The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011

Getting to Know Alex Wellerstein

May 2015

Interviewed by Jefferson Morley

Alex Wellerstein works at his home in Hoboken, New Jersey, on January 19. (Courtesy of Alex Wellerstein)“Getting to Know” is an occasional series that introduces Arms Control Today readers to interesting people active in the world of arms control.

Alex Wellerstein, a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, is the creator of NUKEMAP, an interactive website (http://nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/) that enables viewers to visualize the impact of detonating a nuclear weapon on their neighbor’s house—or the White House. You can choose among a homemade terrorist bomb, a bomb of the type that devastated Hiroshima, or Russian President Vladimir Putin’s biggest intercontinental ballistic missile. The site then displays the size of the fireball that would incinerate everything in its radius and the larger concentric circles marking the extent of radiation poisoning and third-degree burns, as well as corresponding casualty rates. Since its launch in February 2012, NUKEMAP has been viewed 10 million times.

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

How did you get into the whole world of things nuclear? Do you have science in your background?

I’m from central California. My dad was a public defender. My mother did human resources for the state of California. No obvious connections to the world of science, except that my grandfather was one those self-taught, eccentric tinkerers who always thought he could invent the next big thing. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley. Through a series of coincidences, I found there was a discipline called the history of science. One of the topics I became very interested in and wound up writing my thesis on was the relationship of the University of California to the nuclear weapons laboratories, Livermore and Los Alamos. 

I found [Berkeley] to be a wonderful contradiction. You could walk down Telegraph Avenue, and it’s got all these hippies selling patchouli and tie-dye. And above their heads were these giant banners for all the Berkeley Nobel Prize winners, including Ernest Lawrence and Glenn Seaborg—people who worked on the Manhattan Project. I thought what a funny juxtaposition this is. 

How did NUKEMAP emerge in your mind?

I actually made a very crude version around 2002 or 2003, but it wasn’t something I could release publicly. There have been other nuclear-weapon simulator-type things on the Internet. NUKEMAP improved on these through many specific user-interface choices. And later, I upgraded all of the underlying scientific calculations. I thought it would be useful for teachers.

I taught a class at Harvard, and one of the things I found hard to convey was the difference between early fission and early thermonuclear weapons. One of my classic examples was to show them what happens if you drop a [20-kiloton] Nagasaki-style bomb on Boston. Well, it punches a hole out of downtown Boston. It irradiates MIT, which the Harvard students like, but Cambridge is mostly OK; it’s far enough away from [the] 20 kilotons that the effects are very mild [there]. Then I show them what happens when you do 10 megatons: the first hydrogen bomb. That takes out the whole Boston metro area out to Concord and Lexington. Harvard is on fire. Everything is on fire. Every time you do this, the students give an audible response. They gasp. 

What’s your favorite nuclear comedy?

Tom Lehrer’s song “We All Go Together When We Go.” The uplifting side of Armageddon is that you never have to go to anyone’s funeral.

You say you like talking to the teenagers, to people who are new to nuclear issues. Why? 

Nuclear weapons have become invisible to people born after the Cold War. People who lived their teenage years throughout the 1980s really felt the bomb was a real element in the world or could be. For people who were born in the 1990s and 2000s, it’s not a variable. They don’t even know [nuclear weapons] are around or exist. But they are around, and they do exist. We need them to be on people’s agendas. 

Previewing the NPT Review: An Interview With U.S. Special Representative Adam Scheinman

Interviewed by Daniel Horner and Daryl G. Kimball

Adam Scheinman took office as President Barack Obama’s special representative for nuclear nonproliferation on September 22, 2014. Over the past 15 years, he has held nonproliferation positions in the Department of State, the White House, and the Department of Energy.

Adam Scheinman (second from right), President Barack Obama’s special representative for nuclear nonproliferation, participates in a conference on South Korea’s Jeju Island on December 4, 2014. (U.S. Department of State)Scheinman spoke with Arms Control Today in his office on March 6. The conversation focused on preparations for the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which begins on April 27 in New York. Scheinman discussed the outlook for the conference and provided some details on the U.S. view of the measures needed to preserve and strengthen the treaty.

The interview was transcribed by Jennifer Ginsburg. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: Thank you for doing this. It’s the day after the 45th anniversary of the NPT’s entry into force, and very appropriately, we’re speaking to you about the upcoming review conference.

Just to set a little historical context, in the run-up to the 2010 review conference, there were a number of positive events, such as the negotiation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [New START], the UN Security Council summit-level meeting on disarmament, and President Obama’s Prague address on a world free of nuclear weapons, that provided some momentum going into the conference. The conference then produced a detailed consensus action plan[1] to strengthen the treaty. Now, in the run-up to the 2015 review conference, you have been in touch with officials from many of the countries that will be there. How would you characterize the atmosphere among the parties as a whole or in various groups in the run-up to this conference?

Scheinman: I would say that the attitude of most governments is one that’s very supportive of the NPT. It’s clear that support for the treaty is deeply rooted in the international community and among governments, as well as among regional groups. The approach that governments are taking has been serious and constructive. There are clearly many differences among the parties on some of the key issues within the treaty, including nuclear disarmament and some of the regional concerns, but I think we can expect differences in a global treaty of this sort and especially one that includes states with nuclear weapons and those without nuclear weapons.

ACT: And overall, do you think the NPT is in good health?

Scheinman: I think the treaty is in good health. There are certainly tensions within the treaty, but the treaty has lived with these tensions for its full 45 years. It has endured review conferences that have produced agreements and final documents as well as those that haven’t. We’ll certainly work toward an agreement in 2015. That’s the approach we’ll bring to the review conference, and I think others will too. We’ll just have to see how it plays out in New York.

ACT: We’re going to come back to some of the points you raised, but just generally, is there clarity about what states can strengthen and implement in the NPT’s provisions and how they can do that? Do you have specific goals to strengthen the treaty at this point?

Scheinman: Well, yes. We would like to encourage countries to pursue a pathway to nuclear disarmament that is sustainable. All countries wish to see that. There are differences, though, on how fast we can get there and what conditions have to be in place in order to achieve it. Those differences will have to be addressed at the review conference as we work through the debate and toward a final document. We do have in mind a number of steps that preserve but also enhance the action plan that was agreed in 2010, and we’re prepared to deal with all of those issues at the review conference.

ACT: You mentioned coming to an agreement and the final document. As you know, a common measure of the success of the NPT review conferences is whether the parties are able to reach agreement on a final document. Do you think that’s likely this time around, and what, in the view of the United States, would make the conference a “success”?

Scheinman: Well, I wouldn’t want to give odds on whether we’ll have a successful review conference. We do have in place a review conference president, Ambassador Taous Feroukhi from Algeria, who is very active. She’s putting together her team, chairs of the various committees, and possibly subsidiary groups if we have them, and she has consulted widely. That’s an important first step. The question of whether we can achieve a consensus—as I said, we will certainly work toward a consensus final document—will require that countries not pursue extreme agendas or place unrealistic demands on the treaty. If countries come to the conference prepared to pursue compromise and agreement, I believe we will get a final document. If countries are unwilling to bend on positions that are stridently held, then certainly the prospects are dim.

ACT: Do you have a sense—are you expecting people to come in with strident, inflexible positions? Is that the body language that people are showing in your discussions with them? What is your expectation?

Scheinman: I think it’s a little too soon to know whether this conference will or won’t produce a final document. This will be a negotiation. All review conferences, in essence, are a negotiation of the final document. We’ll have a better sense once we’re into the proceedings as to whether a compromise can emerge. At this stage, our approach is to clarify our positions on various NPT issues, both challenges and possible remedies. Other countries and groups are in a similar place. As I noted, our preference would be to achieve a consensus document, but that is not the only measure of success or of broad support for the treaty.

ACT: What are the messages that the United States is bringing to the review conference on the three pillars of the NPT?

Scheinman: We seek to advance implementation across all three pillars of the treaty. These are mutually reinforcing objectives; we don’t see one as more or less important than the other. We don’t accept the argument that progress in one area is an absolute condition for progress in another. These are objectives that should go forward together—nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, and peaceful use of nuclear energy. That is the approach we take. We’ll consider all good ideas that advance each of those pillars and build on the action plan that was agreed in 2010.

It’s worth noting that the action plan that was adopted in 2010 was unprecedented in the NPT review process. We don’t seek to dispense with it five years after it was agreed; we’d like to ensure that it is preserved and that states give serious thought to ways to carry its implementation into the future. This was never intended to be a five-year checklist or that we would start fresh in 2015. We will continue to advance it where there is agreement to do so.

Jaakko Laajava (center), the Finnish diplomat who is the facilitator for the planned conference on ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, speaks on April 29, 2013, in Geneva to a meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. (Jean-Marc Ferré/UN Photo)ACT: Are there specific measures or additional actions that you are seeking support for from the other nuclear-weapon states and from the non-nuclear-weapon states? In the context of the action plan, you had mentioned some things you were planning to do to preserve and enhance the action plan. If you could be a little more specific.

Scheinman: Well, yes. On nuclear disarmament, the president has said we are prepared to go farther in reducing nuclear weapons through negotiations with Russia on another one-third reduction in deployed strategic nuclear weapons. That offer remains on the table, and NPT parties could acknowledge it as a possible next step. The president has also said that we would like to see the now 70-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons be extended forever. We think that’s a reasonable principle for NPT parties to endorse in 2015. The CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] is not in force globally; we think it should continue to have encouragement given its long tie to the NPT’s disarmament goals. Fissile material cutoff treaty [FMCT] negotiations have not seen the light of day; we would like to see the NPT membership give that renewed encouragement.

With respect to nonproliferation, we’d like to ensure that the additional protocol is seen as a global priority and, together with comprehensive safeguards agreements, as a standard for verifying Article III of the NPT, the safeguards requirement. We also think that more than 10 years now after North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT, it’s time for NPT parties to agree on steps that could be taken to prevent abuse of the withdrawal provision of the treaty.

We’d like to see the peaceful uses pillar receive the attention it deserves. Too often, it’s a forgotten third leg of the stool. We think that’s a mistake because the majority of states-parties benefit directly from peaceful uses and technical assistance. The peaceful uses initiative was announced in 2010. We’d like to see it continue for another five years; it’s been a very successful tool for expanding peaceful uses in the developing world. There are recent actions that have been taken on nuclear safety and security since 2010 that could be reflected in a final document. So, there’s plenty for NPT states-parties to focus on in terms of new work.

ACT: That’s a good outline of many of the issues that will be discussed, so let’s come back to some of these to go into a little more depth. Over the past several months, a number of serious observers have been warning about the risks for this review conference and for the NPT if there is not faster progress on the Article VI disarmament commitments. A few days ago, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane noted, “[T]he vast majority of non-nuclear weapon States do not view the Action Plan as an open-ended goal.” You said you don’t see it as a series of steps that have to be accomplished in five years, but many other states also come back and say it’s also not an open-ended goal. Kane argued that it’s “incumbent upon the nuclear-weapon States to outline how they propose to reach the final destination” of a world free of nuclear weapons “in the shortest possible time.”[2] So you mentioned that President Obama’s offer for a further one-third reduction in U.S.-Russian strategic arsenals below New START levels is still on the table. Is there any degree of support from the Russian side at this point? Are there any common steps that the United States and Russia might be prepared to commit to in the future with respect to their 2010 action plan commitment to pursue and accelerate steps on nuclear disarmament?

Scheinman: I think there are a couple of points there. One is, “Can one put a time limit, or a schedule, to the elimination of nuclear weapons?” and the answer is “no.” The answer is no because, number one, the conditions to get to zero are extremely demanding; it’s not just a matter of political will of the states that have nuclear weapons. Security conditions have to be in place, and no one can predict with any precision, for example, when Russia will come to the table on negotiations, nor can we predict when the regional conflicts that have given rise to proliferation in other parts of the world will be resolved. It’s just not a reasonable prospect, and that is why the president said that nuclear disarmament is the goal but it’s going to take time, it’s going to take persistence, and we have to pursue it along a trajectory of concrete, achievable steps. We can’t leapfrog to the last step before other steps are in place. That’s just not a practical alternative.

In terms of specifics on U.S. and Russian reductions, I can tell you that our offer remains on the table and that we have said we’re prepared to work with Russia on the full range of strategic stability issues, addressing all of the various concerns that Russia has raised. We hope that Russia will accept the offer. Even better if they accept the offer before the review conference, but I don’t know if they will.

ACT: You mentioned the FMCT and the United States’ disappointment that the negotiations have not begun. That’s of course due in part to the fact that the Conference on Disarmament [CD] has not been able to agree to a work plan for quite some time. Given that situation, is the United States considering or are other states considering exploring new venues for those discussions or negotiations on an FMCT or other ways to move forward? In other words, might we expect some new ideas on how to unblock the FMCT negotiations in the next few weeks at the NPT review conference?

Scheinman: Well, some progress has been made on an FMCT through a UN group of governmental experts, which is holding its final meeting this month and will make its report later this year. We think there have been very good discussions on aspects of an FMCT in that group, and we hope this work continues. That’s a small step, but a useful step nonetheless.

We have made clear our disappointment with the holdup on FMCT negotiations and noted our readiness to support FMCT negotiations that involve the key states. The reality is that all of the key states sit in the Conference on Disarmament, so it’s difficult to conceive of another venue that would not be affected by the same problems that have been preventing FMCT negotiations from starting in the CD. So, it’s not clear that there is a feasible alternative venue that would work. We continue to believe that it would be far better for states to deal with their problems with a treaty in the context of negotiations and not hold up negotiations.

President Barack Obama (left) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Prague on April 8, 2010. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)ACT: When you say “key states,” do you mean the nine states that have nuclear weapons programs, or would that also include states that have fuel cycle programs but are not weapon states?

Scheinman: I’m referring minimally to states that have nuclear weapons.

ACT: You said that disarmament can’t have a specific timeline and you and others have talked about the step-by-step approach, so can you say what the steps are that are involved in that approach? And do the other nuclear-weapon states agree about those steps? We’re referring specifically to the recent statement at the P5 conference that was issued in February about the step-by-step approach.[3]

Scheinman: I think all five NPT nuclear-weapon states support the principle of a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament. The precise sequencing may reveal some differences, but in general terms, I think we all view it in a similar way, in that there is still work to be done in terms of reductions by the United States and Russia, since these two states hold 90 percent of nuclear weapons in the world. That is why the president has called for a further bilateral reduction, in negotiations with Russia. Following that round of cuts, perhaps at that point we’re at a level where discussions among all five NPT nuclear-weapon states may make sense. But for the time being, we’re at levels that are still too high to consider a P5 negotiation. That’s not a credible next step for today, but is a step down the road.

In terms of multilateral actions, there’s clear agreement on pursuing CTBT entry into force and an FMCT as measures to limit stockpiles in the nuclear arms-possessing states. I would just stop on FMCT to say that often it’s overlooked and seen as an agreement that perhaps would have been valuable 20, 30 years ago. Of course, it’s been on the NPT agenda for the entire life of the NPT. I think it’s a mistake to view it as a throwaway of sorts because it’s inconceivable to my mind that the five nuclear-weapon states would support an arms control negotiation among the five in the absence of a legal cap, a verified cap on fissile material production. And of course, it’s a measure to bring in states outside of the NPT. So, it’s absolutely essential as a next step but unfortunately overlooked.

We’ve also pursued signature and ratification of the protocols to nuclear-weapon-free zones. This is something the administration sought actively since the Prague speech. It’s a means of providing a legal negative security assurance to non-nuclear-weapon states. Non-nuclear-weapon states have said they have a legitimate interest in obtaining such assurances, and we agree that states that abide by their NPT commitments ought to have that assurance. We signed the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone [Treaty] protocol in May, and we’re working actively to be in a position to sign the Southeast Asia zone protocol soon.

ACT: What is the holdup on that? That seemed on the verge of completion for a while.

Scheinman: We negotiated a revised protocol in 2011 and were preparing to sign it at the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] meeting in the summer of 2012 when it became known that some of the P5 states make statements at signing, or in the case of the United States, we make statements at ratification. These are national statements to clarify positions on a treaty or protocol provision. Some could be considered reservations; some are simply interpretive statements that don’t meet the threshold of a reservation. This is standard P5 practice for the zones; every zone treaty protocol the P5 states have signed has been accompanied by such statements. They’re not out of the ordinary, but they surprised the ASEAN states. It’s been very slow work trying to engage and resolve these concerns with the ASEAN states, but we’ve continued to work at it. I was just in Southeast Asia earlier this week to keep the dialogue moving. We are making progress and hope to be in a position to sign at some point soon.

ACT: On the steps the United States needs to take to approve the protocol to the other nuclear-weapon-free zones in Central Asia, a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific, Africa, could you just update us briefly on the status of preparations to bring those to the Senate for consideration for advice and consent?

Scheinman: The two that you mentioned, for Africa and the South Pacific, were sent from the White House to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2011, so they’re on the treaty priority list. As for the Central Asia zone, we intend to also submit the package [of documents] to the Senate soon. Of course, if we’re able to sign the Southeast Asia protocol before the review conference, which I don’t currently expect, we’ll try to get that package sent to the Senate as soon as possible. We hope to be in a position to brief staff and members of the new Senate Foreign Relations Committee soon.

ACT: You mentioned the CTBT a couple of times. It’s also a treaty before the Senate for consideration for advice and consent. It’s also been one of the treaties that has been part of the NPT’s history since 1968, 1970. What can you tell us about what the United States, Russia, China, and the other nuclear-armed NPT member states are doing to reinforce the CTBT, to advance entry into force, pending action by the United States, by China, and the other Annex II countries?[4] What might we expect the P5 states to commit to, to encourage at the NPT review conference in this regard?

Scheinman: Well, I think all P5 states are firmly supportive of the CTBT, even if all five have not brought it into force. In every P5 statement to the NPT and in the six P5 conferences we’ve held to date, support for the CTBT is clear; that’s point number one. Number two, we have increased our technical work on CTBT verification-related issues, including in Vienna.[5] P5 experts have been meeting on CTBT-related topics, and we’d like to see that pace of activity pick up. And three, we each have our own domestic responsibility to pursue ratification. In our case, the president of course is clearly committed to supporting the CTBT, but we will not take the treaty to the Senate unless we know we have support from a sufficient number of members. At this stage, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller has been very busy traveling around the country and building the case for U.S. support for CTBT. It’s a treaty that would advance our national security interests and advance global security.

ACT: You talked about the steps everyone supports, but you said there might be some differences among the P5 on sequencing, so can you give us an illustrative example? What’s the kind of difference that exists?

Scheinman: Well, the simple example is the United States is prepared and has been prepared to pursue further nuclear reductions with Russia. Russia is not prepared to pursue such reductions today.

ACT: On the P5 process, the five nuclear-weapon states have had six meetings since 2009. What are the results of this P5 process?

Scheinman: Well, in summary, the process has been very constructive in our view, not in terms of short-term or immediate deliverables necessarily, but in terms of the long-term investments we’re making in a process that supports arms control actions that the five could take together. To this stage, the process has encouraged dialogue on nuclear transparency, verification, and strategic issues. We’ve used the process to brief the United Kingdom, France, and China—the three states that have yet to be involved in nuclear arms control reductions—on New START verification. We’ve briefed each other on various aspects of our nuclear posture, so it’s a dialogue that’s beginning to take form. In terms of tangible outcomes, the process has encouraged greater transparency among the five, including through agreement on a standard reporting framework, which we each used to report to the NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in 2014. We each expect to update our reports at the 2015 review conference.

We will also complete a first edition of a glossary of nuclear terms that will be distributed at the 2015 review conference. This, to many, sounds insignificant. But to our thinking, this is needed to lay the groundwork for eventual P5 talks on nuclear arms control. We hope that subsequent editions of the glossary will look at terms or concepts that are more specific to arms control.

ACT: Will this process continue?

Scheinman: Yes. The P5 statement following the London conference made note that France is prepared to host the seventh conference. We don’t have a date quite yet, but clearly after the review conference.

ACT: But continuing into the foreseeable future?

Scheinman: Yes.

ACT: What are the next steps? What’s on the agenda for the upcoming five years or perhaps even beyond that?

Scheinman: Well, as an immediate step, we would like to see further work done on a nuclear glossary. We would like to see additional technical work on arms control verification; this could mirror the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification that Undersecretary Gottemoeller announced a couple of months ago.[6] That partnership will involve nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states. Similarly, the five could pursue transparency actions with nonweapon states. We plan to host a group of officials from nonweapon states at the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories at the end of March. And of course, as the P5 group, we plan to use these conferences as a venue to consult and coordinate on key NPT issues, including dealing with some of the regional challenges and priorities for strengthening the NPT.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at the State Department on August 9, 2013, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)ACT: To talk about some specific issues and areas, the talks on Iran’s nuclear program are ongoing and presumably will be part of the backdrop for the review conference. What impact might they ultimately have, through either success or failure, on the NPT regime?

Scheinman: Well, there are two levels of impact. One is on the review conference itself, and the second, more generally, is on the NPT. In terms of the review conference, it seems fairly straightforward. If there’s a framework deal in hand by late March, with details to be negotiated subsequently by June, then we can expect that the impact on the review conference would be positive. If the talks collapse and we’re into another cycle of escalating tensions, then the impact will be quite negative. I think it would be very difficult to imagine a review conference ending in a consensus final document if the P5+1 talks with Iran[7] collapse in late March.

I certainly can’t get into any details on the discussions with Iran. We’re hopeful the negotiations will produce a successful outcome. In terms of impacts on the nonproliferation regime, we’re of course very concerned about Iran pursuing nuclear weapons because of the potential for much greater proliferation and instability in the Middle East. Should the talks collapse and Iran restart its nuclear program without constraint, then I think the impacts on the nonproliferation regime would be very, very negative over the next two, five, 10 years.

ACT: One aspect of the agreement that the P5+1 and Iran are trying to reach has to do with enhanced monitoring and verification. In November 2013 in the interim agreement, they specifically identified the additional protocol as one of the things that should be a part of any comprehensive agreement related to Iran’s program. Given how long the NPT states-parties have been discussing enhanced monitoring and verification, how would—if there is a P5+1 agreement with Iran, how do you think that might positively reverberate with the effort to universalize the additional protocol and enhance the IAEA’s [International Atomic Energy Agency’s] authority?

Scheinman: Well, again I can’t discuss aspects of the negotiation. As a general point, an agreement with Iran that includes strict verification measures will naturally have a positive influence on nonproliferation efforts.
Support for the additional protocol is not dependent on Iran; that support exists now. We’re up to 124 states now with an additional protocol in force, and the number of states without one that have any significant nuclear activities is increasingly small. I don’t know that a positive resolution of the Iran issue will lead all of the states that have yet to accept the additional protocol to proceed with one. Several of those states reject an additional protocol for political or regional reasons unrelated to Iran or the example set by others.

ACT: You mentioned the additional protocol. In Iran’s case, there would almost certainly be some measures beyond that. Is there a possibility that that would set a standard for nonweapon states with fuel cycle programs or specific ways of monitoring centrifuge programs or something like that?

Scheinman: No. I think this is a negotiation and an approach that’s specific to Iran. We haven’t taken the position that whatever comes out of the talks should be the new standard for nonproliferation or safeguards.

ACT: One of the key commitments of the 2010 NPT Review Conference was to hold a conference in 2012 on ridding the Middle East of nuclear and other nonconventional weapons, but the conference has not taken place. What are the obstacles at this point?

Scheinman: The principal obstacle, at this point, is the difference of view on an agenda for the conference. But I think it’s worthwhile to take a half step back because, since 2010, we have exerted huge diplomatic efforts to bring the regional states together to reach agreement on terms for this conference. We’ve had five regional meetings involving Arab states and Israel. Israel has attended each session and at a high level. Iran has attended one of these sessions. We hope to have a sixth meeting before the review conference or soon after.

The regional consultations have been constructive. Each side has a better appreciation for the views and concerns of the other. There is still a substantive gap, but in terms of how far we’ve come to advance the process and to zero in on differences on an agenda, we’re actually not that far off. But to reach agreement will require that both sides come to the next consultation prepared to draft an agenda that allows each to discuss issues deemed important to the achievement of a zone.

ACT: What are the United States and the other conveners[8] and other involved states doing to broker that compromise? Are you encouraging meetings? Are you presenting your own versions of proposals that would address the countries’ concerns?

Scheinman: We discuss the full set of issues that might be addressed at a conference through the regional consultations and any other diplomatic opportunity we have, whether that’s individually or as a collective group of conveners. The pathway to a conference is agreement of the regional states. They have to bear the responsibility to carry negotiations forward, to seek compromises, and to speak to each other directly. They can’t negotiate through facilitators and conveners. This process will only work if the regional states are engaging directly and take responsibility for reaching an agreement. That’s what we encourage.

ACT: With or without the conference, what agreements, treaties, or initiatives would the United States like to see the states in the region pursue to reduce nuclear-related risks?

Scheinman: Our focus at this stage is on reaching an agreement to hold a conference. The conference itself can start a process that might consider additional actions that states in the region would be prepared to take. It could span across the full range of weapons of mass destruction- or military-related issues. But the first step is the most important step because without it, there’s no prospect for advancing arms control in the region. We think this process can have real value because there has been no forum to discuss regional security issues involving states in the Middle East for almost 20 years since the Arms Control and Regional Security process collapsed in the mid-1990s.

ACT: Shifting to another region, you talked earlier about North Korea and the [NPT] Article X issue. In 2003, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT, applying the provisions of Article X in a way that some countries found questionable. The five nuclear-weapon states, in a statement at their conference in London in February, “expressed the hope” that the review conference would reach agreement on language concerning the “potential abuse of the exercise of the right of withdrawal” under Article X. What is your current assessment of the prospects for such an agreement?

Scheinman: I’m hopeful that if we have a consensus document, it will include recommendations on the issue of withdrawal. There has been, I would say, an emerging view that this is an appropriate issue for NPT parties to address and to take a common position on. There have been working papers in the NPT process by a variety of different groups, including the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative—which includes states that are in the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as those with a more Western orientation—and we see common themes emerging throughout all of these initiatives. The P5 holds a shared view of how NPT states-parties might deal with this issue, and so from a political standpoint, I think the time is right to seek consensus on arrangements that all NPT states-parties can support.

ACT: In the view of the United States, what would such an agreement need to cover? What would it need to include to be meaningful and supportive of the NPT?

Scheinman: As a matter of principle and international law, NPT states-parties should acknowledge that any state that violates the treaty and then withdraws from it should remain accountable for those violations. There’s no get-out-of-jail-free card with respect to the Article X withdrawal provision. We don’t intend to rewrite, amend, or in any way revise the right of states to withdraw from the treaty. It’s a question of what are the appropriate consequences for a state that abuses its withdrawal right, either because, in the case of North Korea, it violated the treaty and then announced that it was departing, or it leaves the treaty and then uses peaceful nuclear supplies to pursue a military program. There are steps that can be taken, whether that involves consultations among NPT states-parties, action by the UN Security Council, verification activities that can be called for by the IAEA Board of Governors, and actions that nuclear suppliers can take to require permanent safeguards or cut off supply for states abusing the withdrawal right.

ACT: Before we go to your final thoughts on issues we didn’t cover, I’d like to ask a broader question about the treaty. This is the 45th anniversary of the entry into force. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons. It’s often said that the NPT has, over the decades, reduced the risk of nuclear weapons, but many of the things we’ve discussed today are discussed every five years. Progress in terms of addressing these issues has been slow and difficult.

Looking at this more broadly, do you think that the mechanisms that currently exist to help adapt and evolve the treaty to meet new challenges are adequate? Can it keep up with the times? Are there some adjustments to the mechanisms by which the states-parties look at the core provisions and look at ways of adjusting other than the current review process? Does that have to be considered in order for the NPT to survive another 45 years?

Scheinman: I would say that, number one, there’s a tendency to define the NPT by a few failures or serious knocks on the regime experienced over the years. I think that’s a mistake. We should instead try to define the treaty by its successes, which are far more impressive than its failures, which are serious and of course have to be addressed for the long-term health of the treaty. But by and large, countries meet their obligations, and the security benefits, the developmental benefits, the peaceful use benefits that accrue to states are many. Most countries understand this; they embrace it, they accept it, and that’s why I think support for the treaty is deeply rooted in the international system.

It is certainly possible to imagine a better NPT, but for me, it would be an American perspective of a better NPT, and it probably wouldn’t square with the perspective of other countries. If we sought to replace the NPT and start a new negotiation, it would never close because of the disagreements on nuclear disarmament and perhaps on approaches to countries that are not in the NPT. The NPT is the best we have; we’ve made good of it, and hopefully we can continue making better of it.

The mechanisms to strengthen the treaty are available, and they are in place. Some are treaty based, some are international organization based, and some are coalition based, like the Proliferation Security Initiative and other initiatives that have emerged over the last 10 years. The question is how we make best use of the mechanisms available. The additional protocol doesn’t need to be revised; it needs to be adhered to. Safeguards should be adhered to globally. The UN Security Council is available to deal with threats to international peace and security.

The Security Council should act when cases come to it. The Conference on Disarmament is available for states to negotiate disarmament measures. Countries should take advantage of that resource as well. Regional treaties exist; they should be fully implemented.

So, I think the mechanisms are in place. But we live in the real world, where politics and the security interests of countries intrude on implementation of global instruments, and as a result, we do our best with what we have. I think we’re doing pretty well.

ACT: Thank you very much.


1. For the 64-point action plan, see 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document, Volume I, Part I,” NPT/Conf.2010/50 (Vol. I), 2010, pp. 19-29.

2. Angela Kane, “NATO and the Future of Disarmament” (keynote address, NATO weapons of mass destruction conference, Doha, Qatar, March 2, 2015), p. 4, https://unodaweb.s3.amazonaws.com/wpcontent/uploads/2015/02/nato-qatar-2014.pdf.

3. Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of States, “Joint Statement From the Nuclear-Weapon States at the London P5 Conference,” February 6, 2015, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/02/237273.htm. The five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty recognizes as nuclear-weapon states also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and therefore are sometimes known as the “P5.”

4. Annex 2 to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty specifies 44 countries whose ratification is required to bring the treaty into force. Eight of those countries have not ratified the treaty: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States.

5. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization is headquartered in Vienna.

6. Rose Gottemoeller, “The Vision of Prague Endures,” (speech, Prague, December 4, 2014), http://www.state.gov/t/us/2014/234675.htm; Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, U.S. Department of State, “An International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification,” December 4, 2014, http://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/234680.htm.

7. The six-country group negotiating with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program is known as the P5+1 because its members are China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

8. Under the terms of the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the conveners of the conference are the UK, Russia, the United States, and the UN secretary-general.

Getting to Know Ray Acheson

April 2015

Interviewed by Jefferson Morley

Ray Acheson, director of Reaching Critical Will, addresses the UN General Assembly First Committee on October 23, 2009. (Courtesy of Mary Wareham)“Getting to Know” is an occasional series that introduces Arms Control Today readers to interesting people active in the world of arms control.

With her black nail polish and eyebrow ring, Ray Acheson does not fit the stereotype of a veteran arms controller. As director of the Reaching Critical Will (RCW) project of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), she has spent a decade doing disarmament work in the UN system. 

Arms Control Today caught up with her in the crowded offices of RCW in New York City. The interview, conducted by Jefferson Morley, has been edited for length and clarity.

Forgive me if it’s tiresome, but I have to ask: Any relation to Dean [Acheson, the U.S. secretary of state from 1949 to 1953]?
No, no relation. I do get the question all the time, though.

I guess the question really is, do you have arms control in your family DNA?
Not at all, no. I was born in Toronto, went to school at the University of Toronto. My father manages a box factory in Canada.

When did you know you would make a livelihood out of arms control work?
There wasn’t any one single event. When I was in high school, I read anything I could get my hands on, lots of political theory, lots of [Noam] Chomsky. When it was time to choose what I was going to do at university, I picked peace and conflict studies because I thought that was a way to keep engaging the readings that I was really interested in.

My very first internship was with Randy Forsberg. I was exposed to the anti-nuclear movement through her, through her stories of what she was doing in the 80s.

The RCW website talks about the evolution from the women’s perspective of WILPF in 1915 to a gender analysis perspective of 2015. What is the meaning of that evolution?
Arms control really isn’t an issue to do with biology as much as socialized norms and constructions and roles and that sort of thing. We’ve actually written a paper on this: It’s my favorite title for any paper I’ve written: “Sex and Drone Strikes.” It’s looking exactly at this construct—for example, using males of a certain age to equal “militant” or a “combatant.” From a gender analysis perspective, this really reinforces the concept of violent masculinities, that if you are a man, you’re a militant. “Innocent civilians” has come to mean women and children and the elderly. The whole concept has excluded men, so it makes men more expendable.

What are you most proud of that RCW has done?
We led WILPF’s advocacy on the Arms Trade Treaty. We managed to secure a legally binding provision on gender-based violence. At the beginning, we were getting questions like, “What does gender-based violence have to do with the arms trade? I don’t get the connection.” By the end, we had a hundred states saying that it had to be in the treaty and it had to be legally binding.

The world still faces the reality of huge nuclear arsenals. Do you ever just get daunted?
I’m challenged by it to be even more effective. The biggest thing that I am working on now is trying to get states to negotiate a treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons. That has been extremely exciting to work on.

Are you encouraged that we now have mainstream political figures like George Shultz coming out for getting to zero?
It was useful but also distracting because it made people feel that this is going to happen and we don’t have to do anything. That was true with [President Barack] Obama’s Prague speech as well. People felt like yes, the U.S. is going to be a leader on this and then, as you’ve seen, that has not panned out at all. It sort of sucked energy away.

What creates energy in your work and your organization?
For me, I guess it’s a sense of injustice. Nine countries have nuclear arms and threaten the rest of us every single day. I think we can do something. The alternative is saying it’s all too big, it’s all too complicated, so we might as well not even try. You might as well try. Life is in trying.

With her black nail polish and eyebrow ring, Ray Acheson does not fit the stereotype of a veteran arms controller. As director of the Reaching Critical Will project of the WILPF, she has spent a decade doing disarmament work in the UN system. 

GETTING TO KNOW Capt. Richard Dromerhauser

November 2014

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

Captain Richard Dromerhauser of the U.S. Navy led one of the most significant arms control accomplishments in recent years: the maritime destruction of a large portion of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal in July and August 2014. As commander of the MV Cape Ray, Dromerhauser oversaw the crew of 135 people that neutralized 600 metric tons of dangerous chemicals without mishap.

Arms Control Today caught up with him by phone on September 25 at the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet in Naples, Italy.

The interview, conducted by Jefferson Morley, has been edited for length and clarity.

What brought you to the Navy?
My goal was to graduate high school—just kidding. I was looking at a career in an engineering field, and I had looked into the Naval Academy. I had the desire to serve my country, and I thought this was a great opportunity to get an education. I came from a working-class background. I was the oldest child and also the first in my immediate family to go to college.

How did the Cape Ray assignment come to you?
We needed to move the neutralization operations to sea. The technology to do the neutralization was something we had proven. What we did then was to combine the two in a shipboard environment. I was able to bring a lot of experience that I had in past commands and also in different jobs that I had before to bear on this.

Were you following the story about the use of chemical weapons in Syria that led to the mission? A thousand people were killed with chemical weapons.
We follow closely all the activities and the issues that go on around the [Mediterranean] theater. I was following that, just as I was following all the other activities that were occurring at that time. Of course, what a horrible tragedy. And I think also, what a great opportunity that we were given: to remove this [material], from not just the Syrian arsenal, but from the global arsenal.

What does 600 tons of chemical weapons look like?
Like a lot of containers that you see on 18-wheelers. The Cape Ray and all the Cape-class ships are very large and able to carry a lot. We processed 24 hours a day, six days a week.

Navy Captain Richard Dromerhauser speaks to members of nongovernmental organizations aboard the MV Cape Ray on April 10. The ship was docked in Rota, Spain, while waiting to begin neutralizing Syrian chemical weapons materials. (U.S. Navy)Was there a most dangerous moment in the transfer of the chemicals?
No, I’m going to say outright I never felt like, “Hey, this is a bad situation.” It’s really a testament to the intense amount of planning and training that we had. When the ship first left the [United] States, there was a period of time where we were waiting for all the material to be [removed from Syria]. Rather than hang our heads and go, “Boy, what are we waiting for?” we jumped up on that.

That was a fantastic opportunity to train, to go over processes, look at the systems, and really chalkboard out how we were going to do this. I had the ability to meet each day with not only the master of the vessel itself, but the lead chemist. We made a point every day to meet at a set time, regardless of what was going on.

One of the best decisions we made was, we said we need to find a way to empower every single person on this [ship]. Whether they’re moving material or whether they’re a lookout, or working to keep the hot water going, [we said,] “If you see something that’s not right, stop everything and let’s reassess.”

How did it feel to get a call afterward from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel?
That was a great testament to all the hard work and accomplishments of everyone aboard. I was on the other end of the line, but I really wished we were able to get a speaker phone out to not just the ship, but to every one of the folks in the supporting allies, the folks who were out there with us.

Captain Richard Dromerhauser of the U.S. Navy led one of the most significant arms control accomplishments in recent years: the maritime destruction of a large portion of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal in July and August 2014.

Arms Control in the Near Term: An Interview With Undersecretary Of State Rose Gottemoeller

November 2014

Interviewed by Daniel Horner and Daryl G. Kimball

Rose Gottemoeller is undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. She previously was assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance. While in that position, she served as the chief U.S. negotiator of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia.

During the Clinton administration, she held positions in the Department of Energy and on the National Security Council staff dealing with nuclear weapons issues in the former Soviet Union.

Gottemoeller spoke with Arms Control Today in her office on October 9. Much of the discussion focused on U.S.-Russian nuclear relations and U.S. progress in meeting its commitments under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

The interview was transcribed by Jennifer Ginsburg. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. We’re going to get into the details of a number of specific issues, but I just wanted to start by asking you to give us an overview of U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, and nuclear materials security. For example, there was an announcement earlier this month about the successful removal of highly enriched uranium from Kazakhstan,[1] so Russia and the United States appear to be continuing some of their cooperation in that area. On the other hand, the dialogue on further nuclear arsenal reductions and cooperation on missile defense appears to have been suspended. So, how would you broadly characterize the U.S.-Russian relationship in this area and the prospects for the future?

Rose Gottemoeller speaks at the review conference for the Chemical Weapons Convention in The Hague on April 9, 2013. At that time, she was acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security; she later was confirmed as undersecretary and sworn in on March 7. (U.S. Department of State)Gottemoeller: There’s no question that the current bilateral crisis and international crisis over Ukraine has affected the overarching U.S.-Russian relationship, and that is an extraordinarily serious matter. At the same time, I think it is worthwhile remembering that historically we have, through the 40-year history of our nuclear arms control and limitation relations with the Soviet Union and Russian Federation, strived to continue this cooperation as something that is very much in the security interests of us and our allies. So, I would say that there is a certain element of continuity at the moment, despite a very difficult international situation now surrounding the crisis in Ukraine. That has manifested itself in very solid, businesslike cooperation on implementation of New START, which continues to go forward in a very straightforward way. We’ve had regular inspection activities, exchanges of data—the [most recent] data exchange just occurred a week or two ago. We have had exchanges of notifications, notifying us on the movements of Russian strategic forces. The Bilateral Consultative Commission, the implementing body of the treaty, is now in session in Geneva. They’re tackling a couple of implementation issues, which seem to be pretty straightforward. So, the bottom line is a continuity that I think is healthy and a good thing for our national security.

On the nuclear security side of things, clearly this has been a big focus for President [Barack] Obama with the phenomenon of the nuclear security summits. He’ll be hosting the next one here in the United States in 2016 after three successful meetings, first in Washington, then one in Seoul, South Korea, and the last one in The Hague, in the Netherlands. [The 2016 summit] is to address and to continue to address the issues surrounding the security of nuclear materials, fissile materials, [and] the dangers from radiological substances. Here, the cooperation with Russia continues to be very solid as well, and we will continue to have some goals in mind for that joint work.

Recently, the highly enriched uranium was removed from Kazakhstan. There is highly enriched uranium still in Belarus. We would certainly like to be able to tackle that, working together with the Russian Federation. So, nuclear security summit cooperation, getting fissile material under control internationally, minimizing its use—those goals will continue to be shared with Russia.

But again, there are difficulties that have come into play recently. Because of the larger international crisis around Ukraine, we have been quite concerned that the Russians don’t seem to be thinking beyond the end of 2014 about continuing expansive threat reduction cooperation, which we think could really be taking place in third countries, third regions of the world beyond the territory of the former Soviet Union, beyond Russian territory. Certainly, we’d like to be working with the Russians on projects in other areas. But at the moment, that does not seem to be in the cards.

ACT: You talked about goals, and you mentioned Belarus. Is there a timetable? Is the idea to get everything out of Belarus by the 2016 summit?

Gottemoeller: There will be definitely efforts to work on this issue with the government in Minsk, but I wouldn’t say that there’s a strict deadline or timetable. It’s been a work in progress, but I would say it’s been an area where there’s been some steady progress.

ACT: Earlier this year, the United States charged that Russia had violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Treaty, and you said that “the United States is wholly committed to the continued viability of the INF Treaty” and is “asking Russia to return to compliance with the treaty in a verifiable manner.”[2] You and your colleagues met with your Russian counterparts on that issue recently. Can you give us a general sense of any progress you’ve made towards resolving the issue and tell us what the next steps in the process are?

Gottemoeller: I would say that the most important result of the talks in Moscow on September 11 was a reconfirmation by both Washington and Moscow of the importance of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to our mutual security and a stated desire to see the treaty continue into the future. It’s been interesting to me—there’s obviously a big debate on this topic in Moscow, with voices on both sides. Some voices we’ve known about for well over a decade, raised to say, “Hey, you know, maybe it’s time to get out of this treaty,” but other voices, equally strong, saying that this treaty serves Russia’s national security interests. So, we are conducting diplomacy in the midst of an important national security debate in Russia, and I’m pleased to see so far that we have a kind of stable backdrop in these statements for the need to retain the treaty going forward. Most recently, actually, a high-level voice that was articulating this view was Sergey Ivanov, the chief of staff to President [Vladimir] Putin in the Kremlin, who has been one of the critics of the treaty in the past. But in a recent public interview, he said that, for the time being, the treaty should be preserved.[3] So, I think that it’s an interesting environment [in which] to conduct this diplomacy, but I also see that there is some time and space to conduct it, and we will see. I can’t tell you what the outcome is, though; so far, it’s too much early days.

ACT: But you get a sense from your knowledge of the Russian players and the Russian scene that there is a general commitment to staying in the treaty, or is that still not certain?

Gottemoeller: No, I think the important point to say is that there is a debate going on. There are obviously experts as well as authoritative voices on both sides of the debate. I will say that recent comments by Russian officials and by the Russian government overall about the viability and importance of the treaty for the time being give us time and space to negotiate, and I think that’s very important.

ACT: Do you have another meeting scheduled?

Gottemoeller: It’s an ongoing process.

ACT: In 2007, the United States and Russia together called for the globalization of the INF Treaty, presumably to curb missile buildups by China, India, Pakistan, and others. Is that concept still supported by the United States, and is it something the United States and Russia might work on together?

Gottemoeller: Clearly, this is a proposal that was made in the First Committee [of the UN General Assembly] back in 2007 with the support of the Bush administration. We haven’t taken this offer off the table. But by the same token, the First Committee hasn’t had a discussion of it in some time. Frankly, at the moment, our focus has been on the immediacy of this compliance issue regarding a ground-launched cruise missile that we believe was tested at intermediate range. That’s where our focus has been at the present time, and it will be our early focus. But this other aspect is on the table. It needs a lot of discussion if it’s to be developed.

ACT: Can you tell us anything about any kind of progress on the issue of the ground-launched cruise missile? Any acknowledgement by Russia of the U.S. concerns, or can you characterize the discussions on that in any way?

Gottemoeller: No, I’d rather not get into the confidential aspects of the diplomatic exchange.

ACT: Talking more broadly about reductions, in 2013 the United States proposed to Russia that the two countries cut their strategic nuclear arsenals to levels one-third below the ceilings set in New START, and Russia has apparently rejected the proposal. You recently told The New York Times, “I could imagine Putin might well decide it’s in his interest to seek more cuts” and “I don’t discard the notion we could do it again.”[4] Why does it remain in the U.S. and Russian interests to achieve further cuts?

Gottemoeller: Well, first of all, at the very top level of policy, we have a commitment, an obligation, under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Article VI, to continue a steady process of disarmament, and President Obama has been very articulate that this is indeed the U.S. national policy. In his speech in Prague [in April 2009], he laid out very clearly that de-emphasizing nuclear weapons; tackling the problems of fissile material protection, control, accounting, and elimination; and moving steadily toward a world free of nuclear weapons is a national goal for the United States. At the very highest level of policy, this is our goal; for that reason, I think it is important to continue to pursue it.

President Barack Obama (left) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Prague on April 8, 2010. (Getty Images)But in talking about this proposal for an up-to-one-third further reduction beyond the New START central limit on operationally deployed nuclear warheads, the president very clearly articulated that we had done the detailed calculations to understand that we could undertake these further reductions without any detriment to our own national security. We believe that it’s a good deal for us. We believe it’s a good deal for the Russians as well, so we have asked them to take a look at it. Those clearly have been our talking points ever since the Berlin proposal went on the table in July of 2013.

Interestingly, you said that the Putin administration rejected it. It’s not ever been officially rejected. I would say that it’s an area that they haven’t really engaged in explicitly since the period around the time of the NPT [Preparatory Committee meeting] in May when they put forward their official position that they are not engaging currently in bilateral arms reductions, but they want to try to turn their attention toward multilateral arms reductions. So, I would say from our perspective the Berlin proposal is on the table, it hasn’t been rejected by the Russians, but they are clearly saying they are more interested in multilateral rather than bilateral reductions at this point.

ACT: I want to get back to the multilateral [aspect] in just a second, but your comment in the Times, I think, seemed more optimistic than many people’s, holding out the possibility that there could be some kind of agreement. So just conceptually, what would an agreement look like that could be satisfactory both to the Russians and to the U.S. Congress? It seems in a lot of ways the two sides almost have mutually exclusive demands for what a treaty would look like.

Gottemoeller: I don’t know why you would say that. The focus in this case would be a very straightforward and simple one, that is, up to one-third further reductions in the central limits of New START, and New START itself would provide the superstructure in terms of the verification regime and notification regime, the definitional aspects, the data exchange. There wouldn’t have to be a good deal of new negotiation. In short, the battles that were fought over the ratification of New START would not have to be fought again. But of course, the Senate would want to take a very careful look at further reductions and understand what their meaning would be for U.S. national security. So, I don’t see in this case why there would be a juxtaposition of Russian versus Senate views. Of course, the big issue in [the debate over] New START ratification was the missile defense issue and concerns on Capitol Hill that we were somehow constraining missile defense deployments [although], of course, that is not the case. But I don’t see the necessity of that issue being replayed in this case.

ACT: So, the proposal is still on the table, and it’s essentially up to the Russians to decide when they want to respond to it?

Gottemoeller: It’s up to the Russians to decide whether it’s in their interests or not to do so.

ACT: You mentioned the multilateral cuts the Russians have mentioned. Is the administration pursuing any kind of multilateral initiatives or considering any kind of multilateral initiatives that would involve Russia plus other nuclear-armed states or nuclear-armed states other than Russia in terms of reducing the U.S. arsenal?

Gottemoeller: First of all, it’s early days from our perspective to engage in multilateral arms reductions. We and the Russians still have over 90 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world, and there is still room in our view—and we’ve been very open and public about this—for further bilateral nuclear arms reductions. We do have, I would say, a very solid P5 process [of discussions among the five nuclear-weapon states], which I know you have just written about, calling it the “art of the possible,” in the October edition of your magazine.[5] We do indeed consider it the art of the possible. It has brought together some very important discussions among a community of P5 actors who never had to grapple with nuclear issues in the way we are now. I think that we are, in that way, laying the foundation for future multilateral arms reductions. But from our perspective, it is early days to be considering them, as there is still plenty of room for bilateral arms reductions between Russia and the United States.

ACT: We wanted to ask next about the NPT. What are the overall U.S. goals for the 2015 NPT Review Conference?

Gottemoeller: First and foremost, we want to ensure that all three pillars of the NPT are addressed and that all signatories of the NPT are taking the responsibility to fulfill the actions that they took upon themselves in the 2010 action plan. So, the basic point here is that the NPT signatories include both nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states and all signatories of the NPT have responsibilities toward the disarmament pillar, the nonproliferation pillar, and the pillar that is involved with peaceful uses of the atom. We want to ensure that that message gets out there and that everybody is pulling their weight in the NPT system. We will be working hard ourselves to make the case that what we are doing is fully serving the interests of the NPT and the nonproliferation regime, and we’ll see how it goes.

ACT: Among other points, the final document from the 2010 NPT Review Conference “affirm[ed] the need for the nuclear-weapon States to reduce and eliminate all types of their nuclear weapons and encourage[d], in particular, those states with the largest nuclear arsenals to lead efforts in this regard.”[6] How well do you think the United States and other countries have done in fulfilling the action plan that was created at the 2010 review conference?

Gottemoeller: Oh, I think we’ve done a spectacular job. I just pulled out the table[7] that shows the height of our nuclear weapons arsenal—not just deployed, but deployed and nondeployed—31,000-plus nuclear weapons at the height of the arsenal numbers in 1967, now dropped off to 4,800 at this point. So, we’ve had a really steady reduction in the number of our nuclear warheads in the years especially since the end of the Cold War. In addition, we continue to de-emphasize nuclear weapons in our national doctrine and policy, we continue to imbue that doctrine and policy in our approach to targeting, and we continue to reduce and eliminate nuclear delivery vehicles. So, I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job—not a pretty good job, a spectacular job, let me put it that way.

ACT: As you certainly know though, some non-nuclear-weapon states have expressed disappointment or frustration with the pace of nuclear disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states since 2010. You’ve responded in part by pointing out reductions in the size of the U.S. arsenal as you just did, with the table you just referred to. But given that the final document calls for the nuclear-weapon states “to accelerate concrete progress on the steps leading to nuclear disarmament,”[8] isn’t there some merit to their complaints?

Gottemoeller: No, I don’t think so. I have concerns, as I mentioned, that we need a willing partner for further bilateral reduction negotiations, and I do believe that they are extraordinarily important. With the Russians and the United States having over 90 percent of the nuclear weapons still in the world, we need to continue to reduce and eliminate our stockpiles. But I think it’s also important for the non-nuclear-weapon states to begin to develop an understanding of how much work it takes to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons, to get rid of fissile material, and reduce and eliminate delivery vehicles.

So frankly, I think where the problem has been, it’s been inadequate communications between the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states, and that’s one area we have been trying to rectify. The reporting exercise that we undertook throughout this review cycle that produced our nuclear report [at the] last [Preparatory Committee meeting] in May, that I think was an important step in the right direction. But frankly, I do think we need to do better. I will say that we do a spectacular job in reducing and eliminating our nuclear arsenals, but we need to do a better job of communicating in a forceful way, in a convincing way, exactly how difficult that is to do and why it takes some time.

ACT: So, that’s the part that hasn’t been communicated, that the non-nuclear-weapon states have some unrealistic expectations about how quickly this could be moving? Is that what needs to be communicated?

Gottemoeller: I would say yes, they don’t have a good feel for how complicated and difficult it is to get rid of thousands of nuclear weapons and that it takes time and can only be done carefully. Otherwise, it would be very irresponsible for the environment, for public health, and, indeed, for the way we expend our resources.

ACT: So, what are you doing to convey that? How are you remedying this communication problem?

Gottemoeller: We’re beginning to look at more regularized communications among certain key players [among] the non-nuclear-weapon states. It will be interesting; we have another P5 conference coming up early next year. This time, it will be taking place in London. We are looking for ways, as we’ve done in the past, to even enhance the kind of outreach to other audiences that we have done on the margins of these meetings over the last five years.

ACT: You mentioned those P5 meetings a couple of times, and you said they’re proving fruitful. What tangible results do you see so far, and what would you like to see the group discuss or agree to do in the future?

Gottemoeller: Tangible results sometimes are the results of the forming of a community. It’s interesting because the P5 have been grouped together historically as the nuclear-weapon states under the NPT, but to have a community of both experts and policy-level people who regularly meet and talk together and begin to communicate and begin to impart real information and real mutual understanding—it sounds a bit hokey, but actually, I think that that is one of the biggest payoffs so far from the process. I can see it in the progression of the meetings since London in 2009, which was kind of a proto-meeting—I don’t think anybody had any idea what we were about, what we were going about, at that point—up to this new meeting in London in 2015 where we’ve got really deep communication and reports about what we’ve been up to, in things like nuclear terminology with a glossary that will be published in the spring in time for the [review conference] and projects on verification, a working group on CTBT verification, that we’ll be reporting on. There is a lot of tangible communication, which is bearing fruit and laying the foundation for eventual multilateral negotiations.

ACT: But I think it’s probably fair to say that a lot of the non-nuclear-weapon states expected this P5 process would actually produce some concrete results in time for the 2015 review conference.

Gottemoeller: That’s what I’m saying. We have gotten concrete results. But what do you mean by concrete results?

ACT: Something that shows either actual reductions or putting you on a clear path toward further reductions, I think.

Gottemoeller: We’ve got further reductions. There are steady reductions going on under New START, and if you dig down and look at trying to structure P5 reductions at this point, it doesn’t make sense because the UK, France, and China have so many fewer weapons than the United States and Russia. So when people kind of wave their arms and say there should be further reductions involving the P5, they’ve got to look inside the balance of numbers between and among the five and think what makes sense. What makes sense is the reductions that are taking place under New START right now.

ACT: And what about transparency measures?

Gottemoeller: That’s part of what we’re doing. I mentioned the CTBT verification work that we’re doing, and we’re pushing to do more of that.

ACT: In an April speech, you said that it is “imperative to make sure that people remember the human impact of nuclear weapons” and that “it is the United States’ deep understanding of the consequences of nuclear weapons use—including the devastating health effects—that has guided and motivated us to reduce and ultimately eliminate these most hazardous weapons.”[9] A third conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use is being held in Vienna in December. Will the United States join its allies such as Japan and participate in the conference?

Gottemoeller: We’re considering our options right now. We haven’t made any decision just yet.

ACT: Do you have a timetable?

Gottemoeller: Our timetable is formed by the fact that the schedule of the meeting is the first week in December. So, we’re going to have to make up our mind between now and then.

ACT: Can you tell us about what some of the considerations, in general terms, are?

Gottemoeller: The basic consideration all along and the basic worry that we have had is that we don’t have a straightforward or a clear view on the up-and-up about what these conferences are about. We are very supportive of the notion that we need to be educating the public, we need to be informing the international community, we need to be enhancing people’s understanding of the human impacts of nuclear weapons use. That, to me, is near and dear to my heart because we don’t really have that same interest among the public, and especially among young people, that we had historically, [in] the problem of nuclear weapons and what nuclear weapons mean in terms of devastation. But at the same time that some conference organizers say this is all about informing, educating, getting the story out there, others say this is about establishing a pathway to a convention banning nuclear weapons and outlawing them under international humanitarian law. With that goal, we cannot agree, so we need to understand on the up-and-up what the conferences are about.

ACT: Since the beginning of the Obama administration, you have sought to finally reach agreement at the Conference on Disarmament [CD] on negotiations for a global fissile material cutoff treaty [FMCT]. What are the main stumbling blocks at this point?

Gottemoeller: Actually, I’m going to take this question in a completely different way, because I just came back from the First Committee in New York. I spent two days there and had a fascinating update on what is going on with this group of governmental experts that’s been meeting on the fissile material cutoff treaty.
You know that this has been a great source of tension and anxiety in the international community that participates in the First Committee, that participates in the CD in recent years, because of concern that we were getting nowhere on an FMCT. But what the group of governmental experts has been able to accomplish is to open the floodgates for substantive discussions on this matter and to air all kinds of issues, from the verification of the treaty to the issue of stocks [of fissile material] to the issue—well, scope is related to whether stocks will be part of the treaty. The United States does not support that notion, but there has been an opportunity for all of these issues to be aired in a very substantive way at an expert level that has renewed the issue for the arms control community in the Conference on Disarmament in a very positive way. So whereas this has been a great source of tension and anxiety in all the years since I’ve been back in government, practically, I would say that I feel this is a year where we have made some significant progress on the issue.

ACT: So, would you lay out for us what we can expect to see as a next step? The experts are developing a proposal, leading to negotiations among the parties, or—

Gottemoeller: This will be a normal progression for a group of governmental experts. It will report out—there are a couple more sessions left to go—there will be a process of producing the report of the [group of experts], which will then be taken to the CD, as normal, and after that, we’ll see.

By the way, the CD has had its own so-called schedule of activities going on, with a discussion there also of an FMCT. I think there’s been a beneficial feedback loop between the two sets of discussions, bringing many important and very meaty technical issues to the table for a very welcome airing.

ACT: Is the United States working diplomatically with Pakistan, which has been the most public opponent of proceeding with the talks, and any others who might be hesitant, to try to shift their positions or discuss the issues? Is work taking place at that level as well?

Gottemoeller: We’re working constantly with the entire CD community on this and with the First Committee community in recent days. So, it’s not only with Pakistan; we’re working with all interested parties.

ACT: If progress remains blocked, should the issue remain in the Conference on Disarmament, or are there scenarios in which you would support moving it to another venue?

Gottemoeller: No, I don’t see a need to. Again, I see that we’re in a much more hopeful moment on this matter thanks to the beneficial feedback loop between the CD’s discussions and what’s going on in the [group of experts].

ACT: With respect to fissile material production, one of the areas of concern has been South Asia, where India and Pakistan are believed to be producing fissile material for weapons. Administration officials have expressed concern at various points in time about the overall situation in South Asia in that regard. So, what steps do you think India and Pakistan could take, pending the beginning of negotiations on an FMCT to help contribute to the realization of a global treaty?

Gottemoeller: First of all, they need to be present at the table for these discussions. I frankly regret that Pakistan chose not to join the [group of experts], but there has been an opportunity for them to participate in the CD discussions under the schedule of activities, so that’s very good. India has been participating. They need to be fully present, they need to make their issues known, they need to really articulate what their technical concerns are, and so forth. That is the first thing.

The second thing is due regard for the challenges of properly protecting, in a physical protection sense, their fissile material holdings, as well as controlling and accounting for them. I’ve watched as both of those countries have participated in a responsible way in the nuclear security summits, and I hope that we will continue to see those trends develop.

ACT: Earlier, you said it’s important in the NPT context for all nations to pull their weight, to do their part to fulfill the action plan. Some states, of course, are not members of the NPT, like India and Pakistan. What kind of steps could India and Pakistan, both of which say they support nondiscriminatory disarmament, take to contribute to the overall global nuclear disarmament process, even as the United States and Russia work to reduce their far larger stockpiles?

Gottemoeller: Let’s take the example first of Pakistan. Under the nuclear security summit process, they have agreed to establish their regional training center on nuclear security matters as an asset for the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] in the regional context, to provide training courses for regional partners, that type of thing. They can and they will play a role of that kind, and I think that’s very good, that’s very commendable. In the case of all states, whether they’re in or out of the NPT, but since the NPT is most states—this is apropos South Asia—they can also participate in other relevant activities such as the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. And I think that that’s a very positive direction, that states can put up their hands and voluntarily contribute to the nuclear terrorism challenge.

India has just ratified its additional protocol [to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA], and I have heard from Indian colleagues that they plan to be energetically and very actively implementing the measures under their additional protocol. So despite the fact that these countries are not signatories of the NPT, they have pledged to bolster the nonproliferation regime—that’s with small “n” and small “r”—and they have taken certain responsibilities to do so. We continue to urge them, and they have so far taken policy steps, to continue their moratoriums on nuclear testing. That’s a very important measure. So, there are a number of ways in which these countries can bolster the nonproliferation regime although they are not signatories of the NPT.

ACT: You and other administration officials, including Secretary of Energy [Ernest] Moniz, have reiterated that the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT] remains a top priority for the United States and you’re working to educate senators as well as the U.S. public on the security benefits of the treaty as well as the dangerous health effects of explosive nuclear testing. You’ve also urged other CTBT Annex 2 states[10]—that is, the other countries that are not party to the treaty—not to wait for the United States to ratify the CTBT. What steps is the United States taking and what arguments is it making in its dialogue with these other states to reinforce the global testing moratorium and bring them on board the treaty?

Gottemoeller: May I also just say it’s not only Secretary Moniz, but also Secretary [of State John] Kerry spoke at the “Friends of the CTBT” ministerial meeting[11] making that point very, very clearly. I think that he was very articulate in his way of talking about the CTBT and its goals. Essentially, I just tell them not to wait for us. There’s no reason why the other Annex 2 states can’t ratify this treaty. There has been a slow but steady pace of ratification over the years, and I say, “No need to wait around for us; get on with it.”

ACT: In the first 100 days of President Obama’s time in office, in his Prague speech, he outlined a vision and framework for moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons. What are the major goals for moving forward on the so-called Prague agenda over the next two years of the Obama administration?

Gottemoeller: I think we’ve had a good chance to talk about all of them today. One is continuing to encourage our Russian partners to return to the negotiating table—the president’s Berlin proposal being still on the table for an up-to-one-third further reduction in nuclear weapons; it will be to urge the NPT states, whether nuclear or non-nuclear states, to press forward in vigorous implementation of all of the tasks in the action plan, and that includes bolstering all three pillars of the NPT, whether we’re talking about nuclear disarmament or nonproliferation or peaceful uses. Everyone needs to be pulling their weight.

Then for the United States, there will be a special focus on proceeding toward ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in a proper and deliberate way, developing public awareness and knowledge and understanding and grassroots support, and then we’ll see [about] bringing it back here to Washington for the Senate to consider. And fissile material—everything to do with fissile material, whether we’re talking about the controls and constraints and efforts to limit highly enriched uranium internationally—that’s part and parcel of the nuclear security summit efforts—or whether we’re talking about proceeding with negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty, we will be working hard on the fissile material end of the spectrum as well.

I haven’t talked about the nuclear-weapon-free zones. Obviously, we would love to see all the nuclear-weapon-free-zone protocols come up and be ratified by the Senate as well. But for that, we have to get them all done. We did achieve at the [Preparatory Committee meeting] last spring [the] signature [by the nuclear-weapon states] of the protocol for the Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone; we are now focused on the Southeast Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone.

In addition to those zone protocols, another important goal that came out of our action plan for the NPT was convening a conference on a Middle Eastern weapons of mass destruction-free zone. That has been a very, very difficult lift over the last five years. But I will say I think, at this point, we have moved much closer, and I hope that all countries in the region, the Arab states as well as Israel, will be willing to continue the preparatory process. My view is that we should be able to convene this conference before the [NPT review conference], but it’s going to take all states to really engage on it. So, that’s a very important goal as well.

ACT: Including Iran, in that conference?

Gottemoeller: Absolutely. They’ve been part of the process.
ACT: Thank you. We really appreciate it.


1. “Kazakhstan Removes Research Reactor HEU,” World Nuclear News, October 3, 2014, http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Kazakhstan-removes-research-reactor-HEU-03101401.html.

2. Rose Gottemoeller, Remarks at the Annual Deterrence Symposium, U.S. Strategic Command, Omaha, Nebraska, August 14, 2014, http://www.state.gov/t/us/2014/230636.htm.

3. “Ivanov: Russia Not to Quit INF Treaty Unless It Sees Security Threats,” RIA Novosti, September 21, 2014.

4. William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, “U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms,” The New York Times, September 21, 2014.

5. Andrea Berger and Malcolm Chalmers, “The Art of the Possible: The Future of the P5 Process on Nuclear Weapons,” Arms Control Today, October 2014. The five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty recognizes as nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

6. 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document, Volume I, Part I,” NPT/Conf.2010/50 (Vol. I), 2010 (hereinafter 2010 NPT Action Plan).

7. U.S. Department of State, “Transparency in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile,” April 29, 2014, http://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/225343.htm.

8. 2010 NPT Action Plan.

9. Rose Gottemoeller, Remarks at the Third Meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, New York, April 29, 2014, http://usun.state.gov/briefing/statements/225351.htm.

10. Under Annex 2 of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, 44 specified countries must ratify the treaty to bring it into force. The United States is on that list and is one of eight such countries that have not ratified the treaty. The others are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan.

11. John Kerry, Remarks at the Friends of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty ministerial meeting, New York, September 26, 2014, http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/09/232219.htm.

The undersecretary of state for arms control and international security discusses a range of issues including U.S.-Russian nuclear relations and progress by the United States in meeting its commitments under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

GETTING TO KNOW Bonnie Jenkins

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

Bonnie Jenkins, coordinator of threat reduction programs at the U.S. Department of State, hosts an event in Geneva on December 17, 2012, on global health security and biological threats. (U.S. Mission-Geneva) Bonnie Jenkins is coordinator of threat reduction programs at the U.S. Department of State, which gives her one of the most diverse portfolios in the arms control field. She works on chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats on a daily basis. 

Arms Control Today spoke with her in her office in Washington on September 17.

The interview, conducted by Jefferson Morley, has been edited for length and clarity.

Where did you grow up?
The Bronx, New York. I went to the Spence School in New York City. Then I went to Amherst College. I have two master’s degrees. One is in public administration, and one is in law, and I have a Ph.D. in international relations. I guess you could say I really liked school.

What propelled you into arms control?
An interest in government. I’ve always wanted to do government work, whether it was New York City or New York state, which is where I went to law school [at Albany Law School], and then to go into the federal government. I always wanted to be in Washington.

But I really got into [arms control] totally by accident. I was a Presidential Management Intern. I was at one of my rotations at the Pentagon in their legal office. I went to a meeting with one of the lawyers, a backstopping meeting. The interagency [group of staffers] gets together and prepares talking points and detailed directions for those overseas who are actually negotiating the treaty [in question]. I was so fascinated. It just opened up a whole new world to me.

I was in the reserves at the time. I was in the Air Force and switching to the Navy. [The work] was high level. I wanted to do things to help people and to improve life. It couldn’t get any higher than that in terms of being strategic, in terms of helping not just the United States, but also the global community.

What’s the thing that you’ve been part of that you’re most proud of?
I think the nuclear [security] summit [of 2012]. The process of having a vision and implementing it through the process of the interagency [discussions] and then being able to work internationally. For example, we had an agreement with Japan that moved a lot of the nuclear material out of the country.

Are you by instinct and nature a scholar or a policymaker?
I’m more of a scholar actually. My work is not as much policy as programs. I like to see action. I like to see results. When you do programs, you talk to countries. You talk about what they need, and you provide the funding. You see the results, and you really feel like you’re making a difference. That’s what gives me drive.

Arms control is not an area where African-Americans are overrepresented. How do you think about that?
When I see young African-Americans who are in this field, outside of the military side, then I try to encourage them to stay in it. It’s a challenge because [arms control] is not something that comes to mind as a natural thing [to do].

What do you say to young people thinking about a career in arms control?
It really can be what you want to make of it. There’s a lot of different actors in this area, so you won’t get bored too fast. And, if you are lucky, you have a president who cares about it. If not, it’s not as much fun.

The veteran arms control diplomat tells how she found her profession—by accident.

Getting to Know Tun Channareth

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

In 1982, Tun Channareth was a young soldier serving as a sentry for the Vietnamese army, which was fighting Khmer Rouge forces in his native Cambodia, when he stepped on a Russian-made landmine. It blew off both his legs. Fifteen years later, in December 1997, Channareth accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Today, he runs a workshop that builds wheelchairs and works as a traveling ambassador for the organization. Fifteen years after the Mine Ban Treaty’s entry into force, Reth, as he is known to all, is one of the world’s best-known campaigners against landmines.

Arms Control Today caught up with him by phone April 3 at his home in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The interview, conducted by Jefferson Morley, has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you get involved in the landmine campaign?

In 1982, I lost both my legs when I stepped on a landmine along the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Afterwards, I just wanted to die. One day, a doctor came close to me to give advice. He told me I had to build a new life…. I didn’t want to listen at all. In 1985, I had my second child. One night she said, “Daddy, please give me money to buy something to eat. All the people in the neighborhood village, they have family. Their parents give them money everyday.” Her speech made me cry. So I started to look for a way to make money. I went to [the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees], and I trained there. I started cleaning and repairing typewriters. I learned welding. In 1993, I started making wheelchairs. I began working with Sister Denise Coghlan at the Jesuit Service Cambodia, and she encouraged me to travel abroad, to speak to people about the damage that landmines had done to me. So I told them about all the other people in Cambodia who are like me, whose lives are affected by landmines.

When did you know that this kind of work was what you wanted to do with your life?

It was around 1996, I think. I had two jobs. One, I was still working with the people with disabilities in Cambodia. I thought all the time about their lives, how to help them to get better. I also worked at the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. When they received the Nobel Prize, I started to understand that this job is very important.

When you were a young man, did you ever think you would travel around the world?

Never. Never. Never.

What is the best part of this work for you?

Working with the people with disabilities. I’d like to ask every donor to please help. They are still hungry. They still suffer. I want to help them get better…. They need help. They need clean water. They need toilets. They need education. They need health care centers because their health care center is so far from them.

Do you think your work is having an impact?

I do. In 1993, there were 10 million anti-personnel landmines in the ground [in Cambodia]. Today, things are much better because of the treaty. We still have 4 million in the ground along the Cambodia-Thailand border, the Vietnam border, and so on. They can remove them soon if they have funds. I think they could finish in four years, in five years; [it] depends on the funds.

What do you tell a young person who wants to do this kind of work?

One, I need them to ban the landmines from Iraq. Two, push their government if they don’t sign the treaty. Push them to join the treaties to ban landmines and cluster munitions.

Are you happy now?

I’m really happy. The Cambodian people are always giving. I am smiling at everyone. My life really changed.

The anti-landmine campaigner describes how he became an activist and reflects on his work.

Getting to Know Eric Schlosser

Interviewed by Jefferson Morley

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

Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety (2013), is perhaps an unlikely nuclear expert. Best known for his 2001 book Fast Food Nation, the 54-year-old author has never worked in academia, the military, or the government. Yet, Command and Control has won rave reviews and was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in history. It also earned Schlosser an invitation to give a talk at the nuclear security summit in The Hague. That is where Arms Control Today caught up with him by phone March 26. The interview, conducted by Jefferson Morley, has been edited for length and clarity.

You wrote books about fast food and illicit drugs [Reefer Madness]. How did you get from there to nuclear weapons?

In the late 1990s, I became interested in the future of warfare in space. Many of the officers I spent time with at the Air Force Space Command talked about their experiences in the Cold War. One of the stories I heard was the Damascus accident story [in which a fuel-leak explosion destroyed a nuclear missile launch pad in rural Arkansas in September 1980]. It lodged in my mind. I was originally just going to write [it] as a minute-by-minute description of a nuclear weapons accident. When I heard about the safety problems with our arsenal, [the book] got bigger. And as I learned about command and control machines and nuclear targeting, it just got bigger and bigger.

Did you study the subject in school?

When I was an undergraduate, I studied game theory and nuclear strategy. During the 1980s, as the Cold War really heated up, I was a supporter of the nuclear freeze movement. So I was more conversant with these issues than maybe an ordinary student might be.

What was the moment that made you want to write Command and Control?

It was something in the zeitgeist. I felt that this was the greatest national security threat we face. And then, going back to the Damascus accident, I had tracked down one of the principal people, and it was just an extraordinary narrative. Then I came upon the work of the Drell panel, appointed by Congress in 1990, to look at problems in our arsenal. Reading their report, [I thought] “My God, maybe this weapon really could have detonated in Arkansas.” I don’t want to exaggerate how likely detonation would have been. It was a low probability. But it was also a low probability that dropping a socket wrench would destroy an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Do you think the book is having an impact?

I feel like the book has been read at a high level in our own country and in other countries. It’s very gratifying that the book has been read by the people who have the power to do something.

What was your biggest frustration?

The [Freedom of Information Act] requests took a couple of years. By comparing the documents I received that had been censored by different people, I was able to piece together what had been excised. Overwhelmingly, what was excised was information that [would] embarrass the national security bureaucracy. I found that frustrating. This secrecy has helped to prevent real debate and discussion.

What’s the best comment you’ve heard from a reader?

The comments that have meant the most have been from enlisted personnel in the Air Force who served in the nuclear mission [and] who felt that their service was honored and recognized.

Are you hopeful about the nuclear weapons issue?

When I was writing the book, I was less hopeful. I was just so immersed in the minutiae of war planning and weapons designs…. Now that it’s done, I am hopeful, but I’m deeply concerned too. The Ukraine crisis has increased my concerns. It’s a real setback in disarmament…. [It] is worth keeping in mind that the first Cold War was not a nuclear war. Most of the people who I spent time with in this world [of nuclear weapons] were stunned by the fact that there wasn’t a nuclear exchange, that there wasn’t even an accidental detonation. That helps me feel optimistic.

There are still 17,000 nuclear weapons; at one point there were 50,000 to 60,000. It doesn’t have to end badly, but I think we as a people need to make sure it doesn’t end badly.

The author of Command and Control talks about the origins of the highly praised book and about the risks of nuclear weapons.

Advancing the Arms Trade Treaty: An Interview With U.S. ATT Negotiator Thomas Countryman

Interviewed by Daniel Horner and Daryl G. Kimball

Thomas Countryman took office as assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation on September 27, 2011. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1982. He was lead negotiator for the United States in the talks that produced the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) last year.

Arms Control Today spoke with Countryman in his office on March 12. Countryman was joined by William Malzahn, senior coordinator in the Office of Conventional Arms Threat Reduction. In the interview, Countryman explained the reasons that the United States signed the ATT, addressed domestic criticism of the pact, and looked ahead to the challenges that the treaty faces.

The interview was transcribed by Ashley Luer. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: Thank you for doing this. If you could just start out by telling us, what does the Arms Trade Treaty set out to do, and why do you think it is needed?

Countryman: The United States has long believed that we have a responsibility to support friends around the world in the security sphere, but only to do so with a responsible policy. That’s why the United States has long had among the highest standards in the world for making decisions about exports of arms to other countries. We think that that has contributed to the net security of the world, and we believe strongly that other nations have an equal responsibility to do the same. What the Arms Trade Treaty does is to set minimum standards—not as high as the standards the United States has for arms exports but some minimum standards—for every country in the world that is going to do arms exports. As a consequence, we believe that once [the treaty] is faithfully implemented by countries around the world, it will reduce the illicit international trade in weapons in the world. It will reduce the capability of groups to sustain armed conflict, and it will better protect the human rights of individuals around the world. It won’t be 100 percent successful in all of those areas, but it will make a contribution in all of those areas. That is why it is necessary.

ACT: Could you give a little bit more detail about what impact it will have on the United States in terms of security, economic, humanitarian, and other policies, other issue areas?

Countryman: Everything that we try to do in our foreign policy around the world seeks both to advance U.S. economic and security interests and, to put it most simply, to make the world a better place. We think that the Arms Trade Treaty, [if] well implemented, will do both. First, it will advance the economic interests of the United States because it will reduce the possibility of unfair practices in arms trade and reduce the illicit arms trade around the world.

Second, it will better protect American citizens. We never forget our responsibility to American citizens who are overseas as soldiers, as diplomats, as businessmen, as missionaries, as tourists. If we can make even a small contribution to their safety by reducing the ready availability of illicit weapons around the world, we help to protect American citizens.

At the same time, we help to make the world a little bit safer for citizens of other nations. The Arms Trade Treaty by itself will not end the kind of violent ethnic and other conflicts that bedevil Africa today, but if it can reduce the intensity and increase the incentive for negotiated solutions, we will have done an important thing as Americans in cooperation with others to make the world a safer place. At the same time, the Arms Trade Treaty will have no effect upon American citizens exercising their constitutional rights within the United States. Zero. None whatsoever, despite a lot of misinformation to the contrary.

ACT: And, on that last point, could you elaborate why you think it won’t?

Countryman: Well, first, even though I’m happy to speak to Arms Control Today, we do not consider the Arms Trade Treaty to be an arms control treaty. It is a trade regulation treaty. Arms, armaments are a legitimate international commodity for trade, and they should be subject to the same kind of standards and regulations as other goods. To use the example so many have cited, whether it is an iPod or a banana,[1] weapons ought to have the same minimum standards before they go into international commerce.

The Arms Trade Treaty does not create in any form whatsoever any body, any entity that can dictate to the United States its internal laws and regulations on trade and possession of handguns. It can’t do it. There is nothing in the treaty that comes close to doing that.

At the same time, the treaty affirms that each state has the obligation to make its own decisions within its borders in accordance with its legal and constitutional system. The United States will continue to do that. What the United States’ regulations and laws about firearms are is not a matter in any way for the Arms Trade Treaty. It is a matter strictly for the Congress and the 50 U.S. states to decide.

ACT: Some in Congress have suggested that the control lists that the ATT references are some sort of registry. How would you respond to that charge?

Countryman: Some in Congress have repeated, unfortunately, a deliberate misrepresentation of the terms of the treaty made by some U.S. organizations. It is absolutely clear in the treaty, for anyone who has read more than two words of it, that the lists referred to are lists of categories, types of weapons that are to be controlled by each state for the purpose of import and export. There is no list whatsoever of gun owners that any state is required to make, that any state is required to report to anyone else. It is in the category of simply deliberate falsification of the clear terms of the treaty

ACT: So, you mentioned that weapons are commodities; they are traded as commodities. I know that as the ATT was negotiated, you were in consultations with the defense industry on the negotiations. How would you characterize their reaction to the final product? And how would you characterize how this will affect their ability to engage in their commerce going forward?

Countryman: [Companies in the U.S.] defense industry not only ha[ve] grown used to the very complex, high-standard legislation that the U.S. uses in export decisions; they embrace it. They realize that it’s there for the important purpose of protecting American national security interests, and in that sense, it is good for their own business as well. The industry representatives that we consulted with before, during, and after the negotiations believe as strongly as I do that there is nothing in the treaty that requires the United States to change any of our strong regulations concerning arms exports. So, a concern that some of them may have had before the negotiations—that this would make exports of weapons from the United States more difficult—has not materialized, and they are satisfied by that fact. If anything, and I wouldn’t exaggerate this effect, I believe there will be a positive effect in this way. By requiring other states and companies that compete with the U.S. defense industry to be more transparent and set a higher standard for their exports, to a degree, it begins to level the playing field between U.S. firms that play by the highest standards—the highest, tightest rules—and companies in other countries that will be required to begin playing by some rules.

ACT: I want to go back to the issue of the benefits, both specifically and more generally. You talked about lessening the intensity of conflict and reducing incentives. Can you give some specific examples of countries that have the kind of civil conflict you are talking about—the Central African Republic or South Sudan or other examples you might choose? What kinds of effects might the ATT have there?

Countryman: Well, I don’t want to get too hypothetical. The roots of any of the conflicts that afflict Africa today are deep. The conflicts are not caused by the availability of weapons, but they are sustained by the availability of weapons. If not only exporting countries but, crucially, the African countries themselves implement fully the Arms Trade Treaty, including not only the export provisions but the import provisions; if African countries make a determined effort to control their own stockpiles of legitimate weapons for the police and the army; and if African countries come under greater scrutiny as to which governments are actively exporting weapons to fuel civil conflicts in neighboring countries, if we can do all of those things, then the potential is great for reducing the level of violence in these various civil conflicts. Now, note that the Arms Trade Treaty and its requirements are only one part of that formula. But it is very much my hope that the existence and the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty will provide the impetus for all of those steps that Africans and others can take to reduce violence.

ACT: It’s both the establishment of the standards and the transparency, the reporting requirement, things like that?

Countryman: Yes, and it is also taking advantage of the tools that are built into the ATT that encourage and facilitate cooperation among states against gray-market and black-market trade in weapons. These are measures that we should take full advantage of.

ACT: Can you talk a bit about the bigger picture? How does the ATT fit into some of the larger policy goals of the Obama administration?

Countryman: In foreign policy, again, the Obama administration is dedicated to reducing and solving conflicts around the world wherever we can. Our policies on arms exports are aimed not at enriching American companies or providing American jobs, though those are important. Rather, they are aimed at helping countries to establish the rule of law within their own borders and to secure their borders against any external threats. In general, we are proud of the record of American military sales and military assistance to friends and allies around the world.

Those efforts are undermined if the trade in weapons is utterly unconstrained, and if manufacturers and exporters have no controls whatsoever, no standards whatsoever, that increases the threat to legitimate democratic governments around the world that we are trying to support. So in that sense, I think that the interests of the Obama administration are exactly the same as the interests of the vast majority of governments around the world. The target here is not any particular country. It is, rather, those individuals who participate in this trade without any ethical standards, and those few governments around the world that actively use weapons to kill their own people and their neighbors.

ACT: How do you think the U.S. signature on the treaty will help shape the evolution of the ATT? Do you think that U.S. actions in particular will encourage other countries to join?

Countryman: Well, there are two different questions there: one is the coming into force of the ATT, and the second is the evolution. On the second point, evolution, we don’t see a need for the treaty itself to evolve in the near future. In fact, the treaty contains provisions that say it can’t be amended within the next few years. We need to see how it works—and by “we,” I mean the world, not just the U.S.—before we can consider whether it needs to be strengthened or loosened or amended in some way. It needs to get into practice, and that is a matter of national implementation rather than an international discussion of tinkering with the treaty. So in that sense, evolution is postponed. In the sense of coming into force, I think we have a dozen countries that have now ratified. We may get several more this year, which means that it is likely we meet the standard of 50 by the end of this year or early next year [for bringing] the treaty in[to] force.

The fact that the United States has signed the treaty is significant in several ways. First, it provides an incentive for other states that are major arms exporters to go ahead and sign the treaty rather than to hide behind a lack of signature from the United States. Secondly, it signals to the rest of the world that we didn’t simply accept this treaty at the negotiations last year; we embrace it. It is not a panacea for all the world’s violence, but it is a step forward in many ways, and we wish to see as many states [as possible] in the world sign it and ratify it.

Third, by signing it, we enable the United States to be represented in the discussions about international cooperation, including the mundane things such as setting up this very tiny implementation support unit for the ATT and holding annual meetings to review its operation.[2] We give ourselves a seat at the table in that sense, so for all those reasons, the U.S. signature is important for the early history of the ATT.

ACT: To pick up on a couple of points you made there: There is signing, and then there is ratification. So, could you describe the Obama administration’s efforts on plans for ratification of the ATT? For example, what is the timeline for preparing the supporting documents that you would transmit to the Senate and so on?

Countryman: The plan is to do it right. We are in the process right now of conducting an article-by-article review of the treaty and comparing it with all relevant U.S. legislation so that we can report accurately to the Congress on all the implications of the legislation. I’ve been satisfied throughout the negotiations and since that the treaty is already 100 percent consistent with existing U.S. legislation. In the end, that is not my call. It is something that has to be reviewed carefully by lawyers and reported on carefully to the Senate, and that is the process we are in now.

ACT: Do you think U.S. ability to influence the implementation of the ATT is weakened because the United States is not moving forward rapidly with ratification? I think that most people do not expect this to happen anytime soon. Can fill us in a little bit on that?

Countryman: I’ll put it conversely: our ability to influence it will be enhanced once we have ratified it.

ACT: Right, but the fact that it will not be ratified very soon, is that weakening your ability to influence it now?

Countryman: Why do you have to be so negative? (Laughter.) I gave it to you in a positive way.

ACT: Do you want to add to your answer?

Countryman: Look, I do mean to phrase it positively because we do intend to seek ratification. The reason I don’t want to phrase it in the negative way that you posed the question is because it is not that issue that is driving the speed with which the ratification process proceeds. We will do our job as thoroughly as we need to before we submit it to the Senate for [advice and consent]. We won’t be pushed by anything happening among those states that have already ratified it. We believe we have a seat at the table by logic and necessity, if not by fact of ratification.

ACT: So, you don’t see any obstacle at the conference of states-parties from the fact that you are not a state-party? You think you will be still able to participate fully, as fully as if you were a state-party?

Countryman: I have known very few situations where the U.S. has not been able to make its views known.

ACT: Under recently passed legislation, the U.S. government cannot spend any funds to implement the ATT.[3] What effect will that legislation have on your actions?

Countryman: In my view, none. We will, of course, honor all legislation passed by the Congress, including the legislation passed by the Congress that requires us to carefully review every arms export according to standards that are not only fully consistent with the ATT, but higher standards than the treaty requires. So, we don’t need to do anything differently to honor, to be in compliance with the legislation you mention, and at the point of ratification, we won’t need to do anything differently to meet our requirements under the ATT.

ACT: So, there is no tension, there is no difficulty, in meeting the requirements both of the legislation and your obligations as a signer of the treaty?

Countryman: That’s the beauty of the system designed by the Congress and implemented consistently by successive administrations. We believe in high standards, and we are going to continue to implement those high standards, regardless of the particular debate about this treaty.

ACT: The United States recently issued a new policy on arms transfers. Could you briefly explain the policy, particularly the new elements of it?

Countryman: Only very briefly. The first articulation of the conventional arms transfer policy, the CAT policy, was made by the Clinton administration in 1995. In the Obama administration a few years ago, we realized the need to update it in order simply to review what has changed. I think the changes more clearly indicate the emphasis that the United States places upon humanitarian concerns, human rights concerns, and international stability in the decisions that we make on arms exports. In that way, it better reflects the reality of how successive administrations have implemented a conventional arms transfer policy.

ACT: To what extent was the new policy influenced by the ATT, and the United States’ status as a signer of that treaty?

Countryman: I don’t think there was an influence in either direction. They are independent exercises that happened to occur at the same time. Of course, we checked carefully to make sure that we were being consistent in each exercise, but there is nothing in the CAT policy that is affected by the terms negotiated at the ATT conference. As I said, we already have higher standards for ourselves than we ever could have accomplished in the ATT negotiations.

ACT: So, the two processes went on completely parallel tracks without real interaction other than what you just said—checking to make sure that they were consistent?

Malzahn: You did have some of the same people working on both exercises, so they were certainly aware—each side was aware of what was going on. It wasn’t exactly the same people, but some of the same people worked on both the CAT policy update and worked on the ATT. So they weren’t independent in the sense that they were functioning in a vacuum, independently.

Countryman: The point is that both of them are guided by what has been consistent policy passed by the Congress, enforced and implemented by successive administrations of both parties. What we have actually done [by having carried out established U.S. policy] is what influenced both the new CAT policy and the ATT negotiations. There wasn’t a need to go dream up a new concept in order to influence both of them.

ACT: Okay, maybe I’ll just make a statement and you can tell me if it’s correct, and if not, you can change it: There is a changing sense of what is an appropriate regime for the arms trade. It is reflected globally by the Arms Trade Treaty, and the U.S. arms trade policy is also a reflection of that. Is that true?

Countryman: No, no. The fact that there has been a change outside of the U.S. in what is appropriate in arms transfer is what led to the impetus to negotiate an arms trade treaty, and we were happy to participate in a negotiation that resulted in a treaty that goes halfway towards meeting the high standards of the United States and that is fully consistent with our constitutional requirements and our security and economic interests. That happened outside the U.S. Our guidance for negotiation is the high-standard policy that we have implemented for decades.

What your statement implied is that the world changed, and this had an effect on U.S. policy. I don’t see it that way. Our policies are consistent, consistently stronger decade by decade. And if the rest of the world came around to the point that they are willing to embrace some of what the U.S. does, great, but it doesn’t change the U.S. approach to these issues.

ACT: You’ve worked many, many months on this treaty, you and your team, and have talked with many of your diplomatic colleagues. The treaty is now negotiated. It may enter into force in a year or so. What do you see as the biggest challenges for this treaty over the next, let’s say, five years in terms of ensuring that it is as effective as it can be both in terms of what individual nations need to do and in terms of what all the nations together need to do? What would you list as or describe as some of the key challenges we need to watch out for and the states-parties need to maintain focus on?

Countryman: Well first, we did work hard, and it was not just the State Department. It was a strong interagency team that looked at our negotiating approach and at the text submitted from every possible angle, whether it’s Department of Justice, Department of Defense, the White House, the State Department, and many others—the Department of Commerce crucially. There’s a couple of genuine heroes who did this work. One is right here, Bill Malzahn, who has been recognized by the secretary [of state] for his contribution, especially intellectual contribution, to this effort ever since it was first discussed in the international arena. And the other is our dear friend Don Mahley, who passed away earlier this month, who was the key negotiator on all of these points. These were the two who really made an amazing contribution to the ultimate success last year.

You asked, “What is a challenge?” If I could give you a very general answer: the challenge will be that too many countries read the letter of the treaty rather than the goals of the treaty, that there is a focus on writing export control laws even for countries that don’t do any exports, and that countries don’t pay enough attention to the requirements for strong import legislation and enforcement and that they don’t pay enough attention to the possibilities within the treaty for multilateral cooperation against illegal arms trade. For some countries, I would worry that the requirement to take into account human rights, humanitarian law, and other considerations becomes a box-checking rather than a serious risk assessment.

I have no doubt that countries that sign and ratify the treaty will implement the minimum requirements. The challenge will be for countries to look beyond the minimum bureaucratic requirements and actually focus on the promise, the potential that this treaty offers the world.

ACT: Do you have anything else you want to say?

Malzahn: The challenge that we face is making sure that this treaty doesn’t become just another piece of paper out there. Unfortunately, in the small arms area in particular, there are a number of treaties out there that were signed and as soon as states—some states—signed the treaty, that was the end of their involvement with the treaty. They said, “Our obligation is now done; we’ve signed this,” and they’ve made no efforts to actually implement the treaty.

ACT: What treaties are you talking about, for example?

Malzahn: Whether it’s things like the International Tracing Instrument[4] or some of the other things related—this is, again, particularly true on small arms and light weapons. If you look at Africa, there are number of regional agreements among the Southern African Development Community[5] and some of the other African countries where they agree, for example, on a total ban on imports of small arms and light weapons. Yet, the countries that have signed it are still importing small arms and light weapons into their region even though there is a regional ban on it. So, what we need to do on the ATT is to have states—as [UK lead negotiator] Jo Adamson said during the negotiations, we negotiate as if implementation mattered. We need to follow through and make sure that states actually implement the treaty, the exporting states as well as the importing states. That is what Tom was getting at, the balance of obligations on the exporters and the importers. It is on both sides, and we cannot just focus on one side.

On small arms and light weapons in particular, which was one of the major driving forces for this treaty, it is important to have this treaty actually implemented and carried out by the people who signed the treaty. In some cases, it’s going to require assistance to build capacity to implement the treaty, and other things, international cooperation.

ACT: Few states have the capacity to regulate the arms trade like the United States does.

Malzahn: With this treaty, for the first time, there is now an international obligation that each state that joins the treaty assumes national responsibility for the arms that leave its territory, as well as the arms that enter its territory. Some of these states that don’t have these kinds of things in place are going to want help in doing what they haven’t been able to do on their own.

Countryman: The United States, specifically this bureau, has extensive programs in more than 60 nations around the world in which we help states design strategic trade control laws and improve their border security capabilities. We do that in conjunction with the departments of Defense and Homeland Security and others. The European Union has similar programs to help states around the world. An example of the thing we have to keep an eye on is that the U.S. or the European Union doesn’t simply help a state in Africa or Asia write a new law. That’s insufficient. We not only have to help them write a new law if they ask for the help, we have to help them build the capacity to enforce the laws. With the ATT, we can’t stop at a half-measure of just meeting the letter of the law. We’ve got to help states have the capacity to make it real.

Malzahn: As part of that national control system when states pass the law, we want the laws to not just be a piece of paper, we want them actually to make a difference and to actually result in positive action.

ACT: Thank you, gentlemen.




1. See “Why We Need a Global Arms Trade Treaty,” Oxfam International, n.d.., http://www.oxfam.org/en/campaigns/conflict/controlarms/why-we-need-global-arms-trade-treaty.

2. Article 18 of the treaty describes the secretariat, which is to have a “minimized structure.” For the text of the treaty, see https://unoda-web.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Ch_XXVI_08.pdf#page=22.

3. Under Section 7075 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2014, “None of the funds appropriated by this Act may be obligated or expended to implement the Arms Trade Treaty until the Senate approves a resolution of ratification for the Treaty.” For the text of the act, see http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113hr3547enr/pdf/BILLS-113hr3547enr.pdf.

4. The International Tracing Instrument commits UN member states to a series of measures designed to improve the traceability of small arms and light weapons in crime and conflict situations.

5. The members are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation explains why the United States signed the ATT, addresses domestic criticism of the pact, and looks ahead to the challenges that the treaty faces.

Getting to Know Thomas Pickering

Interviewed by Jefferson Morley

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

In 2000, Thomas Pickering retired from the U.S. Foreign Service after a 40-year career that culminated in his tenure as undersecretary of state under President Bill Clinton. But “retirement” hardly describes what he has done since then. Pickering has worked as head of Boeing’s international offices for five years and has emerged as a leading voice for a negotiated settlement of the international dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.

Arms Control Today caught up with him by phone Dec. 20. The interview was conducted by Jefferson Morley and has been edited for length and clarity.

After a long career, you retired in 2000. A lot of people would go off and play golf. Why on earth did you make it your hobby to try to solve an intractable problem like Iran’s nuclear program?

A lot of people, when they retire, look forward to a different way of life. I’ve always been interested in continuing to stay engaged.… [The] Iran [issue] began very early after I retired in the beginning of 2000. Bill Luers, who was president of the United Nations Association and a former ambassador, got very interested in Iran too and wanted [to] set up a “track two” dialogue, among experts and Iranians about the nuclear program. We began talks. They were held in places like Stockholm and Vienna. A group of us wrote for The New York Review of Books on some suggestions that came out of our discussions. We thought all the war talk of a year and a half ago was taking us in the wrong direction. Nobody was pushing back with a real assessment of what was going on.

Did you ever think you would care about arms control?

I had come into the Foreign Service in 1959 from three and a half years in naval intelligence. I was a photo interpreter. I knew a lot about the military…about ground forces, and I thought [about] marrying that background and those skills and getting into [arms control] diplomacy, which was clearly likely to be at the leading edge of our major diplomacy, particularly in the Kennedy days. I thought I could bring a little bit to the table.

What was your proudest accomplishment in arms control?

As a very junior [Foreign Service officer] in 1960-1961, I was tasked with writing a comprehensive test ban treaty. I had to clear it with the State Department and the interagency community, which was a huge task. I was working with people like Joseph Sisco, who was already an icon in American foreign policy. We did it, and we put it up to the Russians. We wound up doing a limited version of the treaty.

Do you ever get discouraged in this line of work, working with issues that persist over years or decades?

You recognize that negotiations take a long time. They require a lot of innovation. They require a lot of perseverance. They require a lot of explaining. And they require a lot of cooperation.

How do you summon the wherewithal to keep going?

If the national interest is served by this kind of an objective, which I believe it is, then it is worth continuing to flail away at it.

What was your greatest defeat or frustration in the arms control area?

I think the greatest frustration is that we have not yet been able to put in place the United States’ adherence to a comprehensive test ban treaty after all these years. I started writing [the treaty] in 1960 and 1961.

What would you say to a young person starting out in arms control today, like you were 50 years ago?

You don’t make a lot of money; don’t count on that. But you can have an enormous influence on the future of your country and on critical questions. If you work hard, you stay the course, you take the opportunities that come along...[y]ou’ll work with terrific people on a wide variety of subjects in arms and arms control. I think that diplomacy and the Foreign Service is a hugely interesting and stimulating and demanding career.

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


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