition to the non-ratification of the CTBT that will place a great strain on the NPT regime unless something dramatic happens between now and April.

ACT: What besides the entry into force of the CTBT would serve that purpose?

Dhanapala: I think a demonstration of the political will of the nuclear-weapon states toward making deep cuts in their nuclear arsenals—either through a statement or through actual negotiations—would greatly help to allay the concerns of the non-nuclear-weapon states. As you know, there is an ongoing review of NATO's nuclear doctrine as a result of the efforts of Germany and Canada. There is also the public opinion pressure built up through the New Agenda Coalition of seven countries who had a resolution in the UN General Assembly last year and who will repeat that resolution in the General Assembly this year. There is also the Tokyo Forum Report, a report of a group of international nuclear disarmament experts that has had a considerable international impact and that will, no doubt, also be the subject of discussion when the First Committee of the General Assembly meets. So all these developments could help to avert what I see as a very serious debate in April 2000 on the nuclear non-proliferation regime, of which the NPT is the crucial element.

ACT: What is the future of UNSCOM?

Dhanapala: UNSCOM in its present form is clearly not going to survive for very much longer, and I would think that the draft resolutions that are now being circulated in the Security Council, which alone is empowered to act on this matter, make it very clear that a successor organization to UNSCOM is already being contemplated. Precisely what form it will take and what the details of that organization will be are not clear, but at its center it will have the implementation of the Security Council resolutions, beginning with Resolution 687 to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and missiles with a range over 150 kilometers.

The panels that were organized at the beginning of this year under the chairmanship of Ambassador [Celso] Amorim of Brazil, who was president of the Security Council earlier this year, did produce a great deal of very useful material. I was a member of the disarmament panel, but there were also two other panels on the humanitarian aspects and on the question of prisoners of war and Kuwaiti property. In the disarmament panel alone there were a number of recommendations that were agreed upon, but the political decision on what should be done had to be taken by the Security Council, and we know that for several months the Security Council has been locked in disagreement on this issue.

Last week, P-5 foreign ministers held discussions and decided that the permanent representatives here will continue with the negotiations on this issue. So clearly UNSCOM is no longer operational; it is unable to go back to Iraq to fulfill the Security Council resolutions. That is also the case with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], which helped UNSCOM in the implementation of the Security Council resolutions.

But at the same time, it must not be forgotten that both organizations destroyed more weapons of mass destruction in Iraq than were destroyed during the Gulf War. In the process, they also acquired a great deal of expertise on the subject of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. The Amorim panel felt that a reinforced monitoring and verification work plan could take into account the remaining disarmament obligations of Iraq. The ongoing monitoring and verification plan already envisaged in Resolution 715 is a basis on which one could build a successor organization to UNSCOM that, together with IAEA, would be able to fulfill those obligations. So it is now a matter for the Security Council to take up this issue.

ACT: Given the recent developments in U.S. negotiations with North Korea, what are the prospects for resolving the North Korean nuclear and missile issue?

Dhanapala: Well, on the nuclear issue, I think, as the director-general of the IAEA said in Vienna yesterday, the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] must come into full compliance with its safeguards agreement with the IAEA and restore its good status in the NPT regime. I remain hopeful that the agreements that were worked out under the Agreed Framework will be fulfilled, and I think it's also a beneficial development that the United States has reached an agreement with the DPRK on the subject of its missile program and that, for the moment, the DPRK has agreed to desist from any missile tests. We are aware that in conducting missile tests, the DPRK was not violating any norms—unlike in the case of the nuclear issue—because there are in fact no internationally negotiated agreements on missile issues, which is perhaps a lacuna in disarmament agreements that should be addressed by the international community.

But the tests did create a great deal of tension, particularly in Northeast Asia, and the fact that the tests will be suspended is certainly something to be welcomed. It is difficult to predict what will happen hereafter, but I think the way in which diplomacy can be used to check proliferation has been demonstrated by these recent bilateral discussions between the United States and the DPRK. The UN can only applaud political solutions to problems instead of the use of force, and so we also welcome this bilateral agreement for that reason and hope very much that it will endure.

ACT: It has been over a year since India and Pakistan conducted their nuclear tests. What has been the damage to the non-proliferation regime?

Dhanapala: Again, as the secretary-general stated at the time of the South Asian nuclear tests in May 1998, neither India nor Pakistan violated a treaty or any convention when they tested because they did not belong either to the NPT or to the CTBT. But there is no question that both countries caused a very serious setback to the momentum that had been generated, particularly after the Cold War, toward nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. With 187 countries today being members of the NPT, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is very much customary international law, so a norm has been practically established. In addition to that, when we—all of us, including India and Pakistan—are advocating nuclear disarmament, that cause is not advanced by two more countries crossing the threshold, whatever the security compulsions of those countries may be.

So, my conclusion, therefore, is that it has been a setback, but that that setback could be mitigated to some extent by both countries joining the CTBT, and with the statements made in the fall of 1998 here in New York by the prime ministers of both countries that they will do so, we remain optimistic. But beyond the signing of the CTBT by these two countries, restraint is absolutely necessary in terms of the weaponization programs, in terms of the development and deployment of delivery systems, in terms of command and control systems. That is why the secretary-general supports the continuation of the Lahore process between these two countries. It would be a way forward for two neighboring countries that have demonstrated their nuclear capability to solve the bilateral issues between them.

ACT: Is there any hope of rolling back the nuclear programs of those two countries?

Dhanapala: In the short term I see no prospect of that. The elections that are ongoing in India are likely to see the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party], the party that launched India on the nuclear road, return to power, and there is already a draft nuclear doctrine that has been published. [See ACT, July/August 1999.] It does not appear from this evidence that there is going to be rollback of India's nuclear weapons program. And it follows—because the Pakistani nuclear program was a reaction to the Indian program—that Pakistan's program will remain. My hope is that the solution of the political problems, together with general progress on the international nuclear disarmament front, will persuade these countries to rollback. But it has to be linked to progress in international nuclear disarmament.

ACT: So you see the draft doctrine that India issued as a serious document as opposed to a political document released to influence the elections?

Dhanapala: Well, the timing of the publication may have been related to the election campaign to indicate the incumbent government's seriousness in following through with its nuclear plans after the May 1998 tests. But I think that it also is consistent with the statements that were made in the Indian parliament, in the United Nations and in other international forums about India's plans. For example, the concept of "no first use" was always mentioned by India as being an essential element of its nuclear doctrine, and that has been reflected in the draft nuclear doctrine.

It has been stated that the doctrine as published is a discussion document, and the intention is to have as widespread a discussion as possible within India and for the new government, when it is firmly in the saddle, to then decide on making the draft a permanent document. So I think there are serious elements in it that have to be considered, but the timing of its publication was probably dictated by electoral considerations.

ACT: What is the UN doing in the field of conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons?

Dhanapala: We have an entire branch devoted to the subject of conventional arms. While we recognize that the greatest threat to humankind remains weapons of mass destruction, and in particular nuclear weapons, the wars that have been fought since 1945 have been fought with conventional weapons and have caused an enormous number of deaths and an enormous amount of destruction. Most recently, the use of small arms and light weapons during conflicts within countries has resulted in an appalling cost in terms of civilian lives.

Small arms and light weapons have thus emerged as a major item on the disarmament agenda. The UN took the lead in recognizing this issue in 1997 by commissioning a group of government experts, who issued a report with recommendations to arrest the proliferation and the accumulation of small arms and light weapons. That report was followed by another that was issued this year. There have also been several resolutions in the General Assembly—four last year—together with the consideration of the issue at the Security Council level. Last week, the secretary-general spoke at a special session of the Security Council, presided over by the minister of foreign affairs of the Netherlands, that was devoted entirely to the subject of small arms.

We also had the secretary-general designate the Department for Disarmament Affairs as the focal point in the UN system for action on small arms and light weapons, and we have established a mechanism called the Coordinating Action for Small Arms [CASA] to serve as a clearinghouse for information on the activities of the entire UN system in this area, together with forging new initiatives in a multifaceted way. The small arms issue embraces a wide variety of aspects—the security aspect, the humanitarian and human rights aspect, the developmental aspect, and the environmental aspect—all of which have to be addressed holistically when we look at this problem.

ACT: What is the UN doing to control exports and imports of conventional weapons?

Dhanapala: We have developed a number of initiatives that build on the initiatives of member states, such as those of ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States], which has established a moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of small arms and light weapons; the OAS [Organization of American States] convention on firearms; and the Joint Action of the European Union regarding arms exports. All these are building blocks toward a growing international consensus on what should be done. Right now, we are planning an international conference on the illicit trafficking of small arms in all these aspects, which is likely to be held in 2001 in Geneva.

We are also assisting member states in collecting and destroying weapons, particularly in post-conflict situations. The failure to destroy surplus weapons after a conflict can pose a grave risk in terms of recurrence of that conflict, but that risk can be eliminated by collecting the weapons and by finding employment for the demobilized combatants. In addition, we have to look into the protection of civilians in conflict, where easy availability of weapons tends to increase criminality.

Now this means, of course, that exporters have got to be very responsible. We recognize that small arms and light weapons are legitimately used by established governments of sovereign states in the normal defense of their security. But we are talking about surplus arms and the proliferation of small arms well beyond these legitimate security needs. The supply of such weapons has to be arrested if we are to make any impact on current conflicts and on terrorist groups, criminal gangs and drug cartels. So the conference in 2001 will be crucial.

ACT: What is the role of the UN Register of Conventional Arms?

Dhanapala: The Register of Conventional Arms, which was established in 1992, increases transparency in the export, import and national production of conventional arms, and as such serves as an important confidence-building measure. It embraces seven categories of conventional weapons—major weapons, not small arms—but, unfortunately, only 90 countries participate in this registry, approximately. I hope we can expand the number of countries in the registry and also widen its scope to include more categories.

We also have a standardized instrument for the reporting of military expenditure, which again is inadequately used by member states, and we need to also universalize that. Our regional centers in Katmandu, Lima and Lome also assist in our task with the Conventional Arms Register, in organizing seminars with regard to small arms and light weapons, and in developing regional registers.

ACT: What specifically can the UN do to get a handle on the illicit trafficking of weapons?

Dhanapala: A number of proposals are being made. First, I think governments need to agree on measures that will allow more accurate tracing of the journey between exporter and end user through more rigorous customs cooperation. Very often there is a gray market through which some of these exports enter, and their end user is very different from the original destination of these weapons. Therefore if customs, intelligence agencies, Interpol and the entire machinery of both national governments and international organizations work together, we would be able to trace these links much better and prevent the diversion of these exports to undesirable destinations.

Second, some have proposed international markings that would enable tracing of firearms or guns and other small arms. There are also suggestions regarding regional registers and subregional registers of small arms. We are also looking into a study on the feasibility of restricting trade of such weapons to authorized dealers so that it would be possible to locate responsibility more clearly. I think the extent to which governments can agree on these proposals will determine the success of the 2001 meeting I mentioned.

ACT: In recent months, a number of observers have noted that there has been a slowdown in arms control. Some have even referred to the "death of arms control." What is your comment on those observations and what can be done to reverse that perception?

Dhanapala: Well, I'm not ready to deliver an autopsy because I don't think that there has been a death of arms control and disarmament. I think it is not surprising, as I said earlier, that given the post-Cold War euphoria and the international consensus that existed then for disarmament, we had a number of disarmament agreements in quick succession, culminating in the CTBT of 1996. We have seen a change in the international situation since then, and the plateau that we are now on as far as disarmament is concerned is, in my opinion, a temporary lull. As soon as the international situation improves and the conditions are ripe for us to move forward, I believe there will once again be a progressive movement as far as disarmament is concerned.

Now, the elements that will go into this new situation will have to, of course, be generated by the international community, and we cannot allow the lull to last too long because that itself would be a failure and would be self-perpetuating. Therefore, I must urge the international community to look into this.

I am particularly concerned about the question of military expenditure. Global military expenditure fell very sharply after the Cold War. In 1998 it was $745 billion, according to one estimate. Projections for global military expenditure next year indicate a rise from that figure, and I fear that unless we reach disarmament agreements quickly, we are going to see once again a rise of this figure to Cold War levels. That would be a major setback to the global community because of the fundamental relationship between disarmament and development and the many other needs that have been unmet internationally—many people living below the poverty line, many people without safe water and many other global problems that have to be addressed with these resources.

ACT: You have mentioned the relationship between disarmament and the international situation several times. What aspect of the international situation needs to be changed so that disarmament may begin to move forward once again?

Dhanapala: Well, first, I think that with the end of the Cold War and the bipolar structure of international relations that it entailed, it is no longer a situation between the Russian Federation and the United States alone. There are clearly more actors today—more actors than the five permanent members of the Security Council. We have a number of important countries internationally. We are becoming increasingly a multipolar society, although we do have some countries that are clearly more powerful than others. Second, we face a great need today to strengthen the United Nations and the primacy of international law. We need to ensure that the rule of law prevails in the dealings that states have with each other and that the implementation of disarmament agreements and the forging of new disarmament norms is part and parcel of that body of international law.

Finally, I think that we need to work together more cooperatively with regard to the global interest. In today's globalized society there is a greater integration of the international economy and the political systems of countries. Therefore, in the pursuit of their national interests, states must recognize that there is a fundamental correlation between national interests and global interests, whether it is the political, military, economic or trade aspects. This global perspective has to be increasingly borne in mind.

ACT: Is part of the problem a sense of unease with the overwhelming relative power of the United States?

Dhanapala: I think inevitably after the end of the Cold War, which left the United States as the sole surviving superpower, a period of adjustment has become necessary between this overwhelmingly superior power and the rest of the world, including the United Nations. I believe there have been areas in which the United States has worked very well with the international community in achieving global norms and implementing global norms, but clearly there are areas where some elements within the United States have perceived the U.S. national interest to be at variance with the global interest. I think that the degree to which we can harmonize the U.S. national interest with the global interest will be the measure of success of U.S. leadership in the international community—leadership it is called upon to assume by virtue of its superior power.

ACT: What would be your vision of an expanded or refocused role for the UN in arms control and disarmament?

Dhanapala: I think our primary objective at this point is to reassess the global objectives in disarmament and reforge a global consensus on what the world community must set as its targets. This can be done, in my opinion, through a fourth special session of the General Assembly, which we call SSOD IV in the shorthand that we adopt here. My hope is that the member-states of the UN can agree on having that meeting in order to address the roles of multilateral disarmament in the immediate future and agree on a program of action to achieve those goals. Without that, I think we are groping and making piecemeal arrangements, whether in the area of weapons of mass destruction or the in the area of conventional arms.

It is useful to have these benchmarks, and the final document of the first special session SSOD I is already 21 years old. We have had several achievements, including the CTBT, and therefore we need to look at a fresh set of goals that should be achieved in the changed situation since the Cold War ended. And unless we do that, I think we do not have a compass for the future. SSOD IV will also help us to forge that vision, upon which the UN would very much like to see the international community agree. We must move toward an international society that places less emphasis on weaponry to solve issues that should be solved through nonviolent political means, through diplomacy.

Having a common security at lower levels of arms is the vision that the UN would have. A general and complete disarmament under international control has been the motto that has been adopted from the earliest times, but it translates really into possession of the minimum level of armaments—of conventional weaponry, that is, because I do think weapons of mass destruction should be abolished as we have abolished chemical and biological weapons—and that the minimum level required for national security would therefore pose no security threat to other countries. The realization of these goals would enable us to achieve a more peaceful and a more prosperous world.

 


Dhanapala Reacts to the U.S. Senate's Rejection of the CTBT

The decision to join a major international security treaty is, of course, a decision that is left exclusively to individual nation-states in the exercise of their sovereignty. The secretary-general has already expressed his regret over the U.S. Senate's recent vote against the ratification of the CTBT, reaffirming the importance of a universal and internationally and effectively verifiable comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty in maintaining the nuclear non-proliferation regime and progress towards nuclear disarmament. The vote was all the more regrettable given the efforts of U.S. leaders over several decades to achieve such a treaty and the strong public support this goal continues to enjoy.

The fate of the CTBT will shape significantly the future of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)—a treaty whose indefinite extension in 1995 was closely tied to the conclusion of a CTBT. In April of next year, the states-parties to the NPT will assemble in New York for the treaty's next five-year review conference. I fully expect that participants will assess closely the progress made in achieving this comprehensive ban on all nuclear tests, which had been promised in 1995.

The good news is that the fundamental norm against testing remains strong worldwide and that no nuclear-weapon state has indicated any intention of ending its current moratorium on conducting such tests. The challenge ahead is to persist in a collective international effort to make this norm binding under international law and to reinforce this basic obligation with a highly reliable system of verification that is being established in terms of the treaty's process. The sooner the CTBT enters into force, the sooner both of these goals will be achieved. —Jayantha Dhanapala

Interviewed by J. Peter Scoblic

The Lessons and Legacy of UNSCOM: An Interview With Ambassador Richard Butler

June 1999

Interviewed by J. Peter Scoblic

After two years as the United Nations' chief arms inspector in Iraq, Ambassador Richard Butler resigned June 30 as the executive chairman of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM). Butler's departure from UNSCOM, whose operations in Iraq have been suspended since the U.S.-British air and missile attacks in December 1998, coincides with the apparent demise of UNSCOM due to Baghdad's continuing refusal to fulfill its disarmament obligations and the widening rift within the UN Security Council as to how to deal with the government of Saddam Hussein.

During Butler's tenure, UNSCOM faced a number of crises that moved the spotlight away from Iraq's non-compliance and onto the commission and its executive chairman. Among them were the highly publicized resignation of American Scott Ritter, the former UNSCOM inspector who criticized U.S. policymakers for contributing to Iraq's ongoing defiance, and charges that U.S. intelligence services conducted their own operations against Iraq under the guise of providing intelligence support to UNSCOM. Butler's tenure also saw an increasingly divided Security Council, which has so far been unable to decide the fate of the UN-mandated disarmament regime in Iraq.

Butler is currently diplomat-in-residence at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where he is writing a book about his experiences with UNSCOM and the disarming of Iraq. A native Australian and a career diplomat with extensive arms control experience, Butler spent five years as Australia's permanent representative to the United Nations immediately prior to joining UNSCOM. In 1983, he was appointed Australia's first ambassador for disarmament, and subsequently served as ambassador to Thailand and Cambodia. He holds degrees from the Australian National University and the University of Sydney.

On July 19, Arms Control Today managing editor J. Peter Scoblic met with Ambassador Butler in New York City to discuss the implications of UNSCOM's withdrawal from Iraq, the current proposals before the Security Council and the future of arms control. The following is an edited version of their conversation.


Arms Control Today: What are the broader ramifications of UNSCOM's removal from Iraq for arms control?

Richard Butler: The Security Council-mandated effort to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction is the major test case for the world's attempt to prevent the spread of those weapons. Since the current crisis started last year on August 3 when Iraq decided to stop all of our disarmament work, I have said many times—to the Security Council, in public lectures, in private conversations and to the media—that the issue of Saddam Hussein is far bigger and larger than his own attachment to weapons of mass destruction.

In the last month or so, that view has strengthened. When I was dealing directly with Iraq, I felt strongly about the deceit we were faced with and about the attacks that were made upon us by Iraq and its supporters, many of which rested on falsehoods that were very damaging. That made me feel strongly about getting the job done with Iraq, but I also felt very definitely that Iraq was a paradigm case for something the world has been trying to do since the mid-'60s when the modern attempt to restrain the spread of weapons of mass destruction began—the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT], the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention and so on.

ACT: What made Iraq the paradigm case for arms control?

Butler: The Iraq case had three elements. First, above all else, there was cheating from within the arms control regimes. The biggest nightmare of parties to these treaties is that a treaty partner will sign up but cheat. Iraq is a party to NPT and a party to the Biological Weapons Convention. It hasn't ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, but after the 1925 [Geneva] Protocol no state was supposed to use chemical weapons.

Secondly, it was given the highest form of command in international law—namely Security Council resolutions, which are binding on all states under Article 25 of the UN Charter—to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction.

And finally, Iraq constituted one of the most conspicuous cases in modern times of rejection of the world's assertion that no one should have weapons of mass destruction—something of indisputable importance.

ACT: Did the UN understand in 1991 that Iraq would be seen as a test case for enforcement of the arms control regime?

Butler: Well, let me put it this way. The Security Council didn't attach sanctions to Iraq's promise never to invade anyone again or to the promise of being peaceful in the future. It very specifically attached future relief of oil and financial sanctions to Iraq completing its disarmament tasks. If you look at Resolution 687, that's what you see. So my answer is yes.

Now, people may have had other motives as well. Some people have an intense dislike of Saddam Hussein and his regime. Some people felt very deeply that the regime behaved with dreadful brutality in Kuwait and elsewhere. Some Middle East politics were involved. I will not comment on those things. But the Council attached relief of the main sanctions to completion of disarmament tasks. That's unique.

That's why I argued for the last year that it was essential to win the case against Iraq and its weapons because of what was at stake in the larger sense: the authority of the Council, the willingness of the Council to enforce the regimes of non-proliferation, the viability of those regimes, the moral standard that they represented. Those things are truly important. If Iraq succeeds in facing down the Security Council, what will be at issue is not that one rogue state will have gotten away with its wicked ways, but something far larger than that.

Put that alongside the other developments in the world and I see a confluence of events that suddenly relegates arms control to a secondary or even tertiary position in the thinking of those who run this world.

ACT: Describe the confluence of events that illustrates the diminished importance being given to arms control.

Butler: The nuclear non-proliferation regime is under threat from what both India and Pakistan have done, from what North Korea is doing, and from what it is suspected Iran is doing. There is good reason to think that absent UNSCOM Saddam Hussein is thinking again about re-creating nuclear weapons capability—he was only six months away in 1991. And a few weeks ago defense ministers from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates visited Pakistan to look at its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

There is also the nuclear weapons states' intransigence in the face of justified criticism that they have slowed down their action on nuclear disarmament, something they promised to pursue in 1995 in the NPT review and extension conference.

Then there's the Missile Technology Control Regime. Notwithstanding that regime, states such as India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea are developing missile capability. As I left UNSCOM it was clear that Iraq was continuing to try to develop an illegal long-range missile capability.

Then there are all the problems of potential leakage from the former Soviet Union. Then there's what has emerged from the kind of military action that was taken against Yugoslavia, a deep attachment to high-tech weapons because only people on the other side get killed. And finally, there have been recent reports of the Russian military leadership admitting in public almost gaily that they just conducted war games that relied heavily on nuclear weapons. Why? Because their conventional forces are in such a pathetic state.

Putting all this together, I'm now alarmed—and I'm saying this publicly for the first time to your journal—that something which only a few years ago was axiomatic has been lost, that a train has been derailed, and that train is called arms control. Up to a few years ago there was a widespread and growing conviction in the international community that arms control was a good thing, that it was an integral part of a good security policy, that the smaller the weapons package you had to deal with in maintaining your own national security, the better, and that this required sacrifices by you as well as by others. Arms control was a going concern.

The alarm bell I want to ring is that arms control might be stopped dead in the water right now, that a confluence of events—and I haven't mentioned all of them—has had the result that arms control has hit the wall. If this is how we're going to answer the problems of the 21st century, then this planet has taken a wrong orbit.

And the Saddam Hussein case is central to this confluence. The Security Council is walking away from dealing with him and his weapons. They have decided it's too hard.

ACT: Are all members of the Security Council walking away from the problem, or are the United States and Britain trying to hold the line?

Butler: I would put the membership of the Security Council into three categories. One is those who have clearly and avowedly decided for whatever reason to bring about an end to the Iraq crisis. Either they're very friendly to Iraq, or they're of the view that enough's enough and we can't go any further with this. Russia, China, France and, in the present Security Council, Malaysia fall into that category.

The second category is made up of the United Kingdom, supported by the Netherlands and the United States, saying there remain disarmament obligations to be fulfilled, that we need ongoing monitoring in Iraq and that Iraq must accept these facts before any suspension or relief of sanctions. They're the harder-line states, and they're in the minority.

Then there are those who are attracted to finding some diplomatic solution to a problem that has gone on too long. If you scratch the surface, some of these states will actually admit that there remain serious ambiguities about Iraq's weapons status, but nevertheless they say this can't go on, we've got to find a solution. They are gravitating toward the second option.

ACT: What are your impressions of the specific draft proposals that are now being considered by the Security Council?

Butler: All of the proposals on the table involve some kind of diminution of the vigor with which the Council will pursue the disarmament of Iraq. The Russian-backed proposal would basically say that it's over, Iraq is disarmed, which is simply to call black white and they know it. Were they to say, "We've got other fish to fry, this continual pursuit of Saddam's arms is not as important to us as those other fish," they would be telling the truth. But when they argue it's over, there's nothing more to pursue in terms of disarmament in Iraq, they're not dealing with reality, and they know it.

The British proposal is far closer to the truth, far more robust, but it does involve some political concessions to Iraq's resistance to the Security Council. I don't think it involves capitulation on the arms control side, but it tries to find some other form of political concession to get Iraq to come back into cooperation with the Council. While I think their attempt is brave and I understand it, they've got to be very careful that it doesn't result in a lot of countries in the world thinking, "This is interesting, all you've really got to do with the Security Council is be prepared to wait, to tough it out for a long time, to take a few bombings, but to still say, 'No, we won't do what you say,' and in the end they'll cave in."

ACT: What are the members of the Security Council subordinating arms control to? What is their primary interest?

Butler: It depends on what country you're talking about. One could go through the motivations of each of the permanent members that is supportive of Iraq—Russia, France, China—and it wouldn't be an edifying spectacle. But I think the primary motivation is a political anxiety about the consequences of there being only one superpower in the world. That's something that those three in particular are uncomfortable with. Iraq policy is an area where they have doubts about the American position, and those doubts are, of course, supported by their own economic interests in the region. But I think at root there's an anxiety in the Security Council about the full range and consequences of a unipolar world.

ACT: Is that anxiety also the cause of the events that make up the confluence you mentioned? Was it behind India's testing, Pakistan's testing, North Korea's launches?

Butler: I'm not sure exactly why India decided to do it at that time. Pakistan's response to it was very hastily put together and was very much a response to India. So regional politics had the major part to play there. I think, too, that the pressures on India to sign the nuclear test ban treaty were becoming effective and that, together with a change in Indian domestic politics, led to the cockamamie idea that if they were going to sign this treaty they'd better test first to prove they could.

But yes, the confluence of events that I'm talking about is shaped, not exclusively but importantly, by this underlying anxiety about a unipolar world led by a state that is highly and capably armed. I think what Russia and China witnessed in Kosovo was very worrying to them, the idea that the United States and its friends could fight a distant, high-tech war and do it in the way that they did. B-2 bombers flying from the continental United States to Europe and back, for example. That had to worry them. That anxiety could be seen in the recent Russian military exercise, which included flying antiquated nuclear bombers to Norway, and in China's reaction to the bombing of their embassy in Belgrade—that had much deeper roots than the fact that the embassy was bombed.

And if what I'm saying is true, that a factor in this confluence of events is their anxiety about a unipolar world led by a country that is brilliantly and capably armed, then a key consequence for arms control is that the United States needs to step up to the plate.

ACT: What specific measures could the United States take?

Butler: One thing would be if the United States indicated that it was itself prepared to enter into significant arms reductions on a proper basis. At the time that the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency became a part of the Department of State about two months ago, I was asked to speak. And in my remarks I made several points to them.

First, insist that what you do is an integral part of national security policy. Secondly, do not allow the professional diplomats at State to use the "G.R." argument against arms control—that is, "good relations." "Our good relations with India demand that we go softly on complaining to them about their weapons control," for example. I heard the "G.R." argument many times in my career. The regional director or assistant secretary of state for Asia or whatever would always say, "Get those arms controllers out of my hair, I've got relationships to run here with India and Pakistan."

Finally, I said, remember this: the classic mistake that arms controllers make is that they characterize arms control as being about the other guy's weapons. I said it's actually also about yours. People say the world would be a whole lot better if those other people didn't have those weapons, but they don't say much about their own.

The only way that leadership by America will work is if it says, "The first contribution we will make to this whole deal is that we'll put certain weapons of ours on the table." Now that's really hard to do with Senator [Jesse] Helms and those types. But I ask you a question, do you know any other way of doing it? Look at NPT. The only thing that will save NPT is if nuclear arms reductions resume. And the key to that is the United States and Russia. They have to do that together with determination.

ACT: Would ratification of START II accomplish that?

Butler: It is essential, but if that's a problem, then the obvious thing to do would be to leap over it and go to START III, to go to new limits for the 21st century as was proposed by the Canberra Commission.

More immediately, the United States and Russia could de-alert significant quantities of their missiles—decouple the warheads from the launch vehicles, store them separately, and come down off this hair-trigger situation that the Russians put themselves back on in early July.

ACT: Do you feel that UNSCOM has, at this point, lost its viability as a tool for disarming Iraq?

Butler: UNSCOM has always remained the best instrument for disarming Iraq. Its track record has been terrific. What it has lost is the political support of the Security Council. And so according to the Russians, who are supported by the Chinese, UNSCOM is dead, and the job of monitoring Iraq's progress has to be done by someone else—UNSCOM II or another organization. It's pathetic—I want that on the record—pathetic. It flies in the face of the practical reality of what UNSCOM achieved. It focuses on the mechanism, not the problem.

The problem is what it always has been, which is the refusal of Saddam Hussein to stop making or secretly acquiring illegal weapons of mass destruction. It's absolutely simple. If the central government of Iraq were to decide, "We're out of this business, we're not going to do this anymore," it would be over. But because it's refused to do that and because UNSCOM has continued to battle with that refusal in ways that have brought about recurrent crises, Russia and some others have decided that the way to solve this problem is to remove the thorn from Iraq's side, namely UNSCOM, rather than insist that Iraq comply.

ACT: When UNSCOM was created, it was expected that Iraq would comply with Resolution 687. When it was realized that Iraq was not going to cooperate, should UNSCOM have been altered, should the inspection mechanism have been strengthened?

Butler: Theoretically, yes. But what happened was that UNSCOM did that to itself. It strengthened itself by trying different solutions to the same problem. Once it became clear that Iraq was determined not to comply, but to conceal and deceive, then it was clear that the fundamental operational assumption was wrong and UNSCOM had to deal with that.

ACT: What challenges did you face in balancing the work of UNSCOM with the delicate, complex politics of the Security Council?

Butler: "Complex" is an accurate way to describe the Council, but "delicate" certainly isn't. The word "delicate" doesn't sit well other than as an oxymoron for the somewhat thuggish behavior that is often seen inside the Council. The Council is a place where power is deployed rather unsentimentally, particularly by states that have the veto and that are prepared to throw their weight around—very often without getting to the meat of things in other than perfunctory terms. For example, if someone says to China, "Why do you want x?" the answer "Because I say so" is hardly an answer. It says, "Because I'm powerful." That's not a rational answer, and one hears answers like that. You hear a little bit more than that very often, a sort of papering over by saying that it would be bad for international peace and security if China or Russia, for example, didn't get its way.

But the real answer to your question is that, yes, it was difficult, and in doing my research and writing about it, I'm sure I'll find places where I would quite readily say, "Well, I made a mistake there." And I suspect that those mistakes will relate to telling the Council sometimes too plainly or too truthfully what the circumstances were. Very often there's a place in the Council for circumlocution rather than for plain speech, and I think one of the hallmarks of my reports to the Council is that they were very plain. They just said, "UNSCOM did x, Iraq did y. Figure it out for yourself," instead of dressing it up in more elaborate diplomatic language that gave people ways out.

So I think the largest challenge in the Council is truth telling. The basic function of the Council lies between the exercise of great power, which is typically exercised in terms of separate national interests, and the justification for it, which is supposed to be presented through the Council's reports in a way that demonstrates what was done was in fact good and right. And if those reports are not readily capable of ambiguous or elliptical interpretation, then the naked exercise of power, in terms of national interests, gets uncomfortably exposed. And I think that became characteristic of the last few years of UNSCOM.

ACT: What were your impressions when Operation Desert Fox began last December? Was the use of military force necessary at that point?

Butler: I was surprised when military action started. I genuinely didn't know what the decision would be. I was in the Council when it started happening—as we all were—and I remember thinking to myself, "Oh my God, they've really done it." And they had.

ACT: Was force needed at that point?

Butler: Not my call.

ACT: What did UNSCOM need if not a show of force to reinforce its position and its viability?

Butler: Unity in the Council would have helped.

ACT: But even with political unity in the Council, you would have been facing the same problems on the ground in Iraq. What else could have been done to bring the Iraqis into compliance?

Butler: Unity in the Council and a lot of political pressure from their friends the Russians. Who knows? Maybe military attack will have helped. Maybe, when the story is told, it will show that Desert Fox actually did have an impact on the Iraqis. There were reports that it had shaken them a lot. But that wasn't my call or my calculation.

There is no substitute for Iraq being in compliance with the law. That required a simple central government decision by them to get out of the business of making weapons of mass destruction. If they won't make that decision voluntarily, the theory is that they will be coerced into it through sanctions or threat of force. If that doesn't seem to work, then there's political pressure, waiting, maintaining a close watch on them.

ACT: Do you think that removing the sanctions would be enough to restore unity in the Security Council?

Butler: I don't know. I would be giving a merely speculative answer. It's a very theoretical question. One would have to think that Saddam Hussein would simply pocket that change and continue to make his weapons. It depends on how important we think sanctions are to them. I think sanctions are important, but I think in the future the Council needs to find a better way of getting states to comply with the law. Sanctions seem to hurt the wrong people and don't necessarily bring about compliance. But I can't fathom what the reaction would be.

ACT: Do you think that sanctions will remain the principal tool of the Security Council to compel Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations?

Butler: Yes. And therefore an a priori weakening of sanctions will make it less likely Iraq will comply with those obligations.

ACT: As UNSCOM's involvement with national intelligence agencies increased, did you become concerned for UNSCOM's independence and integrity?

Butler: This intelligence issue has been played with such dramatic success by Iraq and its friends, including in the Secretary General's office, that it's a travesty.

First of all, the fundamental legal requirement was for Iraq to tell the truth and to comply with the law. It never did. Never. You look at [former UNSCOM Chairman Rolf] Ekeus' reports and mine over the last nine years. It never did. What is more, through a major defection of Hussein Kamel in 1995 and some others, it became clear that Iraq had been playing an elaborate shell game with UNSCOM, a game to conceal weapons, the full extent of which is probably still not known.

There are U2 pictures that show things like 100 heavy trucks with Republican Guard markings gathered in the Iraqi desert, 100 kilometers from absolutely nowhere. They had been flushed out by UNSCOM inspectors and zipped off into the desert. And we happened to have our bird overhead and took photographs of this and said to Iraq, "What were those 100 trucks doing in the desert having disappeared from a place where we thought weapons materials were kept?" And Iraq looked us in the eye and said, "What trucks? There were no trucks." In the name of God, we had photographs of them. Iraq said it buried missiles in certain places. We took photographs of those places, no burial pits. But they were elsewhere, where we did find them. I could bore you to death going on like this. I could go on and on about the degree of deception, the elaborateness of Iraq's program to maintain its weapons capabilities. I have no doubt that it is Iraq's second-largest industry, after oil. It's what I call the anti-UNSCOM industry.

Second, the laws passed by the Security Council require all member states to give all possible assistance to UNSCOM, including the voluntary provision of all relevant information. We received legitimate assistance from some 40 states, including those who are now very supportive of Iraq. We received assistance from Russia and France, and when I was head, I invited the Chinese to come out with us.

My third point is that I have no doubt that when officials of states that later complained about UNSCOM worked with UNSCOM, they fully briefed their own governments on what they learned. The point I'm making is that when Russia, for example, says it's wicked that the Americans have done intelligence work through UNSCOM, it's shedding some crocodile tears.

Now, finally, as the wall of deceit got thicker, we did ask for more assistance, and my position on that is this: I did approve of some kinds of technical assistance from intelligence bodies to penetrate the wall of deceit that was put up to prevent us from doing our work. I also refused to authorize some suggestions that were made because they could have been misrepresented or compromised our integrity.

ACT: So that was something that was on your mind?

Butler: Absolutely. And toward the end of my time in the job, I would actually argue that your fundamental premise is wrong. Under me, I think there was less utilization of member states' intelligence assistance than there had been before. When I inherited the previous situation at the beginning of my term, I looked at it and decided to go ahead, to continue most of it. Intelligence assistance therefore in 1996 and '97 was at a higher level than it was in 1998, when I began to disapprove of possible operations. So your premise is wrong. It got smaller, not larger.

Now, UNSCOM was particularly hurt by Scott Ritter's carrying on. We can argue about what influenced the decisionmakers—there are different versions. But when you claim to be in the room when you weren't, when you claim to be part of the conversation when you weren't, when you claim that conversations took place that never did—the false assertion that I met [Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright in Bahrain in March 1998, for example—when you make those kinds of claims that are factually so wrong, that's very different from having a more honest argument about what went into certain decisions.

I don't know why he's behaved that way. Some say he's not just dishonest, but he's actually delusionary, that he actually thinks he was there. You know there was one inspection that he implied he was on, and it was canned by the Iraqis, and there was a big fuss. He wasn't ever on that inspection. He wasn't in country then. It's just wrong, but Ritter got to a point where he thought he was UNSCOM, that everything that happened there was him. And if you look at his interviews, you hear that coming through. He actually said on public television, thumping his fist on the table, "I was UNSCOM! I was it!" So, his claim late in 1998 that I somehow sold the store to the CIA is dramatically untrue. And on the contrary, as I said, I actually scaled down the extent to which we were using member states' intelligence input to do our work because I was concerned about what it could do to our reputation. I was concerned about protecting the independence of multilateral disarmament activities.

ACT: Are you aware of instances where member states took advantage of legitimate intelligence assistance for their own purposes?

Butler: Do I know of instances of malfeasance? Yes. Will I name them? No.

ACT: What sorts of malfeasance, specifically?

Butler: I am perfectly aware that people on my staff were reporting to their home governments, separate and apart from their responsibility to me. Now that's a low level of malfeasance. Ritter's stuff is more dramatic, that somehow the National Security Agency or some electronic agency piggybacked on us and listened to Saddam Hussein's private traffic. Am I aware of that? No. Had that happened, would I have approved of it? No. Because that would compromise our integrity as an arms control agency. But you gave me a terrific opportunity when you asked am I aware of any instances of malfeasance. Yes, I am. I am aware that members of UNSCOM's staff were leaking assessments and reports and information to their sending governments. And I'm not talking about Americans. I'm talking about other nations. I'm trying to get away from this single focus that somehow we got done over by the United States.

ACT: That you were co-opted by the United States.

Butler: What a belly laugh. How would I have been? I mean, I've never particularly felt the need to robustly address some of these charges because I find them quintessentially ludicrous. I'm also aware that if I go orbital about them in public, it will actually draw attention to them.

As recently as today I read an Iraqi report saying that the UN is a nest of spies and put special germs in Iraq to infect the Iraqi people and stuff like that. In the name of God, what do you want me to do with propaganda like that? Call up CNN and say I'm prepared to make a statement about how we didn't put germs in Iraq? So I have not felt the need to respond to things that are so ludicrous, and I would put in that same category the notion that I have been co-opted by the United States government.

I'm sure the Americans have some wonderful stuff in their files on me. It was an act of great generosity that the U.S. agreed to my appointment because years ago we were at real loggerheads over its opposition to a nuclear test ban treaty. Ken Adelman, who used to be head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, used to call me "Red Richard." The very idea that I'd be co-opted by the United States government is a joke.

ACT: Have any illegitimate uses of your access between minor incidents and what is absurd come to your attention?

Butler: It's been credibly argued that there was an attempt to piggyback on us, that in giving us some technical assistance an extra circuit might have been added to monitor some extra traffic. But I've already said many times in public, I know what I approved of, I cannot know what I didn't know. I know what I disapproved of. Was there something done behind my back? I don't know. All I can say, as Rolf Ekeus has said and in his own way [UN Secretary General] Kofi Annan has said, is that were it to be the case, it would have serious implications for the independence of multilateral arms control work. And I would lament that. But to pursue this further, you would have to ask U.S. authorities.

ACT: What lessons does UNSCOM's experience with national intelligence agencies hold for multilateral inspections teams in the future?

Butler: Great care will have to be taken to be sure that any intelligence given is given for the service of the mandate involved, the disarmament mandate, and not for the service of any other purpose.

ACT: UNSCOM has had great successes, and yet Iraq is not fully disarmed and we no longer have a presence there. Do you think the experience of UNSCOM, on balance, did more to advance or to degrade the idea of multilateral inspections as a tool of arms control?

Butler: I think there's no clear answer, the jury is out on that one, but I think it's a valid question. This kind of work is needed and it should be expanded. You think of what there is now: there's the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectorate, there's the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons inspectorate, there should be one—I hope in the not-too-distant future—on biological weapons. This is work that needs to be done. It's a necessary part of giving treaty partners assurance that there isn't cheating from within and that people are keeping their obligations.

UNSCOM was the most ambitious of such inspectorates ever created, but the anti-UNSCOM period over the last year or so and the associated propaganda has been very successful. Harm has been done to this kind of effort by that propaganda, including, quite frankly, by some of the things that Ritter has said and done, which is really tragic because as he left he actually told me that his basic purpose was to defend the kind of effort that UNSCOM had made.

So I think if the Council were asked to devise something similar to UNSCOM today—and in a sense it has been—their wiggle room would be smaller because those memories of this period are fresher. The earlier period with all the success is less fresh. But a few years from now, there will be a more balanced view. I hope the book that I write will land on that view and point to how we can do this better in the future because, sure as hell, we will have to do it. UNSCOM was a fantastic experiment, did a lot of good, and there are a lot of good things that can be learned from it.

ACT: What are the most important lessons that can be drawn from UNSCOM's experience?

Butler: One of the lessons here is that the lawmaker shouldn't make laws that it won't be willing or able to enforce in the future.

Secondly, in the future the lawmaker might want to take more care about the impositions it puts upon a sovereign state in the position Iraq found itself—UNSCOM was given quite extreme, almost draconian powers.

I also think there is a need for the Security Council to reach an agreement on the uses to which the veto can be legitimately put. Specifically, I say a permanent member should not use it to defend a state because it's a friend when that state is seen to be violating its arms control obligations. It shouldn't be valid for a state to step in on a national interest basis to defend a state that is objectively in violation of the very agreements of which the Council is supposed to be the protector.

ACT: In terms of Iraq's proscribed weapons activities, what do you believe the Iraqi government has been able to achieve during the seven months since UN inspectors have been in the country?

Butler: I believe they have worked hard on increasing their missile capability, the range of those missiles and probably the number of them. I'm sure they've asked their nuclear team to start meeting again, and I feel certain, too, that they have commenced work again on making chemical and biological warfare agents.

ACT: How close could they be to a nuclear, biological or chemical capability?

Butler: Not sure. Nuclear relies very much on access to weapons-grade fissile material, in which they're very poor. In chemical and biological, they're really quite skilled, and I don't think there's any particular barrier to progress there. It's a question of what they choose to do. The missile field is an area where they lack certain machines and equipment, but there's reason to think they've been out in the world trying to procure those covertly. Now, how long all that will take, I'd only be guessing because we're not there and we can't see what they're doing.

ACT: Is Iraq transferring materiel, personnel and technology to other states in efforts to protect its weapons programs?

Butler: I don't know. There were reports in the past of some such transfers, but to be truthful, I don't know what the situation is today.

ACT: In the course of UNSCOM's inspections, what did you learn to that effect?

Butler: We saw critical information that there had been such transfers.

ACT: Can you say to which states?

Butler: No, I won't.

ACT: Is it better to have some sort of inspection mechanism in Iraq, even if it is not as strong as UNSCOM? Is something better than nothing?

Butler: That's a highly theoretical question. I don't honestly know the answer. There's a great temptation to say yes, something is better than nothing, but I have a deep-seated feeling that this could create illusory inspections—inspections that give the appearance of being sound when they aren't. It could be that, in this sort of arms control work, something could be worse than nothing because it could provide a false sense of security.

ACT: Even given ideal circumstances, is it possible for an inspection team to disarm a non-compliant state with 100 percent certainty?

Butler: The answer lies in finding the point of intersection between the highest possible degree of objective verification and agreement on the desirability of no one being armed with weapons of mass destruction. What I'm saying is that objective verification, by scientific and technical means, can always be cheated on. What fills that gap, whether it's a 5 percent gap or whatever, is the political commitment of states not to acquire weapons and of the enforcers to enforce the law. This is somewhat theoretical, but it adds up to the functional equivalent of something like 100 percent.

Iraq is a good case in point there. The means of verification and the work of UNSCOM has been very successful, but it won't hit 100 percent. For a while the Security Council was committed and that made the job broadly successful. But what was absent from the Iraq case from the beginning was a decision by the central government of Iraq not to comply with the resolutions. Absent that, there's always going to be a shortfall. The critical question then and now is, what is that shortfall? How many hidden missiles does it represent with what agents to be carried in the warhead and when will one of those warheads actually contain a nuclear explosive device? Those are the critical questions left by this breakdown when UNSCOM was halfway down the straight on the last lap of this race. That's what we don't know.

Interviewed by J. Peter Scoblic

The CWC at the Two-Year Mark: An Interview With Dr. John Gee

In the little more than two years since it entered into force on April 29, 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) has become one of the most widely adhered to arms control treaties in the world. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body established to oversee implementation of the convention, has been working steadily to fulfill the CWC's extensive verification and inspection mandate and push for treaty universality.

In late May, Dr. John Gee, OPCW deputy director-general, was appointed acting director-general during a short leave of absence by José Bustani. Dr. Gee, a 54-year-old Australian career diplomat with extensive experience in arms control and degrees in chemistry, has played the principal role in the day-to-day administration of the treaty Secretariat and served as the chief policy advisor to Mr. Bustani.

Born in Launceston, Tasmania, Dr. Gee joined the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs in 1971 and served in various missions in Cairo, Moscow, New Delhi and Bangkok. He began his involvement in chemical weapons disarmament issues with the Foreign Service in 1982, and has continued amid other assignments. From May 1991 to April 1993, Dr. Gee was a member of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), serving in 1991 as UNSCOM's coordinator of the CBW Working Group. In April 1993, he was appointed director of the Verification Division of the OPCW's Provisional Technical Secretariat, and deputy director-general in May 1997.

On May 28, Arms Control Today editor Tom Pfeiffer spoke with Dr. Gee about the first two years of the convention's operation and the road ahead. The following is an edited version of their conversation.


Arms Control Today: What is the current status of the CWC and what are the accomplishments of the OPCW during its first two years of operation?

John Gee: The Chemical Weapons Convention is built on four main pillars: first, the destruction of existing stockpiles and chemical weapons production capacity and the verification of this process [Articles III, IV and V]; secondly, non-proliferation [Article VI]; thirdly, assistance and protection [Article X]; and fourthly, international cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry [Article XI]. All four are interrelated. Because of the very strict and demanding timelines in the convention in relation to the first two in particular, we have had to devote much more attention since entry into force to the disarmament and non-proliferation pillars. Our programs in the Article X and XI areas are, however, now also starting to be developed and to gather momentum.

As of today, Friday, May 28, which is 759 days after entry into force, we've completed 475 inspections at 278 sites in 29 states-parties, for a total of just over 30,000 inspector days since we commenced inspection operations almost exactly two years ago, on June 1, 1997. We have carried out all of the initial inspections of the chemical weapons-related facilities that were declared to us by three possessor states at entry into force, and in January 1998 by the Russian Federation, which ratified the convention in November 1997. We have carried out initial inspections at 33 chemical weapons storage sites and 63 chemical weapons production facilities or former chemical weapons production facilities, and we have undertaken routine re-inspections since then. We have a continuous monitoring presence at three operating chemical weapons destruction facilities in the United States. We have also monitored, as required, destruction operations at five non-continuously operating sites in the United States, and we have begun monitoring destruction operations in another state-party, which has just started destroying its chemical weapons. We have commenced industry inspections. We have carried out all the initial inspections of the declared Schedule 1 facilities, and we are well on the way to completing the initial inspections of declared Schedule 2 facilities. As you know, all initial inspections of Schedule 2 facilities have to be carried out, if possible, within the first three years after the entry into force of the convention. We currently have approximately 120 declared Schedule 2 facilities, and we have carried out the initial inspections at just over 100 of them. We have also begun the inspection of Schedule 3 facilities. So the verification regime is proceeding very satisfactorily at the moment.

ACT: What have been the priorities for the OPCW leading to the two-year mark in terms of establishing the inspection regime?

Gee: From the Secretariat's point of view, we have learned a number of things. The first of these is that multilateral verification carried out by a multinational agency like ours not only works but works well. We have an inspectorate of approximately 200 inspectors from over 50 different nationalities. They underwent a very thorough five-month training course before they joined the organization. I think that has paid off in terms of making them good inspectors and well equipped to carry out their task.

The second element that we've learned is that a cooperative approach yields considerable dividends. We see our mandate as being to assist the states-parties to demonstrate their compliance with the provisions of the convention. We do not try to adopt a hostile or confrontational approach to our inspections. Rather, our approach is simply to assist the state-party to ensure that all the facts that have to be laid out on the table are addressed. That's not to say that problems don't arise from time to time in the course of inspections—they do. But in the great majority of cases they are sorted out pretty quickly. So I think that's been a considerable achievement. Also, our inspectorate is an independent body. All of our inspectors are international civil servants on fixed-term contracts to the OPCW; they are not experts on loan from member-states.

From the point of view of the member-states, I think they too have learned something. There was a great deal of concern prior to entry into force, particularly from states-parties that had never had inspections before, about the intrusiveness of the on-site inspection process, particularly given the provisions of the convention, which are very stringent indeed. A lot of them have now concluded that the experience isn't as bad as they thought it might have been. So that in itself has also been a helpful development.

ACT: Have there been any surprises so far in the initial declarations that have been received by the OPCW?

Gee: There have been one or two small surprises. But what is significant is the fact that the declarations have been made and the key parts of each state-party's declaration are available to all other states-parties. That, I think, has been a considerable confidence-building measure because it has, within the strict confidentiality provisions of the convention, enabled states-parties to see what other states-parties have declared and, if necessary, to seek clarification. This process has answered a lot of questions that were out there prior to entry into force. Frankly, prior to entry into force, before states-parties made their declarations, all that other countries had to go on were press reports and intelligence estimates and so forth. The whole process of having declarations available to other states-parties has been a great success and a very substantial confidence-building measure.

ACT: What is your assessment of the current destruction timetable for the CWC? Do you have a sense now of how realistic the timetable really is?

Gee: There are four declared chemical weapons possessors, all of which are under a treaty obligation to destroy their stockpiles by April 29, 2007. Now, for the possessors of the two smaller stockpiles, which are India and another state-party, their stockpiles are modest in total size by comparison with those of the Russian Federation and the United States. In my view, there's no reason at all why they shouldn't be able to meet the timelines that are set out in the convention.

For the U.S., and more so for Russia, the question is a little more difficult to answer but for different reasons. It's more difficult to answer given the size and complexity of the problem in both cases, and because there are important differences between the two cases. In the U.S., the destruction program is by now very firmly established and destruction is proceeding on the basis of the baseline technology of high-temperature incineration. There are three destruction facilities already in operation and there are a number due to come on stream within the next few years. We are told that by the end of this year, 22 percent of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile will be destroyed. And, of course, the studies on alternative technologies for destruction required by the Congress are also now well underway. As far as I can see there is no inherent reason why the United States shouldn't meet the destruction timelines. The big question here, of course, is whether there may be any new environmental or health and safety concerns that might arise. I'm not really in a position to comment any further about that. But provided there are no unexpected surprises, there's no reason at all why the U.S. shouldn't meet the timelines in the convention.

In the case of the Russian Federation the situation is much more complex. The Russians have identified and decided upon the technologies that they will use to destroy their chemical warfare agents. They now have plans well underway for the construction of facilities at three of their sites: at Gornyi, Shchuchie and Kambarka. However, these only represent about one-third of the total Russian stockpile, and plans for the destruction operations at the other four sites are much less advanced. The Russians have many problems to overcome, but the principal problem is a financial one. It's now very clear that if they are to meet destruction timelines, they're going to require substantial foreign assistance. I know some of this has already been forthcoming from countries in the European Union and the United States, but the Russians are going to require a lot more assistance than they have received so far or that appears to be currently in the pipeline.

Another problem that is perhaps not quite appreciated is the problem of the abandoned chemical weapons in China. Here the problem is that they are mostly buried, scattered in a wide number of different locations, and there are differences of view as to precisely how many there are. The estimates vary anywhere between 700,000 to 2 million individual rounds. All of these are five decades old, most of them are in pretty poor condition and they all have to be treated individually. So destroying all of that within the timelines of the convention is also likely to be a problem. The Chinese and Japanese have been in consultation on this issue for some time now, and I understand that they are close to agreeing on an approach to resolve it.

ACT: Have all the possessor states begun their required destruction programs at the two-year mark?

Gee: The convention requires that destruction of chemical weapons based on Schedule 1 chemicals should start not later than two years after the convention enters into force for the state-party. Destruction of unfilled chemical munitions must start not later than one year after the state-party joined the OPCW. For three states-parties, the two-year timeline is already passed; for the fourth—Russia—it has not. Two states have started destruction. The other two are close to starting. It depends on how you define "start." Does start constitute the start of the construction of the destruction facilities or does start actually constitute the start of destruction of munitions and agent? If the latter, then at least one hasn't made it. If the former, then I think all of them have made it. The important thing is that the convention requires that you have to get rid of 1 percent of the stockpile within three years after entry into force—April 29, 2000. I think they can all achieve that. Whether they will is another matter, but at the moment they're all well positioned to be able to do that.

ACT: What role has the OPCW played in addressing the problem of abandoned chemical weapons so far?

Gee: With regard to China and Japan, those consultations have been a bilateral effort. They have kept us informed in broad terms of progress, but essentially that's been a process that they have worked on themselves. Our involvement with the abandoned chemical weapons in China has been to verify the declarations that have been made by the Chinese and the Japanese. We have carried out nine abandoned chemical weapons inspections in China at nine sites since the end of 1997. The OPCW Executive Council has adopted a decision on the cost of verification of abandoned chemical weapons, which is now subject to adoption by the Conference of States-Parties. In addition, the Chinese and the Japanese have also reached agreement on how Japan will reimburse China for the costs of the Chinese national escorts teams accompanying OPCW inspectors. We assist them with the processing of such reimbursements. It would be fair to say that the OPCW is playing a facilitating role in this aspect.

ACT: Are there other states-parties that now face the problem of abandoned chemical weapons? Can the experience of China and Japan apply to these cases?

Gee: By the end of last year six states-parties—Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom—submitted declarations of old chemical weapons on their territories, while three states-parties—China, Panama and Italy—submitted declarations of abandoned chemical weapons on their territories. Japan notified the OPCW of its abandoned chemical weapons in China.

There are substantial numbers of old chemical weapons that were used during World War I, albeit in a very limited theater, basically northern France and Belgium. Germany has also declared the presence of old chemical weapons on its territory. During World War II, enormous numbers of chemical munitions were produced and stockpiled and transported around the world and in most cases never used. But quite often at the end of World War II they were disposed of in situ rather than taken back to the states that produced them. Sometimes they were dumped at sea, sometimes they were burned in open pits, but sometimes they were just simply forgotten about. Unfortunately, the latter pop up from time to time, as happened, for example, with some U.S. chemical munitions dating from World War II, which were discovered in the Solomon Islands in 1991.

ACT: The CWC destruction process won't include those munitions that have been dumped into international waters. Do you have any idea about the scope of that problem?

Gee: Only in very general terms. We have some idea of the dimensions of the problem but I would not say that we have an accurate idea, basically because there's no requirement for the OPCW to become involved in them. The decision was taken that once they were dumped at sea essentially that was it—they were disposed of. And provided they're not dumped after January 1985, they do not fall under the purview of the convention.

ACT: There are many countries that signed the CWC but have not yet ratified the convention. What do you believe are the reasons they have not yet ratified?

Gee: When you look at the number of states-parties that we have and the number of signatory states, I think our convention has been very successful indeed. We will soon have 125 states-parties; Estonia ratified just two days ago, bringing the total to 125. We have a further 45 signatory states. When you add those two figures together you have 170 members of the international community that have either signed or ratified the convention. It is important to remember that under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, signatories are bound not to undercut a treaty's provisions until they give formal notification that they don't intend to ratify. From that perspective then, our convention becomes the most widely adhered to arms control-disarmament convention after the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]. I think only the Biological Weapons Convention [BWC] comes close in terms of the number of states that have signed and ratified. That's a pretty impressive achievement for an agreement that entered into force only two years ago. When you consider how long it took to get the membership of the NPT that we have today—over two decades—we've managed to achieve much the same result in two years. In my view, this is due to the universal character of the convention and also, of course, of the times in which we live and the desire of the international community to eliminate chemical weapons.

I want to assure you that we assign a very high priority to achieving universal adherence to the convention. In fact, the first official visit that the director-general and I made together, after the entry into force of the convention and the establishment of the OPCW was, in fact, in September 1997 to two non-states-parties—Russia and Ukraine. They were both signatory states at that stage but they hadn't ratified, and I'm pleased to say that both of them have since done so. As for the states that have signed but not yet ratified, we continue to take every opportunity within our resource constraints to talk to them to persuade them to ratify. Our resources are not unlimited, so we have to prioritize. We are also in contact with the other 23 states that have neither signed nor ratified.

We carry out our contacts with all non-states-parties through a number of channels. When the director-general goes to New York each fall for the meetings of the UN General Assembly's First Committee, he takes advantage of his presence there to talk to the representatives of the non-states-parties. We also follow up with energetic direct contact with representatives here in The Hague and also in capitals. This approach has also been successful, most recently in the case of Sudan. We spent a lot of time talking with the Sudanese here in The Hague. It was successful also in Nigeria's case. I visited Kazakhstan and Malaysia last year and they both assured me that they are committed to the principles of the convention and politically there is no problem. It's just a question of bureaucratic delay and assigning it the necessary priority. Our External Relations Division and our International Cooperation and Assistance Division run a number of seminars on an annual basis in various countries and regions of the world, and we invite both signatory states and non-signatory states.

One of the things that will assist universality is seeing the convention implemented successfully and realizing that there is something in it for them. Many countries say: "Yes, we're committed to the goal of the elimination of chemical weapons, but we don't have any and therefore membership in the OPCW is not as high a priority for us as some other things are." I think what we have to do and what we try to do is to persuade them of the benefits of joining the convention—which include the right to receive assistance if they are attacked or threatened with attack by chemical weapons and to participate in our international cooperation programs—and also outline to them the problems they may face by not joining. As you know, the convention has certain restrictions in relation to trade in chemicals that appear on the schedules.

On the second anniversary of the convention's entry into force [April 29, 1999], the director-general did two things. First, he published in the International Herald Tribune a list of states which had signed but not yet ratified the convention and a list of states which had yet to accede to the convention. That had not been done in a public forum before. So there it was in black and white for the international community to see who was a state-party and who wasn't. The second thing he did was to write a letter to each of the non-states-parties—that is, to the signatory states and the non-signatory states—indicating to them that one year from now states-parties would have to implement sanctions against them in relation to trade in chemicals that appear on Schedule 2 of the convention. So, in some cases, there will be an economic cost by not becoming a state-party. It's clear from the reporting by states-parties of their trade in chemicals that appear on Schedules 2 and 3 of the convention that a number of non-states-parties import chemicals on the Schedules from states-parties. In relation to the chemicals on Schedule 2, that trade is going to have to be cut off in the year 2000. This is a point that we emphasize to them as well.

Finally, when we visit states-parties, we do ask them, where possible, also to talk to the states that haven't yet ratified. We try to work with states-parties that may have particular influence with non-states parties. For example, we asked the Brazilians for their assistance in talking to the Portuguese-speaking states in Africa that have not yet either ratified or acceded to the convention, and France for assistance with the francophone non-states-parties. It's a joint effort involving both us and the states-parties, and it's actually been quite successful. As I noted a moment ago, when the convention entered into force, we had 87 states-parties; we now have 125. That's a 40 percent increase in membership in the last two years, which is indicative of the attractiveness of the convention and the efforts that we and the states-parties put into persuading non-states-parties to join the OPCW.

ACT: Sudan acceded to the convention only four days ago. What impact do you believe Khartoum's accession will have on other non-signatories, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa?

Gee: I hope it will have a very significant effect. In relation to North African states, there are only two that are now left out: Libya and Egypt. In the Middle East region more generally, we're missing Libya; Egypt; Israel, which has signed but not ratified; Syria; Lebanon; and of course Iraq. So Sudan's accession to the convention actually is a very significant step in that regard, and I hope it will persuade the others to do likewise. We've had some approaches from the Libyans in the last months, particularly since the arraignment of the Lockerbie bombing suspects, so we are hopeful that we may be able to persuade them to accede soon as well. We have also spent some time talking to the Israelis, but I think we all realize that the new government will require some more time yet before it's ready to start addressing these questions in detail.

ACT: After the CWC enters into force for Sudan [30 days after it deposits its instrument of ratification] will the OPCW have any role to play in helping resolve the current dispute between the United States and Sudan regarding the chemical facility that was destroyed by the U.S. last year?

Gee: It could if both states-parties agree that it should. Until now, of course, both have been addressing the fallout from this bilaterally or through other forums, such as the Sudanese attempts to involve the United Nations last year. But the mechanism is always there if they wish to use it. It's unfortunate that Sudan was not a state-party at the time of the incident, because the fact-finding and consultation provisions in the convention would have provided the United States with means other than the one it chose to address its concerns about Sudan's perceived chemical weapons capabilities.

ACT: Had Sudan been a state-party at the time, what would have been the process that would have allowed the U.S. to quickly address its concerns?

Gee: The convention provides a number of possibilities. The first one is to approach the country concerned directly. This is provided for in Article IX of the convention, which deals with challenge inspections. It's widely but inaccurately believed that Article IX deals only with challenge inspections, but, in fact, its first sections cover consultations, cooperation and fact-finding and set out procedures for requesting clarification. These can be done bilaterally or through the Executive Council. Only in Paragraph 8 does Article IX begin to address in detail challenge inspection. So while it is of course open to a state-party to request a challenge inspection without right of refusal, in order to resolve concerns about compliance, the convention provides for the possibility of a process of clarification, consultation and fact-finding before the challenge-inspection mechanism is invoked should a state-party wish to exercise those options before requesting a challenge inspection. In short, all options are there should any state-party wish to exercise them in relation to another state-party.

ACT: During the first two years of the convention's operation, has any state-party requested a challenge inspection under Article IX?

Gee: No, it has not.

ACT: Does that surprise you?

Gee: No, frankly, it doesn't. I think the fact that states-parties have access to the declarations of all other states-parties has helped to resolve a lot of questions that were out there previously. It hasn't resolved all of them. But a number of states-parties have approached other states-parties directly to ask questions about their declarations, and that's a very healthy process. I think what that means is that the convention is actually working by functioning as a confidence-building measure, and it's giving states-parties the opportunity to clarify uncertainties with other states-parties. So far it's not clear to me that any state-party has actually seen the need to invoke the challenge-inspection provisions of the convention. And, of course, any state-party that has not itself fully complied with all the declaration requirements under the convention is likely to think twice before it launches a challenge inspection on any other state-party.

ACT: What is the distinction between the clarification process we just discussed and the clarification mechanism through the OPCW's Executive Council? Has the latter mechanism been used so far by any state-party?

Gee: Paragraph 2 of Article IX provides for states-parties to approach other states-parties directly. Paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 take the process to the next step if the state-party wants to do so. If it feels that this process of bilateral discussions has not yielded all the answers, it can then formally request that the Executive Council assist in clarifying any matters. So far that process hasn't yet happened either. I think it would be fair to say that what we're seeing at the moment is a process that is confined to individual states-parties approaching other states-parties directly. Now, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that some states in the future could approach the council and ask it to attain clarification, but so far it hasn't happened.

ACT: During the Third Session of the Conference of States-Parties [November 16-20, 1998], some delegations had expressed concern over the non-compliance of states-parties in submitting their initial declarations or submitting incomplete declarations. How many states now do you consider to be in non-compliance and what is the OPCW doing to correct that?

Gee: The current situation is that approximately 25 percent of our states-parties still have to make the initial declaration required under Article III, which covers holdings of chemical weapons, chemical weapons production facilities, old and abandoned chemical weapons, CW development facilities and riot control agents; and Article VI, which covers portions of the commercial chemical industry. There are a number of other declarations or notifications that are required as well. For example, states-parties are required to inform the OPCW of their national authority; of the designated point of entry; of a special diplomatic clearance number for non-scheduled flights and other things. Here the record is even worse, if that's the right term. Both the conference and the Executive Council have expressed their concern about this and have called upon all of the states that have not yet made declarations to do so as soon as possible. They have published, for themselves, a list of states-parties that have not yet made these declarations. We have been in touch with all of them to urge them to make the declarations as soon as possible. We have offered assistance to do so. We have established a network of "declaration experts"; that is, experts from the Secretariat and states-parties in various regions around the world who can be sent on request to assist states-parties with their declarations. A number of states-parties have already requested, and received, such assistance.

Clearly, from a political point of view it's undesirable to have a situation where approximately one-quarter of our states-parties have not made the declarations required of them. On the other hand, most of the countries would, on any objective yardstick, not have very much, if indeed anything, at all to declare anyway. In a functional sense, the consequences might not be all that serious. But in a political sense, of course, they are, and that's most unfortunate.

As to who's made an incomplete declaration, well, it's not always clear what an incomplete declaration is. But unfortunately the United States is the one country that has clearly not yet made a complete declaration because it hasn't yet provided us the required declaration for its chemical industry. Anyway, we're very hopeful that that process will be completed soon. The U.S. implementing legislation was passed last October, and we have been informed that the requisite executive order is likely to be signed by President Clinton sometime in the near future. That should pave the way for the U.S. to make its industry declarations in the very near future, which would be a significant boost to the convention.

ACT: From the OPCW's perspective, what exactly is the nature of the problem with the U.S. implementing legislation? What effect, if any, has it had on the implementation of the convention?

Gee: There are three problems, two I regard as substantial. The third is also important but perhaps not in quite the same category as the other two. The first one is Condition 18, under which the United States Senate decided that no chemical sample collected by the OPCW in the course of its inspections activities in the United States would be taken out of the country for analysis at our network of designated laboratories. The second one is what I understand to be, in effect, a right of presidential veto on a particular challenge inspection for national security grounds. Now the convention is quite clear on challenge inspection: there is no right of refusal. So that condition would appear to me, at least prima facie, to be contrary to the provisions of the convention.

The problem with the sample analysis issue is not so much one of strict incompatibility with the language of the convention because the convention talks about off-site analysis. But it was always understood during the work of the Preparatory Commission here that off-site meant, in effect, out of country, and all of our analytical procedures and the work that has gone into setting up our network of designated laboratories in a number of states-parties to carry out analysis of samples taken off-site was based on that premise. While no other country has followed the United States in enacting such provisions, a number of other states have indicated to us informally that if these things remain, then they may well themselves take similar action.

The third problem with the U.S. implementing legislation is in relation to the low concentration limit set for the declaration of Schedule 3 chemicals, which is 80 percent. While there is no consensus among member-states as to what the limit should be, most have opted for a much lower figure, in the vicinity of 20 to 30 percent. It is hard to see how the figure of 80 percent could be considered "low."

ACT: So no other state-party has placed unilateral conditions on its own implementation?

Gee: Not to my knowledge. Some states have hinted informally to us that they've contemplated doing so, but to my knowledge so far nobody has done that.

ACT: How would the OPCW deal with the issue of other states-parties declaring unilateral conditions in their implementation of the convention?

Gee: That's not clear at this stage. There has not been a great deal of discussion on the issue within the OPCW's policy-making organs. I think a number of people are frankly hoping that it will go away. But it's hard to say what the long-term implications would be. So far there haven't been any direct consequences in the practical sense. As I mentioned earlier, we've never had to carry out a challenge inspection anywhere, and we've never had to take a sample off-site or out of country for analysis. It was always envisaged that both of these things—taking a sample out of the country for off-site analysis and launching a challenge inspection—would be a pretty rare occurrence. After all, launching a challenge inspection is an extremely serious business because it risks accusing a state-party of cheating on its obligations or being seen to be doing so. To me, challenge inspection has always been the option of last resort. I have always felt that the likelihood of us taking a sample off-site or the likelihood of us conducting a challenge inspection was not high. But on the other hand, it was always important to have the two provisions there, because the combination of challenge inspection and the right to take a sample out of the country for analysis, in my view, posed a very powerful deterrent to a potential violator. To the extent that the U.S. action appears to be cutting across that, I think the convention has been weakened.

ACT: Although Iraq currently is not a state-party to the CWC, given the uncertain future of the UN Special Commission [UNSCOM], is there a role for the OPCW to play in helping to maintain the UN mandate to monitor and prevent Iraq's acquisition of chemical weapons?

Gee: We believe from a technical and operational point of view we could successfully carry out a mandate if given to us in the chemical area in Iraq. We have carried out nearly 500 inspections in 29 states-parties over the last two years or so. We have 200 very well-trained and experienced inspectors and a good solid headquarters staff to back them. But I think we have to be very clear about what it is that we would be doing if we were required to participate in some way in a future monitoring regime in Iraq.

Hence, our view is that while we have the necessary expertise and experience, we can only become involved in Iraq under very certain and well-specified conditions. The first of these is that Iraq would have to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The second is that the terms and conditions of our participation in Iraq would have to be very clearly defined, understood and accepted by everybody involved, by which we mean the Security Council, our own member-states and, of course, Iraq itself. Finally, we could only accept a role in Iraq using our own methods and procedures in order to safeguard their independence and integrity, and reporting directly to the Security Council.

ACT: Do you have a sense as to the view of member-states for the OPCW to become involved in something other than strictly a treaty-implementation process?

Gee: Some of them have doubts about it. That's become very clear.

ACT: What do you see to be the major issues that will arise at the upcoming Fourth Session of the Conference of States-Parties?

Gee: A major issue will be the membership of the organization: which states have ratified the convention and which are still outside it, and the measures that should be taken to persuade those outside the organization to join it. Another item is likely to be the question of declarations and what more can we do to encourage those who have not yet made their declarations to do so. The conference also will be adopting a number of reports—the Executive Council's report and the annual report of the organization itself. There will be elections to the Executive Council because half the members of the council come up for re-election every year.

One of the most important issues to be considered by the conference will be the organization's program and budget for the year 2000. Here the key issue remaining to be resolved will be the level of resources to be allocated to industry inspections. There are two issues here. First, some states-parties, particularly those with large chemical industries, have been very unhappy with the fact that their chemical industries have had to make declarations and receive a substantial number of OPCW inspections while one of their major competitors, the U.S. chemical industry, has so far not made any declarations or had to receive any inspections at all. So they have imposed restrictions this year on the number of their facilities that we're allowed to inspect until such time as the United States makes its industry declarations and we can inspect U.S. facilities. That's why it's very important, as I mentioned earlier, that the U.S. provide us with its industry declaration as soon as possible so that this issue of non-compliance can be removed, because it's threatening to become a very divisive issue.

The second issue is whether or not inspections of other chemical production facilities, i.e. facilities that produce discreet organic chemicals [DOCs], will start in May 2000. The convention requires, in part IX of the Verification Annex, that the inspections of what have now become termed as DOC facilities will start at the beginning of the fourth year after entry into force unless the upcoming session of the conference of states-parties decides otherwise. We have four categories of chemical industry facilities mentioned in the convention: Schedule 1, Schedule 2, Schedule 3 and DOCs. The OPCW has been carrying out inspections on Schedule 1, 2 and 3 facilities, and now we have to get ready to carry out inspections at DOC facilities as well. These will be the main issues from the verification side.

The Secretariat is also hopeful that the member-states will decide on the staff regulations, including the tenure policy for the staff of the Secretariat. Failure to do so will put the director-general in a very difficult position in relation to the renewal to staff contracts: with the exception of the director-general himself, who has a four-year contract, all staff are on three-year contracts, and the first of these come up for renewal in May 2000. Finally, the other key issue to be discussed will be the types of programs and the level of resources to be allocated in relation to Article X of the convention, which as you will recall from my introductory remarks is the provision of assistance to states that are attacked or threatened with attack by chemical weapons, and to Article XI, which addresses international cooperation and the peaceful use of chemistry. We have, in fact, started to develop quite a well-put together program in this area. Not only is it important for its own sake, but it is one of the keys to bringing about universality as well, because when a number of the developing countries see that the convention actually offers some tangible benefits for them, then they might be that much more persuaded to join. So there's a very clear link between the implementation of the convention in all its respects—in other words, is the verification aspect working properly, is the international cooperation aspect working properly—and universality. If the convention is perceived to be a failure, of course, then there's no incentive for states to join. If, on the other hand, the convention is clearly seen to offer tangible benefits, either in terms of enhanced security or increased assistance and cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry or both, then, of course, non-states-parties are that much more likely to ratify or accede to the convention and join the OPCW. [Back to top]


CWC Membership (As of May 31, 1999)
States-Parties (122):

Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, St. Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikstan, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zimbabwe

Entry Into Force Pending (3):

Estonia, Nigeria, Sudan

Non-Ratifying Signatories (46):

Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bhutan, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cyprus, Dijbouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Greneda, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Israel, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Lichtenstein, Madagascar, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Myanmar (Burma), Nauru, Nicaragua, Rwanda, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Zaire, Zambia

Non-States-Parties (22):

Andorra, Angola, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Kiribati, Lebanon, Libya, Mozambique, North Korea, Palua, Sao Tome & Principe, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Syria, Tonga, Tuvala, Vanuata, Yugoslavia

Interviewed by Tom Pfeiffer

U.S. Interests and Priorities at the CD: Interview with Robert T. Grey, Jr.

Named U.S. permanent representative to the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) in October 1997, Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr. completed his first year as head of the U.S. CD delegation on September 9, the close of the 1998 negotiating session. On November 20, Arms Control Association Research Analyst Wade Boese met with Ambassador Grey to discuss the CD's progress during 1998 and its prospects for the 1999 session, scheduled to begin January 18.

Ambassador Grey joined the Foreign Service in 1960 and held positions including executive assistant to the under secretary of state for political affairs and deputy office director in the Office of Military Sales and Assistance, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. He has also served as acting deputy director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (1981–1983) and counselor for political affairs to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (1989–1994). Prior to his CD appointment, Grey led the State Department UN Reform Team.

The following is an edited version of the interview.

 


Arms Control Today: After a disappointing 1997 session of the conference, the CD took some positive steps this year, in particular, agreement to begin work on a fissile material cutoff treaty. What do you attribute as the cause for the CD's success this year as opposed to last year?

Robert Grey: I think basically there was a little bit of fatigue in 1997. The CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, completed in 1996] negotiation was long and protracted. Then folks took a pause; they wanted to take a look at which way to proceed at the following year's session. The obvious thing to work on was the FMCT, the fissile material cutoff treaty, but there was resistance on the part of India and Pakistan. Then the [Indian and Pakistani nuclear] testing took place [in May] and there was renewed pressure from the rest of the international community. Ultimately, at the last week of this year's CD, we got a week's work in on the FMCT, and I hope we can pick up where we left off on that and a number of other subjects when we reconvene on January 18.

ACT: Do you feel there was a sense of urgency among the delegations of the CD this year—that they had to do something or risk losing the CD's credibility as a multilateral negotiating forum?

Grey: I think there's always a sense in the CD that we're not perceived to be working actively on what we've set out to do. There's a risk that people will begin to consider the conference irrelevant; so yes, that's a concern. It's always there; I don't think it's any more urgent or less urgent than at any other time.

ACT: The 1997 deadlock was widely attributed to a standoff over negotiating priorities within the conference—the nuclear-weapon states and West European states favored negotiations on a cutoff treaty, whereas the non-aligned movement linked such talks to a timebound framework for nuclear disarmament. What broke this particular impasse this year? How much did the nuclear tests of India and Pakistan contribute to this shift in the non-aligneds' position?

Grey: There has been an evolution, and there is an interest on the part of a number of delegations, as you can see by the recently passed resolution in the [UN General Assembly's] First Committee on nuclear disarmament, in which a number of countries, both Western and G-77 [the non-aligned group], want to discuss nuclear disarmament in the CD. Some want to negotiate it, some only want to discuss it, but there's pressure to do something. So it's not just a North-South issue, if you will, or a West-versus-the-others type of proposition. It's a more widely felt sentiment. Some of our own allies would be interested in having the CD look at nuclear disarmament in a way that didn't have a negative impact on the ongoing U.S.-Russian bilateral negotiations.

So there's been an evolution from a timebound framework to something less than a timebound framework on the part of the G-77, and a push from some Western delegations to at least discuss nuclear disarmament without impeding or impacting negatively on U.S.-Russian negotiations. But I do think the Indian-Pakistani tests were a wake-up call for the entire community that we had to get on with our work; 47 members of the CD formally expressed concern and dismay at the tests when they occurred. And that was across a broad spectrum of CD membership.

Our own view is very clear: we don't think it is helpful or useful to discuss nuclear disarmament or negotiate nuclear disarmament in a multilateral context. We are prepared to keep people abreast of where we are in the negotiations with the Russians. But we don't think it would be productive, given the track record we have by proceeding step by step, to take nuclear disarmament and throw it into a multilateral context. The clear multilateral job to do in the future is the FMCT, and we will continue to push for progress there.

ACT: What impact do you feel that the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests had on the conference in general?

Grey: As I said, I think they were a wake-up call to all of us that we have to get on with our work. The resolution in this year's First Committee, in which a strong majority deeply deplored the Indian and Pakistani tests, was a clear sign that the international community is very, very concerned and upset about them. There were a number of "killer" amendments attached to that resolution by Pakistan and India, and they all were voted down; this is an indication that the world is deeply concerned and entirely serious about trying to keep the NPT [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] regime in place and to make progress toward disarmament. There's been a sort of sea change here, this being the biggest threat to the effectiveness of the NPT in many years. This is because the tests represent the most serious challenge to the non-proliferation regime as anchored by the NPT. We don't want the world to think that the NPT is hollow.

ACT: The United States will assume the rotating presidency of the conference for the first four working weeks of the 1999 session. What will be your goals as the president of the conference? What do you hope will be accomplished during that period?

Grey: What I would like to do is to get the conference up and running, as early and quickly as possible, on all the subjects that were being discussed and along the same general lines that prevailed when the session ended in September: two ad hoc committees, one on negative security assurances and one on FMCT, and special coordinators to deal with the other items that were being considered—membership expansion, the form of the agenda, outer space, APLs [anti-personnel landmines], transparency in armaments, and improving the functioning of the conference. In addition, the troika of the past, present and future CD presidents were responsible for working on ways in which the conference might usefully address nuclear disarmament.

In general, I would like to see us begin in January where we ended up in September. It's not an unreasonable ambition but one that, given the curious nature of the CD, would probably take at least month to accomplish.

ACT: Can you explain what you mean by the curious nature of the CD?

Grey: Everyone has a different agenda, and in any negotiation, people sometimes advance maximalist positions even though they have already compromised and reached a satisfactory outcome the year before. That's especially true when the Americans are in the chair.

ACT: In August the CD decided to start negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, but this mandate will have to be renewed in 1999. Do you foresee any problems winning the necessary consensus next year to resume these negotiations?

Grey: I'm confident that we will resume work on an FMCT. I can't predict when. My own hope and expectation would be that we can do it very early—that we can agree to continue the work program on which we had agreed at the end of September, and continue it into the new year. But that is always subject to negotiation.

A vast majority of the non-aligned want to do nuclear disarmament in the CD. That is not our position and it's not the position of the French, the British, the Russians, the Chinese, and many others. So, the [non-aligned] G-21 will push for more on nuclear disarmament and we will have to respond in our own interest. We can't agree on nuclear disarmament but we can agree on the program we agreed on last year, and over time, it will fall into place. It took a lot of skilled work by my Swiss colleague last year to get this program of work established. If it hadn't been for his very, very skillful diplomatic tactics we could still be at loggerheads. I give Ambassador [Erwin] Hofer of Switzerland a great deal of credit for getting us as far as we are now.

ACT: Do you think the deadlock over negotiating priorities could reappear?

Grey: It's always a possibility, but my expectation would be that since we made such good progress last year, we should build on that and not get down into burdensome deals about package arrangements. We should look at each issue on its merits and decide whether or not to pursue it. That's the ideal world; I must say that sometimes in diplomacy you don't live in ideal worlds. But you've got to be prepared to work on that basis.

ACT: With regards to the FMCT ad hoc committee that was formed last year, there was some disagreement over naming a chair for the committee. Would you explain the reasons why? Will this issue be revisited to a more significant degree this year?

Grey: It's hard to say at this time. The Canadians have been staunch advocates of an FMCT for more than 40 years, in one form or another; they're closely identified with it. There's a concern on the part of some countries that having a Canadian in the chair might give too positive a push to the issue, given the well-known Canadian national position. In the course of discussions, it emerged that there would be a Western chair during the first year of the committee's deliberations. We didn't really have deliberations last session, so my anticipation would be that a Western chair would be reappointed, and my hope would be that it would be Ambassador [Mark] Moher of Canada, who is a very skilled and very able diplomat. There is a little fallout from the First Committee, where the Canadians and the Australians and the New Zealanders took the lead on a resolution that deeply deplored the testing of India and Pakistan, and one doesn't know whether there's any ill will after that or not. Our hope and expectation is that our Canadian colleague will be reappointed.

ACT: Many states, led by Pakistan and Egypt, are calling for a fissile material treaty that goes beyond merely a cutoff and extends to the issue of stockpiles or past production. Why does the United States oppose this move?

Grey: Our view is that it's impossible to get into existing stocks at this stage, and that is a view shared by many in the international community. We approach things a step at a time, and we feel that this is the logical way to get progress on an FMCT.

Everyone knows that some time in the future, the question of existing stocks will have to be addressed. But I can assure you we would not have a successful negotiation on FMCT at this time if we tried to address existing stocks. In practice, the five nuclear-weapon states will have to address existing stocks during the long-term process of arms reductions that currently involves bilateral negotiations between the U.S. and Russia. I think that most people, on reflection, would agree with that. In addition, inserting existing stocks into the FMCT negotiations would give the two states that recently tested a sort of nuclear status, because the proposed provisions on existing stocks would implicitly put them in the same box as the five nuclear states, given that no one but the five NPT-defined nuclear-weapon states are supposed to have such stocks. I don't think that is something the rest of the international community wants to do.

But it is a sensitive issue, and we are working hard, bilaterally and unilaterally with the other nuclear states, to reduce these stocks. We recently agreed with Russia to place 50 tons of plutonium under IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards. I went down to Savannah River the other day and they are indeed digging the hole and getting ready to build the facility in which some of this material will be stored and monitored. So we are already spending big bucks to get ready for this.

ACT: Does the issue of existing fissile material stockpiles have the same potential for blocking conference progress as the issue of nuclear disarmament has in the past?

Grey: It is a possibility. One can never predict with any degree of accuracy what is going to happen. But one could debate this endlessly, and if we start on the question of scope it could quickly degenerate into people making maximalist statements without looking for a way forward. My expectation and hope is that this isn't going to happen. This is a very complicated and very difficult treaty, and we would be best advised to get started on all the issues in which we can see ways forward, such as identifying the key choke points in the production cycle and developing appropriate methods for ensuring compliance. There cannot be an FMCT if we try to include existing stocks. The nuclear states and India will not play. And I am sure the Israelis will not play. It is a very sensitive and delicate issue.

ACT: What elements would the United States like to see in a fissile material cutoff treaty?

Grey: Well, I don't want to tip my hand completely. It's quite clear that we want to see a system in place—and there are many ways to do this—in which there is no production of fissile material for nuclear explosive devices, as well as a verification regime in which people can clearly see that production has ceased. We have several ways to do that, which we are now discussing. We are laying our propositions on the table and have been working very hard with a number of states to come up with positions that meet our common concerns. But it's a major challenge.

One of the elements that we have to consider is the cost factor. The more intrusive, the more rigid the verification regime, the more costly this whole thing becomes. It's going to be very, very expensive, even with the kinds of safeguards we'd be interested in. If you want perfect safeguards, it becomes untenable.

ACT: What kinds of cost estimates are we looking at?

Grey: Each person you ask will give you a different answer, so I'm not going to give you one. It varies from the ridiculous to the sublime, but it's going to be a substantial increase in the cost of the inspection process. And how you do it—some people have reservations about the role of the IAEA, for example—those are matters that have to be addressed in the conference.

ACT: Do you foresee safeguards being placed on maintenance and dismantlement facilities in addition to reprocessing and enrichment facilities?

Grey: Our preference would be for reprocessing and enrichment. There are obviously other elements that will have to be considered, but we think that with those two you capture most of the problem.

ACT: Will the verification regime include confirming that past production facilities are not operational?

Grey: That's part of it. We believe that can be done. As a matter of fact, everyone under the IAEA safeguards—every non-nuclear state—has agreed to set up a regime that's much more intrusive and covers the full fuel cycle, so it probably wouldn't be a concern. If previous production facilities have been stripped of key equipment or otherwise put into mothballs, it should be very easy to verify that. It's not a complicated thing. The reality is that when a reprocessing or enrichment plant has been shut down, especially in our country, you couldn't simply start it up again even if you wanted to; it'd take several years and billions of dollars.

ACT: The other negotiating priority of the United States has been a transfer ban on anti-personnel landmines. Many states consider that work on such a treaty would duplicate work already done through the Ottawa Convention, which will soon enter into force for those states that have ratified it. How do you respond to such criticism?

Grey: It seems to me sort of silly. Most of the countries that export landmines have ceased doing it, but the major producers of landmines, and the exporters in the past, are all in the CD. As a complement to the Ottawa process, a simple export ban, in which people take a collective pledge to do what they're already individually committed to do, would be a useful step forward and would reinforce Ottawa. Some countries, frankly, will not be in a position to sign the Ottawa Convention in the near term or indefinite future and they have made that very clear. Why not get them to sign on to something they can sign?

There are two kinds of opposition to an export ban on APLs in the CD. There are those who signed on to Ottawa and think it's perfection. They wouldn't vote on any attempt to buttress it or to encourage other people to do anything but sign on to it; it'd be a sort of heresy. The others are dependent on landmines for their own self-defense and are suspicious of signing anything. We think an export ban is a sensible way to go for the short term.

We've made very clear our commitment to sign on to Ottawa ultimately. We have made it very clear to the Canadians and others that we don't see any contradiction between what we are seeking in the CD and ultimately signing on to the Ottawa Convention. We're not prepared to do anything that would affect in any way the kinds of terms and conditions of the Ottawa Convention.

In our view, a transfer ban is a step to move other countries which have not signed the Ottawa Convention in the direction of getting rid of these kinds of weapons. The fact of the matter is that people who haven't signed on to Ottawa still have the right to export mines. We think a transfer ban is a good interim step.

ACT: Will the United States seek to go beyond the transfer ban in the context of the CD?

Grey: No. We've made that pretty clear.

ACT: The Chinese ambassador, Li Changhe, made a very strong call for establishing an ad hoc committee for the prevention of an arms race in outer space, but the United States opposes this move. Why?

Grey: In our view, it's not an issue that deserves a major share of the time and effort the CD has available for negotiating arms control agreements. Outer space work is certainly not one of our priorities in the CD. There is no arms race in outer space. We have an unprecedented degree of international cooperation in outer space. And we think that rather than concentrating on getting involved in an issue that's not a problem now, we should concentrate on the real problem, the real job that we've been trying to get done for the last several years in the CD, which is the FMCT. That's our priority. And our second priority is APLs, because we think that's something that can be solved quickly, is a positive step forward, and addresses a real issue.

As long as there is no threat of an arms race in outer space, it is far from clear what the CD would gain by addressing it. Work on outer space would divert the attention of the CD from other things. Speaking personally, I have the view that given the resource limitations—both in terms of personnel and in terms of time—a step-by-step approach in the CD is probably all that can be expected. It can take on one big issue at a time. I think the way the CTBT was negotiated illustrates that.

ACT: If there is no arms race in outer space, wouldn't it be in the U.S. interest to negotiate a treaty that would freeze the status quo so there would be no possibility of an arms race?

Grey: We've got an agreement that bans the emplacement of weapons of mass destruction in outer space. We think that's enough; we don't anticipate any other problems.

ACT: A lot of countries have raised the concern of militarization of outer space, rather than an arms race in outer space.

Grey: The commercial and other civilian uses of outer space have long outpaced military uses such as communications, early warning and self-defense. It is therefore strange to hear talk about militarization occurring in outer space, and the prospect seems quite unlikely in the near future or the far future, for that matter. Our time could be more usefully spent dealing with the real emerging problem, and that is the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the threat posed to the NPT regime by the Indian and Pakistani testing. You're not going to get significant arms control, in terms of nuclear arms reductions, in the future unless we have a lid on the production of fissile material, and that's in all our interest to do. When we get START III, and we're going to get it, the fact of an FMCT in force will make it significantly less difficult to negotiate even deeper reductions. At some point you have to capture the production of fissile material, and that's what we're trying to do.

ACT: The conference also started discussions regarding negative security assurances. However, the United States, among others, has opposed the negotiation of a treaty on negative security assurances. Why, and what does the United States advocate as an alternative?

Grey: We think the best way to do it is to continue to work on the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones [NWFZs]. I think we've captured about 99 countries under those regimes now. If we can get the Southeast Asian zone and the Central Asian zone in satisfactory terms, we will capture well over a hundred. We think that's the way to go. It's a more productive way; it's a more effective way. That is a view shared by three of the other nuclear-weapon states as well.

ACT: Why does the United States reject the proposal put forth by China that negative security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon states should also include a "no-first-use" declaration by all nuclear-weapon states?

Grey: We don't think that's a good way to go. As long as you have a deterrent, you have to be prepared to exercise it. It's fundamental to our national security policy. When the happy day comes that we don't have to rely on nuclear deterrence, we're in a new world. But until then, it makes no sense. Arms control is basically an element of our national security policy, and we're not going to do things in the CD that call into question or alter in any fundamental way our own commitments to our allies and to our own people. We've made that abundantly clear, so many times and in so many places that it would bore your readers, who know the litany and probably wrote the instructions themselves.

ACT: Are there any other issues, besides an FMCT and a transfer ban on APLs, that the United States would like to see addressed by the conference?

Grey: The question of transparency in armaments and the issue of small arms are things that a number of people are concerned about. There is some reluctance on the part of others to address these right now, but these are issues, I think, that will keep coming back. We are sympathetic to that and will work constructively within the conference to see what we can do.

That having been said, if you look at the more urgent matters, we've been wrangling about FMCT for almost a decade. Now's the time to get working on it. That's where we're going to focus our efforts.

ACT: Will the United States continue to oppose moves within the conference to convene a body to discuss nuclear disarmament?

Grey: We're not totally negative. We have some ideas that could create a dialogue on nuclear disarmament within the conference without getting into negotiations. It's something that we've discussed at length with other people. We don't think the conference should set up an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament, but we're prepared to examine methods and approaches in which we could have a dialogue, as we did during the START process, and in which we could perhaps tell people where we've been, what we've accomplished, and where we're going.

ACT: How does that relate to negative security assurances?

Grey: As I said, our preference is to negotiate negative security assurances in the NWFZ context. That said, I'll agree to setting up the ad hoc committee, but the reality is that a global treaty will be far more difficult to reach in view of our known preference for another way of solving this problem.

ACT: Do you think the troika construct of past, present and future CD presidents created earlier this year and tasked with pursuing consultations with delegations on nuclear disarmament has been successful in meeting some countries' demands for work on this issue?

Grey: It's a useful vehicle because it gives them the potential to have something develop out of this. I'm prepared to see what recommendations develop out of this, and also to hold open the possibility, the very real possibility, that you'll get some kind of dialogue going, but not a negotiation.

ACT: What do you believe are the most important steps the nuclear-weapon states can take to assure CD members that the nuclear powers are indeed moving in the right direction with regard to nuclear disarmament?

Grey: The first thing is to keep them informed of what we are doing. We gave them a very comprehensive briefing, both in the NPT context and in the CD, about what we are actually doing with the Russians, and the degree to which we are sawing up weapons, dismantling things, turning stuff over to the IAEA, the fact that we're spending a billion dollars or so to help the Russians dismantle a number of their weapons. This is real; we have a very good track record. A hundred nuclear weapons being sawed up and thrown away every month is not insubstantial.

ACT: An initiative to increase the 61-member CD by five members was blocked by Iran in September. Does the United States support the continued expansion of the conference? Given the rule of consensus, does expansion not make it increasingly difficult to make decisions and accomplish work?

Grey: The expansion to 61 made it increasingly difficult to get the conference to function effectively. I think an expansion of five wouldn't make any difference one way or the other. Beyond that, we're agnostic. Once we achieve an FMCT successfully, maybe we'd be prepared to take another look. Until then, wherever we are when that negotiation starts, that's where we should stay, whether 61 or 66.

ACT: Is there an alternative to the mandate for consensus? Are there any options that the United States would consider worthwhile exploring?

Grey: Not as long as I am there.

ACT: Despite its successes, the CD has found it increasingly difficult to begin formal negotiations on a broad spectrum of issues. What are the principal factors that work against the CD functioning as a multilateral forum?

Grey: The principal difficulty is the perverse practice of packaging things, so that if I don't get "A," you don't get "B." I think it's imperative that we all look at issues in terms of what we're prepared to do collectively to achieve something positive. Our views on certain subjects, like negative security assurances or outer space, are well known. The reservations of other people on progress in transparency in armaments or small arms are well known. Where we have a convergence of interests, however, is in FMCT. Where there's a consensus, where there's a real need for it in the international community, where it's an appropriate subject for the conference to address, I think we should address that issue. If we're successful on that, others will emerge.

ACT: Do you believe there is an alternative approach to multilateral arms control other than the current patchwork of agreements, in which states often pick and choose the treaties they will adhere to and their conditions for participation?

Grey: As Bismarck said, drafting legislation and sausage-making are things you don't want to watch when they're happening. Whether you do it in the CD context or some other context, whenever you have different view on things it's a messy procedure; this is sort of like legislating for the international community. I can see a lot of other ways to do it, but would they be any less messy, or less confusing, or less piecemeal? Probably not.

ACT: Is there anything that you would like to say in general terms about the conference's operation or what you'd like to achieve?

Grey: The conference was conceived and set up and functioned for 40 years in basically a Cold War environment. One of the things I would like to see changed is this whole question of an Eastern group, a Western group, and a non-aligned group. The Western group is not unanimous; we have differences of opinion on lots of things. In a political sense, there is no Eastern group: Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary will be joining the Western group shortly, and a number of other Eastern countries want to join NATO, the European Union, etc. The non-aligned are no longer a unified group, if they ever were. Indian and Pakistani testing clearly was not supported by the non-aligned; you can see it in the voting in the UN First Committee. And an Eastern group that consists of two or three countries doesn't make much sense to me.

My hope would be that we could evolve the conference to reflect today's realities and not the realities of the Cold War. Perhaps the way to do business is to create like-minded groups addressing particular subjects. We've had a like-minded group on APL exports, covering a broad spectrum from the West and the East and the non-aligned, with about 20 countries trying to get progress on it. I think that's the wave of the future. The idea that to get a committee working you have to have one chairman from the East and one from the West and one from the G-21 is ridiculous. We should try to get chairmen, and friends of the chair, and coordinators, on the basis of their interests and their merits and their capabilities, not on the basis of what group they're from, especially when the groups no longer function as groups. It's a real frustration. Arms control is pretty rarefied stuff to begin with, especially multilateral arms control, with all the ideological baggage and yearnings and things people bring to it. It's even more unreal when you're dealing as if there were three blocs in a world when there are no blocs.

ACT: Going back to an earlier point that you mentioned, that APLs are a priority of the United States. Is it possible to do work both on the FMCT and APLs?

Grey: A number of the non-aligned would say that means that they are being forced to accept the U.S. agenda. Therefore, they probably won't let us have both.

ACT: Do a lot of the delegations have the resources to work on two issues simultaneously?

Grey: Negotiations would be much easier to manage if there were 18 delegations doing this, as in the 1960s. But at the end of the day, when you're working these things, it's only about 15 or 20 delegations that make a major effort to stay actively involved. If delegations want to be active, they will find the resources to do so.

ACT: Do you think the non-aligned will be even less effective as a bloc now that India and Pakistan have conducted nuclear tests?

Grey: They've been quite effective in terms of beating up on a couple of their own. But it's one thing to beat up on one of your own, or a country that is perceived to be one of your own. Scolding the United States, however, comes naturally to them.

Interview with Ambassador Richard Butler, executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM)

Since taking over as executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) in July 1997, Ambassador Richard Butler has stood at the center of the stormy relationship between Iraq and the United Nations. UNSCOM, established by the UN Security Council in 1991, is charged with eliminating Baghdad's biological and chemical weapons programs and proscribed ballistic missile activities, as well as monitoring to ensure that Iraq does not reacquire any such capabilities in the future.

On September 24, as Butler was preparing the most recent six-month report on UNSCOM activities in Iraq—a report dominated by Iraq's refusal since August 5 to permit UNSCOM inspections—Arms Control Association Senior Analyst Howard Diamond asked him about this latest crisis and its implications for UNSCOM.

Butler's diplomatic career includes a number of positions in the Australian foreign service. Appointed Australia's ambassador for disarmament in 1983, Butler was named ambassador to Thailand in 1989 and ambassador to the Supreme National Council of Cambodia two years later. In 1995 he was appointed convenor of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Immediately prior to joining UNSCOM, Butler served from 1992 to 1997 as Australian ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations. The following is an edited version of his comments.

 


Arms Control Today: What are the current scope and status of UNSCOM's ongoing monitoring and verification processes? To what extent has Iraq's most recent suspension of cooperation affected the integrity of monitoring efforts?

Richard Butler: Iraq's decisions of 5 August sliced off all of our disarmament work. Iraq stated that we could, for a period of time, continue our monitoring work, and claimed that that would be in accordance with the provisions of the monitoring agreement settled years ago between Iraq and UNSCOM. That agreement is actually a piece of Security Council legislation, known as Resolution 715. The fact is that in the intervening seven weeks or so, we have found that Iraq's claim is not true. We are not able to do all of the monitoring we would want to do and would normally do pursuant to 715. Specifically, we are only being permitted to monitor at sites Iraq allows us to visit. We're not able to designate our own sites, and I've reported this to the Security Council. This significantly reduces the scope of our monitoring. There have been some instances where, even within a site designated by them, in other words a site to which they will allow us to make a monitoring visit, they are seeking to restrict our access to particular buildings or particular rooms, not to the whole of the site. So, on all of these grounds I've reported to the Council that we are not able to give the Council the kind of assurance with respect to monitoring that it requires under the law.

ACT: It's been about seven weeks since the last weapons inspections in Iraq. What are your primary concerns regarding Iraqi activities since the end of inspections?

Butler: Our inspections fall into two categories. One has to do with bringing into final account Iraq's proscribed weapons. Here remain outstanding issues in all three fields—missile, chemical and biological. Now that Iraq has sliced off our disarmament work, we're doing none of that—none—and that's a matter of concern.

As far as monitoring is concerned, it's not so easy to answer that question, because you can't know what you can't see. We don't know what Iraq may or may not be doing in the places we're not permitted to visit, and it would be foolish of me to make some kind of guess.

ACT: UNSCOM has provided the Security Council with an intensive and detailed review of the outstanding disarmament questions that stand in the way of the Commission completing its work. Is the "roadmap" that was provided earlier still the best evaluation of the remaining issues regarding disarmament? What are some of the specific remaining problems, and what does Iraq need to do to satisfy those concerns?

Butler: The "roadmap" is still the best available such list. I want to make clear what it is. It is a list of the priority tasks that need to be completed before we could give something like a final account of Iraq's proscribed weapons programs and capabilities. In setting forth that roadmap, I made clear that it was the priority issues—not that it was all issues. To put it another way, these are certainly the necessary conditions for the closure of, say, the missile and chemical files. They may not be the sufficient conditions. There are some other, lesser issues that would still have to be brought to account in some way.

Iraq knows that and was given an opportunity to work with us in bringing them to account, but it declined to take that opportunity in all cases. In the missile area, we still need an account of their indigenous production capability. We need a final account of special missile warheads that they've unilaterally destroyed—those that they had filled with biological or chemical warfare agents. There is an outstanding account with respect to Scud-specific fuel and there is the special issue now of VX. We did detect degradation products of the VX nerve agent in some of those destroyed missile warhead remnants and Iraq has refused to give us an account of that, simply stating that it never weaponized VX, which is not what our lab findings show. In the chemical area, in addition to VX, the quantities Iraq made, there are some extant munitions. There is an account that's required of extant production equipment.

Just to complete the picture, the biological area as a whole is deeply deficient. Iraq's overall declaration on its biology program has been found on four occasions in the last year—by groups of international experts, not just our own—to be simply not credible. We've made it clear to Iraq that they'll have to start again and do better than the declaration they've given us, which doesn't approximate, in almost any respect, something like reality.

ACT: In reports to the Council, you've mentioned that you have asked for additional documentation on the biological weapons issue. Do you believe that there are still pertinent documents in Iraq that you haven't seen? Why wouldn't Iraq already have destroyed them?

Butler: We certainly do believe that. In concluding the recent discussions I held with Mr. Tariq Aziz, I summed it up by saying three things: one, the materials that we need do exist; two, they are in the possession of the government of Iraq; and three, it's their call as to whether or not they give them to us. If they do, I've said our promise is that we will verify those materials quickly and honestly, so that we can bring these things to account without any further delay. He did not argue with those three points.

There have been times where Iraq has said it has lost or no longer knows where relevant documents are. But I have to tell you, the overwhelming experience we have had is that Iraq does know very well what the true story is. They are excellent document and record keepers, and there's no credible basis for us to believe that they are not able to give us the information required if they choose to do so. That's why I put those three points in that way, and I repeat, he didn't actually dispute those points but instead argued that what we sought either wasn't relevant or would intrude on other aspects of Iraqi life and basically declined to surrender those materials. Actually it was interesting that there was no direct argument against those three propositions.

ACT: If the Iraqi government is seeking to maintain strategic capabilities in all the proscribed weapons programs, and if Baghdad follows through on its threat to completely cut off cooperation with UNSCOM, what do you think Iraq is capable of achieving in each of these weapons programs, and in what kind of a time frame?

Butler: I'm sorry, I'm not either in a position or indeed, perhaps, expert enough to answer that question. I'll put it to you a different way. Iraq's current tactic is to say, first, "We are disarmed." Now we can't agree with that because the evidence that would support that claim has not been made available to us by them. We're not in the business of doing disarmament by declaration. We need evidence.

Secondly, they have also said, "We don't threaten anybody. If you think we do, say so. Tell us what you think we've got." Quite frankly, this is a political, if not a propaganda stance. The law that we work under doesn't have any word in it about the threat that Iraq might pose to its neighbors or elsewhere. Our job, under the law, is to deal with the hard evidence and the materials themselves—the weapons and the ability to make them. We can't declare that Iraq has fulfilled its obligations to be disarmed of those weapons and production capabilities until they put us in a position to do so, by giving us the relevant materials and evidence. That's what we focus on, not some other more extraneous political notion of whether or not they threaten anybody.

ACT: How would you judge Iraq's concealment activities compared, say, to a year ago, and how has concealment affected UNSCOM's ability to do its job? Are concealment activities the key factor preventing UNSCOM from closing its files?

Butler: Iraq has had a practice of concealment from the beginning in 1991. When it was obliged under the law to declare all of its weapons to us, it actually took the step of declaring only a portion of them and concealing a residual portion. That activity has always hampered our work because it withholds from us the basic database we need, which is the quantity and quality of weapons—illegal weapons—that they held. Iraq's stance today is that there is no concealment. Again that's a political statement, not verifiable by evidence, the kind that we require. In 1996, in a formal document signed with the previous executive chairman, Iraq actually admitted that there had been concealment.

Now, to the last part of your question, concealment has slowed us down in doing this job because it denies us a basic database. The other two factors that have also slowed us down have been: one, that Iraq has never made the full, final and complete declaration on its holdings that it was obliged under the law to make available to us, and two, that Iraq has unilaterally destroyed some of its weapons in order to obscure from us what the basic size and quality of those weapons were. That unilateral destruction, which itself was illegal, compels us to go into a kind of forensic activity trying to put together the pieces of the past in a way that is inevitably difficult. It has had the effect of slowing down—I think unacceptably—the job of disarmament that we should have been able to complete years ago.

ACT: From your perspective, if Security Council members are no longer willing to support a policy of threatening to use, or using, military force to insure unconditional and unrestricted Iraqi cooperation, how will UNSCOM's operations and mandate be affected? Are you concerned that the individual national interests of Security Council members will overtake their commitment to the principle of collective action?

Butler: I'm not sure that I would concede the first premise of your question. When you said that if the Council is no longer prepared to enforce the law—I think that's a question to which the answer is still open. By saying that, I'm not in any way implying that I want to see force used. But I do remind you that all of the decisions on these matters taken by the Council have been taken under Chapter VII of the Charter, which includes the possibility that if necessary, the law would be enforced.

ACT: Are you concerned that the individual national interests of Security Council members will overtake their commitment to the principle of collective action?

Butler: No, I'm not, because I draw a distinction—and I think that many, many others do, and the members of the Council themselves do—between the fundamental objective and the ways in which it might be best achieved. I see no argument in the Council about the fundamental objective, namely that Iraq should obey the law and be disarmed. Even those who appear to be a bit more sympathetic to Iraq's concerns than some others don't have any difficulty with that basic proposition. There is no daylight amongst any members of the Council on that basic objective—that Iraq must obey the law, in particular the disarmament law. There is a difference of view amongst Council members on how best to achieve that goal, and that's the region where discussion, and perhaps some argument, takes place, but not about the basic task. Until that changes, and I don't expect it will, I believe the Council will hang in and see that this job gets done.

ACT: As the executive chairman, how do you balance the imperatives of your mission to identify and eliminate proscribed weapons with the political concerns that members of the Council may have regarding opportune times for conducting weapons inspections?

Butler: That's a very good question, and it certainly is one that's come into focus recently, following Scott Ritter's resignation. There is a certain balancing required there, but what I try to do is to insure that to the highest extent possible, our work has as its hallmark a technical and scientific approach. Now, obviously our technical and scientific work does take place within a political context, and I have to listen to that. Indeed I seek the views of members of the Council on policy matters, on how and when we should be proceeding at certain times. But in being the recipient of the views of members of the Council on political issues and, indeed, in seeking them, I have never had an experience where a member of the Council has crossed the line between their unique responsibility for policy and my unique responsibility for the technical and operational decisions. The receipt of their point of view doesn't mean that it has to be followed into the operational things for which I'm responsible, and they recognize that. So I don't see any of them having transgressed that line between policy on the one hand and operational responsibility on the other.

ACT: One of the more recent events that has come up regarding UNSCOM's work is the resignation of Scott Ritter. Could you clarify the July and August events surrounding UNSCOM's inspections, which he says led him to resign? You've been quoted as saying that his account of events in July and August was inaccurate. What exactly was inaccurate and why do you think so?

Butler: I'm not going to go into that, as I've already said publicly in other places. If I were to do so, I'd be putting UNSCOM on a pretty slippery slope. It would lead to a circumstance where I would be obliged to discuss in public the views of individual members of the Council, the operational imperatives that I think I have to follow. I think it would be a very bad precedent if I were to discuss those things in public because then the question would arise, "Well, you discussed your decision making process in instance A, why don't you now do it in B, C, D and so on?" And I won't do that. I think it would be harmful to our effort, and it would abuse the confidence of members of the Council who do come and talk to me about their concerns.

But as far as Scott is concerned, I'm deeply aware of what motivated him; I deeply respect him. I was a bit saddened that his account of some of the events in the last few months was at variance—at least in some respects—with what I know to be the facts. I don't want to go beyond that. I certainly respect him enough to not want to have some kind of public dispute with him.

ACT: On the subject of intelligence sharing, are you receiving sufficient intelligence cooperation from UN member-states to do your job? Are there any changes to current arrangements that you'd like to have made?

Butler: Again, a very interesting question. We've been given a lot of support from a considerable number of member-states of the UN, whether material or in terms of information, and what we might loosely call intelligence. On the whole, it's been very strong and good. There have been some cases where we have sought further information from member-states and they've not been able or prepared to give it to us, but on the whole I'm satisfied with the level of support we've been given.

ACT: It's been reported that there are some discrepancies between results from the laboratories in the United States and in France and Switzerland regarding the presence of VX on the warhead fragments that were found. What could these discrepancies mean? How do you intend to deal with any conflicting results?

Butler: It's interesting that you asked this question today. There is, as we speak, a technical meeting taking place here in our office involving scientists from the various labs concerned and some other external scientists as well.

Going back to what I said a moment ago about our attempts to insure that our work has as its hallmark, scientific and technical accuracy, obviously I will place great importance on whatever report I receive from today's meeting on the findings from the various labs. I don't know what they are. I'm leaving them to do their work independently, as I should.

In the theoretical circumstance that the labs have different findings, all that means is that different samples gave different results. It doesn't obliterate the results that were obtained from the Maryland lab. They've been examined by international experts and found to be valid; even Iraq doesn't question the internal scientific validity of those findings. And speaking of Iraq, whatever is found elsewhere, they still owe us an answer to how VX degradation products got into those warheads, as found by the Maryland lab. Those results were impeccable. The answer still needs to be provided, especially since Iraq continues to claim that it never weaponized VX.

More important than these results, however, is that Iraq has never told us how much VX it made, having first denied that it made any. We know it made at least 4 tons. We need to have a fully verified total of production.

ACT: On the subject of VX, does UNSCOM have any knowledge of Iraq moving any of its proscribed weapons activities outside of the country or assisting foreign entities in such efforts? The allusion I'm making is to Sudan.

Butler: I hope you'll allow me not to answer that question because it would involve violating a principle that I mentioned earlier, namely that it wouldn't be right for me to discuss in public internal information, or intelligence information available to us, so I'm afraid I won't go into that.

ACT: Is that specific to the question of Sudan, or is that broadly, with regard to foreign cooperation?

Butler: No, I was answering your question with respect to foreign cooperation and the other part of your question, which was Iraq seeking to conduct some of its activities outside Iraq.

ACT: Another story that has popped up in news reports is that Iraq possesses one or more assembled nuclear devices that lack only their fissile material cores. Do you have any information about that?

Butler: That was something Scott Ritter claimed in public, correct?

ACT: Yes.

Butler: Sorry, it's the same situation there, but with a slight variation. The main responsibility for Iraq's nuclear program lies not so much with my organization, but with the IAEA. We do obviously have an interest in the nuclear field, but the IAEA has prime carriage on it. Secondly, I would prefer, for reasons of keeping security over our internal information, not to go into that one in any detail at this stage. I will say, however, if UNSCOM had hard evidence to that effect we would have taken it to IAEA or the Security Council or both.

ACT: If such a report were true, what would that say about the future of monitoring and verification efforts?

Butler: I'm very concerned about that. In this current phase, where Iraq is actually confronting the Security Council and its laws, there have been some suggestions that Iraq has a view of future monitoring that is far less than effective monitoring would require, or is already laid down in Resolution 715.

Part of my concern about the current situation is to discover just exactly what Iraq has in mind when it says, "We don't have a problem with monitoring. Our problem is with UNSCOM's insistence that we're not yet disarmed."

I'm not sure that we know the truth of the claim that they don't have a problem with monitoring. I've already raised this in the Security Council; we need to know exactly what Iraq means when it talks about monitoring, as against what we know should be meant. And I think we're going to have to explore that in the months ahead. The monitoring in the future will be a crucial activity, and we need to know very clearly what Iraq thinks it's about, as against what we know it must be about.

ACT: In your view, has the Security Council changed its approach to eliminating Iraq's weapons? Has it moved from insisting on active identification and elimination to a policy of containment?

Butler: No, I don't believe so. In an answer to an earlier question I said I saw no dispute amongst members of the Council with respect to Iraq's compliance with the law, in particular the disarmament law, and I don't see any shift of the kind that you've just described.

ACT: Given the current state of affairs, what is the next step for UNSCOM? Will you be forced to wait until the Security Council decides it's ready to support weapons inspections by the threat of force or the use of force? Or are there alternatives that you can foresee that would allow UNSCOM to get back to work?

Butler: The current state of confrontation is between Iraq and the Security Council and that obviously has operational implications for UNSCOM. In the meantime our job is to continue to keep the Security Council informed of the scientific and technical facts so that it is in a position to make the best policy decisions it can. We're here; we're doing that job. When and how we'll get back to doing our full job is something that needs to be resolved between Iraq and the Security Council.

ACT: In the end, do you believe that the determination as to whether Iraq has met its disarmament obligations will be based on "sufficient compliance" or on "total compliance"? In your opinion, what would be the most important factors in distinguishing between those two judgments?

Butler: I've seen no one suggesting that the yardstick of compliance should be trimmed. We've made clear to the Council in recent months that there may be some weapons areas where we won't ever have a complete account of what Iraq held in the past or of the present status of those weapons or capabilities, principally because Iraq has unilaterally destroyed relevant materials. We're compelled to put the jigsaw back together, and we may not quite find all the pieces. If that proves to be the case somewhere along the line, and we say, "Look, this is all we're ever going to get from this story," then the Council may have to accept that. But that's different from foreseeing a situation where the Council itself acts to change the yardstick, to change the standard, and I don't hear anyone talking about that. The goal remains to destroy—these are the words, "destroy, remove, or render harmless"—all of Iraq's proscribed weapons systems. And I don't hear anyone saying that that standard should be reduced.

ACT: Do you have any reason to be optimistic that the current impasse can be resolved in the short term, or do you think this is going to become a longer term problem?

Butler: I think it's a serious problem now, and I think the steps that the Council and others are taking to getting it solved are being taken carefully and with deliberation, and I believe, with resolve. I cannot predict how long it will take, but I don't foresee a situation where the task will be abandoned. I just don't foresee that.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Interviews