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January 19, 2011

Taking Stock of the NPT: An Interview With U.S. Special Representative Susan Burk

Interviewed by Peter Crail, Daniel Horner, and Daryl G. Kimball

Susan Burk has served as special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation since June 8, 2009. In that position, she plays a lead role in U.S. government preparations for the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which is scheduled to take place May 3-28 at the United Nations. Burk previously served as deputy coordinator for homeland security in the Department of State’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. She also has served as acting assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation and in other nonproliferation posts at the State Department and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

Arms Control Today spoke with Burk in her State Department office January 19. She outlined her views on recent progress in strengthening the NPT regime and on the challenges that the treaty parties will have to confront at the review conference.

The interview was transcribed by Caitlin Taber. It has been edited for clarity.

The interview is part of an Arms Control Today article series, which began in the January/February 2010 issue, on topics related to the NPT and the upcoming review conference.

ACT: In April of last year, President Barack Obama said efforts to contain nuclear weapons dangers “are centered in a global nuclear non-proliferation regime,” and he pledged to strengthen the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty “as a basis for cooperation.” How does the United States hope to use the 2010 NPT Review Conference in May to strengthen the goals of the treaty?

Burk: I think in the first instance, what we are looking at is a review conference that will revalidate the importance of the treaty for international and regional security and stability. That would be the first goal—what some officials have been calling a renewal and a reinvigoration of the NPT. That is the large strategic goal. We also think the review conference can address measures under all three pillars of the treaty that would strengthen the treaty and improve its implementation. The first would be the disarmament pillar. Obviously, the president has laid out an ambitious disarmament program, steps that he is committed to take. On the nonproliferation pillar, the United States is looking at issues of compliance, safeguards, support for the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] in all aspects—financial, human, political support. With regard to the third pillar, we are addressing the challenging issues, the interesting issues, that have now arisen with the new focus on nuclear power in response to the global consensus on climate change. There are a number of important actions to be taken up under all three pillars of the treaty, and the review conference is the place to address those issues.

ACT: How important is a final conference document outlining specific benchmarks and goals to a successful NPT review conference and future efforts to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation system?

Burk: If you look historically, tremendous importance has been attached to production of a consensus final document. But if you also look at the history, we see that that’s an elusive goal. I would have to say personally it would be very positive if we could agree on a statement, a forward-looking statement, and we are prepared to work very hard with our NPT partners to see what we can do on that. But we think we ought to be striving for quality, not quantity. Perhaps if we go for something brief and concise but specific, we might be able to be successful. But success can be defined in other ways as well.

ACT: I hope we’ll get into more detail on how we define that. How would you describe the political climate leading into this year’s review conference? Is it more conducive to reaching agreement on the treaty’s three pillars that you just mentioned than in 2005, and if so, why?

Burk: Well, I wasn’t involved in 2005, so I don’t want to do too much speculation. I think we’re facing a number of the same problems and concerns and stresses, if you will, on the system that we faced in 2005.[1] That includes North Korea’s withdrawal from the treaty and Iran’s program. So those are constants, but there is definitely an improved atmosphere. From all accounts from my colleagues who’ve told me about the preparatory meetings leading up to this, it is definitely a different atmosphere, very positive, in large part due to the United States’ embrace of multilateral diplomacy in a very significant way, and also because of the disarmament proposals that the United States and President Obama have put forward. So I think we’re in a good position.

ACT: In April, President Obama pledged that the United States “will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons,” beginning with steps “to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy” and by pursuing a new, verifiable START with Russia. Could you please explain for us the case that the United States will present at the upcoming review conference regarding its record over the past year in connection with the implementation of its Article 6 disarmament commitment?[2]

Burk: I think the case that we’re going to make is the case that I’ve been making over the six months that I’ve been on the job and the case that other administration officials have been making. The president made clear that the United States has a special responsibility for the nuclear disarmament provisions of the NPT and accepts that responsibility and to that end has committed to negotiate with Russia a new START agreement, to pursue CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] ratification, and to participate in negotiations in Geneva on a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty [FMCT], and he has talked about reducing the role of nuclear weapons. How that will be translated after the Nuclear Posture Review is still to be determined, but I think we will make the case that we are committed to a number of the major initiatives that have been on the agenda. The U.S. president is determined to achieve them.

ACT: Is the case dependent on having START negotiations completed or the treaty ratified? To what extent is it dependent on the status of START at that point?

Burk: I have been making this point very clearly, and I would have to say that my foreign interlocutors, who are very sophisticated, understand how our political system works. They understand that treaties require the advice and consent of the Senate, and that is not something that the United States can promise will be done by any certain date. That’s very well appreciated, so I don’t think the status of that agreement—whether or not it is ratified—will have any impact. The commitment of the United States and the credibility of the president making those commitments are very important. That’s what we have now, and that’s what’s working for us.

ACT: At the conference last September on facilitating the entry into force of the CTBT, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged to “work in the months ahead both to seek the advice and consent of the United States Senate to ratify the treaty, and to secure ratification by others so that the treaty can enter into force.”

What does the administration intend to do in the months prior to the review conference to demonstrate its commitment to achieving these goals?

Burk: The president has not set any timeline for achievement of ratification. This goes back to the point I just made—that ratification is a Senate prerogative and we can’t prejudge that. Later this spring, we’re going to see publication of both the National Academy of Sciences update to their 2002 report on the key technical issues and a National Intelligence Estimate. I think those are the two developments that we can see coming between now and May.

ACT: What is the United States doing to pursue ratification by the other Annex 2 states?[3]

Burk: I’m not the right person to ask that question. I’m completely focused on preparing for the review conference, and I’m not involved in other negotiations. This is a full-time job.

ACT: UN Security Council Resolution 1887 recalls the five declared nuclear-weapon states’ April 1995 security assurances against the use of nuclear weapons to the non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the NPT.[4] In the context of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the five declared their “unequivocal commitment” to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Are the five nuclear-weapon states considering similar statements prior to the upcoming conference?

Burk: The United States and the other NPT nuclear-weapon states are engaging in consultations as we traditionally do in connection with the review conference, and we’re looking at where there might be areas of agreement that would be reflected in some sort of a statement. But we don’t have that yet.

ACT: But it is something that is under consideration?

Burk: Under consideration. It’s become sort of routine to do this, so we are engaging in consultations. So we’ll see how that goes.

ACT: And likely to be on the issue of negative security assurances or something more broadly focused?

Burk: On security assurances, we still have the long-standing negative security assurance that every U.S. administration has reiterated.[5] That’s our position right now, and I can’t predict changes at this point. But it’s a good assurance, it’s a solid assurance, and that’s what we have at the moment.

ACT: Since the last review conference, the IAEA Board of Governors has found one NPT party, Iran, to be in noncompliance with its safeguards obligations. The handling of that country’s situation was a major point of contention at the 2005 review conference.

In the view of the United States, how should the upcoming review conference address the importance of compliance, and can it agree on a set of “real and immediate consequences” for noncompliance?

Burk: This is one of those issues that is a carryover from 2005. What’s important to remember is that, with very few exceptions, all the other NPT parties are in compliance with their obligations under the treaty. What we have been discussing with our partners as we engage in diplomatic outreach is the importance of full compliance with the treaty to maintaining the integrity of the treaty and the corrosive effect that noncompliance has on the treaty itself and on the understandings that other countries have had. We expect that this will be discussed in May. It has to be discussed—full compliance, full support for safeguards, and all those other measures. Exactly how it will be discussed is up in the air at the moment. There are different views on how to handle the issue. But I don’t think there is any disagreement among parties—certainly not in my consultations—that full compliance is absolutely essential.

ACT: But part of the issue here is that because a final document or any agreement there requires consensus, and one or more parties may be not complying, then how do you achieve a consensus when one of the people who would have to agree is one of the countries who would be directly affected by that?

Burk: Well it depends on what you’re saying in the document. If your goal is to censure countries, I think we all can understand that if one of the countries that you are censuring is in the room and has the ability to block consensus, we can predict how that will turn out. But there are other ways to deal with the issues of compliance and noncompliance and strengthen safeguards. It’s not clear; there are discussions going around right now on how to deal with these issues. We are all very aware of the fact that it is difficult to move forward on proposals that target specific countries if they are able to block a consensus. We’ll have to see whether the desire to have consensus—what kind of power such a veto right affords.

ACT: You said Iran is not in compliance, with a few other exceptions. Can you say what other countries you consider not to be in compliance with their NPT obligations right now?

Burk: What I have in mind when I make that comment is North Korea, which announced it was withdrawing from the treaty, after violating it. So that remains an outstanding issue on the NPT docket.

ACT: What about Syria?

Burk: Syria, to the best of my knowledge, is still under consideration at the IAEA. I don’t know how that will play, but I don’t think there’s been a final report on Syria in Vienna.

ACT: You mention, in the context of noncompliance, strengthening safeguards. Resolution 1887 has called on all countries to adopt an additional protocol and also to make an additional protocol a condition for nuclear supply.[6] What are the prospects of adding some sort of an agreement at the review conference on the proposals?

Burk: There are lots of different views on the [Model] Additional Protocol, so I don’t want to speculate about what the review conference may or may not agree specifically on it. But it has become an important point for us to raise in consultations because we have ratified the Additional Protocol now and we do believe that it should become the new verification standard. But the more important point is the fact that [Mohamed ElBaradei,] the former director-general of the IAEA, before he retired, made a very strong statement, which I quote frequently, that without the Additional Protocol the IAEA has no capability to verify undeclared facilities. Our experience over the past years and discovery of clandestine nuclear facilities led to the negotiation of the Additional Protocol. We learn from our mistakes. It is very clear that we need to look forward on the Additional Protocol. There are well over 100 countries that have had additional protocols accepted by the IAEA and 90-some countries that have brought it into force. This is a critical mass of states that have adopted the Additional Protocol. We will continue to discuss with our partners how we can make it universal, invoking the words of the IAEA leadership on what they need in order to do their job, and we expect that there will be a strong statement of support for the Additional Protocol at the review conference in May.

ACT: In 2008 the Nuclear Suppliers Group [NSG] agreed to allow civil nuclear trade with India even though it doesn’t allow comprehensive IAEA safeguards covering all of its nuclear facilities. Has the exemption for India complicated efforts to achieve universalization for the Additional Protocol?

Burk: I can’t say that that, in and of itself, has complicated efforts to achieve universal adherence to the additional protocol.

ACT: Has the issue of the U.S.-Indian deal and the broader India deal with the NSG factored in discussions? Has that been raised by countries in discussing obligations they need to assume and responsibility under the NPT?

Burk: Yes. It gets raised frequently in NPT discussions, and our response is that it was seen as a way to bring India closer to the nonproliferation norm, to an agreement that would in the end bring more of their facilities under safeguards. That was the motivation. But it does come up frequently in discussions.

ACT: Moving on a bit to the issue of Article 4,[7] the Obama administration has backed proposals for international arrangements, including a so-called fuel bank, intended to give non-nuclear-weapon states an incentive not to pursue enrichment or reprocessing technologies.[8] But as you’ve seen, there have been many countries who haven’t exactly embraced this concept. How would the United States like the upcoming review conference to address Article 4 issues?

Burk: Well, addressing Article 4 issues is a broad area, and I think the fuel banks really relate to the resurgence of interest in nuclear power. But let me just make a comment about the nonpower applications. We are very mindful of not forgetting these applications in nuclear energy because, with few exceptions, NPT parties, especially in the developing world, have benefited from access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy in nonpower forms, such as medicine, agriculture, industry, universities with small reactors, and that sort of thing. In many ways, we have gotten so comfortable with this technology that we now more or less take it for granted, and we forget that it really is derived from the Atoms for Peace program of the 1950s and is made possible by the NPT.

On the power aspect of it, there is an energetic debate going on [at the IAEA] in Vienna right now on fuel banks and other multilateral fuel assurances. As I read the reports of the debates and the statements, I’ve described it as a glass half full, not a glass half empty. It is clearly a debate that is generating a lot of interest and raising a lot of issues—technical, commercial, legal, political—that need to be worked through. But our thinking is that the review conference is not the place to solve those problems. It’s not going to answer the questions and come up with the right answer on multilateral fuel banks and fuel assurances. But it is a legitimate topic of discussion because it really goes to the heart of Article 4, particularly if we’re moving in the direction of increased use of nuclear power. But the review conference could encourage the discussions in Vienna to continue because it’s important to have the right experts addressing these hard questions and urge the IAEA to continue to address them. So, we think that would be a good outcome. The review conference could usefully give a boost to these discussions and encourage that they continue, without prejudice to how they would come out.

ACT: Can we just turn that around a bit? Because, as you say it might not be the purview of the review conference to decide something that is being discussed in Vienna, but it’s the whole issue that the divisions among countries on the fuel banks might be seen as showing the different views of how the Article 4 obligations should play out, the balance between the inalienable right versus the need to be in conformity with Articles 1 and 2. Doesn’t that divided vote at the Board of Governors indicate a very different perception among different countries about what exactly Article 4 requires, whether the dissemination of enrichment actually constitutes a proliferation risk or not, and basic, fundamental questions for Article 4 like that?

Burk: It does, and I think if you look at the review conference, this is a legitimate discussion to have in the Main Committee on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We can debate this issue. We have to sort through some of the political debates and the more practical technical debates. At the moment, we have got a mix of both. So I can’t prejudge the discussion, but I think you framed it correctly. That is an issue we can expect to spend time on in New York. But again, I don’t think that the review conference is necessarily going to agree on a solution to the problem. I think the IAEA is where this debate needs to continue because it has the right technical experts. Perhaps the review conference could agree on some principles under the “peaceful uses” heading, but I can’t predict what the outcome would be. We will get into this discussion of inalienable rights because that is clearly the point that has struck a nerve. Hopefully, there will be an opportunity to explain where the multilateral nuclear assurance proposals stand now and their advantages. The whole goal here is to try and find a way to make nuclear power—if that is the course a country wants to pursue—affordable, safe, and secure without contributing to proliferation. I think, in the end, we can get through some of these discussions and get to that point.

ACT: You mentioned earlier that North Korea was an outstanding issue, that they declared they had withdrawn from the treaty. Since that declaration, NPT states-parties have been trying to find a way to deal with the potential for additional withdrawals. How would the United States like the review conference to address that question?

Burk: First, it is important to state up front, because there is frequently a misunderstanding, that the United States is not seeking any changes to the withdrawal provision of the NPT.[9] We believe that states should have the right to withdraw and to decide what conditions require them to take such a significant step. But what we have been looking at is the issue of potential abuse of the withdrawal clause. When I first came on board, I was reading about what had been done in 2005. Articles have been written by folks outside of government on this issue, and NPT parties, including the United States, have tabled papers at past PrepComs [Preparatory Committee meetings] on this issue. The concerns seem to be, in the first instance, a situation where a country violates the treaty and then withdraws as a way to escape the violations. I have not encountered anyone in my contacts who believes that a state should not be held accountable for those violations even if it decides to withdraw. So our effort has been to try to identify some specific points or specific measures that the NPT parties might agree that they would be prepared to take, one, in the event a state announced it was withdrawing, to determine whether or not it was in violation, and two, if it were, to remedy that violation. I think the North Korea case is the one that most people are familiar with.

ACT: That discussion has been going on for some time. Do you believe that the states-parties at this conference are close to an agreement as to what the collective response should be?

Burk: At this moment?

ACT: Is this a particular goal of the United States at this conference at this time?

Burk: It is one of our goals. We would like to see the conference address this issue and ideally agree on some steps. But at this moment in time, are we close to agreement on that? No. We are still talking about it and expanding the circle of countries that we are sharing specific ideas with.

ACT: Even if you manage to find agreement on all those issues at the review conference, another outstanding issue that many observers believe might need to be addressed, if there is going to be an overall agreement, is the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, which calls for the establishment of a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone and for all states in the region to join the NPT. At last year’s Preparatory Committee, key states, including Egypt, had issued specific ideas for advancing the goals of the resolution. What is the possibility at the review conference for getting agreement on either those proposals or other ideas for advancing progress on the resolution?

Burk: I’m not into predicting possibilities for agreement at this point on things. What’s important is that we are making very clear that we support fully the goals and objectives of the 1995 resolution. To the extent there was any question about that in the past, we are trying to set that straight: We support it. We support the achievement of a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. I can’t speak to specific proposals on this. We are very aware of the proposals that are out there and understand the importance of this issue to this review conference.

ACT: But if I could just follow up: The 1995 resolution was widely supported. Since then, it has been widely supported. Yet there has been, by all measures, very little progress toward that goal, and one of the key points of friction at the last review conference was the apparent lack of progress on this goal. What ideas is the United States prepared to support to help advance that goal even in modest ways? If there is not a possibility of agreement at this review conference on this subject, how likely is it that the conference as a whole might agree to a set of benchmarks and standards to strengthen all three pillars of the regime?

Burk: It is important to remember that the situation on the ground in 1995 was very different than the situation on the ground in 2010. In 1995 there was one country [in the Middle East] outside the treaty. In 2010 I need not elaborate on the additional complicating factors that have developed. So all of these developments in that region on the nonproliferation front have just added new complicating factors into any solution. That said, I think there is a good-faith effort to see if there is a way forward on this issue. It will require the goodwill, creativity, and constructive energy of more than one country. We will hope for the best, but I don’t want to predict what the outcome would be. In terms of progress on the three pillars, again, I don’t want to speculate. There is an awful lot to be gained at this review conference on all three pillars. I think we have to see where we are in May on the three pillars and on the Middle East resolution and on what there is broad, near consensus.

ACT: A month before the review conference, the United States is going to be hosting a summit on nuclear security here in Washington. How might the review conference itself advance some of the goals of that summit in terms of dealing with the threat of nuclear terrorism and securing weapons-usable nuclear material?

Burk: That is a good question. I get asked all the time about this because the proximity of the two meetings leads to a lot of confusion about their relationship, and I am at pains to tell people that they are different events. One is an NPT forum; the other is not an NPT forum. The security summit is dealing with a very narrow slice of the problem, focusing on nuclear terrorism. At this point, it will be up to the participants in the security summit that are NPT parties­, including the United States, to decide what out of that might be exportable to the review conference. I just can’t prejudge. I’m not involved directly in the preparations for the security summit. The issue could be relevant to NPT discussions, but I think we really need to leave it up to the parties to decide what to carry forward on that. That is what I have been saying when asked, and I think it’s the best way to handle this issue.

ACT: During the Preparatory Committee meeting last year, in President Obama’s personal message to the meeting, he said that the treaty needs to be strengthened and deal with nuclear weapons threats and the threat of nuclear terrorism. Is there something that the review conference can do to deal with the terrorism issue?

Burk: We haven’t been focusing on the terrorism piece, per se. We’re really focusing on the broad issue of securing and safeguarding materials, including encouraging all states to have comprehensive safeguard agreements or small quantities protocols,[10] which not all have, and to adhere to the Additional Protocol. Sort of “Nonproliferation 101” if you will—first principles. If you can secure nuclear materials against theft or diversion, that would make a big contribution. Again, we have the nuclear security summit, but it is not a meeting of NPT parties. We’ll see what comes out of that. I have been reading articles about this and listening to people talking about the relationship between safety, security, and safeguards. To my mind, it is all part of the same thing.

ACT: You said it is part of Nonproliferation 101. The NPT specifically refers to things such as safeguards and so on, but I don’t think there are specific textual references to things having to do with nuclear security and those kinds of obligations. Yet there are countries­—I’m thinking of the United Kingdom’s “Road to 2010”—where they talk about how this needs to be the fourth pillar of the NPT. So how is that going to be worked in? How will that be integrated into a discussion that is specifically focused on this treaty?

Burk: Regarding the idea of a fourth pillar—what we have to be careful of is that we don’t convey the impression that we are trying to create new obligations under the NPT. If you look at strengthening the IAEA across the board—not just safeguards, but in terms of all of its programs—that then gives you additional capacity to deal with these security issues. But I do think that the threat of loose or vulnerable material is something that NPT parties could take up. Again, there is growing international interest in pursuing nuclear power and other kinds of nuclear technologies. The international community will have to be very mindful of how to do that in a safe and secure way and not contribute to proliferation.

ACT: As I’m sure you are well aware, after the review conference is over, the gavel comes down, there is still quite a bit of work to do to strengthen the disarmament and nonproliferation regime. What does the United States intend to do in the months and years ahead to try and work toward the goal?

Burk: I would say your question goes directly to a point that I have been making in my meetings with other treaty parties, which is that the NPT review conference is a very important event in the life of the treaty, a critical event, but it is not an end in and of itself. The goal here is to renew and reinvigorate the treaty and agree on some specific steps that the international community is prepared to take in all three pillars to move forward. But very importantly, a constructive, positive review conference will give important momentum to our efforts in Vienna at the IAEA, in Geneva at the CD [Conference on Disarmament], in New York at the UN, to deal with all the issues, because that is where the work will continue to be carried out. This includes negotiations on the FMCT at the CD and dealing with issues of noncompliance at the UN, strengthening safeguards at the IAEA. So we think that the review conference can give a real boost to these efforts. You will see the United States continue to support, aggressively support, progress in all three treaty pillars, consistent with the president’s agenda.

ACT: Are there any thoughts at this point, in January of course, about, aside from you, who else might be representing the United States at this once-every-five-years review conference?

Burk: No, we don’t have a decision on that. I expect to be up there for the month as a working head of delegation, but beyond that, we don’t have any decision at this point. I would say that it is very clear that, at the highest levels, there is a keen appreciation of the importance of the NPT. I think the president has made that clear in statement after statement. The secretary of state, the undersecretary for arms control and international security have also done so. We’re working on an issue that we know is the very highest priority and on which we have the highest-level support for our efforts. That is a very gratifying thing.

ACT: Thank you very much.




1. See Wade Boese, “Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Meeting Sputters,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2005.

2. Article 6 states, “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” For the full text of the treaty, see www.state.gov/www/global/arms/treaties/npt1.html.

3. Under the treaty’s Annex 2, 44 specified countries must ratify the treaty to bring it into force. Nine of those countries—China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States—have not ratified the treaty.

4. The five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty recognizes as nuclear-weapon states are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Statements pledging not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states are often known as negative security assurances. Paragraph 9 of UN Security Council Resolution 1887 refers to such assurances. For the text of Resolution 1887 and background information on it, see www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/sc9746.doc.htm. See also Cole Harvey, “Nuclear Arms Resolution Passed at UN Summit,” Arms Control Today, October 2009.

5. For a historical summary of U.S. security assurances, see Arms Control Association, Fact Sheet, “U.S. ‘Negative Security Assurances’ At A Glance”.

6. The 1997 Model Additional Protocol provides the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with greater authority to verify all nuclear activities within a state, increasing the chances of detecting undeclared nuclear activities. Each country negotiates an individual additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA based upon the 1997 Model Additional Protocol.

7. Article 4 says, in part, that “[n]othing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.”

8. For an account of recent IAEA action in this area, see Daniel Horner, “IAEA Board Approves Russian Fuel Bank Plan,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2010.

9. Article 10 of the treaty states, “Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.”

10. Countries that are not pursuing significant nuclear activities can negotiate a small quantities protocol with the IAEA. Such a protocol suspends some of the requirements of IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreements as long as the country maintains only limited nuclear activities. The protocol’s requirements were strengthened in September 2005, and paragraph 15(a) of UN Security Council Resolution 1887 calls on all NPT non-nuclear-weapon states to adopt comprehensive IAEA safeguards or a modified version of the small quantities protocol. See Paul Kerr, “IAEA Board Closes Safeguards Loophole,” Arms Control Today, November 2005.


Interviewed by Peter Crail, Daniel Horner, and Daryl G. Kimball

Interview with OPCW Director-General Rogelio Pfirter



Interviewed by Oliver Meier

Since 2002, Rogelio Pfirter has served as director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international body charged with implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Pfirter, an Argentinean diplomat, replaced José Bustani, who was voted out of office.[1] Pfirter’s second four-year term will end in July; last December the members of the CWC appointed Ahmet Üzümcü to succeed him. [2] Arms Control Today spoke with Pfirter on December 14 about the OPCW’s achievements, as well as current and future challenges.

The interview was transcribed by Andrew Fisher. It has been edited for clarity.

ACT: Over the eight years of your tenure, what do you see as the biggest accomplishments? What are the biggest problems that you were not able deal with? What do you hope to achieve before you hand the reins over to Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, the next director-general? It may be a bit early to sum up but maybe you can try nevertheless.

Pfirter: Overall I feel satisfied. Objectively one can say that the organization is in much better shape today than it was in 2002. In 2002, there were big questions about the continued viability and ability of the organization as such. I remember very well, in July 2002 when I came, there was a profound political crisis. My predecessor’s term had been terminated early, there was a big division between some member states, and the secretariat and there were no industry inspections going on. A lot of inspectors were just sitting idly. The destruction [of chemical weapons stockpiles] in some important countries had not even started. Overall, there was a fear that the organization might find it very difficult to move on, certainly after the high expectations that gave birth to the CWC.

Today, we have a very different situation. We have moved on substantially in the implementation of the core program. Not because of the director-general but because of the overall atmosphere surrounding the organization, we have seen a substantial increase in destruction. We have seen a substantial increase and consolidation on the nonproliferation front. We have also seen a parallel increase in the other core activities of assistance and protection as well as international cooperation. Not only that, I think that as a result of us having been able to deliver on these very concrete objectives of the convention, the overall political atmosphere surrounding the organization is much stronger. We operate by consensus. It is today considered an organization that is a model and a reference for others, certainly uniquely successful in the field of disarmament and nonproliferation. The fact that seven highly qualified diplomats from very important countries presented themselves as candidates [for the post of director-general][3] I think is a sign of the respectability and regard in which the OPCW is kept today. I think also that on the administrative front, we have been able to establish an organization that is efficiently administered and managed. For the last five years we have been able to propose zero nominal growth budgets with no detriment whatsoever to our ability to deliver on the core front. Program delivery has been always to the full. Hopefully, all these things can be assessed as positive.

Now, do I regret that some things have not been achieved? Certainly. First of all, I think one our big achievements has also certainly been on the front of universality. We have 188 states-parties today. So we have come a long way; we cover 98 percent of the surface of the earth. However, I do regret that, much as we have made enormous progress, we still have not been able to bring in all the countries that are out there. There are still seven missing, of which four are very important for the ultimate success of the organization─Egypt, Israel, Syria and North Korea. So that I regret that I have not been able to accomplish that to the full, although I believe again we have made substantial progress.

I also regret that it doesn’t necessarily seem that 2012 will be the date when the destruction will have been completed.[4] But I also believe that the success of the convention is not tied to any particular date. The dates are very important milestones but certainly what is crucial is the destruction of the stockpiles, is that there is no doubt about a very strong commitment of possessor states.

On nonproliferation, I do regret that we have not been able to gain greater support for the case for inspecting more intensively certain categories of industry, particularly what is called OCPFs [Other Chemical Production Facilities]. I do believe also that there is some unfinished business in terms of getting all the necessary political support for the technical secretariat to have all the necessary equipment to face potential challenge inspections.

I think that that is more or less the status of things. It doesn’t mean that big challenges do not lie ahead. I think that there are very big challenges ahead. The fundamental challenge is probably to continuously ensure that the organization enjoys the degree of necessary political support. That necessary political support is crucial for the ability to perform. This is an organization with a strong technical arm. It could not achieve its goals without such a technical arm. But the technical arm per se would not exist without the necessary political support of governments. So the continued support for disarmament, for nonproliferation of this category of weapons of mass destruction, I see as crucial for the organization to continue its long-term mission.

ACT: Many observers, and you also, have emphasized that the election of your successor was an “example of multilateralism” and that member states acted unified. Yet on a number of issues, including reform of the industry verification system that you mentioned, and interpretation of Article XI,[5] there are ongoing discussion between the North and South. What is your opinion as to how these differences can be overcome?

Pfirter: Well, I think that they need to be overcome through consensus. There is no question: whatever we work for, it will require consensus. But if I may say so, the fact that these are the issues that you mentioned as divisive, is a show of the strength of the organization because although these issues are extremely important, they are not show-stoppers. Nobody is saying that the organization is not doing anything on international cooperation. The dilemma or divisive issue at the moment is how to continue and enhance that from the point of view of some, and what are the ultimate implications of that. But it is not a show-stopper in the sense that it has not split the organization into two. It does not in any way deviate countries from the implementation of the core objectives of disarmament and nonproliferation. I think this organization can survive with a deep debate about international cooperation but it cannot survive if there is no agreement about its disarmament or nonproliferation chapters. I’m not saying that one is less important but I think quite clearly the name of the organization itself tells what this is all about substantially. So this is an issue which is important, but I don’t think this endangers the life of the organization.

ACT: The annual budget for 2010 is 74.5 million euros. This is the fifth time in a row that a zero-nominal-growth budget has been approved by states-parties. At the same time, the scope of responsibilities is growing for the organization. How long do you think you can keep the organization running on this budget?

Pfirter: I don’t think forever. Certainly not. I think that it depends on the year, each year. I think no year necessarily sets a precedent for the following year. The work we do starts from scratch, and zero-nominal-growth budgets should not be the premise but rather the consequence of the process of elaboration of the budget. We have gone for zero nominal growth budgets not out of our whims but because that is the honest evaluation about the resources necessary to carry on full program delivery.

Certainly the commitment to efficient and prudent administrative management requires continued oversight of the issues that have a budgetary implication. It requires from us regular reassessment of the resources and also a re-evaluation of resources, as they come. For instance, take human resources. Every time we have a vacancy, we do not automatically proceed to fill it but rather reconsider whether this is necessary. Reallocation of resources, re-evaluation of resources, elimination of redundancies, and so on: these are all key to prudent management, and I think, as much as is feasible, zero-nominal-growth budgets will continue. And if it is no longer feasible with zero-nominal-growth budgets, then it will be for the director-general to propose.

ACT: How can and how should member states deal with a possible violation of CWC destruction deadlines, particularly by the United States and Russia, which hold the two largest stockpiles? In the past you have mentioned the possibility of holding a special conference in 2012. And in your statement to the conference of states-parties, you refer to the decision by the Executive Council to engage in informal consultations with interested delegations. When do you think member states need to take action on this matter? What action could a special conference of states parties take on this matter?

Pfirter: Well, first of all you speak about violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention if I heard you correctly. The core purpose of the CWC is to ensure the full, irreversible, complete and universal destruction of existing stockpiles by possessor states. I do not believe that we run the risk of that central objective being violated by the two major possessor states. I think all possessor states are fully committed to the complete and irreversible and verifiable destruction of their stockpiles. I also believe that their commitment has never weakened and that they have taken and continue to take the necessary measures for that. So I don’t think the convention will be violated from that point of view.

The convention of course also establishes a date for this to be completed. We know already that present estimates in the United States indicate that they may not be able to complete destruction by that date, and we also know that for all possessor states the remaining task is dangerous, expensive, and complex and that it is not guaranteed that they themselves will finalize it by 2012.[6] So ideally this is a situation that should be remedied within the terms of the convention. The convention does offer the mechanisms for this. I also believe it would be entirely premature at this stage to come to any definitive conclusions. We come with a group of possessor states. We know there is a determination and we come with a commitment to seek continuously ways of accelerating destruction.

Should destruction not be completed by 2012, I think that will be the moment when we need to cross that particular bridge. In the meantime, as I said in my statement, I think it is prudent, it is correct for the policymaking organs and particularly the Executive Council to have entrusted its chairman, on the basis of a proposal made by Brazil, to begin consulting on how delegations see this issue, on how we can be best prepared for the future.

I myself have as an add-on to my official statement included some personal reflections on this issue, and I have tried to indicate that I am convinced that the date of 2012 is extremely important. It is a legally standing date in the convention, but I think we need not to make the ultimate success of the treaty dependent on any particular date.

The treaty will be successful if all chemical weapons are destroyed. The fact that the council has chosen to act in the way it has chosen[7] indicates to me that people indeed share this view of moving on prudently, always bearing in mind as a priority the ultimate goals of the treaty. I have said in preparations for the second review conference [in 2008], in a document I produced in late 2007, that in my view, as we approach 2012, there would probably be merit for some sort of special meeting in order to address this issue. At such a meeting member states could take stock of the actual status of destruction and if the situation would merit it, they could also decide some sort of additional remedial action. I am not saying we ignore the significance of meeting the destruction deadline in 2012, but certainly we do not at the same time overstate its implications for the ultimate central disarmament goal of ensuring destruction of chemical weapons.

ACT: Two questions on verification. The first one is rather general. What is the state of affairs is with regard to shifting the focus of CWC verification from destruction monitoring to industry verification? What progress on this issue has been made since the last review conference in 2008 and what do you think the next steps should be?

Pfirter: I think as a consequence of the ultimate success of the convention in ensuring the total destruction of existing declared stockpiles, unavoidably there will be a progressive devolution in the engagement of the organization into chemical weapons verification activities. You have to recall that at this moment, 85 percent of the verification effort is allocated to destruction. As this is completed, unavoidably there will be less demand on our hands. At the same time, we have a long-term objective in the convention of ensuring the future nonproliferation of chemical weapons. I’m not saying all energies allocated to verifying destruction will automatically be shifted to verifying nonproliferation, but there will certainly be greater emphasis [on] and greater visibility of [the] nonproliferation goal because somehow this will demand and receive the greater percentage of the verification effort.

So I think it is a natural result of the flow of activities, as the convention moves on. Of course disarmament will not be completed because there might still be countries outside which have chemical weapons, but by and large, the task of verifying Russian and American stockpiles will have diminished. I think that we have made progress in the sense that people increasingly recognize this flow of emphasis, not from one to the other, but rather [in the sense of] nonproliferation being more evident. People have to recognize this is not a consequence of any sort of political doctrine of the convention intended to shift priorities, but rather just as I said, it is the natural flow of the implementation of the treaty. The more people understand that, the more confident they will be that this is not a change in the objectives of the convention but rather a reassuring indication of fulfilling it to the full. And the long-term goal is obviously nonproliferation.

ACT: The other question on verification is related to so-called Other Chemical Production Facilities. This is one of the issues you have highlighted over the years. In your statement to the conference of states-parties, you basically admitted that within the current verification framework, it might be very difficult, or maybe even impossible to inspect a sufficient number of OCPFs to be sure that they are not misused for prohibited purposes, at least in the few states that have a large number of OCPFs [8] Instead you have proposed a complementary approach for expanding the number of OCPFs that can be inspected each year. You have said that in those countries with many OCPFs, the national authorities themselves would verify, or could verify some of the declared OCPFs. Can you elaborate how this system would work and how under such a system, other countries would be ensured that these self-inspections would be credible? What have been the reactions to your proposal from states-parties?

Pfirter: After several years of dealing with this issue and after several years of hopefully having shown my strong belief in the need for considerably greater effort on the front of OCPFs─particularly those OCPFs, which, due to their characteristics, offer the potential for quick reconversion for introduction of chemicals which are prohibited under the convention─after these many years and having represented that in my proposals for increased number of inspections, I believe that it is appropriate for me to recall also the fact that the convention itself is a source of some ambiguity on this front. As you might know, there is a quantitative limit on the number of OCPF inspections that could be conducted in any given year or in any particular country. The combined schedule 3[9] and OCPF number of inspections per country, the maximum allowed under the convention is 20. So for a country which declares a thousand OCPFs it is just a question of dividing the totality [of facilities] by the maximum number [of inspections] allowed under the convention, and you can well see how many decades it would take the organization to verify those facilities.

In addition to that, there is some urgency arising from the fact that the organization can only inspect that which has been approved in the budget. The budget negotiations show quite clearly that improving or obtaining the necessary resources to increase, not significantly but just modestly, the number of OCPF inspections, is very complex  It is very, very difficult to get any consensus around it. So the realities of the convention are also augmented by the inflexibilities we face with regard to the practical allocation of resources for this type of inspection.

In that light, and because I remain strongly convinced that we do definitely need to enhance our efforts on that particular category of facilities, I have tried to find a way of enlarging the scope of inspections while at the same time somehow dodging the obstacles we face at present.

I thought that maybe, bringing it to the fore and seeking the cooperation of national authorities in those very few countries that have a large number of facilities, seeking their cooperation, as a complement, not as a substitute for, but as a complement to, what the OPCW will do on its own, and based on the regular budget for [inspecting] OCPFs, maybe could help us to augment the number and quality of what we are addressing currently through our OCPF regime.

Therefore, it will not replace the OCPF program which will work as usual. Rather, through the goodwill of national authorities and through a procedure which will have to be cleared with the OPCW, which will have OPCW endorsement─and that could only be forthcoming if we know there will be no diversion whatsoever from the strictness of the verification regime─we could in this way enlarge the number of facilities under verification.

But let me be clear that this would be without prejudice to the OPCW carrying out its regular program. I don’t see how the regular program can be increased, because we would either need to change the convention or change budget allocations.

ACT: Have you had any reactions to your proposal yet from states-parties?

Pfirter: I made it quite clear this was not part of my statement in what pertains to the implementation of the convention as dictated by the convention but rather a personal reflection. What I sought at this stage is to, if possible, motivate some discussions on the basis of these [proposals] or something different. What I believe is we need to break the inertia and the status quo. Our discussions have been inconclusive with regard to any concrete improvement in the verification of this category and this may be something that will motivate member states.

Some member states have expressed to me an interest in the concept. No one came to me rejecting this. Of course some countries have questions. I am not thinking of presenting a concrete format nor is it a formal proposal. It is just an idea. And I hope in that sense we will have been feeding some food for thought and provoking some brainstorming on the part of member states about this.

I think that we need to do something on this front because otherwise we run the risk of being complacent in believing that we are doing what the convention allows us to do and that is all right, we are very fine and therefore should not be worried. But the truth is we are not doing a sufficient amount in terms of quantity nor in terms of quality. For me, it has been a source of some frustration to see that we have not necessarily succeeded in awakening all member states to what needs to be done in this category. This is a category that is difficult not only for what a member state itself could do but if terrorists would like to engage in something more than an occasional act. This is a category that would open itself for such a possibility. So I think we have to be very careful and we have to act on that.

ACT: The next question is on incapacitants. The last review conference was unable to address the issue of how toxic chemicals, such as incapacitating chemical weapons, can be better regulated when used for permitted law enforcement purposes.[10] For example, Russia has employed chemical incapacitants for domestic counterterrorism. Yet the convention is ambiguous with respect to the types of operations for which such use is permitted.[11] In your statement to the conference of states-parties, you said that at some stage in the not-too-distant future, there is a need to take stock of the growing interest on the part of some governments and civil society in developments related to matters where the convention might be ambiguous or where it has gaps which might have an impact on the ultimate effectiveness of the ban on chemical weapons. You said “incapacitants, or nonlethal weapons is one such area when it comes to exact types and quantities of permitted use,”[12] and you specifically recommended to involve the Scientific Advisory Board[13] and that the next review conference, in 2013, should look into the matter. Can you elaborate a little bit on these proposals and can you explain what type of action needs to be taken?

Pfirter: I prefer to be a bit shy on that front. However, I have to say that throughout my years as director-general, this issue has risen in interest, not just from a purely theoretical point of view. It needs to be tested vis-à-vis the convention, also because some riot control agents have been used in certain circumstances, with the result that we have a special interest of concern. And so these issues are real. I think we will all recognize that when it comes to types and quantities [of toxic chemicals for purposes that are permitted under the CWC], and when one takes into account developments in chemistry and the appearance of so-called nonlethal chemicals, we need to seek further clarification, just to make sure that the CWC remains the ultimate relevant document for addressing anything that has to do with the issues which are central to its objectives.

In that context again, some legitimate questions have been presented and we need to look into that. We need to look into that prudently. We should not allow this issue to be politicized. This issue first and foremost needs to be well informed from the scientific point of view, and that is why I am suggesting that the [OPCW’s Scientific Advisory Board] be the first one, if the organization so considers, to look into this matter, and then at the next review conference, if sufficient information has been produced by that date, the member states will look into it. The issue will not go away. There are some countries which are very keen on having it debated. Precisely because I believe we should look at the future and be prepared [and that] we should also recognize that questions have to answered, I have suggested what I have suggested. I think this is a prudent and reasonable way to move on.

ACT: There are only seven states that have not ratified the CWC. What can be done to convince the remaining holdout states, particularly those in the Middle East, to accede to the convention? Which non-member state do you think is likely to ratify or accede next?

Pfirter: I’m hopeful about Angola because I don’t believe there is any issue behind the delay, or at least not any issue related to the objectives and purposes of the convention. I think we should continue to try and support Angola as it focuses on this convention and to present the case for early adherence. I’m confident that Angola can take such a step within a reasonable period of time, hopefully very soon.

Myanmar is another country which I believe has demonstrated a recent interest in following up this issue. They have had some concerns which I have tried to clarify. I will not lose hope that within a process of reappraisal of relations with international organizations and countries, they could see that [accession] is ultimately advantageous for all, including Myanmar.

In the case of Somalia, I believe that many other things have to happen before any government there will be able to focus on ratification.

Then we are left with the other four countries. As for North Korea, I would hope that at some stage, the countries that still have the ability to have contacts and maybe some degree of influence on the policies of that country, that they would pursue relentlessly the idea of encouraging them to join. I think that no country should be given the privilege, the undesirable privilege, of not being under the need to join the convention. Sometimes, I hear about North Korea that this is not a priority, that maybe one day [they would join], let’s not stir the issue so much, let’s focus on the nuclear issue. I don’t think anyone is in doubt about the seriousness and urgency of the nuclear issue but I don’t think that should be a reason for not at the same time presenting the case for the CWC. That would give privilege to North Korea by saying “You are not under the same urgency as others.” It defeats the purpose and the standing of the convention to accept that there might be reasonable reasons for not joining.

And a bit of that also goes for the Middle East. I’m not holding my breath about any of the three countries in the Middle East that are still not members to join any time soon. I do believe that Israel has shown goodwill in being an observer at the OPCW with interest. That in itself will not suffice. It can never replace ratification of the treaty, but I think it is positive in the sense that the signals are, “We are willing to engage.” And it allows the OPCW to present its case directly to the country concerned. I also recognize Israel has enacted internal legislation and an export control regime that is tantamount to the nonproliferation [commitments of] our member states under the treaty. And I value the diplomatic dialogue which we have continued to have, at least throughout the years when I have been director-general.

Something of the same goes to Egypt. We have had a good dialogue. We have also had Egypt participating in some of our activities. I think this also does not replace adherence to the convention but it is a good sign of a will to engage. I also have to recall that Egypt, like all the other countries, has always participated in the consensus resolution in support of the OPCW in the United Nations General Assembly.

In the case of Syria, I value mostly the fact that we have restarted our dialogue, which for two or three years was a bit idling. I had an hour with Syria’s ambassador in the United Nations and he offered me a very good opportunity to advance the case for universality.

But in none of these countries should we be expecting any quick moves. So it will remain a challenge for the organization, and I am absolutely convinced that Ambassador Üzümcü should continue with this matter. I’m sure he is ideally positioned for doing so. I am an optimist that progress will eventually be achieved.

ACT: On the sidelines of the last conference of states-parties, the “Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition,” a new network of nongovernmental organizations [NGOs], was launched. What is your view on how civil society can best support the CWC?

Pfirter: I think [involvement of] civil society in these things, which are subjects of interest to the international community and humanity as a whole, is crucial. It is absolutely legitimate that NGOs take an interest and recognize us as stakeholders on this issue and that we will try and engage them. That is why I have been delighted to support the initiative of Global Green in the United States in the creation of a global coalition in support of the objectives of the convention, most specifically on the issue of universality. I think it’s a brilliant idea. I think the OPCW needs continued support. It is an idea which is inclusive, which helps produce interest across the membership, and we have a very representative rainbow of organizations [participating at the meeting]. So I think that hopefully this will be something the OPCW will continue to recognize and support.

ACT: Thank you very much.



1. See Rose Gordon, “New OPCW Head Appointed,” Arms Control Today, September 2002, p. 20, www.armscontrol.org/act/2002_09/opcw_sept02.

2. See Oliver Meier, “OPCW Chiefs Ponder Chemical Arms Deadlines,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2010, pp. 32-33, www.armscontrol.org/act/2010_01-02/OPCW.

3. See Oliver Meier, “Race is On for New Head of OPCW,” Arms Control Today, September 2009, pp. 31-32, www.armscontrol.org/act/2009_09/OPCW.

4. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires states-parties to destroy their chemical weapons by 2007, 10 years after the CWC's entry into force. It is possible to request an extension of this destruction deadline by up to five years, until 2012. The conference of states-parties on December 8, 2006, approved requests for extensions of the final date for the destruction of the declared chemical weapons stockpiles for India, Libya, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. Russia and the United States are now obligated to eliminate their stockpiles by April 29, 2012. See Caitlin Harrington, “Chemical Weapons Deadlines Extended,” Arms Control Today,, January/February 2007, pp. 29-30, www.armscontrol.org/act/2007_01-02/CWDeadlines.

5. Article XI promotes trade in chemicals for peaceful purposes and the development of chemistry in all states-parties for purposes not prohibited under the convention.

6. The United States has already announced that it will be unable to meet the April 29, 2012, destruction deadline and there are doubts about Russia’s ability to comply. See Rachel A. Weise, “Russia, U.S. Lag on Chemical Arms Deadline,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2009, pp. 28-29, www.armscontrol.org/act/2009_07-08/chemical_weapons.

7. During its October 13-16 session, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW’s) Executive Council requested its chairperson, Ambassador Jorge Lomónaco Tonda of Mexico, “to engage in informal consultations with interested delegations on how and when to initiate discussion by the Council on issues related to meeting the final extended deadlines for the destruction of chemical weapons and to keep the Council informed of these consultations.” See OPCW Executive Council, “Report of the Fifty-Eighth Session of the Executive Council” EC-58/9, October 16, 2009, p. 5, http://www.opcw.org/index.php?eID=dam_frontend_download&fileID=13461.

8. OPCW Conference of States Parties, “Opening Statement by the Director-General to the Conference of the States Parties at its Fourteenth Session” C-14/DG.13, November 30, 2009, p. 26, http://www.opcw.org/index.php?eID=dam_frontend_download&fileID=13622.

9. The CWC verification system is based on three “schedules,” or lists of toxic chemicals and their precursors that have been developed and manufactured in the past for military purposes. Schedule 1 consists of chemical warfare agents and precursors that have no significant commercial applications, although they may be synthesized in small quantities for scientific research, pharmaceutical development, or chemical defense. Schedule 2 lists toxic chemicals and precursors that have commercial applications in small quantities. Schedule 3 contains toxic chemicals and precursors that have commercial applications in large quantities. The primary focus of routine inspections of the chemical industry under the CWC is on declared production facilities that manufacture the dual-use chemicals listed in Schedules 2 or 3. In recent years, however, the advent of small, multipurpose chemical-production facilities has made the batch synthesis of organic (carbon-based) compounds more automated and flexible. Such multipurpose plants, which constitute a fraction of the category of Other Chemical Production Facilities (OCPFs), are potentially easier to divert to chemical weapons production than large, inflexible facilities that produce specific scheduled chemicals. As of November 2006, 77 member states had declared a total of 5,225 OCPFs, or more than five times the number of declared facilities that produce Schedule 1, 2, and 3 chemicals. See Jonathan Tucker, “Verifying the Chemical Weapons Ban: Missing Elements,” Arms Control Today,, January/February 2007, pp. 6-13, www.armscontrol.org/act/2007_01-02/Tucker.

10. See Oliver Meier, “CWC Review Conference Avoids Difficult Issues,” Arms Control Today, May 2008, pp. 32-35, www.armscontrol.org/act/2008_05/CWC.

11. Article VI of the CWC gives states-parties the right to maintain toxic chemicals for purposes not prohibited under the convention, including “law enforcement, including domestic riot control.” Whether the CWC permits the development and use for domestic law enforcement purposes of incapacitating agents with long-lasting effects, in addition to riot-control agents with transient effects, such as CS tear gas, is a matter of intense debate.

12. OPCW Conference of States Parties, “Opening Statement by the Director-General to the Conference of the States Parties at Its Fourteenth Session” C-14/DG.13, November 30, 2009, p. 27, http://www.opcw.org/index.php?eID=dam_frontend_download&fileID=13622.

13. The Scientific Advisory Board is a group composed of independent experts who are mandated to assess relevant scientific and technological developments and report on such subjects to the director-general.



Interviewed by Oliver Meier

Pressing a Broad Agenda for Combating Nuclear Dangers: An Interview With Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher



Interviewed by Daniel Horner and Tom Z. Collina

Ellen Tauscher was sworn in June 27 as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Before that, she represented her northern California district for 13 years in the House, where she served on the Armed Services Committee. From 2007, she chaired the panel’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee.

Arms Control Today spoke with Tauscher in her office October 21. The interview covered a range of issues in Tauscher’s portfolio, from strategic arms control to plans for an international fuel bank.

Shortly before the interview, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a high-profile speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace on arms control and nonproliferation. Tauscher and ACT refer to that speech at several points in the interview.

The interview was transcribed by Anna Hood. It has been edited for length and clarity.

ACT: You were recently in Moscow to discuss START, among other issues. On the START follow-on, there are a lot of unresolved issues and not very much time. What in your view are the most difficult issues to resolve?

Tauscher: Well, I’m not going to negotiate with myself, nor am I going to negotiate through the press. Let me just say that we have a very senior team in Geneva. [The Russians] have a very senior team in Geneva. The presidents, President Medvedev and President Obama, have agreed to have a legally binding follow-on to START in place for the expiration of START on midnight of [December] 4. We do have a number of issues to go through. These are complicated treaties, but at the same time, I think we really want to have a treaty that reduces our weapons, increases stability with our friends, the Russian government, and at the same time is working toward our nonproliferation objectives, and I think that we are on a path to go forward. We have a stock-taking at the end of [October] with our team to see where we are on the issues that are perhaps going to have to be raised up to different principals or moved forward in a more expedited way, but it’s our intention to be able to replace the START treaty when it expires.

ACT: And you’re still confident that you’ll have some agreement by December 5?

Tauscher: Well, keep in mind that this is very difficult. This administration came into office, had to get people confirmed, had to step up its engagement and reset our relationship with the Russians. And we think that we have done that in a very quick time frame. But at the same time, there’s no denying that this existing START treaty expires. We are working to get something that we can put into place that meets what the presidents have agreed to. It’s hard to do, but not impossible to do. We’ve got everybody that we need to have on it on it. The Russians have met us with both seniority and expertise on their negotiating side, and we’re pressing ahead.

ACT: Secretary Clinton said in her confirmation hearing that the administration “will seek deep, verifiable reductions in all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, whether deployed or nondeployed, strategic or nonstrategic.” And President Obama said at the UN Security Council meeting in September that the U.S. “will complete a Nuclear Posture Review [NPR] that opens the door to deeper cuts.” Beyond the START follow-on, what will be the administration’s goals for the scope and scale of further reductions?

Tauscher: Well, we are finishing the Nuclear Posture Review that is due toward the end of the year to the Congress. And what’s clear is that we’re working under the scope of strategic offensive weapons in the START treaty and that there is an asymmetry between the United States’ stockpile, both strategic and tactical, and the Russian stockpile. What we’re looking for is a follow-on to the follow-on, where we will begin to deal with those issues. But one treaty at a time. So we’re congruent with what both Secretary Clinton said in her confirmation hearings about moving forward, after we’ve finished with what we’re doing, and certainly with the president’s ambitions too.

ACT: I realize that it’s one treaty at a time, but can you conceptually say where you’d like to get on issues like verification?

Tauscher: Well, let me just say that the underpinning of all of these agreements is verification. There is a level of confidence that is meant to be attained by these agreements. Although it is not trivial to take down weapons, that is not the only piece of this that we’re looking to attain. It is a sense of stability and confidence building, and the way to do that is through verification protocols.

ACT: One of the things that Secretary Clinton talked about that isn’t happening in the START follow-on is verified warhead dismantlement. You seem to be moving from the past, when we looked at monitoring the missiles, to monitoring the actual warheads in the future at some point. Is this something that is envisioned as part of the follow-on to the follow-on?

Tauscher: It is certainly envisioned to be in future opportunities, but, as I said, verification is a piece of what we’re looking for in all future negotiations. It is important, not only in the sense that you move past just the accounting for things and actually have the ability to reassure the two parties, multiple parties, the world community, that we are fulfilling our obligations. The NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] obligations of Article VI of disarmament are defined more than just… “Disarmament,” what does that mean? Does it mean you put it down? Does it mean you put it down, take it apart? Does it mean that you put it down, take it apart, put it on blocks in a garage? Or does that mean you put it down, take it apart, and make sure that you can’t ever use it again? We could disagree. I could tell you I’m disarming, but it could mean that I’m just putting things on blocks in the garage. So we have to have common agreement on what these definitions are, and we have to have verification.

ACT: Are there arrangements in place to continue the verification measures under START after December 5 if there is no treaty in place and in force? How is that going to be handledf

Tauscher: Well, our plan is to find an accommodation to manage, maintain verification protocols in between [expiration of the current treaty and ratification of the new one]. We’ve got lawyers looking at that, we’re talking to our Russian friends about how we do that. But as you can see, we have a significant accent on verification. So the key is how do we maintain it in the absence of a ratified treaty but a legally binding one. So, we’re looking at that.

ACT: Moving now to tactical weapons, how could the United States draw the Russians into a conversation about tactical nuclear weapons? Your adviser Robert Einhorn suggested at a meeting organized by STRATCOM [U.S. Strategic Command] in July that the United States, as an inducement to Russia, “should be prepared to reduce or eliminate the relatively small number of U.S. nuclear weapons that remain in Europe.” Is the United States actively discussing this possibility with its NATO allies?

Tauscher: Well, we are beginning to have conversations because the NPR clearly is an opportunity for us to get in and discuss these and bigger issues, missile defense and other things, with our NATO allies. So I was on the phone with Ambassador [to NATO Ivo] Daalder this morning on how we’re going to manage the narrative, as we call it, of the NPR and what that means for extended deterrence, tactical nuclear weapons, all of that. So we are formulating our positions on these things. We will safely say that there’ll be very large engagement on these issues.

ACT: Do those conversations begin with the assumption that tactical weapons still have a useful military role in Europe or that they are more symbolic weapons?

Tauscher: That’s what the NPR will answer. The narrative of the NPR is a transformational message. While the NPR is a lot about numbers and is about declaratory policy, doctrine, and posture, the narrative of those pieces of it [is] a significant policy statement of this administration. So it is very important that everything is done to prepare what that is. We have an agreement on that inside the Obama administration. Then, once we do that, we can start to begin to have conversations with our friends and allies, interested parties and those to whom we have extended our deterrence. So there is a direct link between what we’re doing in the NPR and these conversations that you have suggested, and there are lots of people that are interested for lots of reasons, and they will become part of the conversation. But we are still in the midst of the NPR review.

ACT: The secretary of state alluded to this subject in her speech this morning. At one point, she talked about providing reassurance to allies in a way that reinforces U.S. nonproliferation objectives. Can you explain what she meant by that and expand on that a little bit?

Tauscher: Part of the NPR is that it’s a policy and political document, and it is meant to articulate how the United States views the uses of nuclear weapons, what that says about the stockpile, what it says about our declaratory policy. But it also is meant to reassure both the people to whom we have extended our deterrence, our allies, [and to] make clear that we are—while the president has articulated a point on the horizon for nuclear zero and while it will take persistence and patience to get there, we may not get there in our lifetime, but we will maintain a credible deterrent, one that is reliable and effective, until the point where we take down our last weapon. So there is a balancing act there.

ACT: At the CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] Article XIV conference in September, Secretary Clinton said that the CTBT “is an integral part of our nonproliferation and arms control agenda, and we will work in the months ahead…to seek the advice and consent of the United States Senate to ratify the treaty.” Could you tell us a bit about how the administration plans to win Senate support for ratification and your time frame for that?

Tauscher: The president has set no specific timeline for achieving ratification. The vice president is very involved in the effort to seek ratification. There’s a lot of queuing and sequencing going on. Right now, we’re finishing negotiations on START. START needs to be ratified. In the meantime we’re conducting the Nuclear Posture Review. We’re going to have a [fiscal year 2011] budget submission. There are a number of pieces here that are important to the narrative for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. We have been living under the conditions of it since [President George H.W.] Bush.[1] So it’s been a very long time, and we have had advances in Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship. Secretary Clinton [in her October 21 speech] also talked about Stockpile Management and where that fits in. What we have is a commitment by the administration to advance the CTBT.

The CTBT is both about policy and about politics. This administration will not attempt to [seek ratification] unless we believe it can actually pass.[2] So there is a lot about this that is important to informing [the public and Congress] to gain [the Senate’s] advice and consent. Part of it is clearly a domestic campaign, and there is a lot of international interest because of the consequences of United States ratification for those eight Annex II countries,[3] its significance. The whole question of going into force is on the bubble.

From our point of view, we have a plan, but it is one that is about informing and advancing the different parts of the president’s agenda. But we do think that these information data points are very, very key to us getting the narrative right. There is clearly, for many senators, a need to thread the needle, find the sweet spot between the goal of a nuclear zero but the necessity to maintain a secure and reliable and effective stockpile until those conditions for nuclear zero are met. So there’s a need to be doing the things necessary to get to nuclear zero, which includes things that strengthen nonproliferation and the ability to maintain weapons in an effective way. Making those investments in the NNSA [National Nuclear Security Administration] stockpile stewardship management and the [U.S. nuclear weapons] complex itself. Then the things that you’re doing in a multilateral, bilateral way and through treaty obligations, either ones that you build yourself or ones that you have had long relationships with, like the NPT. So you’re doing it almost in a parallel effort. So we have the NPR, which is [expected to be released] in late December, early January, and then you have the February budget submission. There will be a number of senators looking to those two events for the congruity of their quest to be able to support the CTBT.

Now we also have the issue of having to ratify START. In a perfect world, perhaps we wish it was already done. We will go to the Senate for the ratification of [a] START [follow-on]; and then at the same time, we will bring up the conversation and the narrative of CTBT, which leads us into the NPT. We’re hoping, obviously, that on an FMCT [fissile material cutoff treaty], the program of work will go forward in the CD [Conference on Disarmament].[4] We join everyone in requesting that our Pakistani friends protest at the right moment but not now.

As you can see, these are all interrelated and interconnected. Next year is an election year. It’s a shorter year legislatively, so a lot of this is kind of wait-and-see. But we definitely have a plan to go forward.

ACT: If the CTBT is not ratified before the NPT conference, is the administration thinking about any steps short of that to show progress on the test ban in the NPT context?

Tauscher: Yeah, we’re very aware of—I think that part of our delivery in the short term will be the NPR and the budget submission. [We are] laying the groundwork for the support of a supermajority in the Senate, 67 votes—we think we understand where we need to be to attract persuadable senators and certain senators that have voted for it before, persuadable senators who have not voted on it yet. Part of it is also to get START done in a way where we have very good support. The fact is that these are interconnected and interrelated, and we have to do them somewhat in order because of circumstances like START expiring. We [will] have a very, very short window to talk about CTBT. But when we believe that we have the right conditions, we will begin to engage the Senate.

The NAS [National Academy of Sciences] study will be coming out in January-February,[5] so there are a bunch of data points that are coming forward. There are a number of things that we’re looking for to inform the debate and to provide the narrative and to provide the fact base and more current information. It’s been a very, very long time since the Senate considered this. At the time, it was only six and a half, seven years between the [start of the U.S. testing moratorium] and when the Senate considered it in ’99. We had a long record at the time of Stockpile Stewardship and Life Extension Program[s], but now we have 10 more years. You cannot trivialize the success of the Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship Program. But at the same time, I think that you also see that there are a number of senators that are looking for other kinds of reassurances, including what the budget is going to be and the financial commitment and the sustainability. So I think that the NAfS study is going to provide an independent, nonpartisan set of facts that can be used by anyone that wants to be informed on how we should go forward.

ACT: You talked about how the various issues are interrelated and many states around the world see the CTBT as a means to limit qualitative improvements in nuclear arsenals. The president made clear during the campaign that he would “stop the development of new nuclear weapons,” and you, as a member of Congress, were instrumental in defeating an earlier proposal to develop a so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead [RRW]. However, some have suggested that, to maintain the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, the nuclear weapons infrastructure and perhaps some warheads will need to be “modernized.” You were quoted in The Cable September 15 as saying, “I think there are a lot people that still hope for the return of [the] RRW [program] and they are going to be sadly disappointed.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

Tauscher: Well, it’s amazing how things happen. It’s like the tree falling in the forest. When I was still chairman of [the] Strategic Forces [Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee] in the winter and spring [of 2008-2009], we built the strategic forces component of the defense authorization bill, which included what’s called Stockpile Management. Let me just step back for a minute. RRW, when it was originally conceived by the [national laboratory] directors, was something that I supported. It was the ability to refurbish classes of weapons without [adding] any capability, changing platform, or requiring testing. It’s a life extension function; it is not to create a new capability or to boost capability or to enhance capability or to create a new weapon. It is to take the existing weapon portfolio and, as needed or required, refurbish that weapon class so that it survives, so that it is part of the stockpile that can give the assurance that Gen. [Kevin] Chilton, as the commander of STRATCOM, needs.

Unfortunately, in the previous administration’s hands, RRW became a new weapon, and it had to go away.

But the capabilities that were originally envisioned in RRW are still necessary. So we brought them back under life extension principles. The other problem RRW had was that it was out by itself. It was on its own. It looked like a whole new thing. Part of the problem was that it looked like an effort as opposed to a tool. So we created something called Stockpile Management, which effectively is the same kinds of abilities, tools under life extension programs, under stockpile stewardship. A tool called Stockpile Management, and the [congressional] authorizers say you can refurbish weapons but you may not refurbish weapons [in a way] that causes a question of certification. You may not use anything that cannot be certified that could cause you to test. You cannot do anything that is going to increase yield, change the characterization of a weapon, or change the platform. We put all these fences around it. That exists now, in the [fiscal year 2010] national defense bill. Until about three or four weeks ago, I still had people saying to me, “Don’t you think we need something to refurbish weapons?” or “Don’t you think we have to find a way to bring RRW back?” I’m saying we did. It’s called Stockpile Management. So they started looking at it, and they said, “Oh.” So we have a way to refurbish weapons.

You know, even Jim Schlesinger in that strategic posture [commission report] says that “modernize” is one of those kind of riddled terms.[6] It makes people ask, “What do you mean by that?” So talking about it has been very difficult for a lot of people because you don’t want to lead people down the RRW path, which is that you’re going to go and build new weapons.

The other thing we killed was RNEP [Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator]. So it wasn’t like [the Bush administration] got accused of this without any history of trying to do this stuff. I think this administration understands that we need a capability to refurbish weapons. But it’s a tool. You don’t go out and refurbish everything.

ACT: Some are concerned that, in the context of Stockpile Management, RRW, by which we mean new designs of warheads that may not have any additional characteristics or military value, will be brought be back under the NPR.

Tauscher: No. No.

ACT: There are these three proposed categories of stockpile maintenance—refurbish, reuse, replace—and the concern is that RRW is the “replace.” Can you tell us if that will be part of the NPR findings?

Tauscher: Well, I cannot speculate because we’re still working on it, but I don’t consider RRW to be anything other than something from the past. As a member of Congress and chairwoman of the subcommittee, I led an effort to kill the RRW. When I kill something, it stays dead.

ACT: President Obama and other members of the administration have argued that U.S. leadership on disarmament is critical to building support for measures to strengthen the NPT at the 2010 review conference. What are your hopes and goals for that conference, and what is the United States doing in the run-up to build support for the outcomes it wants and to deal with the likely challenges?

Tauscher: Well, we have a fabulous presidential envoy, Ambassador Susan Burk, who’s working full time on this. Susan is burning up the phone lines and racking up the miles seeing friends, allies, and others. We have a lot of friends and allies who have been not always cooperative in reaching consensus in the NPT. So we are doing everything we can to deliver a simple message: we need to have a consensus resolution in the NPT [review conference]. We need to understand that there are a number of issues that have become causes célèbres for certain countries in certain regions, and while we believe that those are very, very important, we cannot get stuck in the wickets here. We’ve got to get out and get something done because we don’t help anyone who is for the NPT by not making it stronger. That means delivering on the promise of a consensus resolution. So I think we have a good message, I think she is an amazing messenger, but it takes a lot of work.

We are a new administration that has got a much more, I think, vital vision for these things. I think it’s safe to say that President Obama has spoken more about [these issues] in the nine months [that he has been in office] than perhaps the previous administration did in [its eight years], but this is an issue that requires American leadership. This is the persistence and patience that the president is talking about. We have to give people a chance to know who we are and to know what these kinds of commitments mean. That’s why the secretary of state gave the speech today, [why] we were in Moscow last week. This is really a very, very significant agenda item. Not for once a month, not for once a week, but every day. And every day we’re doing something, and every day we’re trying to build consensus. We’re listening, we’re talking to folks that have had problems in the past reaching consensus, to find a way to satisfy the issues that they’re concerned about so that they will come to where we need them to be.

ACT: In terms of what’s being pursued, is UN Security Council Resolution 1887[7] a sort of a road map?

Tauscher: It was. It was. I meant to tell you that. Yes. 1887 is a road map.

ACT: How is the United States going about implementing it?

Tauscher: It was the beginning step to say that even people that in the past have not agreed can find a way to agree. Part of it is to listen, and so we are taking 1887 on the road, and we’re taking the principles behind that on the road, leading us back to New York in May, back at the UN for the NPT. I think we’re having significant bilateral conversations with countries that have expressed a lot of interest in working toward a consensus.

ACT: One thing the secretary mentioned today was nuclear security and the summit in April.[8] What are the aims and goals there, and how will that play into the work of the NPT review conference?

Tauscher: Well, this is an idea generated by the president; and the president is, I think, sufficiently agitated about the issue of nonproliferation not delivering on what everyone’s hopes are. Even with lots of people saying the right things and even supporting the right things, we live in a very dangerous world. So this is the president’s effort to get, at his level, at the head-of-state level, during just a one-day conference, to bear down on what these things are and to get international agreement on the kinds of efforts that we all have to support.

For too long, responsibilities for the care, custody, and control of nuclear weapons, for nonproliferation, for cooperative agreements, for disarmament, have all been at the feet of the nuclear-weapon states. As the secretary has said, as the president has said, no one can be obviated from responsibility on these issues, everybody has something to do, everybody has responsibilities and things that they have to invest in, pay attention to.

And this whole issue of proliferation security. You could just be a transshipper, you could be completely out of any of the categories, but you have a global strategic situation where you actually might not even know that you are part of global transshipping proliferation regime.

I think part of the opportunity is to have the president say, “We’re doing our part. We’re doing very well, thank you very much.” Not that many people pay attention to the fact that we are disarming. We may not be going as fast as we want or as anyone wants it, but we need to take credit for that. We’re also attempting to deal with [NPT] Article IV considerations on civil nuclear [programs]. But at the same time, as the secretary said today, the right to have nuclear power, which we recognize as a sovereign right, cannot be seized without responsibilities. We’re trying to build international consensus for multilateral fuel banking and the kinds of safeguards and controls and inspections and IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] authorities and budgeting that cause us to say, “We don’t really want to worry about that country that perhaps has an immature democracy, or even a immature government, that can’t protect its own borders but wants a nuclear power plant.”

ACT: Are those countries accepting that as part of their responsibilities, or do they see this whole new security push as an added obligation that they’re being asked to assume?

Tauscher: What was made very clear is what this [nuclear security] conference isn’t. It isn’t a donors’ conference, and it’s not meant to overshadow the NPT. We’ve added this fourth pillar [nuclear security] because we believe that it is, unfortunately, what hit us on the head when we turned the corner on the 21st century. Part of it is the vestiges of the old A. Q. Khan network but [also] others, the unnamed networks that we don’t even know about, and the fact that we live in a very integrated world that’s not necessarily interdependent yet.

So there’s a lot of stuff happening that you don’t even know about, that you’re involved in. By either geography or by relationships or by circumstance, countries have got to have this brought up to them. The president decided that he wanted people at his level to understand it. President Obama isn’t the first president to talk about nuclear zero, but he is the first who pointed to a place on the horizon and said, “There it is.” He’s the first one to use his political capital and persuasion so early in his presidency. He’s using his popularity, his policy positions, his persuasiveness on this issue because he believes, he believes—this isn’t something that’s been brought to him—he believes that this is a threat and that it needs to be brought up to the level of heads of state so that they understand that it’s not just the nuclear powers that have these responsibilities; everybody does.

ACT: The United States and other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group [NSG] have been trying to tighten the guidelines on the transfer of sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle technologies, that is, enrichment and reprocessing. In November, the NSG negotiated but failed to approve a draft proposal for criteria-based guidelines that would bar NSG states from transferring those technologies to non-NPT member states, and recently the Group of Eight agreed to adopt that proposal. What is the United States doing within the NSG to get the whole NSG to approve those guidelines?

Tauscher: We’re working with the NSG. We’re also working in the IAEA. We’re on the board of governors; there’s a board meeting [in November]. We want to be able to move forward on a fuel bank. We want there to be a fuel bank stood up. We are looking strongly at supporting the Russian Angarsk facility[9] because we want something up. These are not competing ideas; we don’t want them to be viewed as competing ideas. We want them to be viewed as “Let’s get something going.” So we’re looking to work with our Russian friends; I’ve been working with my counterpart on that. What we’re trying to do is to have people look across the expanse of opportunities and to knit together the things you have to have in order to get solutions to some of these problems.

You have a lot of countries that are critical about the P-5[10] record on disarmament, [saying that] we’re not doing enough. You have a number of countries that believe that the P-5 have denied them their sovereign right to have civilian nuclear power. From our point of view, and as the secretary laid out today, and as I’ve said and as the president’s said, they should not be in conflict. The idea of strong nonproliferation regimes in the NPT, and a number of other initiatives, NTI [Nuclear Threat Initiative],[11] Nunn-Lugar programs, all of the other things the president’s made a commitment to, holding a nuclear security summit in the spring, tying down fissile material within four years, all of these commitments, they are a basket that is porous, with a membrane between them. There’s a lot of things that go in between them, and they don’t contradict each other. It’s important on the civilian nuclear side that we make clear that you can have civilian nuclear power, but there has to be a way to ensure that having civilian nuclear power doesn’t create a proliferation risk.

How do you do that? How do you build international consensus to do that? What are the international regimes that you have to put in place? What are the incentives? How do you make sure that even for those of us who think that they’re climate neutral or even climate enhancing, whatever the reasoning is, how do you make sure that those countries understand that they’re going to have access to the fuel they need and maintain their reactors? We have a very good example in the UAE [United Arab Emirates] 123 agreement [in which the UAE said,] “We’re not going to do any enriching; we’re not going to do any reprocessing”[12]

ACT: What is the current U.S. policy on export of reprocessing and enrichment? There’s been some confusion about this.

Tauscher: None, we don’t do it.

ACT: You mentioned a fuel bank proposal, but that’s run into a lot of opposition. A lot of people had hoped it would be wrapped up by now, but the countries, the ones who would be using the fuel bank, are very suspicious; they see it as a way to deny them the capacity to enrich uranium. They don’t recognize the spread of enrichment as a proliferation concern. How do you address those really fundamental concerns that they have and move forward with this proposal?

Tauscher: Well, I think the truth is, above anything else, nobody can say, “Well, the last time I used that fuel bank, this is what happened to me.” We have to work to educate people, to a certain extent. There are two or three competing proposals right now. I think that in the end there could be one fuel bank, but I think that we need as many of them up and running as possible.

You have to find a way to create that safety and security. We have a 123 agreement with the UAE. Are we going to get other agreements like that? I don’t know, but the key here is to get agreement. That’s why we’re interested in supporting [the proposal for a fuel bank at] Angarsk. Right now, no one knows what would happen if they went to the fuel bank.

But you know part of it is that we have to get some confidence going, especially in countries that are very concerned about their ability to have a reliable bank that they’re going to be able to go to. But you know there’s always a cost for doing business. The bank is there so that there are alternatives to reprocessing and enrichment.

Well, it is the luxury that you don’t have, but what we’re trying to do is to make that luxury too expensive. We’re sin-taxing it. We’re saying, “Hey, if you want to do that, we’re going to make it really, really hard for you because we just really can’t afford to have outliers.” We have to make clear that we support expansion of nuclear power and are prepared to help countries gain access to nuclear energy, but in a safe and economical way that does not increase the risk of proliferation.

ACT: Thank you very much.


1. On September 24, 1992, Congress passed a spending bill that included the Hatfield-Exon-Mitchell amendment, which imposed a moratorium on U.S. nuclear testing. The Bush administration opposed the amendment but signed the bill into law on October 2, 1992. The United States has not conducted a nuclear test since September 23, 1992.

2. In 1999, the Senate voted 51-48 against CTBT ratification.

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

4. On May 29, the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva agreed on a program of work that included the negotiation of a verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. Since then, however, the conference was able to make little progress before adjourning for the year in September. The conference will have to adopt a new program of work when it returns next year.

5. The National Academy of Sciences is in the process of updating its 2002 report, Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty. The new report is expected to be completed in early 2010.

6. Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, “America’s Strategic Posture,” 2009, http://media.usip.org/reports/strat_posture_report.pdf.

7. For the text of the resolution, see http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N09/523/74/PDF/N0952374.pdf?OpenElement. See also Cole Harvey, “Nuclear Arms Resolution Passed at UN Summit,” Arms Control Today, October 2009, pp. 22-23.

8. For the text of the speech, as delivered, see www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/10/130806.htm. In the relevant section, Clinton said, “We must continue to strengthen each of the three mutually reinforcing pillars of global nonproliferation—preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, promoting disarmament, and facilitating the peaceful use of nuclear energy. And to those three pillars, we should add a fourth: preventing nuclear terrorism. Stopping terrorists from acquiring the ultimate weapon was not a central preoccupation when the NPT was negotiated, but today, it is, and it must remain at the top of our national security priorities.”

9. Russia has made a proposal to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to establish a fuel bank of two reactor loads of low-enriched uranium at the InternationalUraniumEnrichmentCenter at Angarsk. This proposal is one of several for a fuel bank, which would serve as a backup source of fuel for countries with good nonproliferation credentials. The aim of the fuel bank proposals is to give countries an incentive to refrain from pursuing indigenous uranium-enrichment programs. See Miles Pomper, “Russia Offers to Jump Start IAEA Fuel Bank,” Arms Control Today, October 2007, p. 41; Daniel Horner and Oliver Meier, “Talks on Fuel Bank Stalled at IAEA,” Arms Control Today, October 2009, pp. 24-26.

10. The term “P-5” refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Those countries also are the ones recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

11. See Horner and Meier, “Talks on Fuel Bank Stalled at IAEA,” pp. 24-26.

12. Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act requires the United States to have a nuclear cooperation agreement with any country with which it is engaging in nuclear trade. Under the terms of the U.S. “123 agreement” with the United Arab Emirates, the UAE “shall not” pursue an indigenous uranium-enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing program. See Daniel Horner, “U.S., UAE Sign New Nuclear Cooperation Pact,” Arms Control Today, June 2009, pp. 34-35.


Interviewed by Daniel Horner and Tom Z. Collina

Interview With British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Bill Rammell

Interviewed by Jeff Abramson and Daniel Horner

Bill Rammell serves as minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs in the United Kingdom. His responsibilities encompass the Middle East, including Iraq and Iran; counterterrorism; counterproliferation; the Far East and Southeast Asia; North America; drugs and international crime; and migration policy. Arms Control Today met with Rammell May 5 to discuss the United Kingdom's efforts on an arms trade treaty and other international arms control issues.

ACT: The United Kingdom is playing a leadership role in the arms trade treaty, promoting a legally binding global arms trade treaty. By some accounts, the United Kingdom is the second- or third-largest arms supplier in the world.[1] Why is the United Kingdom still interested in this treaty when it could in theory limit its ability in the arms market?

Rammell: This would put no greater constraints on the legitimate trade in arms. And yes, we have got substantial jobs and business investments in that. That is something that we support. But there is nothing within our proposal for an arms trade treaty that would constrain us any more than our current arms export controls, which are very strong. It will be an international treaty implemented by domestic law. It is about creating a level playing field with the same environment for everybody. There is a fundamental issue that, in some circumstances, weapons are exported to countries of conflict, to countries of civil disorder, that are creating enormous problems and carnage for civilians. That is what we are trying to tackle. It is not the legitimate arms trade, which I think is here to stay.

ACT: Other countries have been less enthusiastic about the arms trade treaty. What do you think their rationale for supporting the treaty would be? Is it the same as yours, or would it be different and require different arguments?

Rammell: One, what is interesting with the way we have led this is that this isn't just a government or nongovernmental organization backing it. We've got substantial elements of our own arms exporting industry that are backing it because they can see it makes life clearer and it reinforces their legitimate trade and underlines those companies that seek the illegitimate route. I think there is growing support for this. I mean, if you look at the figures from when we first raised this, there were 114 countries who co-sponsored a resolution. There was then, at the back end of December, 133 states who voted in favor of the resolution. We're now going through the open-ended procedure at the United Nations.[2] I think there are grounds for optimism that this is an argument that is beginning to gain greater traction.

I'm sure you're going to ask me about the position of the United States. My very strong sense is that, under the previous administration, it was no, no, no. It was interesting in the first meeting of the open-ended working group, the contribution from the U.S. delegate was not no, no, no.[3] It was, "Well, how exactly would this work?" That, combined with our discussions with the administration, indicates to me that there is now an interest in this issue. It is by no means at the point where [the U.S. position] is "Yes, we want to sign up" yet. But [there is] an interest, and we're going to pursue that dialogue, and I hope it gets to a position where the United States can support it.

ACT: You mentioned that the British industry is behind this, which may not be happening in other countries. Do you have a feel for whether there is dialogue in that way to bring another voice to calling for an arms trade treaty at this point?

Rammell: Yeah, I guess because we've been very up front with this and taken the lead on it internationally, we've gone out of our way to take British exporters with us.[4] And I think that has worked. We're now trying to do two things. In the discussions that we have with other partners internationally, we're saying, "Look, you guys need to be talking to your arms exporters." And two, we're actually getting British businesses to talk to their counterparts from overseas to try and build that momentum and coalition.

ACT: One criticism leveled at conventional arms treaties is that there is no real enforcement mechanism. The UN Security Council can have an arms embargo, but sometimes those are not effective. How do you think about an arms trade treaty and how it might be enforced, if "enforced" is the right word?

Rammell: We're not saying that there's going to be some global mechanism to enforce this, one, because I don't think it would be very effective, [and] two, it would kill the treaty stone dead. It's going to be a legally enforced situation, but down to national enforcement. Now if you look at the countries that have got strong arms export control regimes, that's how it works. We've recently had a judicial review on some aspects of our arms sales to Israel. and it came through very positively. In fact, the claim that the government wasn't following the rules was dropped because it became clear that the rules were being implemented in a way that they should be implemented. So I think there are grounds for confidence that once you establish it, there will then be the legal powers within individual countries and it's then down to them to enforce it.

ACT: Another way to think of it might be in a trade aspect rather than an arms aspect. You have the World Trade Organization that has mechanisms promoting dispute resolution enforcement. Is there any thinking along sort of a trade route in regulations in how countries might hold each other accountable?

Rammell: I'm just thinking of the number of disputes that lasted years in the World Trade Organization without resolution. I'm not sure if I'm desperately attracted to that as a route to it. I mean, look, this is going to be about consistent standards, consistent rules, and it's then down to individual countries to implement it. I think that's the most practical, realistic way.

There was one other thing on the United States I wanted to say because I think it's important to make this very clear. This is in no way, shape, or form targeted at domestic gun control. You've got rigorous arms export controls at the moment. That doesn't impact on domestic possession of guns in the United States. This wouldn't in any way, shape, or form do that also.

ACT: Back to your point about those standards: What level of specificity do you have?

Rammell: Part of my difficulty in answering that question, and I'm not trying to duck it, is we're in a process of negotiation and if I start setting out detailed prescriptions, then that's going to put some people [off from] coming on board. Nevertheless, there will be standard benchmark criteria that will exist for every country, but it's then down to those individual countries and their legal systems to enforce it. I think that's the right way to go. There are a number of models we can look at internationally that already exist, like we've got now legally binding arms export controls within the European Union, which again are legally enforceable, but it's down to the individual nation-states to enforce them.[5] But that's just one example. There are many others, of good, strong arms export control regimes internationally, and I think, through the dialogue, we're going to be looking to seek agreement on the best.

ACT: Tell us one or two of the other examples that you have in mind.

Rammell: Well, there's a system in the United States that works very effectively. There's a number of other countries where they work very effectively, and I think we're going to want to draw on the best of those systems. What does that mean? It ultimately means [that] if there's a risk of fueling internal repression or external aggression, then you don't export to that place.

ACT: Some people think of this treaty and think of small arms and light weapons. Others think of major systems. Depending on who you're talking to, is one aspect of the arms trade more meaningful than other aspects?

Rammell: Some people would say small arms and light weapons were the answer. You look at some of the worst conflict areas in the world, it's that element of the trade that is creating absolute mayhem. So no, we're looking for as comprehensive an approach as possible that includes that but also includes major conventional weapons as well.

ACT: As currently set up, the open-ended working group that is discussing the arms trade treaty could extend its work through July 2011. It has been suggested by some that if that goes too slowly, it might make sense to pursue negotiations outside of the group, perhaps something similar to the Oslo process.[6] How do you assess progress so far in the open-ended working group? Do you think it realistic that countries might launch a separate process, and could you envision the United Kingdom ever being part of that separate process?

Rammell: Well, I never say never, but I'm actually cautiously optimistic at the moment. I think the figure I quoted-133 states have signed up in principle to support, [and] when we had that vote in December there were only 19 abstentions, and I know the United States voted against it, and I think things have shifted since then. So there's a lot of detailed work to be done. I would hope we can get there sooner rather than later, and I think this is developing a momentum. Again, in some of the debates that have taken place, not in the United Kingdom but in other nations, there is a crying need for this kind of approach. So, I never rule out any mechanism, but I think at the moment there are very reasonable prospects that we can achieve this through the open-ended working group.

ACT: Any other countries that have been slower but where you now see changes?

Rammell: Again, forgive me, it's not in my interest to start singling people out. I'm commenting on the United States because I'm here in the United States. But I don't think there's anybody at the moment who is saying you are fundamentally off track here, and there is no way, shape, or form we are prepared to countenance this. There's still a number of countries who are very questioning, very skeptical. We've got to make the argument with them and reassure them about the impact of this, and particularly that this is not, not, not about impacting on their legitimate arms trade. I think there are cautious grounds for optimism.

ACT: One thing that might happen is, if the treaty exists, you might see civil society really being the monitor for these things, as you see in landmines, [where] civil society really plays a role in holding countries accountable.[7] Do you see a role for civil society, if it's going to be sort of on nations or countries to keep track of what they're doing to live up to these standards? Do you see international civil society playing a large role?

Rammell: I think civil society does play a role. But I wouldn't want anybody to get the sense that that will mean civil society will be dictating the decisions beyond the treaty that is agreed. That would be a matter for national implementation, national legal jurisdiction.

ACT: Address some of the nuclear questions, especially along the lines of what Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised in his speech.[8] Can you flesh out a little bit more of this concept of the new international architecture for nuclear security? There were some specific references to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and the role of the IAEA, so how do you see that playing out, and how would you strengthen the role of the IAEA? Financially? Institutionally? Enforcement mechanisms?

Rammell: I mean, in personnel terms, we need a strong director-general, and the process of his appointment or election is currently being gone through on that front. We want a properly resourced IAEA. It is interesting that the IAEA recently undertook their own internal assessment.

It said actually there needs to be a greater prioritization, and I think also the idea, especially in the current fiscal climate, that you're going to get a lot more resources is not realistic. I think we've got to bridge the divide that exists and really focus on the role of the IAEA in enforcing the international agreements that exist. I think we're looking in the [Preparatory Committee] for the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] review for strong outcomes.[9] I am encouraged by the moves that are being made generally on disarmament. If you look at our own record, we've reduced our number of warheads by 50 percent in the last decade.[10] I think we've taken a leading position on that. But I'm now very encouraged by President Obama, what he's been saying about further reductions. The Russians appear to be responding cautiously and in kind. That's the disarmament side, and I think that is positive, and we've got to move forward with that.

The flip side is, we've absolutely got to tackle the problem of proliferation, which is why the IAEA dealing with Iran, why, through the six-party talks process, tackling the problem in North Korea is particularly important. Because go back to the heart of the NPT and there's a deal there.... I think sometimes we can underplay how effective the NPT has been. I was giving some evidence recently to our foreign affairs select committee, and I came across [President John Kennedy's] statements....[11] His projection, and I don't think this was unrealistic at the time, was that there would be a massive explosion, excuse the pun, massive growth of nuclear-weapon states, and actually it hasn't happened. We've got some challenges, but we've got to keep that deal going.

ACT: Can I just backtrack on some of the points you sort of ticked off? "We need a strong director-general." Do you think Mohamed ElBaradei has been a strong director-general?

Rammell: I think he's been effective, but inevitably when you come for the election for somebody new, you look at what you need from that person. You see you need someone that is managerially focused, who can manage what is a very large organization. You need someone who will be able to bridge the divide between the advanced world nuclear-weapon states and the Nonaligned Movement. You critically need someone who is going to implement the rules and the authority of the IAEA and not try to paper over...if you got someone who is that sublime that they will actually seek to tackle that problem with the authority of the IAEA, not look at the compromises which actually lets an offender off.

ACT: And you're implying that perhaps ElBaradei has done that?

Rammell: Nope, I think he's been effective. But I'm saying to you whenever you have an election for a new post, you need to look at what qualities you're looking for.

ACT: People have been talking for a long time that there would have to be some penalty for countries doing [something] like what North Korea did: they withdraw from the treaty and invoke this clause of the NPT of a supreme national interest,[12] when it is apparently not the case. It is difficult to come up with a really feasible, implementable way to do that. What can you do?

Rammell: I think that is the difference if you look at North Korea, and I'm still the only British minister to have gone to North Korea, which I did in 2004, it is more cut off from any nation anywhere on Earth. Historically, it has not been able to feed its people, has very little trade links with the outside world. In those circumstances, what sanctions could you implement? I mean, there is a debate about those countries which do have trade links with the country actually being prepared to take action on that front. But a legally enforceable sanction, I think, would be difficult to achieve.

ACT: On the economic issue, you said, given the current financial situation, it would be difficult expect significant increases. The Zedillo report advocated an immediate 50 million euro increase,[13] and the Obama administration has been talking about doubling the IAEA budget.[14] Do you have some sort of quantity in mind or some goal?

Rammell: Over the medium term, I think you may get some movement on this. But I just think, at the moment, it is unrealistic to expect big increases in the budget. Actually, what came out of that report strongly for me was that [the] first call wasn't for an increase in resources. It was actually, "Come on guys; we need to look at the way money is being spent and how it's being prioritized at the moment."

ACT: Looking at strategic and tactical weapons, the new debate about strategic weapons and nonstrategic weapons in Europe, maybe you can say something about growing sentiment that all those substrategic weapons should be removed from Europe.

Rammell: Look, we did an overall framework that we are committed to disarmament and our aspirations to eventually get rid of nuclear weapons. We will look for all opportunities, and I think if you look at what we have done, we have reduced the arsenal significantly. I think, within the START II process, there will be further efforts at reduction, but I'm not going to plot specifics. There's a process of bilateral and multilateral negotiation to take place, and I'm not going to plot specifics out of the air apart from saying the United Kingdom has taken the lead. I think there is a beginning to the momentum in terms of disarmament and we want to push that forward. But the flip side of it is, we've got to tackle proliferation as well.

ACT: You said sort of an important parallel component to the strategic reductions and proliferation, substrategic weapons-do you see the United Kingdom as playing a role in pushing that? Do you still see those weapons as necessary in serving an important security function?

Rammell: At the moment, yes. But our longer-term ambition is to get further disarmament, and I think the commitment being made by the United States, the discussions, the potentially starting with the Russians, I would hope that that would make progress.

ACT: In April, the E3+3 welcomed the U.S. approach to Iran, including the occasional joint talks with Iran from now on.[15] What does U.S. participation mean in the process, and is there a new approach to be pursued as a group?

Rammell: I think there is genuine unanimity on this. We certainly welcome President Obama's commitment to engage in a dialogue with the Iranians. It's not an open-ended offer. I think the Iranians need to recognize that this is a serious opportunity and they could have taken it by engaging seriously. I think there is a window of opportunity for that to happen this year. If they don't, then I think we need to be in a much, much tougher position on sanctions. I think it is that twin-track approach that's saying, "Look, come on, there's all sorts of advantages and benefits to you here, in terms of normalization, in terms of trade relationship, in terms of giving you what you say you want in terms of access to civil nuclear power, if you can reassure us on your nuclear weapons intentions. If you don't take that approach, we're going to be in a much tougher position on sanctions."

ACT: You have a broad portfolio of responsibilities: drugs, international crime, migration, and other topics. How might instruments or strategies from one or more of these arenas help to update and increase the effectiveness of multilateral efforts to reduce the security risks posed by nuclear and other dangerous weapons? Are lessons you see in what goes on in those other areas, which might not always be discussed when we talk about weapons, maybe leading to new thinking or ideas?

Rammell: There's inevitably a read across because ultimately you're dealing with states, the actions that they take, nonstate actors as well, particularly in migration terms, in terms of drugs, but also in terms of terrorism. So, I'm not sure I can, off the top of my head, think of specific examples. Undoubtedly, you look across the pieces, and you learn from experiences elsewhere, and that will feed into the weapons.

ACT: Thank you.



1. In recent years, Russia and the United Kingdom have been the second- and third-largest suppliers of conventional weaponry, depending on measurement metrics. See Jeff Abramson, "U.S. Atop Expanding Global Arms Market," Arms Control Today, December 2008, pp. 56-57.

2. In 2006, 76 countries sponsored and, ultimately, 139 countries voted in support of the UN First Committee resolution that began "[t]owards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms." The United States voted no; 24 countries, many from the Middle East, abstained. That vote led to the establishment a group of governmental experts to study the issue and to the submission of comments by more than 100 countries on a possible treaty. On December 24, 2008, the General Assembly voted to move the process forward into an open-ended working group. In that vote, 133 countries voted in favor, the United States voted no, and 19 countries abstained. That resolution was co-sponsored by 114 countries. See Jeff Abramson, "Arms Trade Treaty Discussion Creeps Forward," Arms Control Today, December 2008, pp. 53-54.

3. Prior to the March 2-6 open-ended working group meeting, the U.S. position had been interpreted as unsupportive of an arms trade treaty. On March 5, U.S. representative Donald Mahley stated that "[n]one of this history, though, can or should be taken to mean that the United States is not interested in and would not support effective international arrangements for controlling the international conventional arms trade and especially preventing such arms from serving illegitimate or anti-humanitarian purposes." U.S. Statement, ATT Session One, March 5, 2009, www.un.org/disarmament/convarms/ArmsTradeTreaty/docs/OEWG09_S1_statements/US-5Mar.PDF.

4. British trade associations that have expressed support for an arms trade treaty include the Defence Manufacturers Association and the Society of British Aerospace Companies.

5. In December 2008, the European Union adopted a legally binding common position that updates the 1998 EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, which established criteria for examining applications for the export of conventional arms as well as consultative and transparency mechanisms.

6. Following the failure of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to address the use of cluster munitions, Norway announced in 2006 that it would take the lead on reaching an agreement concerning the weapons. That effort, known as the Oslo process, resulted in the Convention on Cluster Munitions. See Jeff Abramson, "Countries Sign Cluster Munitions Convention," Arms Control Today, January/February 2009, pp. 25-27.

7. The Mine Ban Treaty is closely tracked by the Landmine Monitor, a research and monitoring initiative of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. That civil society-led effort has become the de facto monitoring regime for the treaty. See Peter Herby and Eve La Haye, "How Does It Stack Up? The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention at 10," Arms Control Today, December 2007, pp. 6-10.

8. On February 6, the British Foreign Office released "Lifting the Nuclear Shadow: Creating the Conditions for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons," which identified steps toward ridding the world of nuclear weapons. In a March 17 speech in London, Prime Minister Gordon Brown further discussed the United Kingdom's vision on nuclear issues.

9. The Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference met in New York May 4-15.

10. The British government stated in a 1998 Strategic Defense Review that it would "maintain a stockpile of fewer than 200 operationally available warheads," down from about 300. It is unclear how many warheads might be held in reserve.

11. At a press conference on March 21, 1963, President John F. Kennedy warned, "I see the possibility in the 1970s of the president of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have [nuclear] weapons. I regard that as the greatest possible danger and hazard."

12. Article X of the NPT says, "Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests." North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003.

13. Ernesto Zedillo et al., "Reinforcing the Global Nuclear Order for Peace and Prosperity: The Role of the IAEA to 2020 and Beyond," 2008, p. 30, www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/PDF/2020report0508.pdf. Zedillo, the former president of Mexico, was the head of an independent commission that prepared the report at the request of ElBaradei. According to the report, the IAEA Board of Governors should agree "to underpin the expansion of the Agency's security and safety work, other activities in support of newcomer states embarking on nuclear programs, and an expansion of work in nuclear applications and technology transfer." The report also says that "[t]he exact amount of additional regular budget should be determined after a detailed review of the budgetary situation and additional workloads of the Agency, but the Commission estimates that increases of about 50 million [euro] annually in real terms might be necessary during several years."

14. "The IAEA is understaffed and under-resourced for the current and growing responsibilities placed on it by the international community. That is why the President-Elect has called for doubling the IAEA's budget over the next four years." Hillary Rodham Clinton, Answers to "Questions for the Record" from Senator John Kerry, January 2009, p. 29. The questions were submitted in conjunction with Clinton's January 13 confirmation hearing.

15. The E3+3 comprises China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. An April 8 joint statement by the six countries said, "The other members of the group warmly welcome the new direction of US policy towards Iran and their decision to participate fully in the E3+3 process and join in any future meetings with representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran."


Interviewed by Jeff Abramson and Daniel Horner

Interview with Annalisa Giannella, Personal Representative on Nonproliferation of WMD to EU High Representative Javier Solana



Interviewed by Oliver Meier

On Feb. 16, Arms Control Today international correspondent Oliver Meier spoke with EU nonproliferation chief Annalisa Giannella to discuss Europe's nonproliferation and security policies against the background of the new U.S. administration taking office. Giannella has served in her current position since October 2003 and previously served as the EU Council of Ministers' director for security and defense policy and head of the division for security issues.

ACT: What do you think will be the impact of the change in administration in Washington on European efforts to strengthen arms control and nonproliferation agreements?

Giannella: I think that it will have a revitalizing effect. Since the adoption of the European Security Strategy and the [weapons of mass destruction (WMD)] strategy,[1] we have been very active in supporting what we call effective multilateralism, in support of universalization but also of effective implementation of all the multilateral treaties and conventions, as well as supporting new treaties which would fill the gaps in the nonproliferation/disarmament regime.

We must say that, over recent years at least on some of these points, we have not had full convergence of views with the United States. The emphasis has always been on nonproliferation. There was no consensus on nuclear disarmament, for instance. On the Biological Weapons Convention, there was no possibility of agreement on a verification protocol. The EU has always been in favor of entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), but the United States didn't want to ratify the treaty and join our effort to promote universalization.[2] On the fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), the United States even put forward a proposal for initiating negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) but opposed the very idea of verification.[3]

However, there have been quite a number of areas where we had very good cooperation with the Bush administration, including Iran of course. For instance, we have both and sometimes jointly been supporting the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540.[4] We have been cooperating together with the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and the 1540 Committee in support of the resolution. We have been working in synergy in the area of export control assistance to third countries. We have regularly compared notes about the assistance projects that we launch for third countries. The problem we have had was basically with the way we viewed our support for some multilateral treaties and conventions.

With the Obama administration, we are looking forward to the fullest cooperation and synergy because, from what we read and see and hear about Obama's intentions, they are very much along the same lines as the EU approach. We see that now the United States will be in favor of entry into force of the CTBT, is in favor of a verifiable FMCT, and in addition we also have a very open statement in support of a call for a world without nuclear weapons and the intention to start negotiations for a phased, verifiable, irreversible, transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.[5] This will also contribute to establishing a much better atmosphere in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review process. We think that we have a better chance of getting very good results in the next few years with the United States and EU working together in the same direction.

ACT: Are there areas where you think differences will continue with the new administration or might even grow?

Giannella: It is very difficult to judge because so far we have not had very precise and detailed proposals from the U.S. side. So we have to base ourselves on what we have read in speeches by President [Barack] Obama, Vice President [Joe] Biden, and Secretary of State [Hillary Rodham] Clinton. From what I have seen, I don't think there would be any divergence of views as far as weapons of mass destruction are concerned.

Maybe we will still have some slight differences on conventional weapons because the EU is in favor of and is actively promoting negotiations on an arms trade treaty.[6] I'm not yet sure that the Obama administration will be entirely supportive of this.

ACT: On the recent initiatives on arms control and nonproliferation that were taken during the French presidency, particularly during the December 2008 meetings, there was for example a new document, "New Lines of Action," which outlines a variety of measures. Mainly it seems aimed at improving internal coherence among EU member states.[7] I found very few initiatives to strengthen multilateral instruments. Why is this, and are there any additional initiatives planned to strengthen multilateral instruments?

Giannella: In fact, the document that was agreed under the French presidency, the New Lines of Action, is just an additional document. It is additional with respect to our WMD strategy, which remains valid, and with respect to the priorities for implementation of the strategy, which were also adopted by the same meeting of the [EU] Council [of Ministers].[8] So, you are right that the new Lines of Action is more an improvement of coherence among the EU member states, but we still have the list of priorities for the implementation of the strategy. We still have an approach based very much on work in support of multilateralism and also on cooperation with other countries. These documents have to be seen as a whole and as complementing each other.

ACT: Another additional instrument that was approved was a draft code of conduct for outer space activities.[9] This was also presented to the CD by the Czech presidency.[10] Can you explain the added value of the EU code in comparison to other instruments on space security? What is your time frame for agreement on a consensus document? In this context, how do you want to engage Russia and China particularly on this issue?

Giannella: I'm glad to have this opportunity to stress that the fact that the council agreed [to] this draft doesn't mean that the draft is a document that cannot be modified. The ministers gave an endorsement to this draft as a basis for consultations with third countries. So it is an official EU initiative, but of course the text is really very open to modification in the light of comments by partners. The purpose of this code is to enhance safety, security, and predictability of outer space activities. It is a code because the assessment, which was made within the EU, was that there was no consensus, for the time being, for a legally binding instrument. On the other hand, there are more and more activities in outer space, and therefore something needs to be done. We do not want this document to replace or to prevail over instruments which already exist and most of which are legally binding.

There are a number of conventions and treaties in the area of outer space, but subscribing states would commit themselves to full implementation of these instruments whereas nonsubscribing states would commit to take steps to accede or to adhere to these instruments. This is because we don't want to exclude the possibility for countries who may not wish to ratify to decide nevertheless to implement the provisions of these instruments. Then there are also transparency measures, confidence-building measures, notification, registration, et cetera. We believe that this code will improve the situation in terms of confidence building and transparency, and we think that this initiative is not a substitute. It does not stand in the way of negotiation of a treaty if everybody agrees on the idea of a treaty preventing weaponization of space, as proposed by Russia and China.[11]

Now, you ask me how do you want to engage with Russia and China as well as other partner countries. Actually, we have started to engage. We have already had a first round of informal consultations, and now after endorsement by the council, we have started a round of formal consultations which will involve not only the United States, Russia, and China, but also other main partners of the EU and space-faring nations. So we are consulting Canada, Japan, India, South Korea, Brazil, et cetera.

ACT: Do you have a time frame for these consultations?

Giannella: We were in Canada a couple weeks ago. We will be in Asia in March. There will be other countries that we will meet in the margins of multilateral meetings.

ACT: There's no target date, is there?

Giannella: We hope that if consultations go reasonably well and if the modified version can be accepted by most of the countries, we will be able to convene an ad hoc conference maybe at the end of the year or beginning of next year. Of course, all of this depends on how these consultations go.

ACT: The EU made legally binding its code of conduct on arms exports.[12] Why did it take so long to make the code legally binding, and what impact do you think the change in the legal character will have on actual exports from EU member states?

Giannella: As you know, the content of the common position [on arms exports] is 90 or 95 percent identical to the content of the former code of conduct. However, there are some improvements. The criteria [for arms exports] are the same, but the scope is wider in the sense that, for instance, the common position covers brokering and intangible transfers. But the fact that it is legally binding gives the instrument a different status, and it makes the EU a very credible actor as [a] promoter of the arms trade treaty. We are proposing to the international community the negotiation of a treaty governing the arms trade, and we are demonstrating that we ourselves are already committed to a legally binding instrument. This is a question of coherence. We could not propose a legally binding instrument if we did not already have legally binding commitments among ourselves.

ACT: Turning back toward the NPT, can you generally say what your expectations for the review conference are at this stage? Do you expect there to be a new EU common position to be agreed?[13] What specific issues might the EU try to focus on in that context?

Giannella: For the review conference, our position is classical and is largely the same although the text of our common position [on the NPT], which was adopted before the last review conference, will probably be adapted next year.[14] We think that the review conference has to address the three pillars in a balanced way.

We have to work on nonproliferation and peaceful uses. In this context, one of the issues on which we should focus is the multilateral nuclear fuel approaches. We have to work on those approaches because it is clear that there are more and more countries turning to nuclear energy for civilian purposes. It is also clear that it is for each country to make its own energy choices, and if a country is in compliance with the treaty, clearly it has the right to have nuclear energy for civilian purposes. We have to make sure that programs for nuclear energy are developed in such a way as to avoid any proliferation risk and to meet the highest standards in terms of safety, security, and nonproliferation. The only way we can do that is through multilateral nuclear fuel approaches.

We need to work on disarmament, and I think that the statements by President Obama give us very good grounds to hope that we can have progress on the nuclear disarmament pillar.

In addition, the EU has already put forward a paper on withdrawal because we want to better specify the procedure and the conditions for withdrawal. We want to work on export controls, we want to work on safeguards, on nuclear security, et cetera. We have a lot of items, but I think if we could have progress on multilateral nuclear fuel approaches and on disarmament, it would be a big success.

ACT: There is a new discussion on a nuclear weapons-free world. France and the United Kingdom have both explained their positions and expanded to some degree their positions on nuclear arms control during the last year.[15] Last December, French President Nicolas Sarkozy as acting EU president wrote a letter to Ban Ki-Moon explaining the EU's stance on nuclear disarmament.[16] How does this initiative in your assessment differ from past EU positions on nuclear arms control and disarmament?

Giannella: It is no secret that, on nuclear disarmament, the lowest common denominator between EU members was extremely low. The situation has started to improve over the last couple of years precisely because there has been a modification of the position in the United Kingdom and most recently in France. Now that the Obama administration is taking a very different position with respect to nuclear disarmament, this will also facilitate the further evolution of the French and British approaches because nuclear disarmament cannot take place on a unilateral basis. It has to be a negotiated process amongst the five [NPT nuclear powers]. The more Obama elaborates his approach, the more easily France and the United Kingdom will elaborate their own approaches and vice versa. It will be a mutually reinforcing process and will encourage Russia and China to move as well. Since the other countries in the EU have had no difficulty in being much more in favor of nuclear disarmament, this will help us to develop the EU position in a positive way.

ACT: One specific proposal that Sarkozy made in the letter to Ban Ki-Moon was the inclusion of tactical nuclear weapons in general arms control and disarmament processes. Do you think if this were to happen, this would also affect the deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in EU countries also?[17]

Giannella: It is premature for me to make comments on specific elements in the Sarkozy letter or in proposals made by other main actors. All these elements need a thorough examination, a thorough discussion. I think that the Sarkozy letter was meant to give a message that there is a new readiness to discuss these issues. How exactly the question of nuclear disarmament will develop, what exactly will be the elements for an agreement, it is too early for me and maybe for others to say.

ACT: There has also been a reversal of U.S. policies on CTBT ratification. What generally do you think Europe can do to speed up entry into force? Specifically, are there any lessons or experiences that Europe can offer to U.S. senators to convince them that U.S. security will be enhanced by approving the treaty?

Giannella: The EU has set a precedent because our own nuclear-weapon states, France and the United Kingdom, have ratified the CTBT very quickly. That means the CTBT does not necessarily entail any risk or danger even for countries which, after all, still believe in nuclear deterrence. Second, the EU has been working a lot in support of the entry into force of the CTBT. We have made demarches in support of ratification in countries which have not ratified, in particular in the countries listed in annex two of the treaty. Only a few months ago, we agreed on an energetic action plan in support of its entry into force.[18]

That is not all. We believe that the monitoring system of the CTBT has to be credible. We have also tried to use that leverage in our campaign. The fact is that the CTBT monitoring system can also be very useful for civilian purposes, for civil protection purposes. It can help, for instance, to give an early warning of tsunamis or earthquakes. So, it can be very much in the interests of each and every country to make use of this monitoring system. The EU is contributing financially to some activities which help the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization to maintain credibility and to further develop the monitoring system. Over the past two or three years, the council has adopted a couple of decisions by which we have supported training courses for monitors, for improvements of the monitoring system including radionuclides, noble gas, and many other things. We believe that an effective monitoring system is an important element in making the CTBT attractive.

ACT: The Obama administration has offered direct dialogue with Tehran without preconditions, which has long been the EU position. What is your assessment of Iran's reaction to the new U.S. position on this dialogue?

Giannella: I don't know whether the offer of the United States is to have direct talks without preconditions. If "without preconditions" is being taken to mean that there is no need for Iran to suspend or freeze enrichment activities, I am not sure if this is what is meant by the U.S. administration. I have understood the U.S. administration position as being that they are ready to be more directly involved with Iran in each and every phase of the negotiations on the nuclear issue and that they also want to have a direct channel of communication covering not only the nuclear issue but also other important issues such as the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq, et cetera. This is very positive, this can only increase the possibility, the hope, for positive developments in the EU-3 Plus 3 process with Iran. But I'm not sure that there will be such a dramatic change in the U.S. position that it might deal on the nuclear issue only bilaterally and at no condition. This is not our reading. The preconditions are set in UN Security Council resolutions.

The other question is how the Iranians have reacted to the new statements by the U.S. administration. I think the reaction is typically Iranian. Instead of saying, "Okay, happy to see that now we have an interlocutor who is ready to talk to us. We are ready to talk as well, and maybe both of us should calm down our rhetoric," we hear "The Americans should apologize for what they have done in the past." Iranians are very difficult people to deal with, and I hope that American statements are not misinterpreted in Iran as unconditional acceptance that Iran need take no steps in order to the meet the criteria of the Security Council.

ACT: Now Iran's enrichment program is gaining speed and is proceeding much faster than many experts had predicted. Do you think direct dialogue can actually wait until after the Iranian presidential elections in June? What will be the EU-3's and EU's role in the context of such new talks?

Giannella: There is this debate about whether we should or should not wait until the presidential election [in Iran]. It is clear that it is difficult for Iran to take a bold decision in a transitional period. On the other hand, when we think about the data concerning the development of enrichment in Iran, they have already produced more than 1.000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, they already have 4,000 centrifuges in operation, they have 2,000 more centrifuges under test, et cetera. That means that, in a few months, they will have produced a quantity of enriched uranium which could be then enriched further to highly enriched uranium and would be enough to produce one nuclear device. Of course, other elements are needed to weaponized, et cetera, but in a few months Iran will reach a really important threshold.

Against this background, I think that we should not wait. It would be better not to wait. How many chances we may have to pressure Iran into making a major policy change I don't know, but I would not wait. My personal opinion is that we should not waste time.

ACT: The other side of the new U.S. position on this is that if Iran does not accept the new offer, more sanctions will be needed. What steps do you see member states and the EU as a whole taking to heighten pressure on Iran, and what can the EU do to engage Russia and China more on this?

Giannella: As you know, we have been implementing the Security Council resolutions very fully, and not just fully but always a little beyond the letter of the Security Council resolutions. We have been a little tougher or more comprehensive. Now we are re-examining the list in order to see whether any updating is needed. This is already a way of increasing pressure. We share the U.S. position that we have to work on the dual-track approach, which means that, on one hand, we have to be open to negotiations and, on the other hand, as long as Iran does not meet the UN Security Council requirements, we have to increase pressure.

What do we do to engage Russia and China? We regularly have meetings with them together with the Americans, and I hope that the increased readiness by the United States to engage directly with Iran, to be involved in all phases of negotiations with Iran, will make Russia and China more ready to adopt new sanctions if Iran continues to refuse to engage.

ACT: You don't sound very optimistic on this.

Giannella: Clearly we haven't had maximum convergence of views on this element over the last two months, but don't forget that the U.S. position was also much more prudent in terms of negotiations. So maybe we will find a new balance with more openness to negotiations and pressure.

ACT: On Russia particularly, at the Munich security conference, Javier Solana said that the Medvedev proposal for a new European security architecture should be taken seriously and that there should be an engagement and a debate on this issue.[19] Could you specify what this means for the security dialogue of the EU with Russia, what specific topics the EU could become engaged on, and how the division between old and new EU members, if you like, in terms of approaching Russia can be overcome?

Giannella: I hesitate to respond to your question because this is really beyond my remit. I am responsible for disarmament, nonproliferation, and arms control. What I can tell you is that, in my area of competence, we do have very good cooperation with Russia, and we are looking forward to improve it even more. We work and consult a lot with Russia on nonproliferation [and] disarmament issues, and we also have good practical cooperation with Russia on disarmament projects. We consider and we treat Russia as a major partner of the EU.

ACT: One of the areas of cooperation is the Global Partnership, which is due to expire in 2012.[20] There is going to be a discussion starting on whether to extend the Global Partnership and maybe also to support its geographical expansion. Do you have a position on this already?

Giannella: We are basically in favor of some geographical expansion because we think the objective of Global Partnership cannot be limited to Russia and the former Soviet Union. If there are proliferation threats, [Group of Eight (G-8)] members should address them. On this issue, we do have an open discussion with Russia in the context of the G-8.

ACT: Thank you very much.

[1] Council of the European Union, "A Secure Europe in a Better World: European Security Strategy," December 12, 2003, www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cmsUpload/78367.pdf; Council of European Union, "EU Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction," December 12, 2003, register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/03/st15/st15708.en03.pdf.

[2] The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions anywhere. It has been signed by 180 countries and ratified by 148 states. The treaty will not take full legal effect until nine key states, including the United States, ratify the accord. See Arms Control Association, "The Status of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Signatories and Ratifiers," February 2008. [at http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/ctbtsig.asp... numbers do not match up, I will work on this]

[3] A proposed fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) would outlaw the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes. A nuclear weapon cannot be made without one or the other. In July 2004, the Bush administration changed the U.S. policy position on an FMCT, announcing that it does not believe an agreement can be crafted to protect against cheating. This has further complicated the commencement of negotiations on such an accord. See Wade Boese, "Bush Shifts Fissile Material Ban Policy," Arms Control Today, September 2004, pp. 20-21.

[4] Resolution 1540, adopted in April 2004, is a legally binding effort that requires all states to implement a variety of domestic measures to prevent nonstate actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery, and related materials.

[5] "Arms Control Today 2008 Presidential Q&A: President-Elect Barack Obama," December 2008, special section.

[6] In 2006 the UN General Assembly voted to work toward establishing "common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons." A UN group of governmental experts on August 26, 2008, adopted by consensus a report that called for further study within the UN in a step-by-step manner and on "the basis of consensus" of an arms trade treaty. See Jeff Abramson, "Arms Trade Treaty Discussion Creeps Forward," Arms Control Today, December 2008, pp. 53-54.

[7] Council of the European Union, "Council Conclusions and New Lines for Action by the European Union in Combating the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems," 17172/08, November 23, 2008, available at http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/08/st17/st17172.en08.pdf.

[8] Council of the European Union, "Report on the Implementation of the European Security Strategy: Providing Security in a Changing World," S407/08, December 11, 2008, http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/reports/104630.pdf.

[9] Council of the European Union, "Council Conclusions and Draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities," 17175/08, December 17, 2008, http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/08/st17/st17175.en08.pdf.

[10] "Statement by the Czech Presidency on Behalf of the European Union: 'PAROS,'" Geneva, February 12, 2009, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/cd/speeches09/1session/12feb_EU.pdf.

[11] In February 2008, Russia and China co-sponsored a proposal at the CD to ban weapons in space. See Wade Boese, "Russia Pushes Pacts as U.S. Kills Satellite," Arms Control Today, March 2008, pp. 50-51.

[12] Council of the European Union, "Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of 8 December 2008 Defining Common Rules Governing Control of Exports of Military Technology End Equipment," 355 OJ 99, December 13, 2008, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:335:0099:0103:EN:PDF.

[13] Common positions are designed to make cooperation more systematic and improve its coordination. EU member states are required to comply with and uphold common positions that have been adopted unanimously by the council.

[14] Council of the European Union, "Council Common Position 3005/329/PESC of 25 April 2005 Relating to the 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," 106 OJ 32, April 25, 2005. (http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Units/spru/hsp/documents/2005-0525%20NPT%20CP.pdf)

[15] On February 4, 2008, British Foreign Minister David Miliband presented a six-point plan on nuclear disarmament, in which he described conditions for achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. After this interview, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a March 17 speech further elaborated the British position and suggested that the United Kingdom would be ready to participate in broader negotiations "as soon as it becomes useful for our arsenal to be included."

[16] On December 5, 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in his role as acting EU president, wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, outlining the EU position on nuclear arms control issues. Among other things, the letter calls for increased nuclear weapons transparency and initiatives on tactical nuclear weapons. http://ambafrance-se.org/france_suede/spip.php?article2084

[17] It is estimated that the United States still deploys between 150 and 240 B61 bombs in Europe. Under nuclear sharing arrangements, as many as 140 weapons can be assigned for use by Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, none of which have their own nuclear arms. These weapons remain under U.S. custody during peacetime but can be released to U.S. allies for delivery in times of war. See Oliver Meier, "NATO Mulls Nuke Modernization, Security," Arms Control Today, September 2008, pp. 37-39.

[18] Council of the European Union, "Council Joint Action 2008/588/CFSP of 15 July 2008 on Support for Activities of the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) in Order to Strengthen Its Monitoring and Verification Capabilities and in the Framework of the Implementation of the EU Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction," 189 OJ 28, July 17, 2008, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:189:0028:0035:EN:PDF.

[19] On June 5, 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed a new security treaty for Europe. Medvedev elaborated on his proposal in more detail in a speech on October 8 at the World Policy Conference in Evian, France.

[20] The Group of Eight (G-8) Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction is an initiative launched in June 2002. The initial participants pledged $20 billion over a 10-year period to this effort, including $10 billion from the United States and, to date, have primarily funded projects in Russia.


Interviewed by Oliver Meier

Country Resources:

Interview with Gareth Evans, co-chair of the International Nuclear Non-Proliferation Disarmament Commission



Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper and Peter Crail

Gareth Evans serves as co-chair of the International Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Commission, an initiative sponsored by Australia and Japan aimed at providing recommendations for strengthening the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), reinvigorating efforts to halt nuclear nonproliferation, and promoting nuclear disarmament. Evans has held a long career in international security and arms control issues, as Australia's foreign minister during 1988-1996 and as the current president and chief executive officer of the International Crisis Group, a position he has held since 2000. Arms Control Today met with Evans Feb. 12 to discuss the work of the commission and his perspective on the issues it will be addressing.

ACT: Regarding the work of the International Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Commission, its goal is to "reenergize high-level political discussion about the elimination of nuclear weapons." About 10 years ago, you helped initiate the Canberra Commission, which sought to take the opportunity provided by the end of the Cold War to accomplish a similar goal.[i] What opportunities do you see today to re-energize this debate 10 years after that commission's work?

Evans: The last 10 years has been a period in which we have been sleepwalking as an international community, with multiple things going rather badly wrong. Obviously, the India-Pakistan breakout, the Iran and North Korea issues, the failure of the 2005 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, the failure of the 2005 World Summit, immobility in the Conference on Disarmament.[ii] It has been a desolate decade.

The opportunity to move things forward is intimately bound up with the new U.S. administration and the sense of confidence and momentum that hopefully that will generate, and is already generating, around the world, combined with the really significant contribution intellectually that has been made by the Gang of Four simply by putting out a hard-hitting case for zero nuclear weapons worldwide. They were not very forthcoming about how the steps are going to be taken,[iii] but getting the actual elimination issue back up in lights, getting the disarmament side of the house back on intellectual track, was hugely important. There is obviously that resonance all around the place, coming into this period in the run-up to the 2010 NPT Review Conference and beyond. But we also have to think beyond that because we do not want to be totally consumed by NPT theology when we have three big elephants outside the room-India, Pakistan and Israel-and no immediate prospect of bringing them into it. That said, nobody can afford another failure with the 2010 NPT conference, a failure to generate new momentum. The next year, as a result, is going to be extremely important, although it is obviously a much longer haul than that to realize our ultimate objective.

ACT: You mentioned the Gang of Four. How do you see the commission's role being different from them and other initiatives, such as Global Zero?[iv]

Evans: I have to preface by saying I do not yet know what the commission is going to recommend, and can only speak personally at this stage. While I think broad directions are reasonably clear, I cannot yet confidently state what we are going to be proposing. I think the critical thing is for this commission to actually add some value to the debate and not just produce another all too familiar wonky laundry list. Each of the earlier panel and commission exercises, and I have participated in some of them myself, have had their own utility in keeping the debate alive and clearly articulating some of the problems. Basically, the last series of reports have involved nuclear priesthood members talking to other nuclear priesthood members, and not really breaking out of the fairly closed circle of aficionados and actually generating resonance in the wider policy community.

The important role for this commission, if we can pull it off, will be to bring together all of the multiple threats that are out there, all the interlocking and intersecting issues- disarmament, proliferation, civil uses-and to articulate an action agenda from that, which is pragmatic and realistic, but at the same time hard-hitting and with an eye very clearly on the ultimate goal we are trying to achieve here, a nuclear weapons-free world. We need to be very tough-minded and pragmatic in the way in which we recognize the political realities that are out there and accordingly, in crafting the issues and recommendations, we need to devise a strategy that will have some resonance with policymakers, and not just be seen as more orchestral violins.

Each one of the exercises that are on foot at the moment has its own place in the firmament and its own utility. Global Zero, which is basically getting the long-term objective up there in the lights, very clearly articulated, and reasonably noisily articulated, is a highly useful contribution to energizing and maintaining the sense of importance of getting there, and energizing a global constituency to do so. I see it as wholly complementary to the other exercises that are in train. At the other end of the spectrum, you have a much more cautious step-by-step approach: "let's identify the first few foothills as we work our way up the mountain but we will not be too ambitious about giant strides because it is all a complex universe out there." That is a useful combination of the idealism and the pragmatism, and has an important constituency in the United States in particular. But what we have to try to do is energize a global constituency, bringing all of the key policymakers into the game and trying to map a way through this that is actually going to get some results.

ACT: You mentioned two different approaches: the approach promoted by Global Zero, as well as Indian leaders in the past, favoring the notion of some sort of deadline for achieving nuclear disarmament on the one hand, and the incremental steps promoted by others. [v] Do you find either of these approaches more compelling?

Evans: I cannot speak for the commissioners, but I hope where we will end up is articulating a pretty clear two-phase approach to this. Phase one will be getting to a minimalist vantage point. This would involve de-alerting, and nondeployment, or nonactive deployment, maybe involving significant separation of warheads from delivery systems. It would also involve having very massively reduced numbers, down to at least the low hundreds. It would involve an accompanying doctrinal commitment to no-first-use-whether that is enforceable, of course, is another issue. I think you could talk in terms of a timetable for getting to that kind of hugely improved universe. Maybe by 2025. Maybe that is too ambitious. It depends on what your vision of the final low numbers actually are and how you manage the business of juggling multiple players, but I think that is doable.

Phase two is getting from there to absolute zero. It does not seem to be really useful talking here in terms of a date certain because what you are really talking about to get from the minimum to the zero is satisfying a bunch of other conditions that have a lot to do with perceptions of conventional arms imbalances, with neighborhood security issues, and with the perceptions of where the tectonic plates are colliding in terms of larger global strategic relationships. [There are] a whole bunch of conditions which are going to have to be satisfied before people are going to be confident enough to move this far. There are also the technical conditions, effective verification strategies and other things on which people are now working assiduously. It is going to be very hard to get there, and it may be a little counterproductive, in terms of getting to a successful conclusion of phase one, to talk too much in terms of zero and not enough in terms of steps to zero.

What I'm thinking of is an approach to this which is really quite detailed and articulate in terms of describing the steps by which you can credibly get down to the minimalist vantage point, but also articulate about the degree of difficulty and the sort of things that are going to have to happen before you can get to actual zero and recognizing the kind of political constraints that are going to weigh heavily on that. Some people regard this as being a bit too nervously cautious: "let's just go for broke and do not even talk about anything else other than a steady continuum where everything will logically follow everything else." My perception at the moment is that that is not where policymakers' heads are at. We are going to need a hell of a lot more persuasion before getting to actual zero, but it is perfectly possible to persuade them that their security and regional and global security will be very effectively guaranteed by massively reduced arsenals and in effect taking these things out of capable use.

ACT: Going from the long-term vision to the much more immediate vision, is your report geared toward the NPT review conference of 2010?

Evans: If you are thinking in terms of phases, the short term is more like 2012 than 2010. Some of the things that need to be done with the short-term focus are not going to be able to be done in time for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and there are some other things that are going to have to be done outside that framework anyway.

ACT: Are you thinking of doing anything for the Preparatory Committee (Prep Com) this year?

Evans: There really needs to be a massive amount of emphasis on the disarmament side. We all know what the agenda is on the nonproliferation side. The United States, including previous administrations, have been very articulate about that. There is a very wide constituency of support for universalizing the 1997 Model Additional Protocol and getting some more serious compliance and enforcement constraints operating for those who shelter under the NPT umbrella while doing things they should not and then walking away from it.[vi] All of that stuff we sknow about. Plus the efforts to move forward on fuel banks and other ways of internationalizing or multilateralizing the fuel cycle, as difficult as all those things are. I think that sort of agenda is clear and needs to continue to be assiduously pursued.

But it is not going to begin to be achieved unless there is very serious movement on the other side of the house. Accordingly, what we will be saying to the administration here, over the next couple days, and what the commission has agreed is that these five points are the key stories we want to tell the administration. For a start, there are a couple of crucial building blocks relevant both to the disarmament and nonproliferation side on which we have to see movement. First, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is preeminently up there in the lights; that has to be almost priority number one for the administration.[vii] It would be hugely significant if its ratification can be achieved before the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Secondly, the other building block is a fissile material cutoff treaty or at least a fissile material initiative of some kind; not necessarily the exact FMCT we have been talking about-there are other options in play.[viii] If the United States makes very clear, as it has already, its withdrawal of the reservations on the verification side and actually puts its shoulder to the diplomatic wheel to get those negotiations started, that would be another hugely significant move in the right direction.

The third thing that clearly has to happen is trying to bring to a conclusion the resumption of the START-SORT arms control negotiations, accompanied by really obviously deep reductions.[ix] There are a lot of side issues in play that are going to complicate these negotiations like missile defense, substrategic missiles, conventional imbalances, and all the rest of it. But I would have thought prima facie that there is potential momentum there to get to deep reductions. That is hugely important, and that will feed into the NPT process in a very useful way.

Combined with that, a fourth thing is the United States has to get started on some serious strategic dialogue both with Russia and with China on the associated issues I just mentioned. You have to get started now talking to them about transparency, confidence-building issues, and China's own willingness to come aboard on the CTBT if the Americans take the lead on that, plus the larger issues of how you multilateralize the disarmament process. If there are visible conversations of that kind going on, not only will that have significance in terms of beginning to untangle U.S.-China and Russia relationships, but again it will feed very well into the NPT dynamic.

ACT: Is there a willingness on China's part to do that?

Evans: That remains to be explored. China is engaged in fairly enthusiastic modernization and expansion at the moment.

ACT: The Bush administration tried to have some sort of dialogue...

Evans: Yes, but it was not the best environment if there was ever going to be achievement on that front. It partially depends on the continuation of a reasonably sane and stable atmosphere across the Taiwan Strait, and that is the part of the puzzle that appears to be for the moment locked away. Also, the India relationship is fairly key to this; not that I think China feels itself threatened in any way by India. (I am not sure India really feels itself threatened by China either, for that matter, although that has always been part of the Indian story.) That triangular dynamic is very much going to be in play. But I would have thought prima facie that there is every reason to believe that at least an exploratory dialogue could be started. With the Russians, by contrast, you have an immediate objective: by the end of this year, you have got to cover the hiatus with START and to get something really seriously done with verification to follow through on the Moscow Treaty.[x] While you have that very sharp and precise agenda with Russia, it is very much less well defined with China. But it is important that the agenda with China get started.

Just to finish the litany, the fifth thing that is important for the Americans to do is on the doctrinal issue, the nuclear posture review and everything feeding into it. Even if we cannot get America to come up with a no-first-use commitment, at the very least it would be important to get something out there at the presidential level saying that the U.S. perception is that the sole role of nuclear weapons is to deter others from using them [and] to get away from the present almost impossible position of keeping open the nuclear option to respond to chemical, biological, or terrorist acts, whether by states or by nonstate actors.

ACT: In your view, what impact would a doctrinal shift regarding the role of nuclear weapons by the United States have on the nonproliferation and disarmament efforts you have been describing? As a follow-up, one of the things some states and commentators have said is that there is a role for nuclear weapons in deterring assistance by states to terrorist groups to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Do you find this claim credible?

Evans: It is important that there be disincentives to state support of terrorist activity, but you do not need to dangle nuclear weapons over their heads for that purpose. Our conventional capability is enough to spook any halfway rational failed, failing, or rogue state. Nuclear weapons are just not a necessary part of the repertoire. That is the view I take on extended deterrence and as to all the other things that make a number of the allied countries very nervous about giving away nukes. Of course, countries like Japan and South Korea are going to want confidence that they will be covered against any security contingency. But why on earth nuclear weapons even need to be part of that equation, I do not know.

It is particularly implausible on the question of terrorism. I am not understating the anxiety about terrorism or the risk of a terrorist incident involving nuclear weapons. You do not to have to invoke the whole Graham Allison approach to nonetheless be really quite spooked by the potential for doing damage with the amount of loose material lying around and the battlefield weapons that are being insufficiently protected.[xi] It is an entirely serious and legitimate concern, and one of the reasons why we have to get our nonproliferation act together is to reduce that potential. But the notion of needing nuclear weapons for that purpose is really bizarre.

As far as a doctrinal shift, it would be pretty significant for the United States to say that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter other people from using them. It would play very much into global perceptions that the United States is really getting serious about winding back the centrality and salience of nuclear weapons. That would be relevant in terms of getting buy-in by others on the disarmament side of the house, but also to the nonproliferation side. At the end of the day, the real significance of all this is in terms of the psychological shift it would represent in America and the psychological shift that that should in turn engender in others.

ACT: You mentioned extended deterrence earlier. Your country is said to benefit from an extended deterrence relationship. How do U.S. allies participating in this extended deterrence relationship reconcile that with calls for nuclear disarmament?

Evans: Well, again it is having confidence in the conventional capability of your big-guy ally. That is what it is all about. That is what an alliance relationship means, that you are going to be rescued against any conceivable contingency. I do not think Australia has too much to worry about. We are not in a particularly dangerous part of the universe. Even for those countries that do feel continuingly edgy about this, all the protections in the world they need are available with present conventional capability. I see them as being completely separate aims that have become tangled together.

You have some interesting dilemmas that have been much written about, in that some of the countries that are the strongest in their enthusiasm for nuclear disarmament are also the most nervous about actually getting to zero. I am very conscious of that in the context of this commission. But you just cannot play games on this issue. If you are talking about getting to zero, you have to recognize the continued salience of the mutual deterrence argument. There is no sentiment for unilateralism in any way that I can discern. But this is a completely separate argument from that about needing nukes for a variety of other security purposes.

Of course there are other problems that then start flowing from this emphasis on conventional superiority. We all know the irony of the Russian position. In the Cold War years, everybody in the West was spooked by perceived Russian conventional superiority on the European continent and needed nukes as the balance, but now the Russians are spooked by western European-American conventional superiority and want to hang on to nukes as the balancer. This is always going to be a complicating factor.

But in terms of the basic dynamics of things like posture reviews and what the United States ought to be able or willing to do right now, all these five points are significant because they represent changes from the previous administration. The nonproliferation side represents continuity. The disarmament side, and the FMCT and CTBT, represent discontinuity and forward movement. If you can get something visible happening with the CTBT, FMCT, obviously the bilateral stuff with the Russians, plus the strategic dialogue with the Russians and Chinese, plus something on the doctrine stuff-and they're all things that are being foreshadowed in one way or another by this administration-that would be a really major leap forward.

The question is, will there be the energy? Will there be the organization? Will there be the capacity to allocate priority time to get all these things moving in this sort of time frame? Will the domestic political environment, the Senate, everything else, sustain this much activity? These are difficult questions to answer. But in terms of what I think the rest of the world ought to be asking of the United States, this is a pretty relevant agenda.

ACT: You have spoken in the past about the need to bring the three non-NPT members into the global nonproliferation disarmament regime. How do you think the international community can best achieve that goal?

Evans: You have three logical options. One, which is not really an option at all, is to get them to sign up for the NPT itself, wearing either a nuclear-weapon-state hat or a non-nuclear-weapon-state hat, either of which seem to be totally implausible notwithstanding the endless numbers of speeches that continue to be made to this effect. The rituals of First Committees and NPT PrepComs and review conferences do seem to be in need of a bump along.[xii]

The second approach is to say, let's have a new whiz-bang nuclear weapons convention which basically starts from the beginning and brings together all the good things that are in the NPT, and the FMCT, and the CTBT, and creates a new universe from scratch-that has a place for these guys in it. There is a tactical question whether there is still some utility in trying to start an Ottawa or Oslo kind of process just to energize the grass roots for that sort of campaign.[xiii] In terms of getting real world results in the short to medium term, I think that is difficult to imagine happening.

So this leaves you with the third option, which is to somehow find other forms of discipline: new regimes, new strategies-bilateral, plurilateral, multilateral-that can subject these guys to global disciplines both on the nonproliferation and on the disarmament side. In that context, we have now the India-U.S. nuclear deal. The good thing you can say about it is that it does demonstrate that there are ways out there, institutionally, of subjecting nuclear-armed states presently outside the NPT to various disciplines that will be important in the long run. The fact that the Indians have to safeguard at least some of their facilities is an important step forward. But the trouble is that it is not nearly as good a deal as it should have been. Clearly it is a very weak discipline to which India is being exposed-with basically no inhibitions on fissile material production, not even on the issue of testing. It is not a model to be emulated, but it does point the way forward. We do have to somehow create parallel structures, parallel processes, parallel forms of discipline, and gradually bring people aboard on them.

ACT: In pragmatic terms, in the aftermath of the so-called India nuclear deal, what specific things do you think could exert that discipline as you describe it, and how can those be accomplished diplomatically in the years ahead?

Evans: That will be a central theme for this commission, and I do not have a clear sense of where we might come out at this stage. The NPT and the NPT Review Conference, as crucially important as they are, should not be seen as the be-all and end-all of our arms control efforts. It will be hugely important to get strong outcomes from the review conference, including by regenerating the 13 steps in some way, maybe producing some new consensus document into which others can ultimately buy in.[xiv] But the NPT by itself is not going to get us there.

We need to have other kinds of strategies moving, such as how you bring into a multilateral disarmament process not only Russia and the United States, not only China, and not only France and the United Kingdom, but India and Pakistan as well. Sooner rather than later we have got to start that kind of strategic dialogue. George Perkovich's idea of trying to encourage every nuclear-armed state to start doing the kind of studies and analyses of the national interests involved, and just what are the constraints and limitations of the moving-into-a-multilateral-force-reduction sort of framework, is a very useful one. We have to find ways of putting the heat on countries to sign up to the Model Additional Protocol, or variations on all these themes. Obviously, the CTBT and the FMCT are not NPT constrained; they have their own momentum, and it is important to generate momentum in relation to countries that are outside the NPT framework as well as within it.

Although my commission was originally billed by the two prime ministers as primarily about feeding ideas and momentum into the NPT Review Conference process, and while we are targeting a major report to be completed by the end of this year, which will have very direct resonance for that conference, it has always had a larger remit than just that. That is one of the reasons why the commission is going to continue its life at least until the middle of 2010, to survey the broader landscape as it then exists.

Another reason for giving the commission a reasonable life is some parts of its remit will take some time to explore. In terms of the peaceful-uses side, and the nuclear renaissance whether that happens or not, there are major roles and responsibilities for the civil nuclear industry in terms of developing and applying proliferation-resistant technology, and in relation to other proliferation-relevant areas. I think we will get started on generating some momentum and meeting with the industry people in Moscow in midyear. But in terms of actually getting deliverable results, I cannot see too much of that happening before the NPT Review Conference next May. One option for the commission is to host a conference bringing together the industry players with the government players. That is something that could well postdate the review conference.

ACT: One of the conversations taking place is what to do about the nuclear fuel cycle. There are ongoing considerations in that respect about the criteria that should be used to determine which states have access to any established international fuel bank, including whether or not non-NPT members should have access. What criteria do you think are appropriate for such an initiative?

Evans: I have not thought through specifically fuel bank supplies to non-NPT members, but the full range of safeguards including at the [Model] Additional Protocol level would not be a bad start. Australia, for one, has adopted a very tough view about that even though we went along with the Nuclear Suppliers Group exercise and to that extent supported the India-U.S. nuclear deal. We have remained extremely cautious committing ourselves to supplying Australian uranium.

There is a real utility in having some guaranteed nuclear fuel supply for all potential users. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei's vision of a single multilateralized facility under international control as a producer is very attractive indeed. But it is a vision that is going to take a long time to realize given what we know about the existing fissile material producers and their willingness to be brought under some sort of international umbrella. It is also a matter about making a judgment about whether there is going to be real demand for enough of this stuff in the future to justify the creation of new institutions, or whether the main emphasis ought to be on trying to change the role of the existing producers. It is a really complicated issue, and I and the commission are just beginning to get our heads around what the options are. It will be a major issue for this commission to wrestle with to see if we can take a little bit further the work the IAEA and others have been doing.

ACT: Moving back to the nonproliferation regime, the issues of Iran and North Korea are two of the key state challenges. There is concern that failure to deal with these challenges early on may serve to unravel or begin to unravel the nonproliferation regime. What steps do you think can be done to make sure that those challenges do not threaten the regime as a whole?

Evans: As far as the North Korea issue is concerned, it seems likely that there is going to be more of the same process with the six-party talks [with] "two steps forward, one step back" being the name of the game maybe in perpetuity. But at least the situation is now stabilized. There is no particular evidence that any more bomb material is being made. Whether anything is happening on the highly enriched uranium side, as distinct from plutonium side, remains a matter of speculation.[xv] It is an unsatisfactory process. It is a limping process. But it beats the hell out of the non-process we had before.

Iran is rather more difficult, and on this one, I have my own views. Whether they will prove to be the commission's views I do not know. My view is that there is a doable deal there to be done right now with the Iranians, but it will require a deep breath on the part of the West-and that is accepting the reality of Iranian fissile material production. By all means, spread out over time the achievement of industrial-scale capacity, and by all means try to multilateralize the process to some extent with the kind of consortium arrangements that the Iranians themselves still seem prepared to sign up to.[xvi] But let's not pretend that any form of pressure at all-given the pride and all the other domestic and international political factors that are in play-is going to persuade the Iranians to go back to zero or even to stop where they are now. What I believe is doable is drawing the red line that really matters, that against weaponization.

I have had a sustained dialogue with the Iranians about this. As recently as last weekend, I had 45 minutes with Speaker of the Iranian Parliament and former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Munich, and I was in Tehran last year talking to Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and many other key players. On the other side, I've talked to key U.S. players; Undersecretary of State for Policy Bill Burns and others in the previous administration, plus with the Europeans, [including] EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, his adviser Robert Cooper the EU director-general for external and politico-military affairs, and various ministers. So I have a pretty clear idea of what is going on and a sense of what options are in people's heads.

The way through this is for Europe and North America to recognize the reality on the fissile material side of it, but to draw an absolute red line against weaponization which I think would be sustainable. There are a whole bunch of reasons why the Iranians should in fact have made the cost-benefit judgment that it would do them much more harm than good to actually acquire a nuclear weapon But that is distinct from having a perceived breakout capability, the capacity to produce one. They want that very much. That is non-negotiable, I think. But having got that much, I think they would be content with it.

The issue is of course, verification: trust but verify. The Iranians should have to sign up to a highly intensive, highly discriminatory monitoring and verification regime. That, at the very least, would have to be the Model Additional Protocol and all the bells and whistles that go with that-but probably a special Additional Protocol-plus regime to enable the West to have a little more confidence, not only on the fissile material side but also concerning physical weaponization and missile delivery systems. The Iranians are not very happy about anything that constitutes further "discrimination" since their whole argument is they have been discriminated against in exercising their rights under the NPT. But, as I say to them: you guys have had a program,- maybe not committing you to weaponization but certainly to exploring the options-which everybody is concerned about. And with your president spooking a lot of people internationally with his public statements, and with the kind of existential threat that even the possession of just one or two weapons would represent and be perceived to represent to the Israelis, you have to recognize that very stringent verification indeed will be required.

I think there is a deal to be made where the West makes a big concession, the Iranians make a big concession, and then you just juggle it out on the basis of incentives and disincentives. You keep, very obviously, the military option should they step across that red line [which is] the 800-pound gorilla in the background. You also have lots of incentives in the form of normalization of relations and progressive relaxation of sanctions, all of which would create an environment under which we could fairly rapidly achieve some serious normalization of relations in the region and very much play into a much more constructive Iranian approach on Syria, Lebanon, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I think the nuclear issue is the key to resolving all those others. You are just not going to begin to make progress on them unless you can resolve this one.

Larijani's speech at Munich last week was fairly fierce. Ninety percent of it was pitched to a domestic hard-line constituency, but as to 10 percent of it, the doors and windows were wide open. Similarly with Vice President Joe Biden's speech and what has come out of the administration so far the doors and windows are open. The trick will be to manage the process now and find ways of exploring the kind of deal in essence that I'm describing, to get each side past the initial barriers of mistrust that are inhibiting any serious discussion. I could go into much more detail about why I think the Iranians do not actually feel themselves committed to a nuclear weapon, on the contrary, but that is another story.

ACT: The world is grappling with a number of challenges right now. How do we make sure efforts to lead to nuclear disarmament are given the momentum and attention they deserve?

Evans: That is a good question and one that has really troubled me. How do you energize a political constituency that basically, apart from the terror issue and the concern about nonstate actors getting hold of nukes, just does not really instinctively grasp the risks that are involved out there [and] which thinks that it's a Cold War problem and we've moved on. How do you move a public that is just not really energized or even interested in this issue at all and regards it all as just hairy-socks-and-sandals-placard-waving stuff from the sixties? Our own commission, and all of the other initiatives that are presently going on, have to find ways of demonstrating the nature and scale of the risks that are out there.

Telling some of the Cold War stories about how close we came during this allegedly sane and stable period may be helpful. The more information that comes out, the more disconcerting it is. Understanding the extent of the insecurity that is out there at the moment is also important. It helps to get those stories about the Air Force losing half a dozen strategic missiles for days on end. Similarly with stories about how much more work needs to be done to secure weapons stockpiles, particularly the small battlefield stuff, which is easily transportable, plus fissile material. Similarly to get the story out loud and clear about just how much damage these things can do. I do not think we have spent enough time getting city-impact diagrams out there about the damage that a Hiroshima-sized bomb would do, as compared say with the 9/11 attacks, and then of course what a strategic weapon could do. In all of this it is a matter of getting the information into the heads of the senior policymakers, and it is a matter also of energizing something bottom-up with the civil society constituency.

ACT: How do you do that without the sort of scare tactic we have seen in the recent commission report that says in the next five years there's a 50 percent chance of an attack with weapons of mass destruction?[xvii]

Evans: You harness the scare tactics to the extent the data and analysis will support them. Some people like Graham Allison are saying that there is a 10 per cent chance in the next 10 years of a major nuclear incident in a major city in the world. For example nonstate terrorist actors taking a boat into New York harbor and bolting together some sort of gun-type device, not just a radiological or dirty bomb but a real nuclear bomb.[xviii] If that figure is defensible, nobody in the universe would think a similar level of risk, a 10 per cent chance in 10 years , is acceptable in building, for example, a nuclear reactor power plant.

The risk of something going very badly wrong with nukes, and the catastrophic implications of this for the whole world, are right up there with the level of risk involved with the present economic meltdown and the climate change story. The nuclear threat really is one of the big three in terms of the sheer scale of the damage that could be done by getting it wrong.

There is also the story about how readily available the relevant technology is, not only through the help of Mr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, but via the internet. This is very much more real, and dangerous, than it was 15-20 years ago in terms of what is doable by the malignly disposed. Then if you get more players in the proliferation game, it gets worse. The United States and Russia had a pretty well-orchestrated set of minuets that they danced in terms of the control arrangements, hotlines and the rest. But elsewhere things are more problematic. I was in Pakistan just three weeks ago and a senior official told me privately, "You know we put in place so-called hotline arrangements between ourselves and India after some of the earlier scares to try and minimize the risk of anything untoward happening. But with all the tension we've had since Mumbai, lasting many weeks now, that telephone line has not been used and there has basically been no direct senior-level communication at all." I know from being in both Indian and Pakistani capitals how high the level of tension was. It has been a classic situation with great potential for miscalculations and escalation. Yet those mechanisms, rudimentary as they are, are just not being used.

All of these stories have to be told and in a way that has resonance for policymakers. You are not going to get them to make any of the changes we want just by making the moral case or the technical case-the verifiability issue, and the argument that military uses are negligible and probably counterproductive. You have somehow to make a political case, talking about the cost of weapons possession, the downside risks associated with it, and somehow change the parameters of the political debate. The best chance of doing that is with the new administration here in the United States that is seriously committed to thinking and talking in those terms. Your presidential bully pulpit is infinitely more significant than any commission, or anything that any nongovernmental organization can do.

ACT: Thank you.

[i] The Australian government established the Canberra Commission in 1995 to provide recommendations for steps toward global nuclear disarmament.

[ii] The eighth NPT review conference held in 2005 concluded without any substantive agreement on its consideration of the provisions of the treaty and has therefore been widely seen as a failure. The same year, the UN General Assembly held a high-level summit that adopted a final document that excluded any reference to nuclear disarmament, which was contained in earlier drafts. The Conference on Disarmament is a 65-member negotiating body on nonproliferation and disarmament matters. Since 1997, it has been unable to agree on an agenda to begin substantive work.

[iii] Former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), sometimes referred to as the Gang of Four, joined to write two op-eds in The Wall Street Journal in 2007 and 2008 calling for steps toward a nuclear weapons-free world. See George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons," The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. A15; George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, "Toward a Nuclear-Free World," The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008, p. A13. Both essays can be found on the Nuclear Threat Initiative's Web site. See www.nti.org/c_press/c3_opeds.html.

[iv] Global Zero is an international civil society campaign launched in 2008 working to promote global nuclear disarmament.

[v] In 1988, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi called for an international convention banning nuclear weapons as an effort outside the NPT. Since then, Indian leaders and officials have often repeated this call. New Delhi has refused to join the NPT, which it characterizes as "flawed and discriminatory" due to the division of nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states.

[vi] The IAEA Board of Governors adopted the Model Additional Protocol in 1997 to address concerns that states may carry out undeclared nuclear activities in an effort to develop nuclear weapons. States that adopt an additional protocol to their IAEA safeguards agreements provide the agency with greater legal authority to monitor all nuclear activities carried out in that country.

[vii] The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty prohibits all nuclear explosions and will formally enter into force after 44 designated "nuclear-capable states" have ratified the treaty, including the United States. As of March 2009, 35 of those countries have done so. The United States maintains a nuclear testing moratorium, but the U.S. Senate declined to give its advice and consent to ratify the CTBT in 1999.

[viii] In 1993 the United States called for a multilateral convention banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear explosives, often called a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). The Conference on Disarmament (CD) agreed on a mandate to negotiate such a treaty in 1995, but the CD has failed to reach agreement to begin negotiations on such a measure. Following a U.S. policy review of the proposed FMCT, in 2004 the Bush administration determined that the treaty was not effectively verifiable and indicated that it would not support the inclusion of verification provisions in the treaty. The Obama administration has indicated that it would reverse that position.

[ix] The United States and Soviet Union signed the START in 1991 to limit the number of strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems each state would deploy by December 2001. The treaty expires in December 2009 but may be subject to five-year extensions or superseded by another agreement.

[x] The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), or Moscow Treaty, was concluded by the United States and the Russian Federation in 2002 to limit each country to 1,700-2,200 operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads. The deadline for implementation and expiration date for the treaty is December 31, 2012.

[xi] Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, estimated in his 2004 book Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe that the chance of a terrorist attack involving nuclear weapons occurring by 2014 is a greater than 50 percent.

[xii] The UN General Assembly First Committee meets annually to address disarmament and international security issues. NPT states-parties hold conferences every five years to review the treaty and preparatory committees (PrepComs) for those review conference each year for three years preceding those review conferences.

[xiii] The Ottawa and Olso processes were arms control negotiations on anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions, respectively, conducted outside the formal, established disarmament negotiating fora. The efforts were pursued following a lack of agreement in negotiating fora such as the CD about whether and how to limit the use of such weapons. Both negotiations resulted in treaties prohibiting the use of specific classes of arms.

[xiv] As part of the 2000 NPT Review Conference Final Document, the states-parties agreed on a list of 13 "practical steps" aimed at "systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI" of the NPT. The Bush administration opposed a number of the 13 steps, including the early entry into force of the CTBT and refused to reference the 2000 NPT Review Conference Final Document in the agenda of the NPT review conference in 2005.

[xv] The United States has accused North Korea of maintaining an undeclared effort to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) in addition to its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program. The extent of any such North Korean HEU effort remains unclear, but Pyongyang is known to have imported materials of relevance to a gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment program.

[xvi] Iranian officials have proposed that other countries participate in Iran's nuclear activities, including its uranium-enrichment effort, as part of a multinational consortium.

[xvii] A December 2008 report by the congressionally created Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism concluded that "it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013."

[xviii] A gun-type nuclear device is the simpler of two forms of nuclear explosive mechanisms. It entails firing one piece of weapons-usable fissile material into another in order to achieve a critical mass and produce a nuclear chain reaction. It can achieve a desired nuclear explosive effect without the need for nuclear testing.


Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper and Peter Crail

Country Resources:

Arms Control Today 2008 Presidential Q&A: President-elect Barack Obama

Arms Control Today (ACT) posed a series of detailed questions on arms control and nonproliferation issues to the major presidential nominees. Published here are the responses ACT received on September 10 from Sen. Barack Obama about how he would address key weapons-related security issues as president of the United States.[1]

Click here to view the web exclusive PDF Version of the special section appearing in the December 2008 print editon of Arms Control Today.

ACT: Dozens of senior U.S. statesmen, led by former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), are urging the United States to lead the world toward nuclear disarmament through such steps as ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), rendering nuclear forces less ready to launch on short notice, and eliminating tactical nuclear weapons, including U.S. bombs stationed in Europe. Do you support the goal of nuclear disarmament, and what actions should be given priority to make progress toward that objective or to reduce global nuclear dangers?

Obama: As president, I will set a new direction in nuclear weapons policy and show the world that America believes in its existing commitment under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to work to ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons. I fully support reaffirming this goal, as called for by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, as well as the specific steps they propose to move us in that direction. [2] I have made it clear that America will not disarm unilaterally. Indeed, as long as states retain nuclear weapons, the United States will maintain a nuclear deterrent that is strong, safe, secure, and reliable. But I will not authorize the development of new nuclear weapons. And I will make the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide a central element of U.S. nuclear policy.

To make progress toward this goal, I will seek real, verifiable reductions in all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons—whether deployed or nondeployed, whether strategic or nonstrategic—and work with other nuclear powers to reduce global stockpiles dramatically by the end of my presidency. As a first step, I will seek Russia’s agreement to extend essential monitoring and verification provisions of the [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] START I before it expires in December 2009. I will work with Russia in a mutual and verifiable manner to increase warning and decision time prior to the launch of nuclear weapons.

I will initiate a high-level dialogue among all the declared nuclear-weapon states on how to make their nuclear capabilities more transparent, create greater confidence, and move toward meaningful reductions and the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons. As president, I will reach out to the Senate to secure the ratification of the CTBT at the earliest practical date and will then launch a diplomatic effort to bring onboard other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force. Finally, I will lead a global effort to negotiate a verifiable treaty ending the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes and will work with other interested governments to establish a new nuclear energy architecture.

ACT: What role, if any, should nuclear weapons have in U.S. security policy? Can existing U.S. warheads and the current nuclear weapons complex support those roles, or do you believe new warheads and capabilities are needed?

Obama: The most important objective with respect to nuclear weapons is doing everything we can to prevent the use of any such weapons, anywhere in the world. So long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States needs to retain nuclear weapons to prevent this from happening. But we need to do more. I will restore America’s leadership in reducing the role of nuclear weapons and working toward their ultimate elimination. A world free of nuclear weapons is a world in which the possibility of their use no longer exists.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, I will retain a strong, safe, secure, and reliable nuclear deterrent to protect us and our allies. But I will not authorize the development of new nuclear weapons and related capabilities. And I will make the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide a central element of U.S. nuclear policy.

ACT: Many Americans fear that terrorists might acquire biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons and use them against the United States, its troops, or allies. What more should be done to prevent that tragic possibility from occurring?

Obama: Conventional thinking has failed to keep up with new nuclear, chemical, and biological threats. Today we confront the possibility of terrorists bent on our destruction possessing a nuclear weapon or bomb-making materials. We need a president who understands these new security threats and who has effective strategies for addressing them. Since early on in my time in the Senate, I have worked with Senator Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and others across the aisle to expand efforts to stop smuggling of nuclear material and keep nuclear and conventional weapons out of terrorists’ hands.

As president, I will lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons materials at vulnerable sites within four years—a critical way to prevent terrorists from acquiring a nuclear bomb. I will work with Russia in this effort and with other countries to develop and implement a comprehensive set of standards to protect nuclear materials from theft. I will also phase out highly enriched uranium from the civil sector; strengthen policing and interdiction efforts; build state capacity to prevent theft, diversion, or spread of nuclear materials; and convene a summit on preventing nuclear terrorism.

Biological weapons similarly pose a serious and increasing national security risk. To prevent bioterror attacks, I will strengthen U.S. intelligence collection overseas to identify and interdict would-be bioterrorists before they strike, assist states to meet their obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1540 [3] and the Biological Weapons Convention, strengthen cooperation with foreign intelligence and law enforcement agencies, build capacity to mitigate the consequences of bioterror attacks, improve local and state emergency responses to cope with catastrophic emergencies, and accelerate the development of new medicines, vaccines, and production capabilities.

ACT: Countries are expressing greater interest in nuclear power at a time when there is mounting concern that the spread of nuclear technologies and expertise for energy purposes could contribute to secret weapons options or programs. What can be done to prevent countries from acquiring and misusing latent nuclear weapons production capabilities, particularly uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technologies and know-how?

Obama: Our nuclear security and that of our allies requires that the expansion of nuclear reactors for electricity generation is not accompanied by the expansion of sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle facilities that can produce bomb-grade plutonium and uranium. As president, I will make it a top priority to prevent nuclear fuel from becoming nuclear bombs. I will work with other interested governments to establish a new international nuclear energy architecture—including an international nuclear fuel bank, international nuclear fuel-cycle centers, and reliable fuel supply assurances—to meet growing demands for nuclear power without contributing to the proliferation of nuclear materials and fuel-production facilities. An international system that ensures access to reasonably priced fuel will encourage developing countries that they do not need sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle facilities to grow their economies, while ratcheting up pressure on any states seeking to disguise their nuclear weapons ambitions.

ACT: START is set to expire December 5, 2009, and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (also known as the Moscow Treaty) limits end December 31, 2012. Should the United States and Russia continue the process of negotiating nuclear cuts through verifiable bilateral agreements or manage their nuclear relationship in other ways? How should the two countries minimize strategic distrust and overcome decades of strategic competition?

Obama: The United States and Russia should seek real, verifiable reductions in all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons—whether deployed or nondeployed, whether strategic or nonstrategic. I am committed to working with Russia and other nuclear-weapon states to make deep cuts in global stockpiles by the end of my first term. This process should begin by securing Russia’s agreement to extend essential monitoring and verification provisions of START I prior to its expiration in December 2009. As president, I will also immediately stand down all nuclear forces to be reduced under the Moscow Treaty [4] and urge Russia to do the same.

Keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment’s notice is a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation. I believe that we must address this dangerous situation—something that President Bush promised to do when he campaigned for president back in 2000, but did not do once in office. I will work with Russia to end such outdated Cold War policies in a mutual and verifiable way.

ACT: Ballistic missiles can be used to deliver biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. What should be done to address threats posed by ballistic missiles, and how much of that effort should be devoted to developing anti-missile systems, including the possible deployment of U.S. missile interceptors in Europe or space?

Obama: Nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons pose serious national security risks, especially when delivered on ballistic missiles that can strike our homeland, our troops abroad, or our allies. Missile defenses can be a significant part of a plan to reduce these dangers, but they must be proven to work and pursued as part of an integrated approach that uses the full range of nonproliferation policy tools in response to the full range of threats we face. As president, I will make sure any missile defense, including the one proposed for Europe, has been proven to work and has our allies’ support before we deploy it. I will also strengthen the Missile Technology Control Regime and explore other arms control measures to reduce the ballistic missile threat.

But in our haste to deploy missile defenses, we cannot lose sight of the real 21st-century threats. The biggest nuclear security risk is not from a rogue state lashing out with ballistic missiles, but a terrorist smuggling a crude nuclear device across our borders. We spend more than $10 billion a year on missile defense, but far too little on securing nuclear materials around the world and improving security (including detection) at our ports and borders. We must focus our defenses on the most likely threats.

ACT: As China increases its military spending and modernizes its nuclear forces, what role, if any, should arms control play in preventing a regional arms competition or crisis and improving relations between the United States and China?

Obama: China appears to be developing a credible retaliatory capability as part of its evolving nuclear deterrent. As president, I will ensure that the United States continues to maintain our own military capabilities so that there can be no doubt about the strength and credibility of our security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region. I support the continuation of military-to-military exchanges with China, including efforts by the Bush administration to sustain a dialogue on strategic nuclear issues and resume laboratory-to-laboratory exchanges that were terminated in the 1990s.

I will urge China to increase transparency of its nuclear weapons policies and programs — indeed, of its military and defense policies more generally. We are not enemies. I will engage the Chinese leadership in discussions that convey how greater openness in military spending and nuclear force modernization is consistent with China’s and the United States’ national interests and more likely to lead to greater trust and understanding.

ACT: China and the United States recently have each destroyed one of their own satellites with missiles, raising concerns about space-based weapons and arms that target objects in space. What, if anything, should be done to limit such developments?

Obama: While steps such as improving procurement to ensure timely, cost-effective delivery of satellites and diversifying our remote-sensing capabilities are important, satellites will remain vulnerable as well as indispensable to our national interests for the foreseeable future. We cannot ignore dangers and should thoroughly assess possible threats to U.S. space assets. This will include establishing contingency plans to ensure that U.S. forces can maintain or duplicate access to information from space assets and accelerating programs to protect U.S. satellites against attack. I will take whatever military and diplomatic steps are needed to safely assure the survivability of our satellites and respond appropriately if another country targets them. But our national security—as well as that of our strategic competitors—requires that we work in concert to prevent military conflict in space, to address the practical problems that the growth of satellite launches and operations have created, and to help all nations reap the benefits that peaceful uses of space can provide. That is why I have endorsed an international code of conduct to clarify the rules of the road to manage traffic in space and prevent satellites from being put at risk. In addition to unilateral steps needed to protect our interests in space, I will pursue negotiations of an agreement that would ban testing anti-satellite weapons.

ACT: How would you build on U.S. efforts through the six-party process to denuclearize North Korea and prevent it from proliferating nuclear weapons-related technology and missiles?

Obama: As president, I will work from the very beginning of my term in office to reduce nuclear dangers in Northeast Asia. I will continue to pursue the kind of direct and aggressive diplomacy with North Korea that can yield results, while not ceding our leverage in negotiations unless it is clear that North Korea is living up to its obligations. North Korea will be offered a stark choice: if it verifiably eliminates its nuclear weapons programs and does not engage in any proliferation activities whatsoever, it will receive meaningful economic, political, and security benefits. If North Korea refuses, it will face a bleak future of political and economic isolation. The objective must be clear: the complete and verifiable elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, which only expanded while we refused to talk.

Pyongyang’s recent nuclear declaration was a step forward, but there will be many more steps to take in the days ahead. I will aggressively follow up to ensure a complete, accurate, and verifiable accounting of North Korea’s past plutonium production; confirm its prior uranium-enrichment activities; and get answers to disturbing questions about its proliferation activities with other countries, including Syria. As my administration moves forward, I will also work with our friends and allies in the region to assure that the six-party process addresses all issues on the agenda, including that of abductees.

ACT: The current administration has stated that it is committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. Although the United States has worked to impose a variety of sanctions on Iran and has offered to negotiate an incentives package along with the other permanent members of the Security Council and Germany if Tehran suspends enrichment, Iran continues to expand its nuclear capabilities. What steps would you take to address Iran’s nuclear program?

Obama: The Iranian nuclear threat is growing. Last fall’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) confirmed that Iran has engaged in nuclear weapons design activities, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warns that it continues to enrich uranium using more sophisticated technology. Together these activities could soon put Iran in the position of building nuclear weapons. That must not happen. And I will do everything I can as president to prevent it from happening.

My goals are clear: Iran must come clean on its past and present nuclear activities, and it must suspend its uranium-enrichment activities. To get there, I will prepare for and engage in direct talks with Tehran to test its intentions. I strongly support tougher action by the UN Security Council, as well as steps by our friends and partners in Europe and Asia to impose additional economic costs on Tehran beyond those that can be agreed to at the United Nations. A united diplomatic front with the P5+1 [5]directly calling on the Iranians to end any nuclear weapons activities will, in turn, maximize international pressure and remind Iran’s people that it is their government that is choosing to isolate them from the world. It will also send Iran a clear message: live up to your obligations now; by waiting, you will only face greater isolation. A credibly military option must also be kept on the table.

We still have time to address the Iranian nuclear issue diplomatically, but we need to use that time wisely. While we have stood on the sidelines until recently, Iran has defiantly expanded its nuclear program. I call on Iran not to wait for a new administration to reach agreement on the nuclear issue. Such an outcome is possible if we pursue the kind of tough, sustained, and unconditional diplomacy—backed by tough sanctions—that I have long supported and that the NIE concluded can prove effective in dissuading Tehran from pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.

ACT: It has been 10 years since India and Pakistan each conducted a series of nuclear tests. Since that time, South Asia has witnessed a buildup of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, armed conflict and risks of nuclear escalation, and a nuclear technology smuggling network that aided the nuclear weapons programs of other countries. How will you work to reduce the risks posed by India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals and programs?

Obama: The Bush administration’s policies toward both India and Pakistan have allowed grave nuclear risks to grow in South Asia since the 1998 nuclear tests. I will work to reduce the region’s nuclear dangers in a number of ways.

First, I will expand the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) from its current focus on stopping illicit nuclear shipments to eradicating nuclear black market networks, like the remnants of the Abdul Qadeer Khan organization. Second, the best way to reduce nuclear risks in South Asia is to reduce incentives to test and deploy new nuclear weapons. My two amendments in the Hyde Act [6] sought to accomplish these goals. Just as I will work with the U.S. Senate to secure ratification of the CTBT at the earliest practical date, I will prioritize diplomatic efforts with India and Pakistan to encourage them to move beyond their moratorium on nuclear testing toward the ratification of the treaty. Third, I will continue my work begun in the Senate to secure all dangerous weapons and materials against terrorist threats worldwide, including in South Asia. Fourth, I will encourage India and Pakistan to collaborate with IAEA experts to maximize security at nuclear power plants and related facilities. Fifth, and finally, I will continue support of ongoing Indian and Pakistani efforts to resolve the Kashmir problem in order to address the political roots of the arms race between India and Pakistan.

ACT: There are several international initiatives under consideration or in place to reduce the threats posed by conventional weapons that take the lives of noncombatants, including a limit or ban on cluster munitions use, a global arms trade treaty to better regulate weapons transfers, and the Ottawa Convention against anti-personnel landmines. What steps, if any, should be taken to limit conventional arms dangers?

Obama: In general, I strongly support international initiatives to limit harm to civilians caused by conventional weapons. In the Senate, I worked with Senator Lugar to pass legislation securing conventional weapons like shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, anti-personnel landmines, and other small arms; co-sponsored legislation introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) prohibiting future procurement of victim-activated landmines; and voted for an amendment offered by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Leahy prohibiting the use or transfer of cluster munitions absent rules of engagement ensuring they would not be employed near concentrations of civilians.

As president, I will help lead the way on these issues. Our military has legitimate concerns on these issues, and I look forward to consulting closely with leadership at the Department of Defense as we shape policies on these key issues. At the same time, I recognize that our forces have been moving away from using cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines ourselves, and these trends can be accelerated with targeted investments in innovative technologies. We also have a strong national security interest in preventing the illegal trade in small arms, including rocket launchers sought by terrorists and other extremists. I will regain our leadership on these issues by joining our allies in negotiations and honoring U.S. commitments to seek alternatives to landmines, while also ensuring that our service members have the tools that they need to do the dangerous missions that we ask them to perform.



Additional clarification is provided below by Arms Control Today. These comments were not provided by the candidate and should not be considered part of his official statement.

1. While the McCain campaign expressed its willingness to provide answers to the same questions, the Republican presidential nominee’s staff ultimately did not provide Arms Control Today with answers to the survey questions.

2. George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. A15; George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “Toward a Nuclear-Free World,” The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008, p. A13.

3. The UN Security Council in April 2004 unanimously adopted Resolution 1540, which requires all countries to implement a variety of domestic measures to prevent nonstate actors from acquiring unconventional weapons, their means of deliveries, and related materials.The UN Security Council committee charged with monitoring, facilitating, and promoting national efforts to comply with the resolution had its mandate extended for two years by Resolution 1673 in 2006 and for three years by Resolution 1810 in 2008.

4. Formally the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), the May 2002 Moscow Treaty commits the United States and Russia to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to a level of 1,700 to 2,200 nuclear warheads apiece by December 31, 2012. The treaty’s warhead limit expires at the end of that same day.

5. The P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany. They have engaged Iran in negotiations on its nuclear programs.

6. Signed by President George W. Bush into law December 18, 2006, the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006 sets the conditions for the United States to resume civil nuclear commerce with India for the first time since such trade was cut off roughly three decades ago.


Arms Control Today (ACT) posed a series of detailed questions on arms control and nonproliferation issues to the major presidential nominees.

Interview with Sergey Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the United States



A Fresh Start?

An Interview with Russia's Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Russia's new ambassador to the United States, has assumed his post at a critical time in U.S.-Russian relations and at a point when presidential transitions are underway in both Moscow and Washington. Kislyak has served in a number of senior foreign policy positions in Moscow. Most recently, he served as Russia's deputy foreign minister where he played the lead role on arms control and nonproliferation issues. On November 14, Arms Control Today spoke with Ambassador Kislyak about his views on a number of issues in U.S.-Russian strategic relations, including missile defense, future strategic arms reductions, the status of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and Russian views on how to deal with Iran's nuclear program.

ACT: Mr. Ambassador, with President-elect Barack Obama taking office in January, could you briefly outline the most important and urgent issues that you think must be addressed to improve the U.S.-Russian strategic and security relationship?

Kislyak: I think there are many questions that need to be looked at. Our relations have not been in the best state during the last years, but at the same time, they are not entering the Cold War as some are suggesting. We do work on a number of issues that are important to the United States and Russia, and we are going to continue, but certainly we can do much better.

Once I was speaking here, I think addressing the bar association, and they were asking me, "What is one thing you want to do differently?" I said, and I'd like to repeat it, that what we would like to see happen is that the United States will treat Russian interests the same way that the United States would like to see Russia treat American interests. That would be the magic formula because we have a lot of interests that are common. These interests transcend the spectrum of issues that are usually enumerated in this respect. Certainly, nonproliferation is one. Combating terrorism, extremism in all its forms, among other things, is another. A new added challenge that we all face is the possibility of a nexus between terrorism and nuclear materials. We have started working on this issue, I would say, very successfully. It is one of the few examples of us working together as one and being successful. We started this initiative of the two presidents, Mr. [Vladimir] Putin and Mr. [George W.] Bush, and now we have in two years over 70-plus countries joining us.[1] So it is an example of how we can work, addressing challenges together to the benefit of the security of Russia and that of the United States.

I think that if we limit ourselves only to these few challenges that everyone is talking about, that would be a big disservice to the interests of your country and mine. We have economic relations that are developing pretty fast. Irrespective of the ups and downs in the political dialogue between the two of us, the economic relations are booming. That's something to be encouraged.

I do not have figures for this year, and most probably the current financial crisis will have its impact on the economic exchanges as well, but we can easily expect 30-plus billion dollars of trade this year between the two of us. That is quite a significant change, I would say, from four years ago when it was three times less. We saw in the last years an increase in mutual investment, and I underscore the word mutual, because Russian private business has invested here almost with the same rate, if not higher, than U.S. business has invested in Russia. That is also very good because that helps normal, friendly interaction between our societies, and that is a good underpinning for overall relations as well.

Certainly for you, the most important thing is the security area, and it has always been very important for our relations. I would like to underline, it is of primal importance for the stability in the world, and for the stability of our relations, but I think that it would be less than prudent to focus exclusively on our relations in the security area. Our relations should not be limited only to the content of arms control. It must be larger, and I think people tend to benefit from that.

ACT: One of the more immediate security challenges facing the United States and Russia is the December 2009 expiration of START, including its verification regime.[2] Obama has told this magazine that he wants to work with Russia to "make deep cuts in global nuclear stockpiles" during his first term and "extend the essential monitoring and verification provisions of START I prior to its expiration." Would Russia be willing to extend START if necessary?

Kislyak: It is difficult to say what you mean by "extend." Do we extend it the way it is, do we extend it for five years, do we extend it for two? All of these questions need to be discussed between our two teams.

If you ask me where we are currently, having discussed all these issues for quite a long period of time, I would say unfortunately I cannot report to you that we are satisfied with the level of agreement between us and the current administration of the United States on this particular issue. We have quite different views as to what the follow-on to START should be. We think there needs to be an extension of START, preserving the main systematic structure of the agreement, which does not mean we need to carbon-copy the agreement. It is large and had a very strong emphasis on the destruction of weapons that have been fulfilled completely by the United States and Russia.[3] We need to focus on things that do provide guarantees for stability in the future. That would certainly include limitations on delivery vehicles. Also, we need to be sure deployment modes do not change in a way that will be threatening to each other. Those elements of START that can provide stability for the future, we want to preserve in the future agreements.[4]

With lowering levels, I am not discussing with you now what the exact numbers I think that need to be filled in. It is something that should be negotiated between the delegations. One should not negotiate through the press, but I am trying to help you to understand how we see the follow-on to START. Sometimes the treaty was criticized for being too lengthy and too complicated. I would say it was not too lengthy because it was addressing challenges that we had at the time of the signing of the agreement. We were entering a process that was new to us, new to you. That was the first agreement to practically reduce strategic components of both sides.

But by now, after the treaty is almost completed, we have accumulated a wealth of experience on how to implement it. We are now concerned about taking pieces that we know how to implement and to import them in the follow on agreement that would be providing guarantees for the stability of the future. One of the most important things for us is that [the START follow-on] addresses delivery vehicles because you have to be sure that the deployment modes of both sides would not be any more threatening than they are now. Hopefully, they will be less so, more predictable, and at a lower level. That has always been our philosophy and position on this issue, whereas the philosophy of the U.S. government is a little bit different. What our [U.S.] colleagues are suggesting basically is not a follow on to START but rather an extension or a follow-on to the Moscow Treaty.[5] Those are two different treaties, but they are mutually complementary. The Moscow Treaty, partially at least, was relying on the verification procedures and the system of mutual exchanges provided for in START. Those are two complementary things and not substitutes for one another. What we would like to see happening is that we have a follow-on to START that will be picking up those elements that are still important today and would provide extended stability in our relations, hopefully at the lower levels covering everything: delivery vehicles and [warhead] deployments. A Moscow Treaty plus the follow-on to START would do the trick.

ACT: A hybrid approach?

Kislyak: It is not a hybrid. The Moscow Treaty is there. It is valid until 2012. Currently, we have to resolve the issue on what is to succeed START. The first discussion on what we are going to have afterwards needs to be taken before December of this year. The treaty will expire unless anything else is created or decided in a year. If we do not have anything in January 2010, we will wake up, all of us, in a situation where there are no limits on delivery vehicles and no limits on anti-ballistic missile defense.[6]

I'm asking myself, are we going to be better off in terms of providing stability in our relations and in the world context? I think it would be a very unfortunate, if not dangerous, situation, because it is a kind of free-for-all of strategic arms and we might lose the mutual constraints provided for on a mutual voluntary basis by arms control agreements.

ACT: Just to clarify a little bit, in terms of the extension, you are not ruling out the possibility of an extension? Does the Russian government consider the current meeting, the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission (JCIC) that is happening in Geneva, sufficient under the treaty terms to invoke the principle that it is fulfilling the treaty requirement that, to extend the treaty, the parties must meet on the matter at least one year before START expires?[7]

Kislyak: We need to talk to the others and to form the view that will be reflecting the use of our arms. As I said, I do not negotiate in the press. I am not going to do here today the job that is going to be done in Geneva. What I am suggesting is that we have a follow-on agreement that would come into force as soon as possible. That is the maximum that we can do, and that is what is needed to be done.

We see a particular situation in the United States where you have a regime and a presidential transition, which is certainly important for you, and it is very important for us, because we want to understand better what is going to be the policy of the new administration on all of these issues. We certainly have read what President[-elect] Barack Obama had said when he was running for the presidency. There are a lot of interesting things in his statements, including the interview that you referred to.[8] We hope it provides a basis for serious negotiations, and we are certainly more than willing to do so.

ACT: Can you be a little bit more specific in terms of what Russia is looking for in terms of which verification provisions from START should be continued? It was not clear if you wanted those in the future agreement.

Kislyak: Yeah, we do want the follow-on to be providing for verification, exchanges of information, and transparency. It is not that we favor just political declarations. We want to be sure that if we do have an agreement, the agreement needs to be verified and that the American side will be as compliant as we are.

As to the particularities of what we want-once again, I do not negotiate in the press.

ACT: Former President Vladimir Putin said at one point that Russia would be prepared to reduce its strategic forces down to 1,500 warheads or less.[9] That has been interpreted in different ways. What does that mean in terms of whether those warheads would be counted under the SORT [Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty] system or START? Can you provide any clarification of what he meant or what was meant in those comments?

In moving forward in talks with the United States on strategic systems, what is Russia's view about how best to deal with the United States' interest in converting some of the strategic systems that are armed with nuclear warheads to conventional warheads? How might that be taken into account in these future discussions?[10]

Kislyak: First of all, the numbers. We are certainly willing to go lower. That has always been our position, even at the time of negotiating the Moscow Treaty. The number of 1,500-there is nothing magic about it. Those are the numbers as a target that we are willing to negotiate with our American colleagues on. So whatever the mechanism is for arriving at this number, we are willing to be open and stick together. What we want to see happening is the mutual constraints provided for in START should not be lost because they do provide stability and are one of the important things that also should be preserved and should not be discarded.

As to the idea of converting nuclear strategic weapons into conventional weapons, we are very much concerned about this concept. We don't believe that, so far, that there is a mechanism that would ensure that it would not be destabilizing. We have been told that this conversion of strategic delivery vehicles into non-nuclear ones would not affect Russian security, but that's easily said. It is difficult to understand how it could be guaranteed; how one can be relaxed about a number of delivery vehicles, that can be reconverted at any time, and secondly can have strategic missions. So, we do not agree in principle because we do not know of any guarantees that it is not going to be threatening to our security.

ACT: Russia has criticized U.S. exploration of new or modified nuclear warheads and suggests that such pursuits will trigger a new arms race, whereas Russia also modernizes its nuclear forces and regularly produces warheads. Why is it seemingly acceptable for Russia to upgrade its nuclear forces but not the United States?

Kislyak: I am not sure that I know of the programs that you are referring to. We have armed forces maintained on the current level. We do not create new types of weapons. They [strategic forces] are modernized, but we are not creating new nuclear weapons. What we are sometimes concerned about when we hear that new types of weapons are being created is that this creates new means of employing nuclear weapons and making them more usable.

ACT: Would Russia be willing to consider joint limitations on warhead production?

Kislyak: That would need to be explored through negotiations. First of all, we need to agree that we go further. So far, we have not been able to achieve that. As I said, if we do agree to go further [in terms of arms control agreements]. Then one can explore mechanisms that would reassure that neither side will go above that [level]. So far, a lot of the things you ask sound a little bit theoretical because the first priority for us in negotiating with our American colleagues is to agree on what we want to do beyond START. I am not sure I can report to you today that we have satisfied that [requirement].

ACT: To date, U.S. and Russian arms control treaties have focused on strategic weapons. Yet, many analysts outside Russia have raised concerns about the size and security of Russia's stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons, as well as whether Russia has fulfilled past commitments to reduce these weapons.[11] Under what conditions would Russia be willing to provide a full accounting of these systems and start verifiably disposing of them?

Kislyak: First and foremost, on the security of these weapons, this issue has been talked about many times. In my opinion, having been involved in negotiations, I do not know of a single case where there has been a real problem with the safety and security of Russian nuclear weapons.

The United States has to work more seriously on how it deals with this issue. The latest reports on these issues that we know of indicates that a lot of things need to be looked at in this country.[12] I saw statements by the secretary of defense on this issue suggesting that there were decisions made in order to reinforce control of your stockpile and your components, and situations where some elements of them would find themselves in different countries. It is not acceptable, and we are certainly looking forward to seeing more control in this country of your components. As far as we are concerned, certainly, one cannot be complacent at any time, but the system of protection of Russian nuclear weapons is very, very stringent.

I remember, I think it was in Bratislava, that both sides, the presidents and the staffers and the advisers, had discussed the issue of safety of components of nuclear weapons. They agreed there was a good level of protection in both countries.[13] But one of the ideas was that we should never be complacent about it. That is something that is the case in my country. So I take exception to the notion that our nuclear weapons are insecure. Our strategic forces can be considered as secured.

As to lowering the scope of nuclear weapons in negotiations. I think we need to be aware that the nuclear weapons do not exist in isolation. It is also [a] part of military culture on both sides. We see that we have difficulties to even negotiate a follow-on to START that regulates the strategic component of [U.S. and Russian] forces.

At the same time, when you come, say to European situation, we see a lot of imbalances in conventional weapons. We see a very disappointing situation with the CFE [Conventional Armed Forces in Europe] Treaty. We still believe the CFE Treaty that was negotiated for the situation whenf two opposing military blocs existed still regulates the relations between two groups of countries. We see that one group is no longer and the other is expanding and taking bit by bit the quotas that were given to the group that is no longer there. Suggesting that the treaty doesn't work. It is something that is so surreal and does not provide the sense of stability, that we were forced to send [through the Russian moratorium] a strong signal to our colleagues that this situation should be corrected.

Some years ago ... on the initiative of Russia, we started negotiating the [adaptation] to the CFE Treaty that provides a little bit different approach.[14] It is not an ideal document either, but at least it does provide more predictability in this field by providing for two networks of limitations, not on the basis of groupings, but on individual membership to the treaty. We did expect that this treaty would have been in force already, say, five years ago. And what happens? Nothing. The adapted treaty has not entered into force. Our colleagues in the United States and NATO have decided not to start ratification of the treaty. The conditions for ratification, as far as we are concerned, are official; and we think that, first and foremost, there was lack of [NATO] interest in seeing it enter into force.

However, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus did ratify the [adapted] treaty, so we live in a very asymmetrical situation in terms of conventional buildups in Europe. I am not suggesting there are enormous buildups that are immediately threatening or deployed to prepare a tank attack, like we were concerned about in Cold War times. But the situation is that there is an expansion of conventional weapons in one grouping that is still there. The situation in the [conventional] arms control is not satisfactory.

ACT: Is it fair to say then that the quantity of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe is not the main concern or the main motivation for why Russia would be prepared to retain its weapons?

Kislyak: It is one of them. We have always advocated the repatriation of all weapons to one's own territory. We do not keep nuclear weapons beyond the territory of Russia, and we have always advocated that it would be a good idea for the others to do the same [to keep them on their national territories].

ACT: If the United States was willing to withdraw those tactical nuclear weapons, would that change Russia's position on consolidating, reducing, or eliminating its tactical nuclear weapons?

Kislyak: It would certainly be a serious factor, but would it be enough? I think we need to have a little bit more complex discussion between us and the United States and between us and NATO on the security environment in Europe.

ACT: On the CFE Treaty, Russia last year suspended implementation of it.[15] When does Russia intend to resume implementation, and what actions will it take to bring the Adapted CFE Treaty into force?

Kislyak: Well, I do not believe that we are interested in resuming implementation of the current CFE Treaty [without it being adapted]. You know how the CFE Treaty works? You have the current CFE Treaty that is the old one, and we have an adapted treaty. The adapted treaty does not exist without the first one, so in order to have an adapted treaty in force, we have to have both (The old one to be adapted by the new one). So, the moment that the adapted treaty is in force, we will have both: the old one, as amended by the treaty of adaptation.

But legally speaking, we are already there. We have ratified the adapted treaty, so in a way, we are waiting for others to join us. It is not us blocking the treaty and implementation; it is us waiting [for the others].

ACT: The argument on the other side is that you have not fulfilled these political commitments.

Kislyak: Yes we have. We have fulfilled everything that is applicable to the CFE Treaty implementation.

ACT: What about the withdrawals from Moldova and Georgia that were supposedly tied to the Adapted CFE Treaty?[16]

Kislyak: No, no, no, we have done everything that is related to the treaty, we have withdrawn all TLE [treaty-limited equipment] from Moldova in time. But there are political agreements between us and Moldova and us and the United States on the political environment there. They are bilateral understandings. Same with Georgia, on the withdrawal of our bases. Our bases are no longer there, we have withdrawn them. But the Georgians also were under commitment to do several things, and they have failed to do so. But in any way all this goes beyond what was required to implement the treaty.

By the way, by the same token, one of the commitments of Istanbul for all of us, including the United States, was the ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty. It is yet to be implemented [by the West].

ACT: One of the major concerns of U.S. lawmakers regarding the pending U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation agreement (a so-called 123 agreement), is Russia's relationship with Iran.[17] What specific assurances can the Russian government provide members of Congress to ease their concerns about Russian sales of arms and civil nuclear systems to Iran, as well as Russian support for tougher UN Security Council sanctions on Iran?

Kislyak: Could I ask you, why do we need to provide assurances to the U.S. Congress? We provide assurances to the Russian parliament. So if the United States is interested in working with us in nuclear energy cooperation, that is fine. It is for the United States to decide what it is that it wants. If it wants to cooperate with us, the doors [for cooperation] are open. If we are asked to make our actions, our policies, reportable to the [U.S.] Congress in order for the U.S. to make decisions on cooperating with us, we are not interested in that kind of scheme. We are fully in compliance with our obligations, with our commitments. We have not violated any agreement with the United States or anybody else. Our cooperation with Iran is limited in the nuclear field to Bushehr. By the way, your president has welcomed the way we cooperate on Bushehr because a scheme for the project that was developed with the Iranians that is very reliable and provides an alternative, a visible alternative, to the need to develop an indigenous enrichment capability. Because we build the reactor, we provide the fuel, and we take it back.[18] This is the best way to provide access to nuclear energy and electricity derived from nuclear energy. It was also supported by Europe.

When it comes to the defense supplies you seem to be referring to, there are no inconsistencies with our obligations or the resolutions of the Security Council, because we do show restraint, and whatever we do is purely defensive and for deterrence. It is our policy, and it is reportable the Russian parliament and Russian people and not anybody else. If the United States is interested in working with us [in the field of nuclear energy], we will be more than ready to work together, but it needs to be based on mutual respect and the mutual respect of interests. I think there are all sorts of reasons why we could and should cooperate in this field because both of us can do a lot in order to promote nuclear energy. That is something that most probably for the coming 20-30 years will be the alternative of choice to fossil fuel, and I do not know of any other [alternative] source of energy that can be employable in the foreseeable future but nuclear energy. All other renewable energies are either in scarce supply or the technology has yet to be developed to the point where it becomes competitive.

So we will see, all of us, significant development of nuclear energy in a lot of countries, in yours as well. We also embarked on an ambitious program to expand nuclear energy production. Currently we have, I think, 16 or 17 percent of electricity produced in my country from nuclear energy sources, and we will expand it to 25 [percent] within maybe 15 or more years. It is an ambitious program. We are going to make it. At the same time, we have a lot of things that are of interest to your industries. You might be interested in [our]technologies, so we are very much mutually complementary. But unless we have a bigger [legal] framework for that, there can be no reliable interaction between our respective businesses. If the United States wants to work with us, we would be more than willing to do so.

There is another initiative by the two presidents, and that is to develop alternative sources of nuclear energy for the rest of the world that are less prone to proliferation. We are offering the multilateral enrichment center and your president has launched the idea of the GNEP [Global Nuclear Energy Partnership].[19]

ACT: As for the multinational enrichment center, Angarsk, do you know when that is going to open?[20]

Kislyak: I am not sure I know the date.

ACT: Have you concluded a safeguards agreement with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] for Angarsk?

Kislyak: Well, we have a number of countries that have joined [the project], Kazakhstan being the first, Armenia being the second. As far as I understand, there will be several other countries that will be knocking on the doors pretty soon. We are very lucky that it is getting up and running and will be operational pretty soon.

It is a concept that I think can be very helpful to countries that are interested in the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It would make it possible for them not to seek their own enrichment facilities. They could use the benefits of these multilateral centers that would be fully under the IAEA safeguards. We hope it will be also to their economic advantages. But what is most important, they have ready-made vehicles to use in order to get, in a reliable fashion, participation in the management element of it, all of the enrichment services, which does not mean that any of the non-nuclear-weapon countries or any other countries would have access to the technology. So, we are, like, offering a Mercedes if you know how to shift gears and drive the car, but there will be somebody else, specialists, who will take care of your engine. That is the kind of service we are offering.

ACT: Iran has unfortunately not taken up Russia's offer to make use of Angarsk. The United States and Russia share the challenge of dealing with Iran's ongoing enrichment program, as well as Iran's construction of the Arak heavy-water reactor.[21] Just briefly, in your view, what do the United States and Russia and other members of the Security Council need to do in the near future to fortify the existing strategy or adjust the existing strategy to persuade Iran to suspend its enrichment program and comply with the IAEA investigation of its past nuclear activities?

Kislyak: Well, I do not believe we need to reinvent the strategy. This strategy has two basic components. One is based on decisions made by the IAEA Board of Governors enumerating for the Iranian government what needs to be done to return credibility to its program. The Security Council has adopted already four resolutions that are beefing up the requirements of the IAEA.

So there have been strong but measured signals of the international community to Iran that it is expected to comply with the IAEA requirements. And that was reinforcing the latest [U.N. Security Council] resolution from September. It [the September resolution] was short but, I think, very important, with a serious message. What needs to be done also is to try to engage in discussion with Iranian colleagues and work out the benefits, for them and for all of us, if they do cooperate with the requirements. The six [China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States] have produced a package of ideas which I think is a good one. It provides for the Iranians, if they choose to pick it up and to develop it with us through negotiations, an excellent opportunity to expand cooperation not only with us, but also with Europeans, with the United States, with China, on a very, very broad range of issues, including nuclear energy, even scientific research, and many other things that would help them to be more integrated into the world economy. That is an offer of cooperation by countries "from the Atlantic to the Pacific" to our Iranian colleagues. That is something we try to reinforce when talking with Tehran. We are very much interested in seeing the Iranian government understand that this package is an honest one. We are satisfied that the American government is more and more involved in promoting this package. We saw Bill Burns, together with us, at the Geneva meeting back in the summer, which I think was a good message reinforcing that if we do have an agreement on this package, the United States will be part of it.[22] That is a very important part. There are a lot of concerns on both sides. There is a lot of mistrust on both sides that needs to be overcome. That is the track that, I think, is a little bit underdeveloped so far, and we need to work more on that.

ACT: Russia has asserted that the Bush administration has pursued several policies that threaten to upset U.S.-Russian strategic relationship and stability. Foremost among these is this administration's effort to base 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a new radar in the Czech Republic. Why is Russia concerned about 10 interceptors, and why does it keep threatening to target the proposed U.S. installations?

Kislyak: It is not about 10 interceptors per se. We certainly understand that these 10 interceptors and the radar stationed in Czech Republic are not isolated components. They are elements of strategic anti-ballistic missile deployment. We see this for the first time, as far as I understand in history, that the United States is planning to deploy strategic components of its forces in Europe. It is close to us. This is about destabilizing deterrence. There are several bases of stragetic offensive force in the European part of Russia that will be within range of this system. What is planned to be deployed is not just an observation or [early] warning radar, this is a battle management radar. We understand that most probably it is not the last [planned] deployment in the region. There might be others. I do not know when or where. We see it not as 10 innocuous missiles being deployed. We see it as an element of a bigger picture. This picture seems to be increasingly destabilizing, and potentially more destabilizing in the future. That is the concern.

ACT: What measures or actions could the United States take to mitigate Russian concerns about the proposed deployment?

Kislyak: We had proposed an alternative idea of cooperating against what was the stated goal for this deployment and that is to offset the possibility that the deployment would appear threatening to other countries.[23]

ACT: Is there any possibility that your government and the Obama administration could build on this administration's proposals for joint threat assessment, limiting interceptor deployment, and pursuing a joint missile defense architecture?[24]

Kislyak: What we had proposed was to join our monitoring systems including our radar station in Azerbaijan. There would be a system strategically located in the region that might be of service in the future of missile defense. What we were proposing was to create a joint monitoring system that would be giving all of us on a joint basis the possibility to monitor what is happening and what is not happening. That is equally important.

We also proposed that we will conduct a discussion as to what we can do and need to do together in order to offset any possible threat if and when it appears. We do not see a credible threat to the United States appearing any time soon, at least not in my opinion, to strike the United States from this region [the Middle East]. To threaten the U.S. from that region one has to have missiles of 8,000 to 11,000 kilometers range, and I do not see an industry in this region that would be capable any time soon to produce that kind of system.

When it comes to arguments about the need to protect Europe, I do not believe Europe asked for protection. It was decided for Europeans without consulting Europeans. The problem is that we also have specialists on ballistics and trajectories and mathematics, and we understand that, had it been the goal to protect Europe, maybe we would have used a different scheme of deployment to protect all of Europe. So if this is not to protect the United States and it is not to protect Europe and if there is no threat to offset, then the only "clientele" as they say, for this system would be Russia. Russian territory is very close, and we have components of strategic deterrence there. That is the concern. We are concerned that this system is an added element (close to our borders) to the overall effort to undermine strategic deterrence. And we, you and us, have not yet abandoned strategic deterrence.

ACT: Bush discussed with Putin a few months back, I believe at Sochi, the possibility of limiting the scope of that deployment, in addition to the Russian proposal that you just outlined.[25] Is that a realistic area for future discussion because you did just say that the concern is not 10 interceptors per se, but the possibility of a broader and more robust missile defense capability of the United States?

Kislyak: No, these elements will be serving as part of a layered defense. Nobody was offering to us any limitations of the strategic missile defense of the United States. I never heard of any proposals of that kind. It is not nearly enough [to alleviate Russian concerns] because we have had that kind of discussion in the past and we have raised our concerns. To be honest, we have not seen those concerns always being taken seriously.

ACT: Last fall, Russia and the United States called on other states to adopt the same restrictions on their missile programs as are currently followed by the United States and Russia under the INF[Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty.[26]

Kislyak: Yes.

ACT: During the campaign, Obama said he would seek to expand this to a worldwide effort.[27] Russia also outlined efforts of a broader treaty limiting missile deployments. What is the international response to these initiatives, and what is Russia's plan to advance them?

Kislyak: First and foremost, there was a good response from the United States because immediately after proposing this advance, the United States supported the joint statement in New York by our two countries that calls for making this commitment global. We have started discussing this issue with many countries. The response is certainly not necessarily universal and immediately welcoming, but we did not expect it to be an easy exercise. We need to talk to countries, to discuss with them their security concerns. It is something that we are going to put a lot of work into, but respectful work. Respectful work with the countries you want to be partners in that kind of commitment. If we do have the United States working with us, I think we stand to benefit from this.

ACT: Russia is a strong proponent of negotiating an agreement to prevent an arms race in outer space.[28]

Kislyak: Yes, we are.

ACT: U.S. officials contend there is no arms race in space and that Russia's proposals are neglecting to address the real danger of terrestrial based anti-satellite systems. What is Russia's response to the U.S. arguments, and why has Russia made outer space a priority?

Kislyak: We made it a priority because we are concerned if you start an arms race in outer space, you would not be able to disinvent it. It is going to be destabilizing if it is allowed to take place. The notion that there is no arms race in outer space does not sound to us credible because we are concerned that there will be programs in the future that might lead to the deployment of striking weapons in outer space. That is a problem. I remember there were a number of statements, even by experts outside of the government here, that had begun to advocate that kind of program should be accelerated. We understand there is a lot of thinking about this and, at some point in the discussions about the strategic defenses in your country, there were ideas to deploy various versions of weapons into outer space.

So, this issue has not been withdrawn from the table. We are concerned if that happens and if others would have to reciprocate, if we will bring the competition into outer space, it [space] will become increasingly destabilized and, in the long term, strategically dangerous. It will undermine also the ability of countries to explore outer space for peaceful purposes. So, there are many components why one can be concerned. We are very much satisfied that a lot of countries with supported us in a vote for resolutions at the United Nations. The appreciation of the problem seems to be almost universal. It is only the United States that does not join us yet. We will see what the future will bring to us.

ACT: Since the early 1990s, Russia and the United States have been working together on cooperative threat reduction programs.

Kislyak: Yes.

ACT: Obama has said that he'd like to secure the most vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.

Kislyak: In the United States? (Laughs.)

ACT: Everywhere. I think it was everywhere.

Kislyak: That is fine, because it is part of our joint effort in the global initiative on combating nuclear terrorism. It is one of the goals that we share, and we need to help the others secure nuclear materials.

ACT: Russia has been taking more responsibility and management of these programs. Does Russia have priorities and budget and plans for continuing the security upgrades and maintaining them now that more responsibility has shifted to Russia in this area?

Kislyak: It has always been our responsibility. We have never shifted this responsibility to anybody else. So, whatever assistance was offered, especially in the first years after the decomposition of the Soviet Union, was rather technical and sometimes financial help in providing the necessary equipment. All of this started with our effort to bring nuclear weapons back from Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, when the governments of those countries decided, and we applauded them, to abandon nuclear weapons. In order to help abandon this heritage from the Soviet Union, we had to move significant numbers of nuclear weapons to the territory of the Russian Federation. We had very limited time. That kind of operation has never been done by any other country, anytime in the world. Whatever you did, for your own purposes, and what we did [before] were very, very small efforts if compared to the one that we had to undertake. At that time, the United States offered some help to us. That was the origin of the program. We received some technical equipment. We received some fire extinguishers and equipment, a lot of specialized small things that we were missing in big numbers, that we did not have at that time, and we needed in big numbers, immediately. It was very helpful, it helped to create a culture of cooperation [between the two countries].

ACT: Is there a program for maintaining this?

Kislyak: Of course there is. It is not going to disappear in Russia because we are a responsible country first of all. We are responsible and frank with the Russian people. Knowing what has been done, I am very comfortable with Russian concern for the safety of such systems in Russia.

ACT: Many former U.S. statesmen are now calling for a renewed emphasis on making progress toward the goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons. Do Russia's leaders see this goal as feasible? Do they share the views of Kissinger, Schultz, Perry, Nunn, and many others, that the nuclear-weapons states can and should move quickly on concrete steps to realize this goal?[29]

Kislyak: As the ultimate goal, yes, but in order to achieve this goal, a lot of things need to be done. Certainly the lower you go, the more complex the situation becomes. As we go down, we need to be sure that nuclear weapons are not going to appear in other countries. You need to work toward increasing the guarantees of nonproliferation at first. Secondly, we need to have all other [nuclear-armed states] on board. Third, while we are moving toward this goal, how are the other components of security to be assured? It is complex. It is a very, very complex goal, but it is a noble goal. We can work toward this goal. It has always been our commitment in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but we need to take first steps first.[30] The first priority for us and probably for you, today, is to decide what is going to follow-on to START. That would be a first step. That is a very good goal that needs to be worked on, I'm afraid, for quite a long period of time.

ACT: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, we appreciate your time.

[1] The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism was announced by Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin in July 2006 at the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg. The voluntary initiative aims to improve participating governments' efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear materials and weapons and to strengthen national laws criminalizing nuclear proliferation activities.

[2] START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) I calls for the reduction in the number of Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear arsenals of each party. Signed in July 1991, START I entered into force in December 1994. START I runs for 15 years with an option to extend the treaty for successive five-year periods. Extension provisions call for parties to meet at least a year before the treaty expires in December 2009. Neither the United States nor Russia supported a five-year extension. For a discussion on what might follow START I, see Alexei Arbatov and Rose Gottemoeller, "New Presidents, New Agreements? Advancing U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Control," Arms Control Today, July/August 2008, pp. 6-14.

[3] All member states to START I met the agreed December 5, 2001, implementation deadline.

[4] The basic terms of START I call for reductions in delivery vehicles and deployment modes, so that seven years after the entry into force of START I and thereafter, numbers do not exceed 1,600 deployed ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers for each side. It also limits the number of warheads attributed to ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers. No more than 4,900 may be on ICBMs and SLBMs, 1,540 on heavy missiles, and 1,100 on mobile ICBMs.

[5] The Moscow Treaty, also known as the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), was signed by Bush and Putin in 2002 and came into force in June 2003. SORT differs from START I in that it limits the number of operationally deployed warheads, whereas START I only limits "accountable" warheads attributed to their delivery vehicles. SORT calls for both parties to limit their nuclear arsenal to 1,700-2,200 operationally deployed warheads each.

[6] The now-defunct Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty was signed by the Soviet Union and the United States on May 26, 1972, and entered into force on October 3, 1972. The treaty barred Washington and Moscow from deploying nationwide defenses against strategic ballistic missiles. The United States withdrew from the treaty on June 13, 2002.

[7] On November 17, 2008, Representatives of the United States of America, The Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine met in Geneva, Switzerland to consider whether to extend the 1991 Treaty. According to a Nov. 21 State Department fact sheet, "the requirement of the Treaty to meet on the issue prior to December 5, 2008, is fulfilled." The fact sheet noted that the Parties "will continue to consider the issue and note that a decision on this issue can be made up until the date of expiration of the Treaty on December 5, 2009.

[8] "Arms Control Today 2008 Presidential Q&A: Democratic Nominee Barack Obama," September 24, 2008, www.armscontrol.org/system/files/20080924_ACT_PresidentialQA_Obama_Sept08.pdf.

[9] See "Statement of Russian President Putin on Strategic Reductions and Preservation of the ABM Treaty," Arms Control Today, December 2000, p. 30.

[10] The Global Strike Initiative is a Pentagon initiative that would convert some long-range SLBMs to deliver conventional warheads instead of nuclear ones. See Wade Boese, "Panel Endorses U.S. Global Strike Initiative," Arms Control Today, June 2007, pp. 34-35.

[11] Collectively known as the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs), President George H. W. Bush and Premier Mikhail Gorbachev both announced unilateral strategic reduction measures in the fall of 1991. The United States alleges Russia still has not fulfilled all of its PNI destruction commitments, and Moscow opposes the continued stationing of hundreds of U.S. tactical nuclear gravity bombs in Europe, which the PNIs did not cover. See Oliver Meier, "NATO Mulls Nuke Modernization, Security," Arms Control Today, September 2008, pp. 37-39.

[12] In August 2007, a B-52 flew from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, unknowingly carrying six nuclear warheads. See Zachary Hosford, "Congress, Pentagon Probe Nuke Overflight," Arms Control Today, October 2007, p. 48. Additionally, the Pentagon revealed in March 2008 that four classified fuses to nuclear weapons had been mistakenly shipped to Taiwan in August 2006. See Jeremy Patterson, "Taiwan Fuse Shipment Reveals Nuclear Security Gaps," Arms Control Today, May 2008, pp. 46-47. In response to the mishandlings, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appointed a task force headed by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger to review nuclear security and command and control and fired the Air Force secretary and chief of staff.

[13] The Bratislava Initiatives were announced in a joint statement on nuclear security cooperation issued by Bush and Putin in February 2005. Both presidents reaffirmed commitments to making securing vulnerable materials a top priority, as well as to work together on energy, counterterrorism, and space cooperation. These initiatives have contributed to efforts to remove highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Poland and Libya, secure U.S.-origin HEU around the world, and convert HEU-fueled reactors to operate on low-enriched uranium (LEU).

[14] The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, signed in November 1990, set equal limits on the amount of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the former Warsaw Pact could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. With the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and the dissolution of the Soviet Union after the Cold War, CFE Treaty states-parties overhauled the treaty in November 1999. The Adapted CFE Treaty replaces the bloc and zone weapons limits with national and territorial arms ceilings, and Russia notified signatories of its intended suspension of the original CFE Treaty in July 2007.

[15] See Wade Boese, "Russia Suspends CFE Treaty Implementation," Arms Control Today, January/February 2008, p. 46.

[16] After three years of negotiations, the Adapted CFE Treaty was concluded and signed at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Istanbul in November 1999.

NATO members' concerns regarding Russian compliance to the adapted treaty imperiled the official signing of the agreement. Several states, including Russia, made last-minute political commitments in an package called the "Final Act" to quell these doubts. Under the agreements, several NATO members pledged not to increase their territorial ceilings of treaty-limited equipment (TLE), and Russia agreed to reduce its TLE in Georgia and withdraw its military presence from Moldova.

Only Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine have ratified the adapted treaty. The United States and NATO allies have conditioned their ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty on Russia fulfilling its Final Act pledges. See Wade Boese, "CFE Adapted at OSCE Summit in Istanbul," Arms Control Today, November 1999, p. 23.

[17] See Miles A. Pomper, "U.S.-Russian Nuclear Agreement Faces Delay," Arms Control Today, September 2008, p. 37.

[18] Russia has been working on the construction of Iran's first nuclear power plant, a light-water reactor located near the city of Bushehr. Germany initiated construction of the plant in 1975 but withdrew from the project following the 1979 Iranian revolution. Russia took over construction in 1995, and since then, the project has been met by continual delays for technical, financial, and political reasons. In 2005, Iran agreed to return the spent fuel from the plant back to Russia, thereby reducing some of the political sensitivities regarding the reactor. In December 2007, Russia began to deliver fuel for the plant, which is currently slated to become operational in early 2009.

[19] The Bush administration launched the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) in 2006, and 25 countries have now signed its statement of principles. Bush administration officials have claimed that GNEP, which seeks to develop new nuclear technologies and new international nuclear fuel arrangements, will cut nuclear waste and decrease the risk that an anticipated growth in the use of nuclear energy worldwide could spur nuclear weapons proliferation. Critics assert that the administration's course would exacerbate the proliferation risks posed by the spread of spent fuel reprocessing technology, be prohibitively expensive, and fail to significantly ease waste disposal challenges without any certainty that the claimed technologies will ever be developed. For more information, see Miles A. Pomper, "GNEP Membership Grows, Future Uncertain," Arms Control Today, November 2008, p. 50.

[20] Early in 2006, Putin and his nuclear energy chief, Sergey Kiriyenko, announced the Global Nuclear Infrastructure Initiative, which envisaged Russia hosting four types of nuclear fuel-cycle service centers as joint ventures partly financed by other countries and involving the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). One would be a proposed International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC) at Angarsk in Siberia. A second would involve reprocessing and storage of spent nuclear fuel. A third would deal with training and certification of nuclear personnel, especially for new nuclear countries. A fourth would involve joint research and development.

The Angarsk proposal itself existed in two parts: an enrichment center and a fuel bank. By 2007 the Russian Duma approved enabling legislation that would grant participating countries the right to partake financially in the facility. Russia legally established the IUEC in September 2007 as a joint stock company. A deal had already been signed with Kazakhstan by the time shares were issued in November 2007. Kazakhstan purchased 10 percent of the shares. At that time, Armenia also indicated its interest in joining, a step that was taken through an exchange of notes in February 2008. In July 2008, Ukraine also offered to buy a 10 percent share in the center, and its proposal has been accepted by Kazakhstan. Russian officials have said that they anticipate wrapping up negotiations with Ukraine by the end of 2008. Russia invited Slovenia to join the center, but it has not yet done so. The eventual plan is for Russia's share to drop to 51 percent as other partners are admitted. In order to address concerns regarding the spread of technology, the IUEC will be structured in such a way that no enrichment technology or classified knowledge will be accessible to the foreign participants. Any IAEA member state is eligible to participate.

In December 2007, the Russian government took the decision to include the enrichment center in the list of facilities it is willing to submit to IAEA safeguards. Safeguards are also to be applied to a 120-ton LEU stockpile that is to be set aside, separately, as a fuel bank for foreign nuclear reactors in the event of a supply disruption for political reasons unrelated to nonproliferation. Although an agreement between the IAEA and Russia on the safeguards arrangements was originally expected to be concluded in the first half of 2008, no such agreement has yet been finalized. For more information, see Fiona Simpson, "Reforming the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Time Is Running Out," Arms Control Today, September 2008, pp. 12-19; Miles A. Pomper, "The Russian Nuclear Industry: Status and Prospects," Centre for International Governance Innovation (forthcoming).

[21] Iran has been making preparations for the construction of a 40-megawatt heavy-water research reactor near the town of Arak since the 1990s and began construction on the plant in 2004. The site was made public in 2002 by an Iranian dissident group, prompting an IAEA investigation at the previously undeclared site. Iran claims that the reactor will be used to produce medical isotopes, but the configuration of the reactor also makes it suitable for producing high-quality plutonium for nuclear weapons. Because of this concern, the UN Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend construction of the reactor. The IAEA has also requested that Iran provide updated design information for the reactor. Iran has not cooperated with the Security Council or the IAEA regarding these measures and continues construction of the plant, which is slated for completion in 2011. Iran completed construction of a heavy-water production plant to provide heavy water for the reactor at the same site in 2006.

[22] Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns participated in a July 19 meeting between the permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany and Iran to discuss proposals addressing Iran's nuclear program. Burns' participation marked a reversal of U.S. policy prior to the meeting in which Washington refused to send a representative to meetings with Iran until Tehran complied with UN demands.

[23] See George N. Lewis and Theodore A. Postol, "European Missile Defense: The Technological Basis for Russian Concerns," Arms Control Today, October 2007, p. 13.

[24] See Wade Boese, "U.S. Reaffirms Europe Anti-Missile Plan," Arms Control Today, July/August 2007, pp. 23-24; Wade Boese, "Report: No Progress on Missile Defense, Nukes," Arms Control Today, October 2007, p. 40.

[25] See Wade Boese, "Bush, Putin Leave Arms Disputes Unsettled," Arms Control Today, May 2008, pp. 27-28.

[26] The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The negotiation of the INF Treaty was the first time the USSR and United States had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. By the treaty's implementation deadline of June 1, 1991, the United States and the Soviet Union had destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles. States-parties' rights to conduct on-site inspections under the treaty ended on May 31, 2001. In recent years, Russia has raised the possibility of withdrawing from the INF Treaty.

[27] "Arms Control Today 2008 Presidential Q&A: Democratic Nominee Barack Obama."

[28] Russia is a vocal supporter of an international agreement against the weaponization of space and has supported the creation of an ad hoc committee of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to focus on the issue. In February 2008, Russia and China co-sponsored a proposal at the CD to ban weapons in space. See Wade Boese, "Russia Pushes Pacts as U.S. Kills Satellite," Arms Control Today, March 2008, pp. 50-51.

[29]See George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons," The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. A15; George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, "Toward a Nuclear-Free World," The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008, p. A13. For a more in-depth discussion, see George P. Shultz, Sidney D. Drell, and James E. Goodby, eds., Reykjavik Revisited: Steps Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2008).

[30] Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligates "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."

Interviewed by Daryl Kimball and Miles Pomper

Country Resources:

Interview With Nabil Fahmy, Egyptian Ambassador to the United States



Interviewed by Miles Pomper and Peter Crail

Ambassador Nabil Fahmy has served in Egypt’s Foreign Ministry for 30 years and has focused particularly on disarmament and regional security issues. Most recently, he acted as Cairo’s ambassador to Washington from October 1999 to August 2008. On July 21, Arms Control Today spoke with Ambassador Fahmy on a variety of issues, including Egypt’s perspective on the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, and concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

ACT: We recently marked the fortieth anniversary of the signing of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT]. Many have characterized the treaty as under stress from a variety of factors. As someone who has worked for many years on arms control issues, what is your opinion of the state of the NPT, and what should be done to address the challenges it faces?

To say that the NPT is under stress is an understatement. The NPT, as you correctly mentioned, witnessed recently its fortieth anniversary. If you read the preamble to the NPT, it talks about trying to achieve nuclear disarmament and ultimately working toward general and complete disarmament. Forty years later, we actually have more nuclear-weapon states than we had at the beginning,[1] and you continue to have nonproliferation problems and compliance problems.

This year alone, or over the last 18 months, we have had not only the North Korean issue, [but] people are talking about Iran and the Middle East; we still have Israel as a nonparty to the NPT with an unsafeguarded nuclear program. So it goes without saying that the NPT is under severe stress, and its credibility is being brought into question. That being said, that does not mean that the NPT itself as originally adopted was a bad agreement, if it was implemented in the spirit in which it was approved. It was meant to be a step where the nuclear-weapon states commit to nuclear disarmament and negotiations and the non-nuclear-weapon states commit to nonacquisition as part of a process where these parallel lines ultimately reach a point of contact.

The problem with the NPT is while it was meant to be an active, even a proactive, agreement, it has become a static agreement. Any agreement that remains static and reflective of the environment of 40 years ago will be under stress. The real problem of the stress is that we have not dealt with the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation problems head-on and have preferred to push them down the road. The treaty's capability is being questioned.

Nevertheless, if its parties acted in a manner that is consistent with the principles and the spirit of the treaty—and took that as the kernel of the nonproliferation regime that we are trying to establish—not as a status quo agreement, the NPT will remain relevant. If they don't, I am not sure we will be able to witness too many anniversaries again without seeing more problems.

ACT: In the 1995 NPT review conference, there was a resolution calling for the Middle East to work toward the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction.[2] This goal has been reiterated for many years, including during a Mediterranean summit just a few weeks ago. [3] How do you view the pledge by the summit participants to work toward a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East?

Fahmy: The 1995 extension conference was important for several reasons. One, in extending something indefinitely, it brought forth a lot of the prominent issues. It brought forward also the whole issue of how we pursue nuclear disarmament or not, and that is why you saw a lot of principles and points adopted at that conference.

Among the regions that were considered to be most critical was the Middle East, and that is why the only region where the conference actually adopted a specific resolution was the Middle East. So the conference took a political statement saying the Middle East is a particular concern. Equally important is that the sponsors of that resolution were not the Middle Eastern states, they were actually the depositories of the treaty. They may not have been the initiators of the idea, but this resolution was deposited by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia. I don't know how much more you can do to show emphasis and concern.

Now, since 1995, very few steps have been taken to bring that resolution to fruition, while at the same time, you see more concerns raised about proliferation in the Middle East. We don't believe that you can negotiate a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East or any region as part of the NPT, particularly if some of the members of that region are not parties to the treaty. However, what brings the NPT members together is that they made a commitment to pursue nuclear disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation. So they have to be more active in getting the parties of each region, in this case the Middle East, to sit down and take measures to achieve a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. What that means is promoting the cause and the objective, determining their relations with the states of the region based on their commitments to this common objective, and applying one standard for all in terms for those who have safeguards agreements and those who do not have safeguards agreements.[4]

It is illogical and politically untenable for the NPT party states to adopt one regional resolution over a decade ago and to this day do nothing to implement that. Or that their cooperation with nonparty states in the region in the nuclear domain is actually larger and more extensive than with members of the NPT itself.

ACT: Besides pressure from the NPT member states on these nonparties—obviously Israel—are there other practical steps that can be taken by the countries in the region to achieve such a zone?

Fahmy: Sure, to achieve a zone agreement, it will have to entail negotiations between the parties themselves. This is not going to be imposed, and I'm not calling on it to be imposed. But the NPT parties at the extension conference took a political statement, in conjunction with an indefinite extension of the treaty, and they have an obligation to promote and pursue that. We, nevertheless, know that the negotiations will be regional. And therefore we have proposed—not only all the way back in 1974, but even in the ’90s again, in the ACRS [Arms Control and Regional Security] context of the Middle East peace process—we proposed discussing how to achieve the creation of such a zone. [5] In terms of concrete steps, I suggest that the members of the region actually negotiate all of the details and technicalities of a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, learning from different experiences of different regions and different case studies.

I use these phrases to mean regions like [the nuclear-free zone in Latin America established by the Treaty of] Tlatelolco, or whatever other regions exist where you have these zones, or cases where you have an unsafeguarded nuclear program and the country involved, as in the case of South Africa, took measures to show its peaceful intentions.

I would negotiate all these details irrespective of the fact that we may differ as to when it can actually come into force. And even if we differ about when it comes into force, the mere negotiation of this agreement gives a seriousness of purpose, indicates intentions, and, I think, greatly enhances the sense of security vis-à-vis the outcome.

ACT: This kind of dialogue that you're talking about, what's the best way to initiate that?

Fahmy: Initially, we hoped to have done it within the ACRS process. That was not successful. You can do it by holding a regional conference. You can do it, technically, by having smaller groups within the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]. I say technically, particularly on the verification/safeguards part of it. Or you can do it by having a number of shepherds discussing the issue with different parties to create a foundation for it without having the negotiations themselves.

ACT: So by shepherds, you mean countries like the depository states?

Fahmy: Yes, that's one format. The other format would be to designate a number of officials to discuss these issues, to develop a kernel to build upon. Or frankly, you can even add to that that there is a series of confidence-building measures that states themselves can take as a catalyst to these negotiations, by applying safeguards to unsafeguarded facilities, or by closing these facilities. Or by applying unilateral constraints on reprocessing and enrichment, where they exist. In other words, I'm not talking about making commitments about future plans, I'm more inclined to make commitments about facilities that actually exist.

ACT: In addition to the issue of nuclear weapons, some states of the region have been reluctant to ban chemical weapons and join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Over the last several years, a majority of the states in the Arab League have decided that they would no longer tie their accession to the CWC to Israel becoming an NPT state-party, and now these countries are party to the CWC.[6] What is the prospect of Egypt reversing its stance as well and joining the CWC?

Fahmy: Very little, if any. Not because we are against the CWC. Quite the contrary, we were the first to make proposals to pursue the prohibition of chemical weapons. If, on the other hand, we saw some movement on the Israeli side regarding the NPT or the zonal agreements, we would review our position quite quickly. We do not have a commitment to chemical weapons. We have a commitment to equal standards for all in the Middle East, and we don't believe that this commitment has been respected by others.

ACT: Egypt is a country that has spoken out against efforts by the United States and others to limit the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies. At the same time, some states in the region have agreed as part of their nuclear cooperation agreements or at least certain framework agreements with the United States to voluntarily forgo enrichment and reprocessing technologies in return for incentives, such as nuclear fuel guarantees and technical capacity building. Do you view the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies as a valid concern?

Fahmy: What we've spoken out against are any attempts to limit the right of state-parties to the NPT to the full fuel cycle. Not the motivation. If state-parties feel that their requirements are being met without pursuing the full fuel cycle, that is their right. That is not an issue for us. What we do not agree on is limiting even further the scope of the NPT. The scope of the NPT does not only regard nonproliferation and disarmament, there is also a commitment to cooperate on peaceful uses and to ensure full access to peaceful uses. There is a fundamental difference here between "Do I have the right to buy or to acquire this technology?" and "Do I decide that it's the right thing for me to do?" If I am assured assurances of supply, and I am assured that the same criteria apply to all, the capital costs may not make it logical for me to go down that line [of acquiring fuel cycle technology].

One thing is our objection to limiting the right. Secondly, again, a fundamental criteria that we have applied to ourselves and insist on applying to others is that one standard applies to everyone in our region. We would like it to apply to everybody in the world, but we are pragmatic and realistic and look at our own region. If the existence of reprocessing and enrichment facilities is a danger or a problem in states-parties to the NPT who have full-scope safeguard agreements, then it is even more of a danger in states not party to the NPT who have unsafeguarded facilities. That is our second reservation. It provides us a better motivation, it provides us a better reason not to pursue enrichment and apply that same standard to everybody. We have no ambitious program to pursue anything that increases proliferation problems around the world, but double standards create insecurity.

ACT: Leaving the issue of rights to such technologies aside, is the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies a valid concern?

Fahmy: It is a valid concern if they are unsafeguarded. The technology will spread anyway. The issue is if you have these facilities around the world, and you don't have safeguarded transparent programs, then needless to say the potential for problems increases. If, on the other hand, they're safeguarded and transparent programs, then yes, while the existence of increased number[s] may create a problem, they are less of a problem. I am not belittling the dangers behind these proliferation components, but I find a lot of this debate rather silly, in that we are concerned about states that are really not of concern, and decide not to deal with situations that are of concern.

ACT: What do you mean by states that are not of concern?

Fahmy: States-parties to the NPT who have full-scope safeguards agreements, who have been fully compliant with their obligations, and whenever there has been a question about them, they have been completely transparent. And we're concerned about them being proliferators. Well, they have not been proliferators for the last 40 years, why should they become proliferators today? The probability that they would is much less than the states who are outside the NPT.

ACT: Would this apply to Iran? Iran is an NPT state-party, and there is certainly concern about Iran.

Fahmy: Yeah, but I chose my words very carefully. I said the probability that they would be of concern is much less. For every Iran, there are 150 other countries who are compliant, have not been violating their agreements, and don't forget, by the way, you [the United States] are the guys who gave Iran the nuclear program.[7] So, one, we'll see what, exactly, the Iranian program is. But ultimately, there will be exceptional cases that will be in violation of the NPT, but the majority of states [party] to the NPT have been compliant and have transparent programs.

If you want to move the extra mile and say "even you guys need to do more," well, that is fine, provided you get others who are outside the treaty to do more. I am not against dealing with the technical realities that have led to the emergence of more problems. I am against ignoring the real problems and focusing on the tangential problems.

ACT: Given what you said earlier about rights, if there were sufficient nuclear fuel guarantees and other incentives, would Egypt consider forgoing enrichment and reprocessing for a period of time? Or for some kind of agreement, like those that the United Arab Emirates and others have signed with the United States?

Fahmy: We are not ready to talk about our rights. In other words, if you want to get into a debate about our rights to pursue any component of a peaceful nuclear program while we are fully compliant and transparent, we will oppose it. Whether we decide to pursue enrichment or not is a different issue completely. I mean, the debate about our rights, I won't get into. It's a waste of my time. We will not get into a discussion about our rights to pursue enrichment technology.

Now, whether we decide to enrich depends on what the offers are. There are two components to this. If we are looking at enrichment by way of peaceful nuclear programs, then needless to say it is a matter of assurances of sustained supply, depoliticizing the supply process, and all that. If we're looking at enrichment by way of a proliferation issue, then you bring a lot more components in, you bring in other factors, such as what are other states doing, who has it, who does not. We are a fully compliant NPT member. We have full-scope safeguards agreements, and we will continue to pursue our peaceful nuclear technology program with nonproliferation higher on our priorities. We are not belittling potential threats. How we are responding to them is where we differ. Not that we are denying that there may be a threat.

ACT: United States has been pushing for Egypt to join the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.[8] Why has Egypt so far declined to join?

Fahmy: It has not dealt with non-states-parties enough. We will continue to listen to the proponents of the partnership and make our decisions down the line.

ACT: How would you have them deal with non-states-parties? It is more about the partnership among the countries rather than the NPT as a whole.

Fahmy: It does not deal with our problems. We will continue to listen to the proponents of the initiative and take our decisions down the line. We have not rejected the initiative. We just have not agreed to it yet, or at least agreed to participate in it.

ACT: One issue related both to nuclear fuel supply and universality of the NPT is the prospect of India's exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group[9] guidelines for nuclear cooperation. What's your view of this effort to establish an exemption, and what impact do you think it might have on efforts to achieve NPT universality?

Fahmy: I'll leave the issue of the exemption to the Nuclear Suppliers Group members and their commitment to nonproliferation and how they read the Indian-American agreement.

ACT: So Egypt doesn’t have a view whether this is a good idea or not?

Fahmy: I just said I'll leave it, I didn't say Egypt doesn't have a view.

ACT: One of the key challenges regarding the nuclear fuel cycle is the concern about Iran's nuclear activities. What is your opinion about the recent proposals that have been offered by Iran and by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1) in order to resolve the issue?[10]

Fahmy: It is clear that, at a certain point in time, Iran was not fully compliant with its safeguards commitments to the IAEA. That is registered, and there is no question about that. Secondly, it is also clear that it took them a very long time to start responding to the IAEA's questions and concerns, and that raised suspicions as to their intentions and motivations behind them. Because of those two points, serious concerns were raised about Iran's intentions and its nuclear program. Now, our position has been [that] we are concerned about the emergence of any proliferation programs in the Middle East, and therefore we are concerned about the Iranian one.

Our scope of application of concern is consistent with that of the IAEA. In other words, the IAEA has said there have been four or five different files. They responded to four and completed the discussion on that. There is one file that remains open, which is the military research regarding their program that they haven't responded to that completely yet, so that is sort of an outstanding question. But they have responded to all the other issues. I am not fully aware of the proposals and the Iranian response, which was just a couple of days ago in Geneva. I am told they have kept negotiations ongoing; in other words, they are waiting for another discussion or another response within two weeks. So it is too early to say whether the proposals are enough or the answers are enough. Given the fact that Iran is an NPT member, it is obliged, legally, to accept the parameters of the NPT and the constraints of the NPT to its program, but going beyond that is something it may or may not do unilaterally and voluntarily. It would be very useful if Iran could take confidence-building measures to respond to the concerns and suspicions raised by its tardiness in responding to the IAEA and accept to put a cap or a limitation on its enrichment process in exchange for assurances of supply. That should be the first step.

I would add, however, that the issue of proliferation, if you look at the history of the Middle East since the late 1960s, if not, even going before our 1974 proposal, if you do not deal with the core issues and establish a zone free of nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East, you will have the emergence of these problems, and they will be repeated again at a more dangerous level. So I would like to see Iran respond positively to the IAEA. I would applaud an agreement they could possibly reach with the P5+1. But ultimately, once that occurs, you will not put this issue to rest unless you establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

ACT: Are there steps that states in the region or the international community as a whole can take to try and get to the point so that Iran would be willing to establish the kind of confidence-building measures you mentioned?

Fahmy: I think the dialogue between the Europeans, and now the P5+1, is a good step. You cannot reach an agreement if you are not talking to each other. I think efforts by the IAEA, particularly the director-general, are laudable. He has engaged them consistently and sort of brought out, through diplomacy, the answers to four out of the five questions that were raised by the IAEA. Again, I think the international community, and NPT member states in particular, not only because they had a Middle East resolution, but also because you have a review conference coming up very soon, could be instrumental in calling upon the states to actually start negotiating a zone free of these weapons in the Middle East once an interim agreement is reached on the Iranian issue.

I would also mention, by the way, that in article 14 of Security Council Resolution 687—this is the disarmament of Iraq resolution—it specifically says the steps being taken in Iraq should be the first steps toward the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.[11] So the international community is ignoring its own positions. Not only have the depositories of the NPT called for this resolution, it has been endorsed, without a vote, by the NPT members. And the Security Council, under Chapter VII,[12] has said what we are doing in Iraq is a first step towards establishing a zone free of these weapons. So you cannot keep putting out the fire without taking away the coals. Otherwise you will see a fire coming up again and again every couple of years, and it always getting hotter.

ACT: If the situation with Iran continued in the same vein that it is now and ultimately Iran develops what is seen at least by some as a latent nuclear weapons capability in the form of an industrial-scale enrichment facility, while a lot of the questions that are still remaining unanswered are not answered, what do you see is a likely response in the region and by Egypt in particular?

Fahmy: I have very often heard the question, "Well, if they go nuclear, will you go nuclear?" I find the question rather silly, one, because it is so obvious, and two, because it is so simplistic. Any country in the world, the United States included, has an obligation to defend its national security. So if it feels threatened, it is legally obliged to pursue measures to ensure its national security. Now, that is the first point. Of course, we will react. Any country in the world would react, and they should react. But I also find the question simplistic because it immediately implies that, "Well if they do this, then we’re going to pursue a nuclear weapons program." Pursuing a nuclear weapons program is not that simple. You do not decide, "Well ok, you did it, so I'm going to turn mine on." Secondly, it is not the only option. You can pursue your national security by taking measures politically, to deal with this problem. You can pursue your national security concerns by balancing with other weapons systems. And you can pursue your national security concerns by limiting your commitments to agreements, as well as dealing with the states involved by trying to get them to redress their actions. Finally, of course, you can pursue your national security concerns by trying to have a symmetrical response. So it would have very serious ramifications on security in the region, negative ones, yes, of course, because it creates more insecurity.

And you have seen this. Again, look at the region over the last 20 to 25 years. There is an Israeli program that is unsafeguarded, and you have seen an arms race throughout the Middle East. You have had the tensions between Iraq and Iran, and you saw their weapons systems increase. At a certain point in time, Iraq was in violation of its NPT agreements. Now you have a proliferation concern raised about Iran, and people are talking about how do you ensure security by getting engaged in agreements with larger countries and alliances, and so on and so forth. So there will be a response. But the knee-jerk reaction is, "Well, if they do it, would you go nuclear?" I find this rather simplistic.

ACT: There has been some talk among some countries that security guarantees [13] should be more formal, that a guarantee should be extended by the United States and other powers to countries in the region as a way of protecting against the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Fahmy: That is a very valid point. Again when the NPT was adopted, there was a serious effort to have negative security assurances given to the states-parties that were non-nuclear and legalizing them by adopting them in the Security Council in a codified format. Now, they were adopted or accepted as a concept, but they have not been codified legally. You can also look at— and I am not a proponent of this—but you can also look at positive assurances.

ACT: But you are not a proponent of that for Egypt?

Fahmy: I think what you should do at this point is, at the very least, codify the negative assurances and make them consistent with each other. They are not all exactly the same. But again, it is not necessarily only negative assurances that we've been dealing with traditionally. Others have talked about entering into alliances. There are many different formats for dealing with the emergence of further nuclear-weapon states in the region. They're all worse than establishing a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Because they all are based on a more aggressive military posture rather than dealing with the core of the issue.

ACT: Egypt has said it wants to develop a nuclear energy program as many other countries in the region are. Some have suggested that some kind of agreement, like there is between India and Pakistan not to attack each other's civilian nuclear facilities, might make sense in the Middle East. Is that something that you think or Egypt thinks would make sense as the region is developing this kind of nuclear power?

Fahmy: Interesting question. Possibly. It is important that you do not limit it to peaceful nuclear reactors by establishing an exclusion clause for nonpeaceful facilities. I can see some constructive attributes to it, but I also can see some concerns in what you do by default, if you want. But it is an interesting thing to look at.

ACT: One question on conventional weapons. Despite being a leading importer of conventional weapons, Egypt joined most other states in the Arab League in boycotting the annual UN Register of Conventional Arms. Why hasn't Egypt joined in this transparency measure in one of the most heavily armed regions in the world?

Fahmy: We actually have not boycotted. I was a member of our delegation at the General Assembly in the 1990s, and we submitted, once, a report on this.[14]

Anyway, the reason why we have not been particularly enthusiastic about these is that they do not lead to a momentum where you deal with the core issues or, if you want, the more paramount issues, which are for us nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. Every time we start cooperating on something with the promise that this will create a momentum to deal with the other issues, it is always "you should be transparent or disarm," but not to the states which have weapons of mass destruction. That's been our concern. My long answer to your question is that you will see much more cooperation from Egypt on these issues if there was a serious momentum by everybody to get engaged, not only to disarm the other side.

ACT: You've been serving as ambassador in Washington for quite some time, and much of that time has been while the Bush administration has been in office. We are going to see a new administration next year. How do you think the next U.S. administration can best address some of the issues we addressed today, particularly as they relate to the Middle East?

Fahmy: To deal with arms control and disarmament issues generally, but particularly regarding weapons of mass destruction, meaning nuclear, chemical, [and] biological [weapons], and their means of delivery, you need to have international momentum and a regional focus. Again, the same applies for conventional weapons, but particularly it applies with [a] particular sense of importance and validity if you are talking about weapons of mass destruction because they exist and have sort of a strategic value, while conventional weapons, while they exist worldwide, are not strategic in that sense. If you were to argue that the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain—and then we'll just leave aside for a second India, Pakistan, and possibly Israel—these guys were increasing their procurement of weapons of mass destruction, which they're not, but if they were to do that, it would be very difficult to convince states in particular regions to join a nonproliferation initiative or to apply restrictions to themselves, or to motivate them. Why aren't you limiting your access voluntarily so you don't create a potential problem in the future? On the other hand, if you see a disarmament process reducing warheads and missiles and, if you want, detargeting, and you have sort of a strong disarmament momentum internationally, then there is much more credibility to proposals that "you on a regional level need to take certain steps, do not make this problem worse by creating a problem here, and we will catch up with you."

I think that if you are looking at nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, the first thing is the nuclear-weapon states have to lead in making this issue a prominent issue for them. Secondly, if you are talking about our region in the Middle East, you have to look [at] the security concerns in the Middle East itself. You cannot come and say, "What we did in Latin America is what applies to you." It may or may not apply. The security concerns will involve the hard security concerns regarding armaments and the soft ones regarding the political tensions that exist.

I would greatly encourage the next American president to take arms control or disarmament, which I prefer to use, [and] to make that a priority issue for the U.S. government and allow the United States to lead the way on this because it would have a trickle-down effect, that this is very useful in our region. And then you can look at different security paradigms applicable to a new world at the point. And I would love to see him embrace the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East as a short-term objective.

ACT: Is there something we haven't touched on that you'd like to add?

Fahmy: No, you came well prepared.

ACT: Thank you.

1. At the time the NPT opened for signature in 1968, five states (China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States) were known to possess nuclear weapons and were recognized by the treaty as nuclear-weapon states. Three additional states (India, North Korea, and Pakistan) have carried out nuclear weapons tests since that time. Israel is also widely believed to possess an arsenal of nuclear weapons. However, South Africa gave up its small nuclear arsenal and acceded to the NPT in 1991. In 1992, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine gave up the nuclear weapons they inherited following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
2. The 1995 Resolution on the Middle East was one element of a three-part package agreement leading to the indefinite extension of the NPT during a review and extension conference held that year.
3. The leaders of 43 countries in Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa participated in the first Mediterranean summit on July 13, 2008. A declaration adopted by the 43 leaders called for the creation of “a verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction.”
4. Safeguards agreements are concluded between states and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the purpose of ensuring that nuclear technology is only used for nonmilitary purposes. NPT members are required to conclude safeguards with the agency.
5. The Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) process was a working group of the Arab-Israeli peace process established during the 1991 Madrid peace conference. It was intended to foster regional confidence-building measures that would eventually lead to formal arms control agreements. However, due to continuing disagreements over the purpose of the process and the subject of the discussions, the dialogue collapsed in 1995.
6. Of the 22 Arab League members, 17 have joined the CWC. Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, and Syria have not signed the treaty.
7. Iran initiated its civilian nuclear efforts under the U.S. Atoms for Peace program during the 1950s in which it received nuclear technology assistance from Washington, including the Tehran Nuclear Research Reactor. During the 1970s, the United States held discussions with Iran regarding the provision of uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technology, but those plans never came to fruition. In 1975, Iran contracted with a German firm to construct its first nuclear power reactor at Bushehr, but this project was abandoned following the 1979 Iranian revolution. By the mid-1980s, Iran turned to different suppliers for its nuclear technology, including the black market.
8. The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership is a U.S.-led initiative intended to develop new nuclear energy technologies and nuclear fuel arrangements in order to address the anticipated growth in the use of nuclear energy. Egypt is an observer to the 21-member group.
9. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was formed in 1975 and currently consists of 45 of the world’s largest suppliers of nuclear technology. The NSG has established guidelines for the transfer of nuclear technology in order to limit the possibility that such technology would be used for the development of nuclear weapons.
10. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), along with Germany, have been engaged in a diplomatic process with Iran since 2006 to try to resolve the nuclear issue. In June, the six countries provided Iran with a revised version of a 2006 proposal offering incentives in return for Iran halting its sensitive nuclear activities.
11. The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 687 in April 1991 following the Persian Gulf War, stipulating the terms by which Iraq was to abandon its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and programs.
12. Chapter VII of the UN Charter provides authority and guidelines for the Security Council to respond to threats to peace and acts of aggression. Resolutions adopted under Chapter VII are considered legally binding under international law. However, such resolutions often contain nonbinding clauses as well.
13. A negative security assurance is a declaration by a nuclear-weapon state not to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-weapon state. A positive security assurance is a pledge to aid a non-nuclear-weapon state if it is the victim of a nuclear attack. The United States has pledged not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), except if attacked by a state associated or allied with a nuclear-armed state. At the same time, successive U.S. administrations have maintained a policy of strategic ambiguity by refusing to rule out nuclear weapons use in response to biological or chemical weapons attacks. In 1995, UN Security Council Resolution 984 acknowledged negative security pledges by the five NPT nuclear-weapon states. At the 1995 NPT review and extension conference, these negative security assurances were incorporated in its final document's "Principles and Objectives for Non-Proliferation and Disarmament," which was seen as vital to securing indefinite extension of the NPT.
14. Egypt provided a submission to the annual UN Register of Conventional Arms in 1992.




Interviewed by Miles Pomper and Peter Crail

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Interview with U.S. Ambassador Donald A. Mahley, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Threat Reduction, Export Control



Interviewed by Oliver Meier

Representatives of states-parties to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention will gather April 7-18, 2008 in The Hague for the second review conference of the chemical weapons ban.  Participants will have to take stock of developments since the last review conference in 2003 and will discuss measures to adapt the treaty to current and future scientific and political developments.

On February 8, 2008, Arms Control Today International Correspondent Oliver Meier interviewed Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Threat Reduction, Export Controls, and Negotiations Donald A. Mahley about U.S. priorities for that meeting. Ambassador Mahley is the managing director of the United States National Authority, which is responsible for implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

ACT: What are the key U.S. priorities for the forthcoming CWC review conference and what obstacles do you foresee to achieving those priorities?

Mahley: We’re still working on the details of what our specific objectives are for the review conference, but I think our priorities for the review conference are probably fairly straightforward. We want to make sure that the convention continues to work in as efficient and effective manner as it has up until now, that we avoid any kind of disputations or other kinds of things that are going to disrupt the conference, [and] that we maintain the idea that OPCW Director-General Rogelio Pfirter has done a lot of work to put in place a lean and mean organization. We are very pleased that we have been able to have for the last few years nominal zero-growth budgets. That’s been a great strain in terms of trying to get as much done as you can, but we certainly want to make sure that we don’t set in the review conference either a principle or a trend that we’re going to start expanding the budget of the OPCW by a great deal.

We’d also like to see if we can’t get some redirection in some of the efforts of the OPCW more into the idea of where the threat really occurs now and the unscheduled producers in some of the Third World countries. Quit trying to re-inspect so much all of the schedule 1 and schedule 2, particularly schedule 2 plants, in western countries where I think the size and the surveillance we’ve already done of those is a very clear indication that those aren’t a potential proliferation threat for chemical weapons.[1]

And I think that’s probably what our priority objectives are in terms of trying to get something out of this.

What do we see as potential obstacles to that? One, we think there are probably some states that have a different agenda with the review conference that is going to be both more accusatory and more disruptive. One of the things, for instance, is what do we think the review conference ought to do about 2012—the destruction deadline?[2] We don’t think that this is the time to try to address 2012. 2012 is there. We’ve all taken a look at the enormous technical obstacles in terms of destruction that are between here and 2012 and what I think this review conference ought to do is to set the groundwork for a work program to be able to find constructive ways to address the 2012 question before we get to 2012, but it’s too early to try to do something that will formally address that issue at this review conference. I think it’s going to be a potential dispute and obstacle.

It’s also the case that we continue to be against the idea of trying to turn the Chemical Weapons Convention and the OPCW into something other than a nonproliferation and arms control agreement, which is what it really is. If there are countries that are trying to push an agenda other than that then that will probably be an obstacle to the review conference.

ACT: Iran at the last two conferences of states-parties has proposed to establish a “chemical weapons victims international funding and assistance network”.[3] What’s your view on this proposal and do you expect the review conference to address it?

Mahley: I certainly expect the review conference to address it because it’s been placed on the agenda. I would argue that while we are certainly sympathetic to victims of chemical weapons, that the review conference and the OPCW are not specifically designed to, nor are they necessarily the place to, try to do something like setting up funds or disbursing funds or doing anything along that line with respect to victims. There are humanitarian agencies that exist in the world which can take that issue up. There are other ways to try to address the question rather than trying to turn that to being a function of a nonproliferation organization.

ACT: In 2005 the U.S. noncompliance report voiced concerns regarding compliance of China, Iran, Russia, and Sudan with regard to the CWC.[4] Does the United States still maintain that these states may be pursuing chemical weapons-related efforts or programs? Are there other countries you suspect of being interested in chemical weapons? Does the United States intend to name noncompliant CWC parties at the review conference?

Mahley: I cannot address the last question because I don’t think we’ve made a decision on that yet. That will be determined probably much closer to the review conference about whether or not we’re going to try to address countries on it. Again, it is our view that the CWC has been working reasonably well.

We continue to have concerns about the fact that countries in many ways are not complying with all the responsibilities under the convention, are not complying with the responsibilities towards the objectives of the convention, and are certainly not transparent in some of the things they are doing nationally. Those remain concerns for the United States. I wouldn’t want to try to go into a list of countries here, but let me say that we continue to uphold the same conclusions that we’ve reached and agreed on nationally in our noncompliance report. I think we’re still debating whether or not the review conference is a forum at which we wish to make that a major issue. Certainly, we are going to note it. For the United States to go to this review conference and not note that we still have real concerns about the compliance of some states with their international obligations as put in the review conference; we’re not going to ignore that. How we want to do that is something that I think we’re still debating.

ACT: If the United States still has concerns about compliance, why has the United States never requested a challenge inspection[5] to clarify such compliance concerns? Under what circumstances do you envisage that such an inspection could be requested by the United States?

Mahley: I think I can answer the second half of that question quicker than I can answer the first half of that question. The second half of that question is that we still believe the challenge inspection is a very important deterrent element of the CWC. Certainly at any time that the United States believed it had actionable evidence that would be susceptible to demonstration by a challenge inspection we would be in the forefront of calling [for] such an inspection.

Now, what you have to worry about, however, is when you look at the international reactions of other countries to other areas of concern that we have about compliance with international obligations and some of the ways in which the countries have not reacted to what was fairly compelling evidence, then we have a question about whether or not a challenge inspection is likely to create the kind of reaction on the part of some of those other countries that would be indicative of doing anything effective about the noncompliance situation that was at hand.

When we talk about the compliance concerns that we have, one of the things you have to be fairly careful about in calling a challenge inspection is that those compliance concerns are things that would be competently reflected in the results of a challenge inspection. If you have a concern that a country has a stockpile of weapons or agents that they shouldn’t have under the convention, then until you’ve got a location for that it doesn’t do you any good to simply call challenge inspections willie-nillie. If you call a challenge inspection for the wrong place, then the country, even though it may still have that stockpile, is going to claim that it has been exonerated by the international community and therefore you can’t list them as a concern anymore. That’s again not a path that we are going to follow.

ACT: You said it was too early for the review conference to address deadlines for chemical weapons stockpiles. Nevertheless, it seems likely that neither the United States nor Russia will be able to meet the 2012 deadline. The review conference somehow has to address this fact, particularly since it’s likely to be the last review conference before the 2012 deadline expires. Two options  have been mentioned, one  is amending the CWC, the other is invoking Article 8, paragraph 36 which gives the executive council of the OPCW the power to adapt relevant provisions.[6] Are these options that you think might be relevant for addressing the 2012 deadline?

Mahley: I don’t think that anybody has coherently looked at how best to address the 2012 deadline other than to wring their hands about the fact that they think it is an impending crisis looming on the horizon. That’s why I say that this review conference is too early to try to address that. I do not believe, frankly, that the appropriate groundwork has been laid to come up with a set of proposals or suggestions about how to effectively and rationally to address that.

I will put down one marker right now. The United States does not believe that an amendment conference for the Chemical Weapons Convention is either a suitable way to address that issue nor is it something that we would support. Amendment conferences get to be very tricky and take a chance of doing a couple of things that are very bad. [They] either undercut the regime that you have now or put in place a two-tiered regime depending on who’s ratified the amendment to the convention. We are simply not of the view that that would be an effective answer to any of the problems that we’ve currently seen listed.

I think the review conference ought to address the 2012 question in the fashion of setting down a work program and perhaps even establishing a working group to look specifically at the 2012 question as it gets nearer. I recognize that on the five-year schedule the next review conference would not occur until after 2012. But, number one, there is nothing in the convention that restricts review conferences to every five years. So there’s nothing that says you couldn’t call an extraordinary review conference, or any other conference of states-parties which has full vested power in terms of acting on the treaty. At some point before 2012 when you had for that conference an agenda for proposals, you could then rationally discuss how to address the 2012 question.[7]

The second thing is that I really want to make the point that 2012 is a date which was set in a time when the best minds looking at the best technologies thought was extraordinarily long in terms of destroying chemical weapons. What we have discovered since that was set in print and agreed to in 1992 is that destroying chemical weapons is a much more complicated event, particularly if you’re going to do it an ecologically safe and secure fashion. So, one of the questions you have to ask is whether or not those stockpiles that may remain after 2012 [are a threat.] Assuming that all of the possessor states that still have stockpiles in 2012 maintain their commitment, as they currently express it, toward the rapid and complete destruction of those chemicals in a verified and ecologically safe fashion. and if those stockpiles are identified, secured and under constant supervision for the OPCW, it’s not clear to me that that constitutes a particularly acute threat with respect to chemical weapons proliferation.

ACT: The purpose of such a work program or working group that you have proposed would be to set the parameters for dealing with a stockpile remaining after 2012?

Mahley: It could address a number of issues. It could address, first of all, the question about what is the compliance penalty. Given [the] statutory nature of the treaty, after the 28th of April 2012, the possession of chemical weapons is going to be [a] violation of your obligations. Now, that in some ways is a technical violation. I don’t want to get into a legal argument here. Assuming that [the chemical weapons] are all secured and that they are all under observation and rapidly moving their way toward destruction facilities, it’s not clear that that’s as bad as having an illicit program in terms of compliance. So, is there something that the states-parties ought to agree on in terms of what kind of a status that places those countries [in] that are still possessing chemical weapons under a destruction program as opposed to flat out noncompliance in the most rigorous sense of the word? Is there some recognizable program to which you could get a commitment from the possessor states that would give a very clear line about the rapid completion of the destruction program after 2012? Could [that] then become a supplemental commitment?

Now, I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. I don’t know what is legally feasible. I don’t know what is politically feasible, but that’s the kind of thing that I think that you ought to set up. Have a group to study very carefully—with probably a two- or three-year limit in terms of their study—to come back to the executive council and the regular conference of states-parties with proposals.

ACT: There have been statements by U.S. officials that the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles will probably not be completed before 2023. Congress, in the context of the 2008 defense appropriations bill, requested the Department of Defense to complete destruction by 2017. Do you think that’s a realistic goal and what do you think it would take to make that 2017 deadline?

Mahley: I think that’s something that you would have to ask the Department of Defense who have the responsibility for it and are doing the technical studies to try to determine the feasibility of that deadline.

ACT: The United States has appropriated more than a billion dollars for chemical weapons destruction in Russia, primarily for the construction of the nerve agent destruction facility at Shchuch’ye. That project is only half finished and the administration wanted to turn over responsibility for the second half of construction to Russia. What do you believe are the main reasons for the delays in Russia’s chemical weapons destruction? To what extent do you think Russia still needs international financial support to fulfill its treaty commitments? What can the review conference do in this context to address Russia’s delays in chemical weapons destruction?

Mahley: To go to the last question about Russia’s delays, I think that one of the things [the] review conference can do is to make [it] unequivocally clear to the Russian Federation that they are going to continue to be held to the same standards as everyone else in the world in terms of the destruction of their chemical weapons and that they must continue to view and operate on that as a real priority in terms of the Russian government’s actions.

Now, what do I think are the reasons for the delays? Without knowing all the details of Russian destruction and Russian management, I suspect that they have run into some of the same kinds of difficulties that the United States has run into. In the sense that these are technically complex machines and systems that have to do the destruction of chemical weapons, you can’t always just build [them the] first time out and just put them down on the ground and [think that] they’re going to run forever without requiring maintenance and shutdown and various things. Those are always the kinds of delays that get involved with it.

I also think that in the Russian case, for a number of years, destruction of chemical weapons simply was not a priority for the Russian government. While recently it appears that they have indeed made chemical weapons destruction a priority requirement and have been moving out smartly in terms of trying to get some real work done on it, they nonetheless have a much later start than the United States had. They are in some respects playing catch-up.

ACT: What steps should be taken by the review conference to convince more hold-out states to join the CWC and what is the United States specifically doing to persuade allies such as Israel, Egypt, and Iraq to accede?[8]

Mahley: Iraq is I think a fairly straightforward case. Iraq has pledged to accede and that’s simply a matter of getting the various documentation and other requirements done so that they can effectively accede to the convention. I would expect that to happen in the not too distant future.

With other allies we continue to place that on the agenda when we have nonproliferation discussions with those countries. [We] try to convince them that in reality having a chemical weapons capability is not a particularly effective instrument of national policy. It doesn’t necessarily act as a deterrent to other action because there is increasing doubt in the mind of the world about whether or not you would ever employ it. Therefore by joining the CWC they are not, in reality, going to be forfeiting any national security objectives and national security options.

Now, making that argument in a region [that] is as complex and interconnected as the Middle East obviously is not always particularly persuasive or effective, but the United States continues to push that point.

The OPCW has done a number of things in terms of laying out in seminars to various countries that are not now members all the ways in which the OPCW operates, all of the procedures that they follow, all of the qualifications that they have in terms of executing their job, a full description of what their job is. That’s about all you can do to try to convince these folks that there is an effective and competent organization that they would be joining. The rest of it then becomes a matter of political will. How you create that political will, I don’t have any great secrets for. If I did, I’d probably be making more money than as a United States government employee.

ACT: Do you think that today OPCW inspectors would be able to detect a clandestine chemical weapons program run by a state-party?

Mahley: I think I’d have to ask that that question be clarified. Do I think that the OPCW inspectors would be able to detect a clandestine program run by a state-party? If by that you mean, are they going to go out and find the intelligence information that says that we believe there is a clandestine program in that party, no, because that’s not their job. Their job is to go conduct inspections.

Do I believe that they are capable of detecting a clandestine program if one were being conducted, for example, at a facility that they were inspecting on a routine inspection because it’s a dual-capable facility? I think there’s a very good chance of that.

Would they be able to detect a clandestine program were there one present if this were the result of the challenge inspection? I think that’s a variable answer. It’s a variable answer that’s not a question of the competence of the OPCW.  It’s a question of the entire issue of how one in a confrontational, as opposed to cooperative, fashion might be able to conceal from any set of inspectors the presence of a clandestine program. Certainly there is a chance that one could do that, even under a challenge inspection. In that case, I don’t think the OPCW inspectors would be at any greater advantage or disadvantage than any other team of inspectors.

ACT: At last year’s conference of states-parties Paula de Sutter said “We have to make sound recommendations that will ensure that verification keeps pace with changes in both the industry and the chemical weapons threat.”[9] What measures specifically would the United States like to see adopted by the review conference to increase the likelihood of detecting prohibited chemical weapons-related activities?

Mahley: That’s not necessarily an issue of what are you going to be able to adopt. Do we want to make sure that OPCW inspectors continue to receive training even during the time that they’re inspectors so that they remain abreast of the kind of changes that take place in the chemical industry? Certainly we do. Certainly we encourage the OPCW to do this. Certainly we believe that the OPCW does this to the extent that they can. We want to keep that up and we certainly think that there need to be budgetary provisions to do it.

The executive council needs to remain aware as much as the OPCW technical staff needs to remain aware of the changing nature of the chemical weapons threat. By that we mean not only the technological changes that make it possible to produce chemical weapons in a much smaller and more covert environment than the traditional manufacture of thousands and tons [of weapons and material] at large plants with specialized equipment. The threat now involves not only rogue states, but the nonstate actor. [For the] nonstate actor the quantity, for example, of chemical agent that a terrorist group would need in order to have something to effectively fulfill its objectives is considerably less and potentially of lower quality than the chemical agent that a state would want as part of a program that was going to be an adjunct to their military forces.

ACT: Do you think the overly narrow focus of many states on the schedules of chemicals that cover only a fraction of toxic chemicals and precursors of potential chemical weapons concern has reduced the effectiveness of the CWC? How can this problem be addressed without actually amending the schedules?

Mahley: Remember that the schedules have nothing to do with what’s defined as a chemical weapon. Schedules are matters of defining what facilities are subject to verification inspections and certainly all of the chemicals that are on the schedule are and remain toxic chemicals and potential precursors to chemical weapons or chemical agents. And therefore, they should indeed remain subject to inspection.

It’s also the case that you have the discrete organic chemicals which are a larger group and which have some greater flexibility in them already. One of the reasons that the United States believes that we ought to be shifting focus to that group as part of the inspection program under the OPCW is that that provides you with the flexibility to get out into facilities that are capable [of producing], and in some cases have possession of, stockpiles of other chemicals that go off the schedules. Therefore [they] are part of the potential threat in the expanded realm of chemical agents.

ACT: Many nongovernmental organizations and some states-parties argue that scientific and technological developments makes it necessary that the review conference address the increased interest in so-called nonlethal chemical agents. How should the review conference address this topic and what action should be taken to ensure that the norm against the hostile use of chemical agents is not undermined by the development of novel incapacitating agents?[10]

Mahley: I’m not sure that this is a problem that the Chemical Weapons Convention is deaf, dumb, and blind about. Certainly the issue of incapacitants is different than the issue of riot control agents. Riot control agents, as an exception to the Chemical Weapons Convention, are very carefully defined. Most of the incapacitants, in terms of human effects that you talk about technology now developing, do not fall in the realm of riot control agents. They fall in the realm of nonlethals. Nonlethals are still in the Chemical Weapons Convention [considered] chemical weapons. The only exception is the law-enforcement exception. So it’s not clear to me that this is something in which you say “oh my, the convention needs to be changed.” I don’t think the convention needs to be changed at all.

If anything, in the review conference [there] needs to be a relatively brief discussion reminding people of what the convention itself says. [It] says that those kind of nonlethals are not legitimate chemicals to be had for military purposes.

ACT: Do you think there’s a necessity to talk about what military purposes means today because the context has changed to some degree? We have international police operations, if you like, where such agents may be used. That is a development that may not have been foreseen at the time when the convention was negotiated.

Mahley: I think that would be a discussion that is likely to [cause] the review conference [to] become less focused, rather than more.

ACT: Is the United States ready to discuss the issue of restricting trade in schedule 3 chemicals with non-states-parties and if the United States isn’t, why not?[11]

Mahley: Well, I don’t think I’m in a position to discuss that because I don’t think we’ve made up our minds yet.

ACT: Do you believe the OPCW’s ability to monitor trade and dual-use chemicals needs to be increased and how could this be achieved?

Mahley: The OPCW is not designed to be a trade monitoring organization. Trying to create a bureaucracy, which would then also create an enormously larger set of declarations that countries would have to do, is not necessarily in our view either an efficient or effective way to try to exercise that kind of control of trade. We think there are responsibilities that are very clearly laid out in the convention about trade and chemicals. Those responsibilities that are clearly laid out are a matter of national enforcement. We would therefore turn to national authorities to do the things that they need to do, which is a part of the convention responsibility, to implement the right legal framework to give them both the data set and the enforcement capability to go out and control that kind of trade as they see fit to fulfill their obligations.

ACT: The administration continues to highlight the importance of the Proliferation Security Initiative[12] in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, but all publicly known cases of PSI interdictions relate to nuclear technology. Have there been any successful cases in which the PSI has sought to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons to your knowledge?

Mahley: No comment.

ACT: Regarding national implementation, what role is there for the CWC in reducing the threat from chemical weapons terrorism? How can this role be strengthened from your perspective?

Mahley: I think the Chemical Weapons Convention’s role in preventing [the] spread of chemical terrorism is embodied in the Chemical Weapons Convention obligation to each state-party that they do all the things necessary in terms of national implementation to prevent any person within their jurisdiction or control from developing, producing, stockpiling, and [breaking] all the other prohibitions [related to] chemical weapons. That means that each country that is a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention has not only an obligation under UN Security Council Resolution 1540[13], but also a requirement under the Chemical Weapons Convention, to have in place an effective legislative package and enforcement capability to prevent terrorists from being able to do chemical weapons things within their territory or jurisdiction of control. That’s the way in which you get at terrorism.

The problem with the convention and using the OPCW for terrorists directly, is (as I have said in other fora at other times) that no terrorist group, to the best of my knowledge and belief, has signed the CWC and assumed its obligations. So therefore, that’s not a question in which the OPCW is the appropriate enforcement mechanism. The OPCW is not an enforcement body at all, as a matter of fact. It’s not the case [that] the convention, acting as a convention, is going to take action against the terrorists. The sovereign countries in whose territory the terrorists are operating are going to take action against the terrorists.

ACT: Ambassador Eric Javits, the head of the United States delegation to last year’s conference of states-parties, suggested that CWC member states should prioritize national implementation assistance efforts on those 20 states-parties “that lack effective implementing measures, but have more activities relevant to the convention within their territories”.[14] Can you cite some examples of states that you believe to be particularly important in this regard and what kind of obstacles do you foresee for putting this proposal into practice?

Mahley: I’m not going to try to cite countries because I’m not going to get into a list of countries. I will simply say that the obstacles to that are getting national implementing legislation and effective enforcement in place in all the countries [that] I believe have a pretty thorough understanding of what their obligations are. Now, if there are those who don’t [understand their obligations], then the first priority has got to be education to try and educate them. [For] those that understand it and haven’t done so yet, it is really a question that they either lack the resources or they lack the training.

What we can do, and what the United States for example bilaterally has done with a fair amount of effectiveness in a number of countries, is we send out teams that sit down with people in their executive branch. [The teams] suggest to them ways in which they might formulate national laws if they don’t have national laws, talk to them about how they can convince their parliaments to enact those kind of laws, and then what kind of  organizational structures and training programs they need to set up in order to get enforcers that are competent to go out and enforce those laws once they’re on the books.

The second part is we have training programs. Once we have the organizational structure set up, we are prepared to send resources and actually conduct training programs to make the officials [who] are going to be enforcing the laws more effective in their understanding of what constitutes a chemical weapon and how that works.

Those are the kinds of things that we think we can ask other countries to join us in doing. Frankly, we’ve had some favorable response from countries in the European Union in those kind of outreach programs to try to set up those kind of assistance activities.

ACT: How can the 1540 committee help states live up to their CWC obligations? How can the committee be strengthened so that it can fulfill its mandate better?

Mahley: I’m not an expert on the 1540 committee, I want to emphasize, but I think that the way that can work is to simply point out that the chemical weapons arena is an integral part of what they, as the 1540 committee, are trying to get countries to do. Because they’ve got the UN umbrella over them, they have the ability to appeal to countries on a completely different plane—or to a completely different set of bureaucrats, at least—to offer assistance [to other countries] and to put some emphasis within their own juridical systems on trying to get these kinds of laws and regulations and enforcement mechanisms in place. In that sense, I see the 1540 committee as a complement to the efforts that the Chemical Weapons Convention takes on. The 1540 committee obviously has a much broader mandate in terms of all the weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, as opposed to just chemical weapons.

ACT: If you look ahead to the review conference what would be the three specific recommendations coming out of that meeting that you would like to see  to strengthen the CWC?

Mahley:I really don’t have that down to a focus yet where I’m prepared to say which ones we want and which ones we don’t want out of that. So, I’m going to have to pass on that one.

ACT: Thank you very much.

1. The CWC verification system is based on three “schedules,” or lists of toxic chemicals and their precursors that have been developed and manufactured in the past for military purposes. Schedule 1 consists of chemical warfare agents and precursors that have no significant commercial applications, although they may be synthesized in small quantities for scientific research, pharmaceutical development, or chemical defense. Schedule 2 lists toxic chemicals and precursors that have commercial applications in small quantities. Schedule 3 contains toxic chemicals and precursors that have commercial applications in large quantities. The primary focus of routine inspections of the chemical industry under the CWC is on declared production facilities that manufacture the dual-use chemicals listed on Schedules 2 or 3. Several Western states, including the United States, would like industry verification to focus more closely on other chemical weapons facilities (OCPFs), some of which in their assessment are easier to misuse for chemical weapons production facilities. Such a shift would result in an increase in the relative share of inspections in non-Western countries.

2. The convention requires states-parties to destroy their chemical weapons by 2007, 10 years after the CWC’s entry into force. It is possible to request an extension of this destruction deadline by up to five years, until 2012. The conference of states-parties on December 8, 2006, approved requests for extensions of the final date for the destruction of the declared chemical weapons stockpiles. The following deadlines for complete destruction are now binding: India—April 28, 2009; Libya—December 31, 2010; Russia—April 29, 2012; South Korea—December, 31, 2008; the United States—April 29, 2012.

3. At the 12th conference of states-parties to the CWC, held in November 2007,  Iran proposed that states parties establish a “Chemical Weapons Victim's International Funding & Assistance Network”, a proposal first mentioned by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at the 2006 conference of states-parties. See ACT, December 2007.

4. At the first review conference, the United States asserted that more than a dozen countries possess or are actively pursuing chemical weapons. It voiced specific concerns about the compliance of Iran and Sudan, which are members of the CWC, as well as nonmembers Libya, North Korea and Syria. The 2005 State Department report on “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments” raises compliance concerns regarding China, Iran, Russia, North Korea and Syria. Libya acceded to the CWC in 2004, North Korea and Syria are nonsignatories.

5. Article IX of the convention grants CWC states-parties the right to request a challenge inspection of any site, declared or undeclared, on the territory of another member state “for the sole purpose of clarifying and resolving any questions concerning possible non-compliance.”

6. The relevant paragraph states that when considering “doubts or concerns regarding compliance and cases of non-compliance... the Executive Council shall consult with the States-Parties involved and, as appropriate, request the State-Party to take measures to redress the situation within a specified time.”

7. Article VIII.12 of the CWC provides for the possibility of a special session of the conference of states-parties to be convened, outside the regular annual cycle of such meetings.

8. Of the seven states that have not signed the CWC, four are in Middle East (Egypt , Iraq , Lebanon , and Syria ). Israel has signed but not ratified the convention.

9. Statement by Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance and Implementation Paula A. DeSutter, United States Delegation to the 12th Conference of States Parties of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, November 6, 2007.

10. Article VI of the CWC gives states-parties the right to maintain toxic chemicals for purposes not prohibited under the convention, including “law enforcement, including domestic riot control.” Whether the CWC permits the development and use for domestic law enforcement purposes of incapacitating agents with long-lasting effects, in addition to riot-control agents with transient effects, such as CS tear gas, is a matter of intense debate. See Kyle M. Ballard: “Convention in Peril? Riot Control Agents and the Chemical Weapons Ban”, Arms Control Today, September 2007.

11. Article VI of the CWC specifies a number of restrictions on trade, keyed to the treaty's three schedules of chemicals (see endnote 12). With the entry into force of the convention in April 1997, transfers to non-states-parties of the chemical warfare agents and precursors listed on Schedule 1 were banned immediately, and trade with non-states-parties in chemicals listed on Schedule 2 have been prohibited since April 2000. In 2003 the OPCW Conference of the States-Parties to the CWC considered a possible ban on exports to non-states-parties of Schedule 3 chemicals but could not agree by consensus. At present, the CWC allows exports of Schedule 3 chemicals to non-states-parties only if the recipient provides an end-use certificate clarifying the intended use and pledging not to make any further transfers. See Jonathan B. Tucker, "Strengthening the CWC Regime for Transfers of Dual-Use Chemicals," The CBW Conventions Bulletin, Vol. 75, March 2007, pp. 1-7.

12. President George W. Bush announced May 31, 2003 that the United States would lead a new effort, the Proliferation Security Initiative , to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction and related goods to terrorists and countries of proliferation concern. See Mark J. Valencia, “The Proliferation Security Initiative: A Glass Half-Full,” Arms Control Today, June 2007, p. 17.

13. On April 28, 2004, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1540 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The resolution mandates that all states establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and means of delivery, in particular for terrorist purposes, including by establishing appropriate controls over related materials, and adopt legislative measures in that respect. In that context, the council also established a committee comprising all council members (the 1540 Committee) that would report on the implementation of the resolution.

14. Statement by Ambassador Eric M. Javits, United States Delegation to the 12th Conference of States Parties of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, November 5, 2007.

Interviewed by Oliver Meier

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