"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Interview with Nuclear Threat Initiative Co-Chairman Sam Nunn



Interviewed by Daryl G. Kimball and Miles A. Pomper

Sam Nunn has long been a leader in the U.S. national security community. A Democrat from Georgia, Nunn served four terms in the U.S. Senate from 1972 to 1996, including as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is currently co-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to reducing the risk of the use and spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. In January 2007 and this past January, Nunn and three other senior U.S. statesmen from both parties—former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz and former Secretary of Defense William Perry—co-authored op-ed articles in The Wall Street Journal calling for the United States to champion the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons and outlining several immediate steps toward achieving this goal. On January 24, 2008, Arms Control Today met with the former senator to discuss this initiative and relevant U.S. arms control and nonproliferation policies.[1]

ACT: In essays in The Wall Street Journal in January 2007 and January 2008, you and other prominent Americans called for “a world free of nuclear weapons,” asserting that the current approach to dealing with nuclear dangers is inadequate. How did all of you arrive at this dire conclusion and ambitious solution?

Nunn: I think all of us probably arrived at the conclusion at different times and different ways. We then converged together with that view over a period of several months. In my own case, it was several years of my evolution to that conclusion.

I believe that the threat has fundamentally changed. We went through the Cold War, where we had a great danger of escalation from conventional [warfare] to tactical nuclear weapons, right up the ladder to strategic nuclear weapons. After touring NATO for the first time in the 1970s, I wrote a report on that subject. One of the big conclusions of that report was that we not only had a nuclear weapons first-use policy, but an early first-use policy. I was convinced that, at the battlefield front, [NATO’s] military people were going to ask for nuclear release at the very beginning of any conventional war. The first reason for that was because the nuclear weapons were pretty close to the front. The second reason was that the Soviets were perceived to be much stronger with tanks and artillery and [the concern was] that we were going to have our nuclear arsenal overrun very rapidly unless it was used. The third reason, probably the most important, was that the U.S. president was going to get a request for nuclear weapons-release authority at the very beginning [of a conflict]. I know people in Washington didn’t fully realize that. I don’t think any president would have been prepared for that. The reason [the military people] were going to ask for nuclear weapons early is because they felt that it would take two, three, or four days to make the decision in Washington. Therefore, in my view, if the big bells had gone off for a conventional war or a Warsaw Pact invasion or takeover of Berlin, we would have been confronted with a terrible dilemma right at the beginning. So I spent a great deal of time in the Senate to try and strengthen conventional forces in Europe so we could raise the nuclear threshold and make it where we would have at least several days, maybe even weeks, to make a decision [to go nuclear]. That came mainly through trying to make qualitative improvements in conventional defense.

[More recently,] the work we’ve done with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)—particularly on the fuel bank,[2] securing and reducing nuclear material stockpiles, trying to convert reactors around the globe from using highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium,[3] and advocating a fissile material cutoff[4]—has convinced me that we simply are not going to get the cooperation we need around the globe to take the steps that are essential for our security without having a restoration of the vision that was laid down in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Whether we agree on the interpretation or not, the world perceives that the countries with nuclear weapons made a pledge to step-by-step reduce them, make them less relevant, and eventually get rid of them.[5]

The nuclear fuel bank is aimed at trying to prevent proliferation of uranium-enrichment facilities all over the globe.[6] But when you start talking to people about the fuel bank, you find out pretty quickly that there’s no interest even among our best friends, in setting up another have and have-not regime: those who have and can enrich uranium and those who have not and will not be able to enrich. That is why it’s hard to get traction in terms of sanctions against Iran. It’s hard to get unity on a lot of things and, I think, it will get increasingly difficult.

So I have felt for a long time that the essential steps that we laid out in The Wall Street Journal and that I’ve been talking about are not possible without cooperation. We cannot take those steps unilaterally. Without the vision of a world that’s moving toward zero nuclear weapons, we are not going to be able to get that cooperation. Therefore, in my view, we’re moving toward a nuclear nightmare with more enrichment, more nuclear materials, and more know-how around the globe and terrorist groups who have made it very clear they are doing everything they can to get these weapons. Thus, I believe the vision and the steps go together. The way I like to express it is that we ought to make nuclear weapons less relevant and less important, prevent nuclear weapons or materials from getting in the hands of dangerous people, and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons as a threat to the world.

ACT: What do you think are the biggest challenges in convincing nuclear-weapon states to pursue this kind of path?

Nunn: People don’t know that the nuclear-weapon states have a hard time thinking about national security without nuclear weapons. They’ve become so relevant. For a time in the early 1990s after the Soviet Union broke up, I thought it was an opportune time to make nuclear weapons a lot less relevant, particularly with the Nunn-Lugar program.[7] But that time passed for a lot of reasons that you can debate. I think that expanding NATO and putting the military first after the collapse of the Soviet Union rather than making an economic expansion with the European Community was a fundamental mistake. It gave the Russians the feeling that they were, as they pretty much are, excluded from European defense and security. Now, the Russians are in the position that we were in when we ordered up thousands of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. They feel that their conventional forces are not strong enough, requiring them to have not only a nuclear deterrent in a very active way, but a heavy reliance on battlefield nuclear weapons and first use. It’s not unusual that the Russians would come to that conclusion. That’s the conclusion we had during the Cold War. I think the nuclear powers have varying reasons [for possessing nuclear weapons], but it all goes to dependency on nuclear weapons psychologically.

With U.S. conventional capabilities now and with the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, I really think we are in a totally different threat environment. The current threat environment is one where not only is there no need to have a confrontation with the Russians, but there’s every reason for our own security to have cooperation. While the threat environment has changed, the psychology of nuclear weapons for the nuclear powers in most cases has not changed. That would apply to India and Pakistan for obvious reasons. It would apply to Israel and the Middle East. It would apply to China. Everybody is kind of looking at everybody else.

I describe moving toward zero as climbing a mountain, the top of the mountain being zero nuclear weapons. We might not get there in my lifetime, but we need to be heading up the mountain, not down the mountain. We have to head up the mountain together. It’s not going to be a unilateral move. It’s going to have to be moving up the mountain together and hopefully reaching a plateau so that our children and grandchildren can at least get out their binoculars and see the top of the mountain.

ACT: Which steps up the mountain would you say are the most important?

Nunn: I have my own pet rocks. I think working with the Russians on missile defense is enormously important because if that does not happen, we are going to make all these other steps, which involve the Russians, much less likely and much more difficult. On the other hand, working with the Russians on missile defense and early-warning systems could open up the door for a lot of other things.

If I had to say what would do more good than any one single thing in terms of improving American and Russian security, it would be extending warning times. I haven’t been briefed on the U.S. warning time in a long time because it’s classified. But whatever it is, it is minutes.[8] Russian leaders also have minutes before they feel that their own retaliatory force could be knocked out by any kind of first strike. It seems to me that one of the most important things to do is give a clear signal to the world that we have recognized the insanity of that policy. It’s insane for us, 16 years after the Cold War, to think of the Russian president having four or five minutes to make a decision about whether what may be a false warning requires a response before he loses his retaliatory force. It is insane. That’s fundamentally against American security interests. The Russians can make a mistake. Radars and satellites can go wrong. So we ought to ask ourselves why we don’t work with the Russians to give them more warning time. They need to ask themselves why they don’t work with us to give us more warning time.

We probably have more warning time now than they do because of force postures, exercises, and survivability. Still, it’s not in our interests for the Russian president to have to make an instant decision.

Those would be my top two steps because they lead to so many other things. The whole list is important, but I think those two are threshold, fundamental things.

ACT: What in particular on missile defense would you do? The most recent essay talked about a cooperative approach. When and how do you think the United States and Russia should reach a cooperative approach on missile defense, particularly missile defense in Europe?

Nunn: I was glad to see Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice go to Moscow with proposals. Evidently it took a long time for the bureaucracy to put those proposals in writing, and when they put them in writing, there were certain things left out from the Russian perspective.[9] Still, I think it was a big step forward for them to go over there. George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, and I all strongly recommended that after we met in Russia last July with a group led by [former Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny] Primakov. We came back saying missile defense was very important, so we hope that we had something to do with Gates and Rice going over there. They went, and I think that was very good.

When I say cooperative, I think the two presidents have to make it clear to the people under them that this is strategic, not tactical, and that the militaries are expected to take whatever the obstacles are and work the problems.

The thing is that [the Bush administration] is basically deploying a system that’s not mature against a threat that’s not mature.[10] The Russians don’t agree on the threat. One of the things I mean by cooperation is a joint threat assessment. I proposed that recently to President [George W.] Bush. I proposed a joint intelligence assessment on the threat. It doesn’t have to be just the Iranian threat, but the generic missile threat. That would tell you how much time you’ve got and where differences exist. If you don’t agree on the threat, it’s going to be ultra hard to agree on the response.

Warning time is similar. I proposed to both [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Bush in the last six months what I just basically said to you. I suggested respectfully that they tell their military leaders, “We want more warning time. If it’s ‘x’ now, we want it to be ‘2x.’ You give us the steps. We want you to work out the details.”

What is it that makes Russia think it has to launch quickly? What is it that makes Russia think, in the tactical area, that it needs the option of first use? What is it that makes NATO continue to say it has to have first use? Start working those problems because insecurities are on both sides. Beyond the prestige factor—we’ve made nuclear weapons too important—the underlying factor is insecurity. So we have to work the insecurity problems with the United States and Russia and then in every region of the world if we’re ever going to go up the mountain. We have to work regional insecurity problems. “We” are the United States and other nuclear powers, as well as the regional powers.

ACT: The May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) commits the United States and Russia to each lower their strategic operational forces to less than 2,200 strategic warheads by 2012, which is when the treaty expires. Should there be a follow-on treaty to SORT, and how low should the numbers go?

Nunn: I would like us to focus on the number of quick-launch weapons. I have felt for a long time that while it is perfectly valid and important to talk about and come down in numbers, it is much more important to make nuclear weapons less relevant in the long run. If we can make them less relevant, then the number will come down very appreciably.

Nuclear weapons can be made less relevant if they are not going to be used in the early stages of a conflict. Some type of physical barriers could be introduced down the line so nobody can launch within a week and their retaliatory response is not threatened. You have to have both. You can’t have nuclear weapons locked up in a pile sitting there waiting for someone to destroy them. You really have to work those issues.

So, what I emphasize is aiming toward zero nuclear weapons on quick-launch readiness. A number that I think would be adequate for the foreseeable future is no more than 500 quick-launch weapons on each side. I would go lower, but that would be a good starting point. When you get to that level, then the inventory people have to ask, “What do we have all these inventories for?” If people are going to reduce down to 500 weapons, they are going to want to make sure those systems are not subject to pre-emption.

ACT: START I expires at the end of 2009. How mechanically and diplomatically do you think the two sides can pursue the reductions that you are describing? Is it in the context of the SORT and START processes or through unilateral reciprocal initiatives? How do you see future reductions being pursued?

Nunn: All of the above. I do not think it’s either arms control treaties or things beyond arms control treaties. I think it is both.

It would be folly to allow the START verification provisions to expire. I think reconstructing them would be a whole lot harder than having this administration and the Russians agree on [extending] them.

I also think SORT needs to be fulfilled. When it first came up, I called it a “faith-based treaty.” It expires the same day that the limits take effect. I think that is absurd. The next administration has to do something about that. Obviously, this one will not. The next administration will have to tie verification provisions to SORT.[11]

I think the arms control treaty process is important. Obviously, you want to reach agreements. But the dialogue, the conversations, the people getting to know each other, and the realization of the fears and seeing where the fears coincide are important. That is where I differ so much from this administration. Sure it is frustrating and takes a long time.

We have a lot of things that we can do without treaties. Warning time, for instance, I don’t think lends itself to a treaty approach. When I was still in the Senate and Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, I went over to see him. I told him that I felt one of the most important things that we and the Soviets could do at that stage was to both agree to have a totally zero-risk-based approach to our command and control to [mitigate] any kind of accident or miscalculation. We would do it unilaterally, but we would create a process that would parallel each other, and we would stay in touch. We would not let them in our knickers, so to speak, and they wouldn’t let us in their knickers in terms of looking at all their systems. At first, Cheney was not receptive. I said, “Dick, either you do it from here, or we’ll do it in the committee.” That must have been when I was chairman, or I would not have been talking like that. Nevertheless, he thought about it for less than a week and called me back and said, “We will do it.” The Russians did not do it. They did not buy the reciprocity part. I mean, the administration did not propose that. But I thought it was at least half of a loaf. That effort resulted in some very substantial changes, particularly in the Navy command literature. I don’t recall some parts of it because most of it was highly classified. I would like to see that effort again.

I also would like to see [command and control] updated in light of the huge technological changes, particularly the cyber world. I don’t think we have explored anywhere near adequately the danger of command and control being penetrated by people in the cyber world, whether it’s a third country or a very clever hacker. Maybe the United States has done more about this, but I don’t think we have fully calibrated the power and capability of a very sophisticated hacker simulating an attack on someone’s computer systems, such as the Russians’, the Pakistanis’, the Indians’. There are horrors out there when you see the stakes involved. That’s why I go back to my big pet rock. If everyone had the posture where they could not shoot for a week, it would be a different world. That would make nuclear weapons less relevant, and the discussion about how many you need takes on a different flavor. That is in no way in opposition to reducing numbers, but it is saying that reducing numbers is not the be all and end all.

ACT: There are still several hundred tactical U.S. weapons in Europe. Would you support their unconditional or immediate withdrawal? Why or why not?

Nunn: What I favor is a U.S.-Russian agreement—NATO would have to be involved—that would basically acknowledge the problems of tactical nuclear weapons: the fact that they are susceptible to terrorist attack; the fact that if they are deployed, there is more difficulty with command and control; and the fact that, in some cases, it is reported that there is pre-release authority, where you would not have to get permission from the leaders of the country. I hope nobody has it. I’m not sure about the Russians. I would talk about all of that.

My first goal would be to have transparency between the United States and Russia: where the weapons are and how many there are through mutual exchange of inventories. The second thing—well, I’ve already pre-empted the second—is accountability so you have a baseline. Sure, some could be missing, but we don’t have any baseline now on their weapons. If you don’t have a baseline, how do you know what they are missing? What you hope is that they have a baseline. That’s the way that I would start with tactical nukes. The [final] goal would be to get rid of all of them.

ACT: Given what you mentioned about Russia’s changing perception of threats after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, do you think Russia is ready for that dialogue now, or are there changes in U.S. and NATO policy that are going to be necessary to open the door to that negotiation about transparency and accountability?

Nunn: At this stage, I have seen no indication that Russia is ready for that conversation. One thing that gave me great encouragement is that our second article in The Wall Street Journal appeared the day before a recent meeting we had with a group of Russians and they talked a great deal about it. Some in the group indicated that they felt that holding some type of conference on that subject in Moscow would be in order.

I think you have to be willing to sit down and talk to the Russians about where they fit into the overall European security framework. NATO’s Partnership for Peace[12] was a worthy effort for a few years, but it has run its course in my view. The discussions now by serious people about inviting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and [deploying] missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland mean that the clock is running. We don’t have that much time to have a serious discussion about Europe. NATO has to ask itself if it is in NATO’s interest for Russia to be virtually the only country in that part of the world that’s not eligible to be in that huge defense alliance. If the answer is “that’s the way we want to go,” we’re doing everything just right. If we want Russia to be excluded and if we want Russia to perceive NATO as a permanent enemy, we’re doing it all just right. I don’t think it is our goal. I also don’t think it is NATO’s goal. I don’t even think it is this administration’s goal. So we have to back up a little bit and say, “Time out. What is the view of the Russian security role?” I think the Russians have to ask themselves that. Most of their responses are simply frustrated responses to what is happening rather than thoughtful and creative ideas about the kind of role that they want to play.

Obviously, Russia is not ready to join NATO. NATO’s not ready. But should there be some kind of overall security framework that the Russians play a big role in and really have a significant voice? If there is not, my view is that we’re going to have a very hard time with this whole nuclear agenda and we’re going to have a very hard time with the security agenda in Europe over the long haul.

In my view, the behavior of an awful lot of people involved in NATO security during and since the 1990s, including the Bill Clinton and Bush administrations, has basically been one of almost deliberate disdain for Russia being important enough to worry about. I have felt all along that that was extremely shortsighted. It was perhaps true in a pure economic sense for quite a while. It is no longer true in energy, no longer true in environment, no longer true in economics, and, in my view, never has been true in terms of national security. Russia’s going to be a player, and to me, the question is whether it’s inside or outside the tent. Right now, it is outside the tent. Maybe that is what the Russians want. Maybe that’s what NATO wants. But I believe it is happening inadvertently without much thought.

I think it is very premature to expand NATO again when we cannot even muster enough troops to Afghanistan when the alliance is a third bigger than it was [at the end of the Cold War]. NATO’s getting bigger, but what is its cohesiveness? What is its future? Napoleon supposedly once said that if he could get all of his enemies in one alliance, he was assured a victory. I tell my Russian friends that, but it does not give them a lot of comfort.

ACT: You are well known for your work with Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) to create the Cooperative Threat Reduction program. What are your recommendations for accelerating and maximizing the unfinished work of that program and similar efforts?

Nunn: I tip my hat to Senator Lugar because he has really carried the ball since I left the Senate. Even when I was there, he was carrying at least half the ball. He has gotten legislation passed which lets the Nunn-Lugar concept apply beyond the former Soviet Union. It was used recently in Albania to destroy chemical weapons. I understand it is used in terms of bringing back dangerous biological pathogens from Kazakhstan.

NTI has sent a team to South Korea and Japan to explain the Nunn-Lugar concept to them so they will understand it if the North Koreans come around far enough to make the Nunn-Lugar concept applicable to North Korea. My understanding is that there even have been direct discussions with the administration and North Korea.

I see a maturing of the Nunn-Lugar program in the former Soviet Union. There’s a lot left to do, but given Russia’s very impressive economic progress, I think that Russia should step up to the plate much more as a partner. I believe that Russia and the United States should really join together to approach this whole subject on a global basis. I see the Nunn-Lugar concept continuing, but I don’t see the funding continuing to be primarily American. The Group of Eight has already made pledges, and they need to be fulfilled.[13] The Russians also need to step up much more to their own security and beyond their own security. I see Russia necessarily moving from being, in effect, a partner that is supplicant for funds to a truly global partner that deals with these subjects on a global basis with its own experts and its own money.

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1540, which places the burden on every country to take security steps to prevent catastrophic terrorism by protecting their nuclear arsenals or materials, including radiological [materials]. Most countries have not been able to do much under that mandate. I have proposed that the United States and Russia offer U.S. and Russian experts who have worked together on the Nunn-Lugar program to basically be available under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to help any country in the world that needs help implementing that resolution. Those experts could provide technical assistance, best practices, and other know-how on the ground. The United States and Russia have learned so much working together over the last 15 years that I think it would be a shame not to have that lab-to-lab, military-to-military, scientist-to-scientist expertise available to others. It could grow into a bigger project, but I would start off with a small group of people, and it would need to be under the IAEA. It would have to be voluntary. Nobody could impose that on the world, but it certainly ought to be offered. That is the way I see the Nunn-Lugar program evolving.

ACT: I want to focus on one aspect of the Nunn-Lugar program for the future. In the latest essay in The Wall Street Journal, you and your co-authors called for dramatically accelerating work to provide the highest possible standards of security for nuclear weapons as well as nuclear materials. Are the United States and Russian governments doing that now? If not, then how can that be achieved, particularly given the U.S.-Russian relationship today and the way the program is organized?

Nunn: What we can do together is eliminate the obstacles. The two presidents have to pay a lot more attention. They need, in my view, at least a weekly report on how we are doing on Nunn-Lugar and the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which we at NTI call the global cleanout. There ought to be a weekly progress report, and it ought to identify all obstacles. The two presidents have to remove those obstacles. The two presidents really must lead. When we first legislated the Nunn-Lugar program, Senator Lugar and I asked for one person that would report to the president and would be in charge of the effort across department lines. It still has not been done. I would like to see that done in the United States and Russia. That is how I would proceed. I would want progress reports going to the presidential level and obstacles going to the presidential level. We’ve had delays that are just unbelievable given the stakes.

ACT: I want to get back to your discussion earlier about the fuel bank, particularly the NTI role. What’s your sense on the notion that there has been movement in Russia in establishing a fuel center? What are the prospects that this will really happen, and what are the obstacles that might prevent its creation? Where do things stand?

Nunn: We are involved in it all the time, but the answer is, I don’t know. I think there’s a good chance that we could get something done. I think the IAEA, at least its leadership, would like to get something done. The problem gets back to the haves and have-nots. There are a lot of countries out there that are determined, no matter what happens, not to get into a regime where some people have and some people have not. I think that whatever’s framed in terms of fuel assurances has to be framed so that countries do not forsake their sovereign right to engage in enrichment at some point down the line. From my point of view, the whole concept of fuel assurances is to help those countries that have decided on their own not to go into enrichment. So there’s a thin line there. Not going into enrichment is an actuality; forsaking your right is a pledge. I do not think we are going to get anything that looks like a pledge.

I think what we can get is a regime that has tiers of assurances for fuel, starting predominantly with the marketplace but with marketplace backups, including the Russian concept of enrichment on its soil under IAEA supervision; the U.S. concept of cross guarantees of supplies; perhaps some of the Japanese, German, and British ideas for a series of tiers; and certainly the final reserve, which we propose is the NTI fuel bank controlled by the IAEA.

All of those things are entirely possible, but right now it is going to take a lot of diplomatic leadership to make it happen. It is going to require some of those countries that don’t have enrichment and don’t want enrichment, but also don’t want to give up that right to enrichment, to step up strongly and endorse this concept. Right now, that is the missing element.

ACT: Given those realities, which countries do you believe will be convinced to take advantage of a fuel bank and decide not to go down the enrichment path? Is a fuel bank really going to convince the hard cases, such as Iran or an Iran of tomorrow?

Nunn: The Russian proposal with Angarsk[14] or some concept like that is the best case in terms of Iran. Of course, Iran has said “no” so far. But my understanding is that they have said “no” and not “hell no.” They may not use profanity.

Evidently the United Arab Emirates recently announced it was going to embark upon its own nuclear civil program, but it also said it was not going to enrich. Now, the bad news is an oil country wants nuclear power, so you have to scratch your head. The good news is that it has made clear that it is not going to enrich and will rely on market forces and other fuel supply assurances. If we can get some other nations to move in that direction, it would be very helpful.

Some people believe we could simply divide [the world] into good guys and bad guys, and if they are good guys, they [can enrich]. So India and Brazil could go ahead and enrich. I don’t think that works, and I don’t think it has any sustainability. I don’t think we can sit here and divide the world into good and bad. Now, we can take adamant positions against people that we think are extremely dangerous, like the Iranians. But a lot of the countries are going to be in between. They are not going to fit into anything like that. So I think there has to be an international regime. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei is very dedicated to that. I have a lot of confidence in him, but whether he can pull it off is uncertain given the attitude of so many of these countries which have the determination not to be have-nots with enrichment, as well as with weapons. But I will add that I think it is important to have all enrichment, including U.S. enrichment, under international safeguards. That might not be acceptable here, in Russia, and in a lot of other places, but I think it is going to have to be that way. I don’t think we can simply divide the world up.

ACT: As you know, India is currently negotiating new “India-specific” safeguards with the IAEA, in which India is seeking guaranteed nuclear fuel supply assurances regardless of its behavior, including a possible resumption of nuclear testing. What is your reaction to this possible arrangement, and how might it affect an international fuel bank?

Nunn: My first reaction is that India is a great country and has a tremendous history and future. Second, India is determined not to forsake any of its sovereign rights. Third, India can take a real leadership role in things like a fissile material cutoff and even moving toward zero and, therefore, should be encouraged to do that. Fourth, India completely out-negotiated the United States on that deal. We should have had at least an agreement that India would cut off fissile material production. I don’t think India should be excluded from the discussions we’re having with countries about both the vision and the steps. I think India can play a very important role.

I was not in favor of the nuclear deal with India. I know the Indian and the U.S. governments are both working hard to [advance it]. But, in my view, the U.S. government did not look at the deal in the broad context of what it does to the overall proliferation equation. I think the U.S. government was looking through a telescope at simply U.S.-Indian relations. Anything in the nuclear arena has got to be looked at in the broader context. I would hope that we could encourage the Indians to assume a leadership role in this whole arena. At one point, India was a leader toward nuclear disarmament, at least rhetorically. I hope it resumes that role. We’ve had some interesting feedback on The Wall Street Journal piece from India.

ACT: What’s your opinion of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership,[15] which purports to address some of these issues? Is it consistent and going in the right direction?

Nunn: I don’t have problems with the overall concept, but it got off to a bad start, both in terms of this country and the world, in the sense that it looked like another have and have-nots situation. It looked like an effort to prevent countries from exercising their sovereign rights. The concept of having research on fuel cycle questions over the long haul seems to me a good concept. But it certainly was not psychologically and politically well executed.

ACT: The next president is going to have to deal with a lot of issues, including the war in Iraq. How realistic is it that the next administration and Congress will take up and implement the ambitious agenda that you and your colleagues have outlined? And how do you get the U.S. government to prioritize these issues?

Nunn: It depends on who is elected. Some of the candidates have talked about some of these things in some depth and others, primarily on the Republican side, have not addressed these issues. I thought that Fred Thompson, if he had been elected, already had the script. It came right out of a movie.[16] [Barack] Obama has talked about these issues a lot. [Hillary] Clinton has talked about them a good bit, and John Edwards had talked about them. In addition to who is elected, I think it depends on the public awareness out there and putting all of these issues in terms of priorities.

We at NTI have done everything we know how to do to keep this front and center, including making a movie. We are going to keep working, but I don’t have a magic bullet here that says here is how we get the government to make these issues a top priority.

In the last presidential election, both Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and President Bush said on national television that nuclear terrorism was the most important challenge we faced. President Bush has said over and over again that keeping the most dangerous weapons out of the most dangerous hands is our top priority. President Putin has said the same thing. It’s the gap between words and deeds that is the frustration because all the words are there.

In my recent meeting with the visiting Russians, I started off by asking what would be on a dream list of how the U.S. and Russian governments should face nuclear terrorism dangers. I then listed eight or nine things. At the end, I said, “Guess what? They’ve agreed on every one of these.” The two governments have agreed on every one of them. Now, they are still missing a lot of things, such as [agreements on] tactical nuclear weapons and warning time, but it is amazing what has been agreed to by this administration, which doesn’t really like any kind of arms control de jure.

What is missing is execution. What is missing is the difference between words and deeds. What is missing is presidential focus, both Bush and Putin, on a continuing basis. What is missing is a sense of priorities in our allies, although British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is now speaking out on these subjects. What is missing is an organization in the United States, Russia, and other countries that is held accountable for real execution and performance. That is the real challenge. Presidents can organize their own cabinets and their own security team the way they want to, but somebody has to be accountable and responsible. The one example, I think, when there has been some accountability and some responsibility is when Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and his Russian counterpart were given a specific charge at the Bratislava summit to greatly accelerate the pace of certain threat reduction programs in Russia. Both basically stepped up and made a lot more progress than they would have otherwise. With that exception, most of the efforts disappear at third and fourth levels of the bureaucracies without people at the top paying a lot of attention. That has to change with the next U.S. administration, whether it’s Republican or Democrat, and hopefully in Russia too.




1. 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 read on the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Web site at www.nti.org/c_press/c3_opeds.html.

2. The general concept of a nuclear fuel bank is to establish a reserve of nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes that can be made available to those states forgoing the development of full national nuclear fuel cycles. For more information on the NTI initiative and other fuel bank proposals, see Oliver Meier, “News Analysis: The Growing Nuclear Fuel Cycle Debate,” Arms Control Today, November 2006, pp. 40-44.

3. Highly enriched uranium can be used to build nuclear weapons. Low-enriched uranium cannot be used for that purpose.

4. A fissile material cutoff entails ceasing the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes. Both these fissile materials have been used in nuclear arms.

5. Article VI of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligates its states-parties 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.”

6. Uranium-enrichment facilities can be used to produce low-enriched uranium to fuel power reactors and highly enriched uranium to build nuclear weapons.

7. Established by legislation passed in 1991, the U.S. Nunn-Lugar program has funded activities in Russia, other states of the former Soviet Union, and additional countries, such as Albania, to secure and dispose of excess or outlawed biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons and materials, as well as delivery vehicles.

8. An ongoing debate about the actual alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons flared up last fall when New Zealand sponsored a UN resolution calling on nuclear-armed states to remove their nuclear weapons from high alert. Wade Boese, “Nuclear Weapons Alert Status Debated,” Arms Control Today, December 2007, p. 44.

9. The United States maintains it did not renege on its proposals to ease Russian concerns about plans to deploy 10 strategic anti-missile interceptors in Poland and an associated radar in the Czech Republic. Wade Boese, “Europe Anti-Missile Plan Faces Hard Sell,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2008, p. 47.

10. The Bush administration claims that its proposed European-based anti-missile system is to defend against a growing Iranian ballistic missile threat.

11. SORT did not include any verification measures. In his June 2002 letter transmitting the treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification, President George W. Bush stated, “It is important for there to be sufficient openness so that the United States and Russia can each be confident that the other is fulfilling its reductions commitment. The Parties will use the comprehensive verification regime of [START] to provide the foundation for confidence, transparency, and predictability in further strategic offensive reductions.”

12. NATO launched the Partnership for Peace program in 1994 to enable nonmember countries to pursue bilateral cooperation on a variety of military and political issues with the alliance.

13. In a June 2002 summit at Kananaskis, Canada, the Group of Eight members (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) pledged to raise up to $20 billion over 10 years to help secure and eliminate biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons in Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union. Paul F. Walker, “Kananaskis at Five: Assessing the Global Partnership,” Arms Control Today, September 2007, p. 47.

14. Russia plans to establish a multinational uranium-enrichment facility in the Siberian city of Angarsk.

15. Initiated by President George W. Bush in 2006, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership seeks to develop new nuclear technologies, particularly for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, and new international nuclear fuel arrangements.

16. Fred Thompson played a U.S. president trying to stop a terrorist nuclear attack in Last Best Chance, a 2005 film produced with the support of NTI.

Interviewed by Daryl G. Kimball and Miles A. Pomper

Text of Nov. 28 E-mail from Strategic Command responding to ACT's questions on the alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons



November 2007

Q1) If "hair-trigger alert" and "launch-on-warning" are incorrect terms for describing the status of US forces on alert, what is the proper term?

A1) U.S. nuclear forces are not on “hair trigger” alert. The term “hair trigger” ignores the safeguards, deliberate actions, and procedures required in order to employ nuclear weapons. The U.S. nuclear force posture has evolved since the end of the Cold War. Only a portion of the operationally deployed U.S. nuclear forces is maintained on a ready alert status. No strategic bombers, 450 Minuteman III IBCMs, and a small number of SSBNs at sea are on alert at any given time.

U.S. policy is not to rely on a "launch on warning" strategy. U.S. strategic forces are postured to provide maximum flexibility so the U.S. is not faced with a “use or lose” dilemma. A major strike on the U.S. would be required to eliminate the responsive ICBM capability. The ICBM force could be launched prior to impact, but only if the President were to direct such an action. In addition, should the ICBM force not be able to respond, the U.S. SSBNs at sea could deliver an overwhelming response if directed by the President.

Should the international security situation call for it, the U.S. could bring its nuclear forces to a higher state of readiness (i.e., “generated alert”), putting a larger portion of its submarines to sea and returning heavy bombers to alert, to increase their survivability.

Q2) The US government has made statements to the effect of as long as
nuclear weapons exist it is necessary for us to keep some portion of our forces at some level of alert. What is the proper description or term for that "level of alert?"

A2) See answer 1. A portion of U.S. nuclear forces are on day-to-day alert. Since the end of the Cold War, however, the U.S. has reduced dramatically both the overall number of nuclear weapons and nuclear systems maintained on day-to-day alert. To ensure deterrence, U.S. nuclear forces must be postured such that, under any credible scenario, a sufficient number of nuclear weapons would survive to respond to an aggressor’s attempt to carry out a disabling attack on the U.S. The proper term would be “on day-to-day alert”.

Q3) The US government statement also noted that US forces have evolved away from "rapid reaction high alert levels." Is that the proper term to describe the alert status of some US nuclear weapons systems today?

A3) The U.S. nuclear force posture has evolved since the end of the Cold War. Only a small portion of our SSBNs and the 450 Minuteman III ICBMs remain on day-to-day alert. Nuclear capable bombers have been removed from alert status, but could be re-postured in a national crisis and additional SSBNs could be generated to alert status.

Q4) Has the US completely stopped this previous practice of "rapid reaction high alert?"

A4) See answer 3.

Q5) What measures marked this shift? What steps were taken that no longer classifies or makes US weapons as on "rapid reaction high alert?"

A5) Under the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, all nuclear bombers were removed from alert. Only the Minuteman III ICBM and a small portion of our SSBN force remain on day-to-day alert and neither force is targeted against any country. All 50 Peacekeeper ICBMs, 50 Minutemen III ICBMs, the B-1 Bomber fleet, and four SSBNs have been deactivated or removed from strategic service.

Q6) The USG statement further said that "few of the operationally deployed US nuclear forces are maintained on a ready alert status." What is meant by the term few?

A6) Only the Minuteman III ICBM force and a small number of SSBNs are on day-to-day alert.

Q7) Independent nongovernmental analysts say that regardless of what the alert status is called, the reality is that some US nuclear weapons are capable of being fired in "minutes." Is that assertion accurate?

A7) The United States maintains the ability to launch its nuclear weapons in a timely basis as directed by the President. Minuteman III ICBMs are designed to be capable of delivering a rapid response prior to being struck by an adversary’s ballistic missile force. This is an important aspect of our deterrent because it complicates an opponents’ pre-emptive strike planning. However, the fundamental fact is that U.S. forces are postured such that the President is not confronted with a “use or lose” situation in that other strategic forces could be directed to respond to an attack. See answer 1.

Q8) In a Nov. 6 paper, nongovernmental analyst Bruce Blair wrote, "the fact remains that the US posture is still geared for firing thousands of weapons with a few minutes." Is that an accurate statement?

A8) No, this is not true. Under the Moscow Treaty, the U.S. will have only 1700-2200 operationally deployed nuclear weapons. The U.S. is well on its way to achieving this limit. Only a portion of these are on day-to-day alert.

Q9) Now that the Soviet Union is gone and the United States says Russia is no longer an enemy, why is it necessary for the US to keep some of its forces on alert for possible launch in minutes?

A9) The security environment of the 21st century is dramatically different from the East-West rivalry of the Cold War era, but the goals of U.S. security policy remain much the same: to strengthen deterrence and limit risks that could result in serious -even catastrophic- damage to the United States, its allies, and friends. Nuclear capabilities continue to play an important role by providing options to deter a wide range of threats, including the use of WMD by a variety of adversaries. These capabilities also contribute to our non-proliferation goals by assuring allies and friends that the U.S. will be able to fulfill its security commitments, thereby negating any need to develop their own nuclear weapons.

“De-alerting” strategic forces raises other unique concerns, related to the safety and the credibility of the deterrent force. Additionally, the generation of nuclear forces during a crisis, when none had been on alert, could cause an already tense situation to be come unstable.

Q10) What measures does the US have in place to prevent nuclear weapons from unintentional or accidental use?

A10) There are multiple, rigorous technical and procedural safeguards to protect against accidental or unauthorized launch.

These safeguards include positive measures such as weapon design features, safety rules, procedures (including two-man rule), accident prevention or mitigation measures, and other controls. Such controls include physical security and coded control systems, which are used collectively or individually to enhance safety and to reduce the likelihood, severity, or consequences of an accident, unauthorized actions, or deliberate destructive actions.

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Interview with British Ambassador Lyn Parker, chair of open-ended working group preparing for the 2008 CWC Review Conference



Interviewed by Oliver Meier

Representatives of states-parties to 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention will gather April 7-18, 2008 in The Hague for the second review conference of the chemical weapons ban. The conference will have to take stock of developments since the last review in 2003 and will discuss measures to adapt the treaty to current and future scientific and political developments.

On Nov. 20, Arms Control Today International Correspondent Oliver Meier interviewed British Ambassador Lyn Parker who is chairing the open-ended working group (OEWG) that is charged with preparing the review conference. About 40 states-parties have participated in the group, which has been meeting since July 2006. Among other things, the working group aims to develop a draft of the chairman’s report document that will provide the basis for discussions on the final report of the review conference.

ACT: What has the working group achieved so far? What issues have been discussed and on what topics is there still disagreement among working group members?

Parker: The working group has been operating for just over a year now, working its way systematically through the main issues that arise from the convention. The group has been basing itself partially on the outcome of the last review conference, because that’s the starting point in terms of assessing what’s happened since then, but also looking at new issues which have arisen since then. The sort of things that we have covered include universality, general obligations under the convention, verification, chemical weapons and production facilities for them, activities that aren’t prohibited under the convention, national implementation, consultation, cooperation, fact-finding and related issues, assistance and protection, economic and technological development, scientific progress, the final articles of the convention related to procedural and structural issues, protection of confidential information, and the overall functioning of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). So, it’s quite a long shopping list. Basically we have been covering the main areas in which the convention operates in a fairly systematic manner.

You asked if we have consensus on these issues. We’ve collected a wide range of views from delegations, we’ve also had inputs from industry, from non-governmental organizations, both written and at the meeting on Nov. 19 at the OPCW[1], and from the Scientific Advisory Board[2], and we are awaiting and will receive shortly a substantial paper from the director-general and the [OPCW’s] secretariat, summing up their view of developments since 2003. I expect Director-General Rogelio Pfirter’s views on the sort of issues on which we should be focusing when we come to the conference itself. So there has been a wide range of inputs to the OEWG.

We’re not at the stage yet of seeking consensus in fine detail on exactly what might be said at the review conference. But it is fair to say that there is a high degree of common purpose, I think, among delegations on these issues. Inevitably, we have debates about the relative importance of different aspects of the convention, the different weight to attach to them, and in some areas there are long-running debates about exactly how we should tackle some of the trickier issues. These are reflected equally in our discussions in the working group. But overall, it’s a very positive atmosphere and a strong sense of common purpose.

ACT: At the first review conference, the atmosphere was somewhat charged because the director-general had been ousted the previous year.[3] Based on your discussions in the working group so far, what do you expect the atmosphere to be like in April next year?

Parker: Obviously I wasn’t around at the time of the previous review conference, so I have no benchmark for comparison personally, but I think it’s fair to say that the last few years have been ones of steady progress in the organization. Whatever may have been the case in 2003, there’s now a high degree of confidence in the leadership of the organization by the Director-General Rogelio Pfirter and in the quality and performance of the secretariat. Therefore, I think the atmosphere is a good one for the review conference and will enable us to focus on the issues of substance, which we should be focusing on.

ACT: Have states-parties already begun discussions on the final document?

Parker: Not yet. We’re at the end, if you like, of the information-gathering and views-gathering stage. We’re just a week or two away from the end of that rather protracted initial stage. But we should have all our major inputs by the middle of December and the drafting process will then begin and will run particularly intensively in January and February of 2008. So we hope that there will be a text available for states-parties to consider several weeks before we come to the review conference itself.

ACT: And what kind of products do you expect to come out of the review conference? The same type of document that the last review conference approved, or will it be different?

Parker: Well, we’re in the hands of delegations as far as this is concerned, but we have put around a draft outline for the main report, which we’ve had some comments on. But basically I think there’s broad support for this document, which would produce, if you like, the main detailed report in a rather similar way to last time. Like last time I envisage that there would be on top of this a political declaration which would be shorter and more sharply focused. So, a combination document, a two-part document, which would have the main messages up front in a political declaration, and then a more detailed document with more substance in it, but perhaps would take a bit longer to read.

ACT: Has there been a decision yet on how the review conference will operate? Will states-parties review the convention based on a thematic approach or article-by-article?

Parker: It’s kind of hybrid. The list I gave of issues more or less follows the sequence that we have followed and it is a hybrid of following the broad structure of the treaty, but not being tied down exactly to an article-by-article approach. It makes sense to pull together themes like verification, or like national implementation, or assistance and protection, and deal with them in groups. I leave it to the academics to decide whether we’re operating on an article-by-article or thematic approach. It’s really a hybrid of the two.

ACT: Turning toward the substance of discussions. Are there any issues that you expect to be more important during discussions than others? Will the conference be more backward-looking or more forward-looking? What’s your feeling based on discussions in the working group?

Parker: I think the assessment of performance and that the review conference does this part of its job thoroughly is important, but I don’t think that there will be a tremendous amount of argument about the record in the sense of what we have achieved.

The real question for the future is what more can we do and also how do the balances built into the convention change over time as we move towards the deadline for destruction of chemical weapons stocks and we start to look at what lies beyond the destruction of existing chemical weapons stocks. What kind of organization does this need to become? What are the balances between the traditional destruction and verification activities and some of the other activities such as cooperation, assistance, and protection, which are important to a lot of states-parties who are not themselves directly involved in the processes related to chemical weapons destruction?

ACT: But before we get to that stage, of course, destruction has to be completed and there is the problem that it seems unlikely that all states-parties will be able to meet their commitments related to chemical weapons destruction.[4] Given that this will be the last review conference before the extended deadlines expire, what is your sense how this question will be discussed at the review conference? Do you think that member states should already discuss this question or should they wait until 2012 when the deadlines expire?

Parker: We’ll have see what happens in the discussions themselves. Clearly this issue is in the mind of quite a few delegations. On the other hand, we are still some years out from 2012. Whether this will actually be the last conference, either a formal review conference or a special conference before that date, we don’t at this stage know. You’re right that on the five-year cycle the next one would actually come in 2013, but the convention provides for other possibilities, so it’s not impossible there could be discussion before 2012.[5]

Actually, in terms of performance at the moment the possessor states, particularly the two big possessor states, are actually doing well against their existing destruction targets. We’re not at this moment in difficulty. We’ll have to see what states-parties want to do in the discussion of this. But I think there’s a general feeling on the part of many delegations that although these are issues that we will need to confront and look at very seriously when we get nearer to the time, it is a little bit premature to try to work out now how they may be handled if and when the time comes, if there turns out to be a problem in 2012, because so much can happen between now and then. But, undoubtedly it’s an issue that will come up in the discussions and I’m sure it will be referred to in the conference when we get there.

ACT: At the last review conference, the United States in their opening statement accused a number of states-parties of being in violation of the CWC. Do you again expect similar accusations of noncompliance and how do you think the review conference can actually deal with the question of compliance?[6]

Parker: Well I can’t speak for the states-parties and what they may or may not do when we come to the conference. What we have in the convention is a set of procedures, which can be used in cases of doubt, starting with the possibility of consultations and then leading all the way, if necessary, to challenge inspection. The way in which these procedures might be used has been the subject of quite a lot of discussion, including in the review conference work so far. I’m sure that one element, for example, in the final outcome of the review conference will be a reflection of further discussion on challenge inspections. This year has been interesting. The Dutch government staged a mock challenge inspection so that everyone could see how it would work, and fortunately, did it close enough to The Hague for people actually to go along and be able to observe what happened if a challenge inspection was conducted. So these issues are live ones and under discussion, but for me at least, I think that it’s premature to judge what might happen when we get to the review conference itself.

ACT: You mentioned earlier that some of the real challenges lie in the future and lie in adapting the convention to some of the changing circumstances. One of the issues that a lot of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have highlighted is the threat coming from so-called non-lethal or incapacitating agents. At the last review conference, states-parties did not get into a debate on this issue.[7] Now, since 2003, a number of states have increased their efforts to develop and deploy such agents and many hope that this review conference will pick up the issue. Do you think this issue will be on the agenda and what kind of decisions could we expect from the review conference? Could the conference, for example, agree on a technical working group to discuss nonlethal or incapacitating agents?[8]

Parker: Again, I’m afraid it’s a bit early to say what the conference might ultimately discuss or agree. The issue has come up. It has been raised by one or two states-parties in the discussion and it is very much a live issue in the NGO community, where a number of NGOs have raised this in the inputs which they’ve made into the review conference process so far. What will happen when we get to next April, I hesitate to predict. It’s, of course, not a new issue. It’s an issue that’s been around for some time and this question of where the border, where the limits of the convention lie is a complex one, both in terms of what are called nonlethal weapons (not necessarily an ideal title for the kind of agents that people are talking about) and also the role of riot control agents (which are specifically covered in the convention). I think we’ll have to see how this debate plays out, and particularly how far states-parties pick up what is undoubtedly a very lively debate out in the NGO community.

ACT: You also already mentioned that there is a debate about the balance of the different components of the convention. Many observers expect discussions on international cooperation to be a potentially divisive issue. What’s your sense of how the review conference can address that issue and do you expect there again to be direct criticism of the Australia Group[9], for example?

Parker: The convention reflects a balance between the interests of the countries who at the time the convention was put together had major chemical industries. Some of whom were or had been chemical weapon-possessor states, and a wide range of other countries where chemical industries were less developed There’s a set of issues which were very much focused on promoting mutual trust and confidence and stability through the destruction of chemical weapons, and also the verification elements which were necessary to go alongside that. Then there are the states-parties’interests which have developed increasingly as we have pursued universality, very successfully I have to say. We now have a very large number of states-parties whose priorities are a bit different to those with traditionally strong chemical sectors. Obviously they attach importance to delivering the core original purpose of the convention, but aspects like cooperation, assistance, protection, and so on, are also particularly important for them. The question therefore for the organization is what is the right balance between these two aspects in terms of the activities of the organization and the secretariat and the resources we’ve got. How does that shift over time?

Your question about the Australia Group: there is, of course, a long-standing debate about the role of cooperative controls on trade in chemicals, just as there is in other areas of proliferation-sensitive materials. We will see what happens in the discussions. I can’t, at the moment, predict what conclusion might be reached about activities such as the Australia Group. It’s important to remember that those who are involved in these particular forms of cooperation see it as an important way of supporting the convention and supporting the disciplines which the convention tries to exercise on proliferation.

ACT: Do you think there will be a debate on provisions in the convention related to trade and dual-use? Do you expect, for example, that the conference will be debating measures to improve the capability of the technical secretariat to monitor such trade and also the issue of trade and Schedule 3 chemicals with non-states-parties?[10]

Parker: All these issues will come up, like the ones you just mentioned. With such a wide pool of states-parties, we have a number of very different interests operating simultaneously. The idea that the convention should be used to facilitate greater chemical development and, if you like, knowledge of the chemical industry in countries where this is not so strong at the moment, is one point of view. The questions about how you regulate trade are quite sensitive for a number of states-parties in both directions. There are those who regard this as an unreasonable restriction on their ability to trade. There are others who regard it as very important for nonproliferation reasons that, for example, trade in dual-use chemicals should be tightly controlled. It’s worth adding that the quality of the information we have about some of this trading is not as good as it, perhaps, could or should be. And there is another debate running about the range of information now available to the organization and how that can be improved.

ACT: There are a number of questions related to verification and adapting the verification regime to new challenges. These relate to rebalancing the inspection resources between monitoring destruction and proliferation[11]and then also within the industry verification regime, focusing more on other chemical production facilities (OCPFs).[12] What’s your sense of discussion on these issues in the open-ended working group? Do you expect substantive readjustments and what kind of guidance can be given to the technical secretariat on these questions?

Parker: Well, there is a debate on this with different points of view. Those who are concerned about the burdens of inspections on their chemical industries, and those who regard the main priority of the organization as being looking at the areas of highest traditional chemical weapons risk, have one point of view. On the other hand, other states-parties point to the very large scale now of OCPF plants around the world and the relatively small proportion of inspection resources which are devoted to them, and argue that we ought to be shifting the balance slowly but steadily to provide better assurance of what’s going on in OCPF sites. The director-general has made some moves in the direction of trying to make it possible for there to be better coverage incrementally of OCPFs in terms of site selection and so on.[13] It is within the normal business of the organization and a lively issue, which is subject to a lot of discussion. I’m sure it will be reflected in the review conference as well. We’ll have to see what emerges. But in logical terms, with the size of the global chemical industry, which is mostly not necessarily producing Schedule 1, 2 and 3 chemicals, there is a big disproportion at the moment between the inspection efforts devoted specifically to scheduled chemicals and the inspection effort devoted to OCPFs. We’ll have to see how this balance eventually comes out.

ACT: If you’re really optimistic, what actions do you think states-parties would be able to take at the review conference to strengthen the Chemical Weapons Convention? What’s your best-case assumption for the meeting? What would you like to see coming out of this?

Parker: Again, I hesitate to try and predict what a large number of states-parties will do. You have to also remember that the discussion so far in the open-ended working group are among a relatively limited number of states-parties, the ones who are routinely involved in the work of the convention. But when we come to the review conference itself, we have a much larger number of states-parties present, and certainly I lack the personal experience to judge what an influence that may have on the final outcome.

I hope that we will have, first of all, a relatively positive assessment of what has been achieved over the last five years. I think a lot of good work has been done. I think the extent to which we have moved toward universality over that period is quite remarkable and that although there is work still to be done there, we can see where the end of the road leads us, so to speak, and there will be further action in that area.

There is much still to be done in terms of national implementation, we’re all aware of that, but there too the record of the last few years has been one of steady improvement.[14] There is more to be done and perhaps more that can be done there to assist states-parties that need help with national implementation, either from the technical secretariat or bilateral assistance from other states-parties. We will need to look at some of the issues which relate to scientific and technical progress. I think there will be a lively debate about areas of cooperation, assistance and protection and those kinds of things. For the reasons we talked about when we discussed what might happen about 2012, I think that it would be easier to reach conclusions about managing 2012, however it turns out, nearer the time than now. We’ll have to see, obviously, what states-parties wish to do when we come to the conference itself.

I hope that we will also be able to look beyond whenever destruction takes place, hopefully by 2012, and look a little toward the longer-term future of the organization. We haven’t mentioned some other aspects like the part the organization can play in relation to the risks of terrorist and other uses of toxic chemicals, but that’s also a subject that’s under discussion and will definitely come up in the review conference. I hope that we will come out with a positive balance sheet about the past, and a number of forward-looking conclusions which will help move the organization forward over the next few years. There is a lot to be done in the next few years and it’s important that we have the focus and the resources to do it, and the commitment to do it. I don’t doubt, as I said at the beginning, the strong sense of common purpose there is in this organization to achieve what the treaty requires of us.

ACT: Thank you very much.


1. On Nov. 19, at a meeting hosted by OPCW, NGO representatives were able to present their recommendations for the second review conference to CWC states-parties. ACA’s presentation to that meeting can be found at http://www.armscontrol.org/pressroom/2007/20071119_OPCW_Statement.asp

2. The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) consists of 25 scientists, appointed by the director-general in consultation with states-parties. The SAB gives advice to states-parties and the OPCW on scientific and technologic developments relevant to the CWC.

3. In April 2002, OPCW Director-General José Bustani was voted out of office by CWC parties. The United States’ push for Bustani’s removal was based on mismanagement charges but the decision proved to politically divisive among CWC members. (See ACT, May 2002.)

4. 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. Washington has recently admitted that complete destruction is unlikely to be completed before 2023, and it appears unlikely that Moscow can keep its promise to destroy its stocks by 2012. (See ACT, January/February 2007.)

5. 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.

6. At the 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 non-members 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 acceeded to the CWC in 2004, North Korea and Syria are non-signatories.

7. 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 next endnote).

8. Such a proposal for a working group that would report back to states-parties on the issue of non-lethal and incapacitating agents is made by Oliver Thränert and Jonathan B. Tucker, "Freeing the World of Chemical Weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention at the Ten-Year Mark," SWP-Studie RP 8, Berlin: Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, July 2007. Others have proposed to change the CWC through an amendment or additional protocol in order to clarify which incapacitating agents are prohibited as riot control agents. See Kyle M. Ballard: “Convention in Peril? Riot Control Agents and the Chemical Weapons Ban”, Arms Control Today, September 2007.

9. Established in 1985, the Australia Group is a voluntary, informal, export-control arrangement through which 40 countries, as well as the European Commission, coordinate their national export controls to limit the supply of chemicals and biological agents as well as related equipment, technologies, and knowledge-to countries and nonstate entities suspected of pursuing chemical or biological weapons (CBW) capabilities.

10. 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.

11. In 2006, 57% of all inspections were related to chemical weapons destruction, the other 43% were industry inspections to confirm non-production of chemical weapons. “Report of the OPCW on the Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction in 2006”, OPCW, Conference of States Parties, Twelfth Session, C-12/6, 5 – 9 November 2007, The Hague: 6 November 2007, p. 8.

12. 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. 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 ACT, January/February 2007.)

13. The OPCW’s Technical Secretariat has recently modified the OCPF site-selection algorithm. The revised methodology will be applied as of January 1, 2008, in order to increase the number of inspections at OCPF’s.

14. More than 100 states-parties have not yet notified the OPCW of the actions taken to implement Article VII in order to incorporate the CWC prohibitions into national law.

Interviewed by Oliver Meier

Subject Resources:

Interview with Ambassador Peter Burian, Slovakian Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Chairman of the 1540 Committee



Interviewed by Miles Pomper and Peter Crail

Since January 2006, Slovakian Ambassador Peter Burian has chaired a U.N. Security Council committee charged with examining the implementation of Resolution 1540, which was unanimously adopted by the Security Council in April 2004. Resolution 1540 is a legally binding Security Council effort which requires all states to implement a variety of domestic measures to prevent nonstate actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their means of delivery, and related materials. States are required to submit a report on the steps they have taken to carry out the resolution’s requirements and the committee, which is comprised of the 15 members of the Security Council, reviews those national reports. In April 2006, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1673, calling for intensified efforts by states to implement the resolution and extending the committee’s mandate until April 2008.[1] On September 21, Arms Control Today met with Ambassador Burian in New York to discuss the role and activities of the committee in regard to the resolution. His remarks represent the position of the Slovakian government and do not represent those of the committee as a whole.

ACT: We’ll start off with a pretty basic question. What are the responsibilities of the 1540 committee and what do you see as the committee’s primary tasks?

Burian: The Security Council Resolution 1540 defines the role of the committee in quite general terms, which is to examine the implementation of Resolution 1540. This task was specified in Resolution 1673 and also in the work program of the committee. Resolution 1673 tasks the committee with intensifying its efforts to promote the full implementation of Resolution 1540 by all states. The work program includes outreach activities, assistance, and also promotion and development of international cooperation in support of implementation of Resolution 1540, so these are the major areas of work of the committee. And of course, as I mentioned in the beginning, the committee is tasked to report to the Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 1540 by member states and also major challenges in this area.

ACT: One of the points you mentioned was outreach. What have been the results of your effort in this area?

Burian: In order to assist the full implementation of the resolution, the committee sought to have a dialogue with states and regions encouraging the sharing of national experiences and facilitating technical assistance and cooperation with international, regional, and subregional organizations. Through its various outreach activities, the committee managed to increase awareness of the importance of implementation of all aspects of Resolution 1540. This was the aim of our outreach activities in 2006, but since we are now concentrating on promoting and supporting full implementation of all aspects of Resolutions 1540 and 1673, there is a slight shift in the focus also in the outreach activities. Through these outreach activities, we are able to reach out to countries to discuss with them the challenges and problems in the implementation of Resolution 1540, and also to identify problems countries are facing in the implementation process, including lack of administrative and technical capacities and capabilities to deal with all aspects of Resolution 1540. The outreach activities also helped us to define ways to help them to cope with the requirements and also to create better channels for communication with the member countries, international organizations, and the committee in this area.

ACT: So far about 136 countries have submitted reports to the committee, but only seven have done so over the past year, is this kind of outreach effort reaching a point of diminishing returns?

Burian: We were just discussing this issue in the meeting with the committee experts [2] and we agreed that increasing the number of reporting countries is an important goal for outreach activities, but the committee’s work is not limited to that goal. That is why, now, the outreach activities are focusing on, from one side, the promotion and implementation of 1540, but also on defining the ways we can help countries to cope with the requirements of 1540. In this area I think we achieved a lot because by organizing various regional and sub-regional outreach activities, first of all, we helped the countries in different regions and subregions to develop their regional cooperation in addressing various challenges in the implementation process. Some of the issues can be only addressed through regional cooperation. This is one of the observations coming from our outreach activities. But as I mentioned previously, we also, through concrete interaction with the member states and international organizations, managed to define new challenges and divide the labor between us—the committee and international organizations—in helping countries implement Resolution 1540. So, maybe, these results are not so much visible, but they are very important for moving the process of implementation of Resolution 1540 forward.

ACT: One of the issues that seems to be a problem is that some governments simply do not have the financial resources or technical expertise to implement the resolution. How do you work in making sure that the countries get that kind of help that they need from the international community?

Burian: This is one of the conclusions that resulted from our better understanding of the problems which the member states are facing in implementation. On one side, it’s the lack of capacities, both administrative and technical, to cope with the requirements of Resolution 1540. But on the other hand also, it’s the lack of understanding of the resolution’s importance for national and regional security and stability of a country. Some countries are saying, “We are not producing nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, why should we pay attention or why should we be devoting our efforts to this particular problem when we have some other problems like small and light weapons trafficking or HIV/AIDS and some other problems?” This is the case especially in developing countries. But we talk to the representatives of those countries and explain to them what is at stake. Their territories might be misused for purposes of trafficking or planning attacks against some other countries or hitting targets in those countries. Tasks connected with the implementation of 1540 might help them to address also some other issues more efficiently through improved border controls and export controls such as the issue of small arms and light weapons and drug trafficking. Then their approach to the implementation of 1540 and cooperation with the 1540 committee is changing and this is also a result of our very active communication with member states.

ACT: Some people say the committee should be a little more active in matching donors with recipients.

Burian: Ah, yes, yes, yes. So, this is also a very important priority in our work because we understand that, without major assistance and effort some countries will not be able to cope with the requirements of 1540. That is why we organized in the beginning of this year quite a comprehensive debate in the committee on assistance strategy, which was followed by a discussion with donor countries on how we can better use the committee as a clearinghouse for assistance and match the requests and offers of assistance. We also discussed how to focus the attention of donors and countries providing assistance on real priorities in the area of implementation of 1540.

ACT: What are the results of that? Is there anything concrete that has come out of that at this point?

Burian: First of all, the committee now better understands the needs. This is one thing. We also took several decisions on how to better manage the role of a clearinghouse through facilitating the understanding of how to better formulate the requests for assistance. From the donor side, it’s very important that they do not only concentrate on some areas, but that they spread their activities into to a larger territory or, more precisely, they cover all the countries which need assistance. These meetings with donors helped to increase the awareness and understanding of what the donor countries are doing and in which countries. This also is the result of our discussion. We would like to better use our Web page [3] to inform the countries regarding what individual member states or international organizations are doing in order to help the countries to cope with Resolution 1540 requirements, and also identify the programs which exist in those international organizations in various areas to help countries.

ACT: Is there any kind of compiled data that says for example, “This much money is being spent on 1540 programs by these states”?

Burian: This is quite an interesting question. Some countries do not want to share with us all the details of their national assistance programs and projects. But in this area, the approaches and attitudes are changing. Countries understand that through better transparency and through the provision of information to those who are seeking the information, countries can better use their resources. But we do not have a clear idea of how much is spent on those programs because they are dispersed in various agencies and institutions. Even countries like the United States might not know, actually, how much they spend on various programs helping or supporting implementation of 1540 because they are spread through various agencies. This is the aim, nationally, to bring all of the actors together to coordinate their efforts and to divide internally their focus and labor to cover those areas which are the priority and to remove all kinds of unnecessary duplication. One of the good examples of this kind of coordinate approach on assistance is represented by the US national action plan which has been shared by the United States with the 1540 Committee recently.

Based on the invitation of the State Department, our experts recently visited Washington, D.C., to meet with various agencies involved in the implementation, or support of implementation, of 1540 in various countries. They shared with us the information on projects available in this area. They also wanted to hear from us what is the experience of the committee in the area of assistance. What are the plans? What are the priorities? And where do we see gaps which are not covered by donors’ assistance or assistance as such in helping countries to cope with 1540?

ACT: One of the legal questions is that the Security Council did not define what “appropriate” and “effective” are in terms of export control, physical security measures, and so on, that countries were supposed to adopt. How much of a problem was that in assessing the implementation of the resolutions and would it be helpful to have a specific standard in that regard?

Burian: This is quite a sensitive issue, and the committee doesn’t have a unified approach to so-called best practices because many countries are stressing that there is no unified or uniform model of implementation of 1540 and every country has a specific situation. At the same time, the members of the committee understand the importance of sharing the information on national practices which might serve as a source of inspiration for neighbors or for countries of subregions and regions to speed up the process of implementation by avoiding the mistakes which probably their neighbors might have made in the process.

Regional organizations have paid quite a lot of attention recently to the implementation of 1540. These include the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of American States, or the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and so on. We are trying to facilitate the discussion in those organizations on the so-called regional practices on functioning models of implementation or on the legislation. We are even thinking, in connection with CARICOM, about a model law in areas such as export control, which might be used in environments, which are similar in nature and also share similar legal systems. What I want to stress is that we want to utilise the role of regional organizations for this purpose as they are better suited to discuss what is working and what is not in the regional context and what the best approaches are.

We already have very good results in this area. The OSCE, first of all, politically supported the implementation of 1540, and they moved to a concrete area by defining the best practices in the region in several areas of implementation of 1540. I think this is an example which might be followed by others. I see quite a bit of progress in this direction in the Organization of American States, and this is something which the committee wants to encourage and support. But we are not going to define the best practices for the member states to follow. We can point to some gaps, to some problems, and then it is the national responsibility of a country to define the best ways how to address the problem.

ACT: You mentioned gaps and weaknesses. Does the committee go and identify particular weaknesses in a particular country’s coverage of these various areas that are supposed to be under 1540 and, for instance, does the committee visit states to measure their implementation of the resolution as I understand the counterterrorism committee pursuant to resolution 1373 does. [4] Is there any equivalent to that?

Burian: Our approach to that is a little bit more general. Based on the information which we are receiving through national reports and based on the available information in public sources, such as Web pages of governments and so on, the committee has designed a matrix which is more or less reflecting the structure of the resolution, of various paragraphs of the resolution, and is covering information about national implementation. This matrix also identifies some existing gaps in the implementation, such as the absence of laws or practical arrangements in dealing with particular problems. So this is the approach we use in the committee. We are trying to avoid using the expression of weaknesses because this might be perceived by the member states as putting some blame on them and we would like to avoid blaming and shaming as a method of work. We want to show a cooperative approach of the committee in addressing various gaps and problems in the implementation. I think this is very well received and perceived by the member states, encouraging them to do more. So, some approaches might be more effective, but this is what the committee can agree to as a method of work and we pursue this approach.

ACT: That seems to apply primarily to whether countries have the appropriate laws, but do you have anything on whether they are actually enforcing whatever laws they have or is that out of the realm of the committee?

Burian: Again, the committee doesn’t have the ambition to judge the effectiveness of some of the mechanisms on a national level. Indirectly, however, in discussions, in our outreach activities, in the seminars, in the subregional and national workshops, we are able to direct and point out some problems which might be perceived as weaknesses. This is the way these kind of problematic areas are addressed; sometimes indirectly through informal contacts and communication of the committee with individual countries.

ACT: So it’s more informal than formal?

Burian: Yes, yes. What is quite important to stress, then, is that the committee’s work is based on observations, examinations, and experience from workshops and examination of national reports. In its final evaluation of implementation of 1540 the committee uses general terms and generalizes some conclusions, and does not point out particular countries lagging behind.

ACT: On that note, do you see the committee as having the appropriate resources or level of authority to appropriately carry out this assessment of implementation?

Burian: If I’m proceeding from the committee’s mandate which the Security Council defined in Resolutions 1540 and 1673, I would say we have sufficient resources represented by the expert group. We now have eight experts dealing with evaluation of national reports and the information which is coming to the committee. We are also preparing the reports and recommendations for the Security Council regarding how to address existing gaps and challenges in this area. I think we are doing quite fine. But, of course, maybe the expectations of some countries from the outside and maybe the expectations of some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are a little bit bigger. But again, those are not reflecting the mandate which the committee has had. I can also imagine a larger focus of the committee in the future, but we can only reach to the area and use methods of work which are agreed upon by the members.

ACT: Well, just speaking of that a little bit, obviously the current resolution expires next year. What is the expectation? Will there be another resolution extending the committee’s work? Is there talk of extending the mandate? For instance, one idea that people have talked about, is that if there were a nuclear terrorist attack, countries should be required to submit data so that there could be attribution of where the material came from. Is there talk of new directions as to where it might go, whether it’s going to keep going?

Burian: I do not want to prejudge the outcome of the discussion in the committee, which is only starting right now and which will be concentrating on the preparation of the report of the committee which will be submitted to the Security Council in April. There are various opinions about how to improve the work of the committee. I am quite sure these suggestions and ideas will be reflected in the committee’s report. At the same time, there are also some pressures, some opinions, from members of the UN which are not part of the members of the Security Council, that the resolution by itself is something which should be replaced by a comprehensive convention to be adopted by the General Assembly to receive some additional legitimacy and legal power. This is something which was not echoed only by a small group of countries but by the whole General Assembly and I do not exclude this kind of development in the future.

At the same time, my view is that the committee has not fulfilled its tasks and all its goals which it is expected to achieve in the supporting implementation of 1540. Before we have something, some mechanism which might replace the committee, we need to simply, and it’s my personal opinion, extend the life of the committee for a future period. I’m not quite sure for how many years, but this will be also an issue which will be discussed and decided by the Security Council. In this regard we might also think about how to make the work of the committee more efficient and productive. This will also be a matter for discussion in the near future.

ACT: Are there particular areas or gaps that require more attention than others from governments? The resolution is broad. It covers nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and delivery systems. Are there particular areas that have received less attention or are sort of generally more of a weakness in laws than others, such as in the biological realm?

Burian: It differs from country to country and region to region. The specific situation matters, such as whether the country is producing or storing some materials which are related to weapons of mass destruction. That’s why it’s very difficult to generalize. First of all, the conclusions of the report which were presented to the Security Council in April 2006 say that no country is perfect. There is no system which will be 100 percent bulletproof and reliable. There is always space for improvement. It is different from country to country. Some countries might have problems with accounting, with physical protection. Some countries might have problems with unreliable export control systems. Some countries might have problems with laws and mechanisms covering the financing of services connected with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or related activities. So, these are the areas which are also identified in the report. Accounting, physical protection, shipment and trans-shipment, and also financing of activities and services connected with the proliferation in general terms is something to which we should pay more attention to.

You also mentioned enforcement. This is an important point because even if you have a perfect law, if you are not able to enforce it properly, if you do not have institutions which are trained to detect and also deal with this kind of substances, then, of course, all the laws are not very much helpful in dealing with the concrete problem and situation.

Finally, I agree that we should also pay more attention to the biological area. There is no specialized organization to deal with issues of implementation and verification of measures envisaged by the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. At the same time the potential of nonstate actors to misuse this kind of substances for terrorist purposes is growing.

ACT: What about the committee’s relationship to other international organizations and export control regimes such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), or the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)? How is that working out? For instance, the OPCW directors have expressed a lot of concern about the potential for chemical weapons terrorism, but that is mainly the responsibility of this committee rather than the OPCW, per se.

Burian: One of the priorities of the committee is to identify the programs existing in various international organizations dealing with various aspects of implementation of 1540 so as not to invent something which is already existing. Also, through increased cooperation and contact with those organizations, we identified many important projects and programs which are helping countries to cope with the implementation of 1540. And we managed, through direct contacts, to improve this kind of awareness and to remove some existing suspicions about the role of the 1540 committee. We built something which now provides concrete results.

We have excellent cooperation with the OPCW. They participate in our outreach activities and we attend their outreach activities. I visited Brussels to discuss cooperation with the World Customs Organization. We identified several areas where we can work together much better and we also have improved and increased contact and cooperation with the IAEA, which is regularly participating in our activities. Slovakia, as a member of the Security Council, initiated an open debate of the Security Council in February on the role of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) in supporting implementation of 1540. There were many important ideas and proposals raised during the discussion which we are now trying to use in building a higher level of cooperation and contact with those organizations. But we do not want to limit ourselves only to those three or four. I would include also the World Health Organization, which in some areas plays quite an important role. We are expanding now the focus to some international arrangements and mechanisms, regimes, like the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We’ve established almost a regular dialogue with them. We had our first contact with the MTCR and we had a briefing by their representatives on the issues which are the focus of attention of the committee. We want to expand this cooperation and really bring together all the pieces of the programs and activities, which are quite dispersed in various organizations and institutions, into one global system for the protection and prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Step by step, we already see concrete results of this interaction and awareness of what one institution or organization is doing and what others are doing in the same area.

A very important piece of this puzzle are the activities of NGOs. On July 12, we invited several NGOs involved in various programs supporting the implementation of 1540 worldwide, such as the Stimson Center, the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre, the University of Georgia, the Monterey Center for Nonproliferation Studies, to meet with Committee. We see that there are so many activities going on in this area, but they need to be brought together, and I’m not saying under one umbrella, but at least we should be aware of who is doing what. One idea is that we might better use the committee website for sharing information on activities going on in various parts of the world organized by us, by the IGOs, or NGOs, so as not to compete with each other, not to duplicate efforts, and avoid a situation that some areas are not covered. I think this dialogue is helping us, really, to identify the ways we can better use the comparative advantages of various players involved in this exercise.

ACT: We had an article in which someone suggested that the IAEA inspectors, as well as doing safeguards inspections, might do some work in nuclear security that would come under 1540. [5] Do you think that would be a good use of this kind of cooperation?

Burian: Yes. Of course. The UN Security Council 1540 Committee does not want to step into an area which the specialized organizations like the IAEA are better equipped and have sufficient expertise to deal with. The committee also does not have a system which would enable protection of confidential information, so this is another problem. We want to better use technical and expert potential of those organizations to take care of some aspects of implementation of Resolution 1540. With better understanding of the role of the 1540 committee from the IAEA and with understanding of the potential and capacities of the IAEA, we are coming to very concrete ideas about forms of cooperation and information sharing in the areas which are important for the work and goals of the committee.

ACT: There is no one who really goes and implements physical protection of nuclear facilities and so on. There is no body that is really charged with that.

Burian: Through concrete contacts we might identify some gaps in the international systems and this might also create some kind of pressure in filling in those gaps by some new mechanisms, but I would not step into speculation on this matter.

ACT: On that note, some of the mechanisms for physical security and accounting are also borne by industry. Understanding that a Security Council resolution is focused on government responsibilities, does the committee foresee engaging in dialogue with industry and its role in carrying out the purpose of the resolution?

Burian: This was actually one of the ideas raised during our outreach activities and meetings with NGOs and donor countries. If we want to be efficient, we need to not only reach out to the governments, but also to work with private entities and the civic sector. This area should be a matter or area of responsibility of governments. We can encourage governments to pay attention to cooperation and contact with the private sector and businesses. This is also happening through the involvement of some private entities and through dialogue within the national coordination mechanisms, which is one of the ways to engage and involve the private community.

Another issue which is very important is to spread the awareness that implementation of 1540 is not creating obstacles for trade but, on the contrary, creating a better environment for trade. I will see how this might be worked into future workshops. Businesses also might be interested in this and might encourage their national parliaments to address and pay more attention to it. So really this is one of the areas for the future that the committee might want to promote.

ACT: The committee has encouraged member states to develop action plans for the implementation of the resolution, but it seems that so far that only the United States has submitted such a plan. What does the committee see as the purpose for the development of these plans and are there any efforts to encourage their submission?

Burian: Actually, we do not have a very concrete idea which countries do or do not have a national action plan or national implementation plan. We already received feedback from various countries, including some in Africa and other regions, that they have already developed national implementation plans. Ghana says that they have a plan. Some countries are in the process of developing national implementation or action plans. This is something, again, that the committee doesn’t impose but encourages as a very important planning tool. It enables a country to identify the priorities. Donors might also look how they might help in implementing those tasks that are identified in the national implementation plan.

There will be an interesting event soon in Kyrgyzstan which is connected with the national implementation of Resolution 1540. There will be a discussion regarding how to encourage and facilitate the national implementation process through the development of a national action or implementation plan. We’ll see what the concrete product of this discussion will be. We certainly see benefit if a country has this kind of systematic approach because the implementation of 1540 is a long-term process. You need to start with some basics and build on it. You cannot just jump over certain stages or certain steps. You need to build legislation, institutions, and practical enforcement measures and so on. If you do not create that basis, the whole construction will fall apart or it will not be efficient, and the resources spent simply will be wasted.

ACT: In addition to action plans, the committee has encouraged states to assign national points of contact to facilitate the dialogue. Has the committee been satisfied with that process?

Burian: The response from various countries differs. We see major benefits from the establishment of points of contact for us to communicate with if we have some questions and if we need to verify some information directly. All countries can be in almost daily contact with the committee on any issue they might require advice from the committee. Those points of contact also might be very useful for internal communication or regional communication between countries of a sub-region or a region. When we sit with representatives of governments in subregional workshops, it’s not only important that we establish the contacts and communication channels with them, but that they establish those communication channels with each other. It’s very important to have one contact for the communication with the committee, but every institution might have some contact point for dealing with their neighbors and other subjects involved in this process.

ACT: You mentioned before that the committee is now focused on the report it is going to submit next year. Under Resolution 1673, it says that the committee is going to submit a report on compliance with the implementation of the resolution. How is the committee measuring that compliance?

Burian: Now we are in a process of defining the structure of the report, what will be included, and so on. First of all, it will be a product of the group of experts and then it will be discussed and amended through the contributions and amendments of the member states, so it is a very difficult process. It’s quite difficult to say how we’ll be approaching this issue. One of the problems here is that not all the members would like to come up with some specific conclusions about particular problems. The feeling in the committee is that we should keep it general, to identify the problems in general terms. The committee will not probably go from country to country to say, “You have these kinds of problems, these kinds of gaps.” This might be reflected in the matrices which the committee is elaborating, but these matrices will not be something which will be used for blaming or shaming this or that country for not fulfilling all its obligations and requirements under 1540 but, on the contrary, to identify the problems where the country needs some additional assistance.

ACT: As you know, the resolutions were adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Do you foresee the possibility of the committee ever recommending to the Security Council that it penalize or sanction a government for not fulfilling the resolution or willfully ignoring it?

Burian: Of course, if a country violates some international obligations adopted under Chapter VII, then the Security Council should deal with the problem. But it’s not the job or the role of the committee as it’s understood among the committee members. The committee prefers a more cooperative approach in helping countries to overcome some difficulties in fulfilling the requirements of the resolution.

I agree however that the problem of compliance is quite an important political issue. Once again this is something which is addressed more efficiently on the Security Council level, not on the committee level.It is a very important decision with concrete consequences.

ACT: Some charge, as in a recent Carnegie Endowment for International Peace assessment, [6] that implementation of the resolutions has not exactly matched the urgency of the threat they’re trying to address. Would you say that you share this assessment?

Burian: As the chairman of the committee, I cannot share this assessment (laughing). But, as a national representative of Slovakia, we feel that we need to intensify the efforts to address this very urgent and dangerous threat because in case we do not pay enough attention to it, we might wake up one day and realize that it was too late. Then it really will be too late to lament that we could have done more. That’s why our national priority and national ambition is to contribute what we can to implement Resolution of 1540. We also encourage regional cooperation within the OSCE and on the global level to find efficient mechanisms which might enable addressing this threat in a more comprehensive and more vigorous manner.

ACT: Last question. You were talking earlier about how you don’t want to wake up and have a surprise. Given that it is about three years after Resolution 1540 was adopted, is the world safer now against dealing with the possibility of terrorists using unconventional weapons?

Burian: It’s a good question. One thing which we do not know is how far the terrorists have gone in acquiring access to weapons of mass destruction and related technologies and how much we have come to a situation that we are able to cope with this threat through the implementation of 1540. So this is something which is very difficult to evaluate. I would say that, without Resolution 1540, I am almost sure that based on the experience and based on concrete observations and revelations, like the Abdul Qadeer Khan illicit nuclear black market, that terrorists would already possess weapons of mass destruction at least in those areas which are quite easy to access and build, such as a dirty bomb or chemical weapons which were left in some countries unprotected, or biological substances. This is something of which we are reminded almost every day. As it was the case of involvement of a group of doctors in the United Kingdom in plotting terrorist attacks. It is a worrying phenomenon, since it is very easy to imagine that this group of doctors might use their knowledge for acquiring and misusing the substances which might cause diseases for launching biological attack on civilians. So, really, I would say, without any exaggeration that the threat of terrorists achieving the capability of producing and using weapons of mass destruction is real and the international community should be very serious in addressing this threat and doing it on a timely basis.

ACT: Thank you



1. Security Council Resolution 1540 originally established a two-year mandate for the committee, which expired in April 28, 2006.

2. The 1540 committee maintains a group of eight experts to support its work. The experts provide assessments of the national reports submitted by states, engage in outreach activities, and compile information on national legislation related to 1540 for the committee’s legislative database.

3. See the Web site of the 1540 Committee, found at http://disarmament2.un.org/Committee1540

4. Security Council Resolution 1373 was adopted September 28, 2001 in response to the September 11 attacks. Just as Resolution 1540 does, it requires a series of domestic legal mechanisms to be adopted to deny funding and safe haven to terrorists and establishes a committee to examine implementation.

5. See George Bunn “Enforcing International Standards: protecting Nuclear Materials from Terrorists Post-9/11,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2007, p.17. (http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2007_01-02/Bunn.asp)

6. See Monkia Heupel, “Implementing Security Council Resolution 1540: A Division of Labor Strategy,” Carnegie Papers, No. 87, June 2007. (http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/cp87_heupel_final.pdf)


Interviewed by Miles Pomper and Peter Crail

Interview With OPCW Director-General Rogelio Pfirter



Interviewed by Oliver Meier

On April 29, 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) entered into force. Ten years on, the CWC has won support from nearly all UN member states: 182 states-parties have agreed to be bound by the convention, while an additional six states have signed but not ratified it.

On March 16, Arms Control Today International Correspondent Oliver Meier spoke with Rogelio Pfirter, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), about the CWC's achievements and challenges that lie ahead. The OPCW is the international organization charged with implementing the CWC.

ACT: On April 29, we mark the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention. What, from your perspective, are the biggest achievements of the convention and the biggest problems lying ahead with regard to banning chemical weapons?

Pfirter: We have been successful in implementing the very concretely focused mandate of this convention. We have made progress in the actual destruction of chemical arsenals. Soon, 25 percent of the declared stockpile will have been destroyed under verification.[1] We have also achieved enormous progress in terms of national implementation. Although much, of course, remains to be achieved, we have already in place a good part of the required legislative and administrative measures. We have also been able to work in the area of assistance and protection and in developing the type of arrangements the convention foresees.[2]

Secondly, we have been able to prove that, through multilateral action, it is possible to address effectively the issues related to peace and security and, more concretely, issues that involve disarmament and nonproliferation. This is particularly important at a time when the multilateral system has been questioned in several areas, especially in the area of peace and security.

ACT: Not all states have joined the convention yet. On universality, what in particular do you think can be done to improve the number of states-parties in the Middle East?[3] There have been expectations that Iraq and Lebanon might soon accede to the CWC.

Pfirter: I think that universality is one of the biggest challenges facing the CWC because the convention is only as strong as its weakest link. The ban is weakened, of course, if any countries remain outside of it, particularly countries seen as potential possessors of chemical weapons. The Middle East is one such region where there have been allegations that a few of the countries might have chemical programs, so we definitely need to move forward with universality there. The problem is unique because, of course, the issue of chemical weapons in the region is part of the much larger problem of the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, I do believe there are states where the chemical issue can be addressed on its own merit and at a speed distinct from other issues, particularly those of weapons of mass destruction. It is quite clear that, today, the ban on chemical weapons is universal and it is mandatory for all states.

How to address it? I think that we have to look at the peculiarities of the area while not forgetting the overall context. We should work with each country there to try to renovate the dynamics by ensuring that the issue is reviewed, is revised, and remains topical, that [it] is not static or stagnant or condemned to follow the fate, for instance, of the nuclear issue or tied to the overall problem. This is what we are doing, and I myself am engaging with countries in the region. Of course, it will also require the collective effort of all members of the OPCW to ensure that this issue remains on the top of the agenda and that the countries realize that they need to join.

ACT: Can you say something specific about Iraq and Lebanon , which are on the list of countries expected to join soon?

Pfirter: In the case of Lebanon , it is our understanding that the parliament has recommended accession to the convention. In fact, only positive action by the executive power is pending, which we hope will take place fairly soon. If Lebanon joins, of course, that would be an important step forward, not just for member states or for Lebanon itself but for the whole Middle East issue. So we look forward to that. We remain in contact with Lebanon in that respect. In the case of Iraq , the government has expressed its willingness to accede to the convention. We understand that steps are being taken and decisions are being made at the highest political level. Indeed, we have been engaged in helping to train Iraqi officials and to work with Iraq on the required documentation. We hope that this will take place before too long.

ACT: You mentioned destruction efforts and achievements. In an interview with ACT in 2005, you said that it would have a “devastating effect” if Russia and the United States missed their 2012 destruction deadlines. Now, at least with regard to the United States , it seems all but certain that it will not make the 2012 deadline.[4] What would be the consequences for the convention if the United States would indeed take much longer to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile? And do you still expect Russia to fulfill its obligation to destroy its chemical weapons stocks by 2012?

Pfirter: Officially, the position of the United States, repeated here [in The Hague] only 48 hours ago, is that it remains faithful to the convention and committed to its implementation and to the destruction [of its chemical weapons stockpile] at the earliest possible date. I will stick to that in the sense that I believe that there is a very strong political commitment on the part of the United States to support the convention and to comply with it. So, I am aware of the projections, I am aware of the current debate. Officially we have been told that the commitment remains, and I am convinced that the United States could comply with its obligation by 2012. So that's what I hope, and I think that's the hope of every member state in this organization.

In the case of Russia , destruction has taken on a new dynamic. Russia now has two destruction facilities in full operation, and one has already completed its task. Others are being built. I would hope that Russia picks up and maintains the momentum and will eventually in 2012 have a much better possibility of complying.

I think the issue of noncompliance is something that we should not prematurely address at this stage. It is an issue to be looked at later, as we come closer to the deadlines. For the time being, I think what remains is the commitment of the countries. None of them has in any way expressed any doubts about their obligations. The policy-making organs of the organization have granted both Russia and the United States an extension of the destruction deadlines to 2012. The OPCW has also created an additional reassurance mechanism in the sense that the policy-making organs maintain frequent contacts with the possessor states to ascertain their political will and the degree of progress. Again, I think that the general perception is that there is a strong commitment and determination from these states. That is where we stand at the moment, and I will not speculate beyond that.

ACT: If I can turn toward verification more generally, you told ACT in 2005 that “of particular concern are Other Chemical Production Facilities (OCPF) where I believe our effort is still very low in proportional terms when one looks at the universe of the number of plants we have identified as potentially relevant to the convention.” What has happened since then to address this issue, and generally what do you think can be done to improve the balance between inspections for OCPFs and other facilities that handle chemicals listed on the schedules?[5]

Pfirter: First of all, let me reaffirm that I maintain the concern that I expressed in 2005. And secondly, yes, there is an issue related to the balance of inspections in terms of how intensely they are applied to each and every country. Due to the present site selection methodology, the inspection effort is being applied unevenly. I would say it is applied with a degree of inequality. A country that has, for instance, seven facilities relevant to us is treated exactly like a country that has 1,000 facilities on its territory. This has meant that we end up inspecting 100 percent of the facilities in a country with seven or 10 facilities and less than one percent of the facilities in a country with a large number of facilities.

That needs to be addressed. Less than a week ago, I announced to member states that something needs to be done. I myself intend to have the secretariat look again into this formula and introduce those modifications that would allow for a greater sense of equality among member states. We will work on the factor of the algorithm that equalizes countries irrespective of the actual number of facilities they have and try to ensure that countries with a higher number of facilities stand a greater chance of being inspected than the countries with a lower number of facilities. This is very technical. It has no political connotation in itself. When I made my announcement, there was an enormous sense of relief and support from the majority of countries. We will take it from there. There are other issues that are more political in nature that remain to be discussed. We will leave those issues to the member states to continue their discussions, and whenever they agree, we will add those modifications to the algorithm.

ACT: When do you expect to table your proposal on this issue?

Pfirter: We are working on it. It is a technical matter. [The OPCW] Verification Division is looking actively into the matter, and I hope that before too long I can offer a definite proposal.

ACT: Ten years after entry into force, it still seems unlikely that a challenge inspection will be requested despite various allegations of noncompliance, for example, by the United States against Iran . How is the secretariat preparing for challenge inspections?[6]

Pfirter: The secretariat continues to retain a high degree of readiness. Hopefully, if we are requested to conduct a challenge inspection, we will be able to do it as the convention foresees. As you very well said, triggering a challenge inspection remains in the hands of member states. So, we will be available, should they take those steps. I myself believe that the challenge inspection is a very important and fundamental instrument within the toolbox of verification for the Chemical Weapons Convention to expose violations and to deter potential violations. So, we need to make sure that this very important tool remains actual and available. And in that context, I am of course very aware of the fact that while we in the secretariat retain that readiness, there is still a need for countries at the political level to discuss these issues because there is no agreement on the matter. I hope, however, that challenge inspections are not in question at all, as countries have already agreed in the convention that the mechanism should exist.

In order to help countries understand challenge inspections, I also have thought that it would be good to offer member states and delegations, particularly here in The Hague , a better opportunity to see what challenge inspections are all about, in practical terms. So I am trying to organize with the generous contribution of the Netherlands , a mock challenge inspection exercise near The Hague , which would be available to member states for them to observe and participate. Challenge inspections are not a punishment mechanism. It is entirely a mechanism for reassurance, and we need to un-demonize it.

ACT: Is there a date set already for this mock exercise?

Pfirter: It is going to be later in the year or early next year.

ACT: The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission headed by Hans Blix warned in its report of “a dangerous erosion of the fundamental ban on chemical weapons” because they perceived “an increasing interest among some governments to adopt a more flexible interpretation of the CWC rules on the use of incapacitating chemical weapons, even as a method of warfare, in order to be able to use them in diverse situations.” How do you expect states-parties to address this challenge to the convention?[7]

Pfirter: First of all, I think that we do not know enough on this matter to say whether this is a challenge. We have a scientific advisory board, and we have policymaking organs that in due course may look into this matter. But more information is needed. Let me just start by saying that we expect all countries to be fulfilling their obligations in full and in good faith. There is no reason to suspect that this is not the case. Secondly, it is quite clear that the convention establishes unequivocally through the general purpose criterion what can and what cannot be done with these specific chemicals.[8] I am sure that countries understand that each and every development needs to be tested against that principle, and we take it from there. So I think that's the stage we are in.

ACT: States-parties have still not banned transfers of Schedule 3 chemicals to non-states-parties.[9] Do you expect this issue to be addressed any time soon? Generally, what do you think can be done to improve national implementation and monitoring on restrictions of trade with relevant chemicals? In the long term, do you see the OPCW playing a stronger role in this regard, for example, by monitoring imports and exports?

Pfirter: This is an area where action is required. It is an important component of the whole equation on what should be available to member states and what should not be available to nonmember states. I think this is a big inducement for formal involvement with the CWC. So I hope that this issue is not entirely finalized, although I do not expect that it will be reopened right away. Countries are required to make certain declarations, and sometimes we do find a lack of correlation between what a country declares and our own [data]. We are already aware of the need, and we have highlighted this many times, for better refinement in the way some things are declared. It's obviously part and parcel of a chemical ban, and we should make sure all of us, collectively, have in place mechanisms that account for any transfers [of scheduled chemicals] and that there is a way of following the chemicals as they move around the world.

ACT: Now, on national implementation, in April 2006 the 1540 Committee reporting to the UN Security Council found that a total of only 69 states had enacted some prohibitions related to chemical weapons in their national legal framework.[10] What do you think can be done to improve this situation, and should the action plan on implementation agreed to by the CWC states-parties in 2003 be expanded?

Pfirter: The action plan was quite successful, although not totally successful. Today 96 or 97 percent of states-parties already have a national authority in place.[11] Almost 50 percent of member states have comprehensive [implementing] legislation in place. This is very important because without adequate implementation the member states can not fully uphold the ban. We have to encourage and help some countries to not just implement, but implement in full. We will continue to work with any country. I hope we see the second review conference in 2008 approve a renewal of the action plan, which will still be necessary. I think that, again, we have not reached the finish line. The trend shows that countries are now much more aware and willing to enact the legislation that is required and set up the administrative measures.

ACT: You already mentioned the review conference coming up next year. From your perspective, which issues should member states address most urgently in 2008, and what is the status of preparations in the open-ended working group? Is there already agreement on whether the conference should review the convention on an article-by-article basis or on a thematic basis?

Pfirter: The open-ended working group is still undergoing a more generic type of debate. I do not think that there is yet a decision whether it will go article by article or subject by subject. There is a possibility that in fact there will be a comprehensive approach to this issue from both angles. In the next session member states will begin to focus on more concrete issues. I think the open-ended working group is a good demonstration of how countries are determined to face these issues in a spirit of consensus, working together in a collegial fashion. I believe that it will be extremely successful in producing the basis for the sort of document and declaration that will be adopted on the occasion of the second review conference.

The issues of the second review conference are being defined at the moment in the three areas that I mentioned. First of all, in the area of disarmament. I am sure that the conference would reaffirm the commitments that are there as well as the obligations in the field of nonproliferation. I do hope that the second review conference will be able to reaffirm the need for these particular parts of the agenda, which are so important, to be addressed effectively. I also hope that the issue of Other Chemical Production Facilities will receive an adequate echo in the documents. I hope also that, although this is not an anti-terrorist organization, the contributions that this organization can make under UN Security Council Resolution 1540 will also be reaffirmed through full implementation and through universality. In the field of assistance and protection, where we receive considerable demand from member states requesting support in capacity building, which also have a lot to do with their concerns in the face of the terrorist threat, I hope that we will get a reaffirmation of the need for the OPCW to fully attend to this important dimension. [The issue of assistance] also includes international cooperation aimed at helping developing countries receive training for their experts in the industrialized world, and in general, the promotion of the peaceful uses of chemistry.

ACT: You mentioned terrorism. On Feb. 23, you briefed the Security Council on the role of the OPCW in implementing UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1673.[12] You stated there as well that the OPCW is not an anti-terrorist organization. Can you explain how the work you are doing in The Hague helps to prevent terrorist attacks with chemical weapons?

Pfirter: The OPCW is not an anti-terrorist organization. It is not defined as such in the treaty, and therefore, it's a political organization. At the same time, after the events of September 11 in the United States , the member states did meet. They reached the conclusion that no organization of this nature can remain indifferent in the face of this new threat or increased threat. Secondly, the best way to make a contribution against terrorism is through the universality of the convention and full implementation of its program. And I think that this is where we made a commitment. As part of our program, countries are obligated to enact legislation and administrative measures so that they will be in a position to make the chemical weapons ban effective and to punish violations of the chemical ban on their own territories.

ACT: Finally, since this is the 10th anniversary, if you were able to look ahead another 10 years, where would you like to see both the convention and the OPCW in 2017?

Pfirter: Well, I would like to see that, of course, the destruction of chemical weapons arsenals in each and every country on this earth will have been completed and that we will have in place an effective means for monitoring and addressing their potential production in the future. In the long run, the nonproliferation regime will remain vital. In the field of cooperation and assistance, the organization will have ensured that countries develop the ability to face threats. I don't know whether the threat of terrorism will be as pertinent in 10 years time as it is today, but certainly security will remain a concern. We need also to make sure that the OPCW is capable of helping countries to acquire the means to face such a threat.

If you read Resolution 1540 and what it asks in order to prevent the access by terrorists to weapons of mass destruction, in particular chemical weapons, it calls upon countries to enact legislation and administrative measures in exactly the same manner as the CWC. There is a synergy there that demonstrates that the Chemical Weapons Convention, when effectively implemented, is an effective contributor to the prevention of use of chemical weapons by terrorists.

So, in that conviction we continue to work toward full implementation by all countries. We have also cooperated with the 1540 committee by remaining available to them to exchange information that could be of use to the committee, of course within the very strict mandates and strict confidentiality regulations we have. I look forward to the chairman of the committee's visit here in the near future and addressing their goals and sharing their experience in implementing [the resolution].



1. Six states-parties (Albania, India, Libya, Russia, South Korea, and the United States) have declared that they possess a total of more than 71,000 metric tons of chemical agents and are in the process of destroying them.

2. Under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), states-parties have pledged to provide assistance and protection to fellow member states when they are threatened with the use of chemical weapons or have suffered a chemical attack. If a state-party requests assistance, the Technical Secretariat is responsible for the effective coordination of assistance and protection measures provided by member states. These capabilities can include expertise in predicting hazards, in detecting and decontaminating chemical agents, in medical relief, and in on-site coordination with humanitarian and disaster response agencies. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also relies on cooperation with other international organizations to assist it with dispatching and delivering assistance, managing on-site activities, and training.

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

4. 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. Washington has recently admitted that complete destruction is unlikely to be completed before 2023, and it appears unlikely that Moscow can keep its promise to destroy its stocks by 2012. (See ACT, January/February 2007.)

5. 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. 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 ACT, January/February 2007.)

6. 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.”

7. See: The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, “Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms,” June 1, 2006. 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.

8. The “general purpose criterion” refers to the fact that the basic prohibitions of the CWC apply to all toxic chemicals and precursors that are acquired or used for hostile purposes, including those developed at any time in the future, and are not limited to the toxic chemicals and precursors listed in the three schedules of chemicals.

9. Article VI of the CWC specifies a number of restrictions on trade, keyed to the treaty's three schedules of chemicals. 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.

10. 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.

11. To make sure that the convention is implemented effectively, states-parties are obliged to designate or establish a “national authority.” This body participates in and coordinates OPCW inspections of relevant industrial or military sites, makes initial and annual declarations, participates in assisting and protecting those states-parties that are threatened by or have indeed suffered a chemical attack, and fosters the peaceful uses of chemistry. In addition, the national authority acts as the focal point in the state-party's interaction with other member states and the OPCW's Technical Secretariat.

12. On April 27, 2006, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1673, which extends the mandate of the 1540 Committee for another two years, until April 27, 2008.
Interviewed by Oliver Meier

Interview With Amb. Masood Khan of Pakistan President-Designate of the Sixth Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference



Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) member states will gather Nov. 20 to Dec. 8 for a review conference five years after a similar meeting ended divisively. Prospects for success this year are uncertain even as a modest work program has helped restore confidence in the BWC process. Arms Control Today spoke on September 23 with the designated conference president Ambassador Masood Khan of Pakistan about his expectations for the 2006 review conference.

ACT: Ambassador Khan, as President-designate, what are your expectations for the forthcoming Sixth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)? In particular, in your view, what would constitute success for the review conference?

Khan: I will come to [what constitutes] success later but let me tell you that the sixth review conference should succeed. That’s an imperative. It should have concrete, tangible results that add value to the BWC and strengthen it as a barrier against biological weapons. Its outcome should be based on consensus but with added value. We will not use the lowest common denominator as the yardstick for success, but the median point that represents common ground.

ACT: How do you think the global context, in particular U.S. tensions with Iran, will influence discussions?

Khan: First, on the overall, global context with regard to disarmament diplomacy. Three major events—the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May 2005,[1] the UN Summit in September 2005,[2] and the Small Arms and Light Weapons Review Conference[3] in June—did not seem to have achieved the results that a majority of states were hoping to achieve. At the BWC review conference, however, we should have a strong possibility of bringing the international community to one shared platform. This event could represent a peak in disarmament diplomacy.

About the other external dynamics: We will try to manage them within the setting of the BWC, and we will try to keep them specific to biological weapons issues.

ACT: Which topics do you expect to be the most difficult ones at the review conference, and on which issues do you expect to see convergence?

Khan: There is a growing convergence that there should be a solid outcome, to build on the successful engagement of the states-parties in the recent past, particularly during the expert and the annual meetings from 2003 to 2005. At the moment, we are not talking about divergences but common ground.

ACT: The last review conference in 2001 ended in controversy, as the U.S. blocked consensus on a draft verification protocol and thus member states haven’t agreed on a substantive final document since 1996. What do you think will be the consequences if member-states again fail to agree on a substantive final document?

Khan: Well, I think there was a compromise of sorts in 2002 and that is why we had the annual meetings.[4] But in our preparations I have banished the word “failure”, because the use of this word could be self-indoctrinating and, consequently, self-debilitating. I have advised negotiators of states-parties to do the same, that is to banish the word failure. We are trying to put success on the table and define what it could mean and what it could be.

ACT: You already mentioned the intersessional process. What in your view are the lessons of this novel exercise that has taken place the last three years, and how can the review conference reflect on those lessons?

Khan: [The meetings] touched on very important dimensions including national implementation, security and oversight of pathogens, capabilities for responding to and investigating alleged use of biological weapons, mechanisms for disease surveillance and response, and codes of conduct for scientists. Now, let me enumerate some of the lessons that were learned, and this is my personal view. As these discussions were not expected to lead to binding commitments, they tended to be more collegial, cooperative, and constructive. In such a setting, states-parties and all other actors learn more from each other. These meetings have also raised awareness about the threat of biological weapons. The process was less polemical. The meetings also kept the focus on the BWC and tried to make it responsive to contemporary challenges, for instance scientific and technological developments. In my view, such discussions serve as building blocks that states-parties can use for possible agreements when they are ready to do so, and they also work as catalysts for agreements.

ACT: Now in your consultations, did you get a sense that member-states want there to be a continuation of this intercessional process? In particular, there have been conflicting signals from Washington whether this process should be continued. Do you think the United States would support a new intercessional process?

Khan: It is for the United States to elaborate its position. While speaking to the states-parties and delegations in informal settings, I haven’t received any conflicting signals. There is a growing sense among states-parties that the sixth review conference should recommend or decide on an intersessional calendar from 2007 to 2010. But first they have to give their concurrence in principle and then they have to [decide on the specific issues to be included in a work program]. There are some states who have said that the calendar should not be the only outcome, and that there should be a focus on other issues as well.

ACT: What other issues do you mean? Are you talking about a substantive review of the convention itself?

Khan: Yes absolutely. But let me share my personal thoughts, about the likely outcome of the review conference. When I have been talking to the different groups or states-parties, I have been emphasizing that we should have a concise document that will not only be useful to states-parties as a record of their understandings and commitments in the fight against biological weapons but it should be such a document that can communicate effectively to the media, to the scientific community, industry, and the general public, because they are all stakeholders.

Second, in terms of the outcome it’s important for the states-parties to recapture and reaffirm very briefly core elements of the convention and understandings reached by states-parties in the past. One theme that I have been emphasizing is the phenomenal advances in the life sciences, as it will be both prudent and desirable to state that the convention applies to all relevant scientific and technological developments.

And from my point of view, it would also be useful for states-parties to recall the understanding that the convention implicitly prohibits the use of biological weapons. And a final point in this context that I want to make is that we should in the final document or the declaration reflect in some way our deliberations on a number of specific issues that were passed on to the states-parties by the fifth review conference as well as any fresh proposals that states parties may put forward.

Such proposals would of course be subject to consensus.

ACT: I would like to ask you two brief questions on the intersessional process. Do you think that it would be desirable for states-parties to develop uniform guidelines for implementation so as to avoid creating a patchwork of inconsistent national regulations? And more generally, what is your sense of what topics might be on the agenda of a new intercessional process and the work program for such a process?

Khan: Let me tell you that the comfort level for having a calendar is high, so it’s not a cause of concern but it is inextricably linked to the question of what would constitute the calendar or what would constitute the work of the states-parties. These two things are interrelated. My sense is that in this area the states-parties are consulting with each other. I know that the European Union is meeting and within the Western Group there is a smaller group meeting who call themselves Jacksnnz[5]. The Non-Aligned Movement[6] is meeting and there is a group of Latin American countries, who are preparing these proposals.[7] Some of these proposals have already been circulated.

You asked me what the most urgent topics from my personal point of view were. I would list four. They are universal adherence, faithful and effective compliance, the fight against the threat of bioterrorism, and the capacity to deal with the developments in the biosciences that have enhanced the lethality and range of biological weapons. Now these subjects from my own personal perspective are the most urgent and should receive the attention of the states-parties.

You mentioned biosecurity. This has high priority. In fact, it was discussed extensively during the previous intercessional process. And I think that biosecurity is part of overall compliance. You need to streamline your national institutions, not just the legislative and administrative part, but all of the mechanisms that are there. It will receive the attention of states-parties, but I’m not so sure with how much specificity.

ACT: Another issue is biodefense and the huge increase in biodefense spending. Do you hope to address this issue at the review conference in anyway?

Khan: Biosecurity in a wider sense includes not only physical security but non-transfer of tangible or intangible bioweapon technology. All precautions should be taken to ensure that research into biodefense programs has a defense orientation; it is amenable to scientific oversight; and it conforms to the BWC.

ACT: How would you like to see the issue of compliance addressed this year?

Khan: I won’t go into specifics but let me give you my sense of what the states-parties have been focusing on. More or less everybody is comfortable with an article by article review [of the BWC] that should cover all aspects. States-parties want a comprehensive review.

And then, as you mentioned, there should be a review of action on the five topics, mandated by the fifth review conference, and which were considered during 2003 and 2005 and I have listed them.

The third responsibility—and there has been intense debate on this subject—is the preview of and possible decisions on an intersessional calendar or meetings and activities on agreed topics.

Then there is confidence-building measures, universalization of the convention, and interest of the states-parties in new scientific and technological developments relevant to the convention. I already mentioned bioterrorism, compliance, and verification.

And one important point is coordination with other organizations and activities. In the past four of five years other organizations have been very active, such as the World Health Organization [WHO], the Security Council which has passed Resolution 1540,[8] Interpol, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, the International Committee of the Red Cross. You need to develop a new approach toward coordinating their activities. The WHO in particular has come up with International Health Regulations (IHR) and they also have a sophisticated disease surveillance center here in Geneva. All these organizations need to talk to each other, need to share information with each other, and need to strategize together. Finally, states-parties have been talking about implementation support arrangements for the convention, because if you have a robust intercessional process in the next cycle, then you would need some sort of support.

ACT: Do you have any other remarks?

Khan: I would like to emphasize the importance of building good interpersonal chemistry among negotiators and states-parties. Another requirement is that there should be good conference management. It should not be inefficient. Then I’m saying: build synergy at the international level between different organizations dealing with deliberate or natural release of disease, and I have just listed them. And finally I would like say that there should be enhanced coherence and cohesiveness at a national level, to show the success of the implementation of the BWC.

ACT:Thank you very much.


1. After four weeks, the 2005 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference ended May 27 without consensus on next steps for stopping the spread of or eliminating nuclear weapons. (See ACT, July/August 2005.)

2. At the UN Summit in New York Sept. 14-16, world leaders endorsed a document setting out a broad agenda for the international organization and its member states in the coming years. However, the document contained no action plan for mitigating threats posed by chemical, biological, and nuclear arms.

3. A two-week UN conference in New York aimed at cracking down on the worldwide illicit trade of small arms ended July 7 without a final agreement on measures to reduce the spread of the weapons. Delegates also failed to create a road map for future action.

4. At the second part of the fifth review conference in November 2002 states-parties agree to meet three times before the next review conference to discuss ways to improve national measures and existing international mechanisms to combat biological weapons. Meetings between experts and states-parties representatives took place

  • in 2003 on improved national legislation and better national oversight over dangerous pathogens;
  • in 2004 on enhancing international capabilities to deal with alleged cases of biological weapons use and strengthening and broadening national and international efforts for disease surveillance;
  • in 2005 on codes of conduct for scientists.

5. The Jackson are an informal grouping of non-EU, non-nuclear participants of Western Group states. Participants are Japan, Australia , Canada, (South) Korea, Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand.

6. The Non-Aligned Movement is an international organization of 115 members representing the interests and priorities of developing countries. The movement has often demanded a time-bound framework for nuclear disarmament.

7. At the meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the Review Conference Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay tabled a joint working paper.

8. Passed April 28, 2004, UN Security Council Resolution 1540 requested all governments to put in place “appropriate, effective laws” to deny terrorists access to biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, their delivery systems, and related materials. The 15-member Security Council approved the resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter opening the door to punitive actions to enforce the resolution. The United States was the chief architect of the measure.


Subject Resources:

Interview with Richard Kidd



Head of the U.S. delegation to the 2006 UN small arms and light weapons review conference and director of the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement

From June 26 to July 7, UN member states met in New York to review progress in implementing a five-year old Program of Action to stem the illicit global trade in small arms and light weapons. The meeting ended without a final document or future action plan because of widespread differences among the participants, including the United States. On Aug. 11, Arms Control Today interviewed Richard Kidd, who led the U.S. delegation and heads the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, about the issues debated at the conference and its outcome.

ACT: The recent UN Small Arms Review Conference was deemed by many observers and participants to be a failure. Do you agree with that assessment?

Kidd: No. The recent UN Small Arms Review Conference reaffirmed the interest and commitment of states to an agreement that was made in 2001. Those who consider it a failure are those who did not focus on what was agreed upon and chose rather to focus on elements of disagreement.

ACT: Why do you think the conference did not reach an agreement? What were the issues that prevented an agreement?

Kidd: I don’t think that there was any one set of issues. I think the answer to this question is actually very simple and straightforward: there was no consensus amongst a wide range of states on a wide range of issues for an outcome document. There were 13 different paragraphs that were in dispute when the conference ended. Many of these paragraphs had to do with Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), the Transfer Control Initiative, and other issues.

Again, the reason [why no outcome document was reached] was that large segments of the international community and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) wanted to focus on the items that were not agreed upon in 2001. It was an opportunity lost. None of the things that would really have addressed the illicit trade—talking about import/export control regimes (which we all agreed to do), talking about putting laws in place to criminalize illicit possession, or talking about establishing strong end-user certification processes—were discussed in great detail. Instead, a lot of the energy went into items that the states had not agreed upon in 2001. And there was no indication that they were going to agree upon them in 2006.

ACT: Why do you think that some of the countries wanted to revisit the issues from the 2001 conference?

Kidd: I can’t really comment on the motives of other states. But if I was going to say anything, it’s that a large number of states find it a lot easier to talk than to do. If you look at the record of implementation of the Program of Action, the United States has, we would say, the best record of implementing the Program of Action. In fact, we are one of only nine countries that have moved in all areas of the Program of Action.

What about the other 140 countries? Rather than do the hard thing—in terms of legislation, law enforcement, establishment of control regimes, and functioning government process—it’s a lot easier to go to the United Nations, give a speech, and go home.

ACT: Would you explain to our readers what you meant by “import/export control regimes?”

Kidd: In the case of the United States, it’s our comprehensive set of laws as well as international commitments in their totality that provide a system for regulating the export of munitions of all types, small arms and light weapons in particular. There’s the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, the [1976] Arms Export Control Act, appropriate domestic legislation, and of course the commitments such as the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which collectively create a regime.

The United States, we would argue, has the best set of laws and the widest array of meaningful commitments of any country. We take a cradle-to-grave approach for all of our munitions, and we claim universality on any U.S. citizen and any munition involved in the trade. Very few other countries do that.

ACT: How would the Transfer Control Initiative fit into this set of U.S. commitments?

Kidd: The Transfer Control Initiative is a reflection of current U.S. practice. That’s why we were able to support it.

ACT: Some have contended that the biggest sticking point at the conference was that the United States refused to agree on follow-up issues, such as setting dates for additional review conferences or a roadmap for future work on the Program of Action. Did this refusal hold back progress?

Kidd: Those who say that have a caveat. They caveat it within the context of the United Nations system.

The United States has agreed to follow-up. We back that follow-up commitment with dedicated resources, staffing, and diplomatic effort. We have the largest budget in the world to support the destruction of small arms and light weapons. We have a comprehensive set of assistance programs on border training, stockpile security and management, and law enforcement, as well as assistance on a whole array of aspects of the Program of Action. We are going to meet our commitment to the Program of Action and we are going to help others meet their commitments to the Program of Action.

ACT: What about follow-up through the UN system? Why is that different than the U.S. following up on its own national initiatives?

Kidd: We want our follow-up efforts to make a difference.

ACT: Are you contending that they wouldn’t through the UN system?

Kidd: The obligation for follow-up resides with the states themselves. If the states don’t take the action, the UN can’t make them.

ACT: Under what circumstances would you see the possibility for something like the Program of Action to be reviewed again multilaterally?

Kidd: I’m going to have to give you the classic dodge on that because it is a hypothetical question. You used two hypotheticals in that question: “what circumstances” and “possibility.” I’m not going to establish conditions for the next review conference.

ACT: On which small arms issues from this recent conference does the United States believe there is still wide agreement? How should those issues be addressed?

Kidd: I think that there is a growing recognition of the need to take a closer look at who is getting these weapons. I think there is a growing recognition to provide and establish a better end-user certification process for exports. I think there is a growing recognition of enhanced stockpile security and management and a growing recognition that states don’t need massive stockpiles of munitions to guarantee their security. In fact, these stockpiles of legacy munitions and small arms are in many ways a liability, not an asset. I say growing recognition because, unfortunately, it is not as widespread as it should be. We are going to continue to work with states bilaterally and multilaterally using the full diplomatic influence of the United States to ensure that more states do more in those areas.

ACT: Can you identify which countries are resisting progress in these areas?

Kidd: I’m not in the “name-and-shame” game. You can just pull up the reports that countries have submitted, or not submitted, and get a pretty good idea of the states that are not complying with their commitments under the Program of Action.

While there are many states that have the desire to do more, they don’t necessarily have the ability. One of the things that we are most interested in is identifying those states and identifying ways that we can work with them.

Rather than “name-and-shame,” I would like to talk about the activities of the regional secretariat in Nairobi. There are twelve countries in East Africa that have committed to doing more. We have worked with them for a year now and we think there is an opportunity where we can help them do more. There are states of Eastern Europe that were previously proliferators that know that they have less-than-desirable controls in place. They have reached out to us and we have reciprocated with assistance. There are a lot of states that are doing good things. I would like to encourage that and take note of that as opposed to pointing a finger at those who are not.

ACT: When you say that some don’t have the ability, are you referring more to financial resources, bureaucratic resources, or control regimes themselves?

Kidd: I would say all of those to varying degrees in different countries. In some countries, it is simply a matter of [lacking] financial resources to implement existing commitments. In others, it’s everything from [lacking] appropriate legislation, government bureaucracies, and, indeed, a culture of good governance. The issue of small arms and light weapons and domestic violence is a good governance issue, including the enforcement of existing laws. There’s a whole range of countries that have great laws on the books or have recently passed legislation that would, at its surface, be very encouraging. Now the question is: are they enforcing them?

ACT: If the review conference had been able to produce a final agreement, what specific provisions would the United States have liked to have seen adopted?

Kidd: What we wish would have happened was that there would have been a consensus achieved on a very short, focused document, where all states reaffirmed their commitment to the Program of Action. That took place, but it was implied. It was in some of the opening paragraphs of the draft document, which was not agreed to.

There were things that did make it into the [draft] document that we worked very hard for. We changed all references to “end-user certificates” to references to “end-user certification process.” We also were able to insert references to enforcement. A lot of countries have committed to doing things, but they haven’t put in place an enforcement mechanism. We were pleased with those two developments, which we thought were positive improvements that would have strengthened implementation. That’s what we were there to do: strengthen implementation.

There was also cooperation and assistance. We would have liked to have seen more. We tried to get that and would have liked to have seen some focused activity there. We, in this office, have been frustrated that states that have made very strong verbal pronouncements about positions related to the small arms and light weapons Program of Action and have a clear need for assistance don’t articulate their need in a way that we can provide support. In other words, they just simply don’t ask. They don’t have a project proposal, they don’t have a program, and they don’t have a coherent structure in place to receive and manage assistance. We would have liked to have seen more on that.

ACT: Is there an assessment of how much overall assistance has been provided since the Program of Action was adopted?

Kidd: Not that I’m aware of. The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research has done a study that we provided a little financial support for. We also are looking at working with the Small Arms Survey in Geneva.

The world needs a more comprehensive understanding, not just of small arms and light weapons, but of the entire issue of conventional weapons. In the 1980’s there were [around 200] Warsaw Pact divisions. Those divisions have gone away, but their ammunition hasn’t. Where is that ammunition? Where are those weapons? Collectively, the world needs a better understanding of that. We are trying to put a little bit of money into projects that will help us get to that understanding.

ACT: At the conference, there was disagreement on language in the draft text relating to transfers of small arms to nonstate actors. The United States took the position that there shouldn’t be a ban on transfers to nonstate actors because such a ban might hurt groups in the world trying to stand up against oppressive regimes. But there is also the problem of illicit small arms and light weapons getting into the hands of other nonstate actors, such as terrorist groups. What type of policy can address both of those problems?

Kidd: Implement the commitments made in the Program of Action. I have to say that this was one of the most dysfunctional debates of the entire process. The issue is responsible end-use. In order to ensure that weapons go to responsible end users, you need all the things that were called for in the Program of Action: arms export control laws, enforcement, brokering, and end-user certification. If all of those things are in place, the debate about nonstate actors is moot.

Conversely, if you had an internationally, legally-binding treaty that said there will be no transfers to nonstate actors, what practical mechanisms would be required to enforce that treaty? It would be arms export control regimes. It would be laws on brokering. It would be laws on end-user certification. There was a significant disconnect [at the conference] between policy posturing and practical, focused implementation.

There were a couple of states that spoke very strongly about nonstate actors: states with a record of corrupt government officials, states whose own officials were providing weapons to nonstate actors that were then using them against the state, and states that had rejected very generous offers for international assistance to secure their stockpiles. They were talking about nonstate actors and being praised by members of civil society. Humanitarian organizations were praising states who had failed miserably in the implementation of the Program of Action simply because they were making remarks on the floor of the United Nations.

If [governments] want to address the issue of nonstate actors then implement the Program of Action.

ACT: So the issue of nonstate actors would no longer be a concern if the program’s measures were implemented?

Kidd: Once those things are in place and states have a rigorous system for reviewing exports and taking ownership for their decisions, this problem will be significantly reduced.

What’s causing the problem is lack of effective implementation mechanisms, where a state will get a faxed end-user certificate from colonel so-and-so or from army so-and-so, and, without checking or doing a [proper] review, they just export the weapons. The colonel might not exist. The army might not exist. All that happens is that [the weapons] are immediately diverted. It’s not a matter of state policy; it’s a matter of state regulation and enforcement.

ACT: At the start of the conference, the United States announced its desire to produce concrete results and not just dates for more review conferences. But on the issue of transfer controls, something that many states placed high importance on, the U.S. delegation said that it wouldn’t accept any formal agreement or negations—just discussion of the issue. Why didn’t the United States want to get more formal moves on transfer controls at the conference?

Kidd: I’m not quite sure that’s the appropriate characterization of the U.S. position. We were supportive of the efforts on transfer controls throughout the process. We were very concerned about some of the deals being cut to keep transfer controls in [the draft document]. Many provisions that we would have liked were being weakened in order to get a deal with some of the countries that were holding out on transfer controls.

ACT: Could you list some of the provisions that were being cut that you would have liked to have seen stay in there?

Kidd: We were concerned about some of the terminology on MANPADS.

The United Nations has 6,500 or so different mandates. It simply can’t manage all of them. The secretary-general has said no new mandates that are not funded. We don’t think there’s a need for a process that leads to a legally binding treaty on transfer controls, and neither did the United Kingdom. They didn’t say it was a treaty. You’re not going to have formal negotiations on something like this.

ACT: As you know, thousands of Americans flooded the United Nations with letters before the conference saying that they were worried that the conference would take away their gun rights. Was there a valid worry that the Small Arms Review Conference was going to intrude on the Second Amendment?

Kidd: You are asking me to comment on the perceptions of thousands of Americans that wrote in, while there are equally thousands of Americans that didn’t write in. I can’t comment on those perceptions. I will just say that it was a U.S. policy position that we would not accept an outcome, or participate in a process, that would have curtailed U.S. Second Amendment rights. I think that it was well-understood by other participants. That position was protected during the negotiations.

ACT: One of the obvious hurdles that the conference faced was that, in order to get a final document, there had to be consensus from all member states. Many observers, including the conference’s president, Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam, said that the consensus requirement led to a draft agreement that, even if it had been passed, would have been very watered-down. Was it better to have no agreement than a weak agreement?

Kidd: The most desirable and appropriate outcome would have been a short, focused agreement that reaffirmed what was agreed upon [in 2001]. Again, the explanation that you just provided is an explanation given by organizations and countries that wanted to focus on disagreement as opposed to agreement. I think a short, focused document would have been the best possible outcome. The Program of Action still exists, it’s still in effect, and if states implemented it, the problems of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons would be significantly reduced.

ACT: In light of the Review Conference’s demise, what are your expectations for the meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly this fall? Will the United States seek any action on small arms at that forum?

Kidd: I’m not sure I would use the word “demise.” The conference ran its course, and it had its outcome. In the First Committee, there are traditionally a range of agenda items and resolutions, and the United States is an active participant in that negotiating process. Based on the content of those resolutions, we will either support them or not support them. I don’t want to prejudice the outcome of the First Committee. I’ll just say we’re an active participant and we’re ready to work with other countries. One of the things that we’re going to be doing in the First Committee is talking about MANPADS. MANPADS are an item of special concern to the United States, and the international community can and should do more to address the particular threat posed by MANPADS.

ACT: What types of measures would the United States like to bring to the table in the First Committee to address the problem of MANPADS?

Kidd: I don’t think there’s anything new. You can look at what we’ve been talking about in other multilateral forums. We would like a universalization of the Wassenaar Arrangement [guidelines on MANPADS], more work on cooperation assistance, and more focus on what countries really need. There are certain countries that are holding tens of thousands of first- or second-generation MANPADS that are not really effective against military aircraft but are extremely dangerous for civilian aircraft. We need to get countries to do the right thing and reduce their stockpiles of those.

ACT: Recently, the United Kingdom and six other countries proposed studying the feasibility of an arms trade treaty. Does the United States support looking in to such a proposal?

Kidd: Right now, we’ve been talking closely with the United Kingdom about what we think is the appropriate way to proceed or not proceed in this activity. We have a number of concerns that we have raised with them and continue to raise with them. In many ways, an arms trade treaty reflects current U.S. practice. But, similarly, we have some concerns about that provision and are not strongly supportive at this point. We’re working with the United Kingdom, but we have a fair degree of skepticism about where this is going to lead.

ACT: Do you think the United States got a bad rap, overall, for its work at the conference?

Kidd: I’m reluctant to comment on perceptions that others might or might not have. I would say that the key issue is implementation of the Program of Action, and there is no state that has a better record of implementation of the Program of Action than the United States of America. At the end of the day, what matters is implementation. The United States is very comfortable to subjecting our implementation to the critique or comparison of any other state or by any organization.

ACT: Are there any other thoughts on the Small Arms Review Conference or U.S. small arms policy that you would like to share with us that we didn’t touch upon?

Kidd: What happened in New York was exactly what we said was going to happen for a year leading up to the conference. We said there’s not enough time available and that we must focus on the original program of action. You can check my record of remarks at a range of venues leading up to the conference. Some states, NGOs, and others either didn’t hear or didn’t want to hear [the U.S. message].

We originally had six working days and those were cut in half due to the length of the remarks, the additional events, the insertions, etc. The process simply could not bear that.

ACT: How close do you think the conference came to producing the short, focused outcome document the United States was looking for?

Kidd: I honestly don’t know. There were some states that had not revealed their final negotiating positions when the conference had ended.

ACT: What would be your grade for implementation of the Program of Action?

Kidd: I’m not in a position to give grades. I would say that the United States gets a grade of “A.” By our count, eight other states [would, too]. We’ve got 140 states that need room for improvement. Even states that have done a lot can continue to do what they’re doing, and do more.

ACT: Thank you.

Head of the U.S. delegation to the 2006 UN small arms and light weapons review conference and director of the Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement

Interview with Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam, President of the 2006 UN Small Arms Review Conference


Governments gathered in New York June 26 to July 7 for the 2006 UN Conference to Review the Implementation of the Program of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. The conference ended, however, without member states agreeing on binding measures to curb such trade. On July 27, Arms Control Today interviewed conference president Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam of Sri Lanka about his views on future steps.

ACT: The recent UN Small Arms Review Conference failed to meet its objective of building on the 2001 Program of Action on the Illicit Trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons and was declared by some to be a “meltdown” for producing no agreement. Do you consider it a failure?

Kariyawasam: No, my view is that the conference was not a failure because it managed to bring a greater focus in the international community to the issue of illegal trade and trafficking of small arms. And in that context, there were a lot of views exchanged at the high level, and there was a lot of interest in continuing implementation of the Program of Action. In those terms, it was not a failure. What we perhaps could not do was [deliver] a concrete roadmap as to how further implementation will be achieved in complete terms in the future. The follow-up mechanisms were not agreed upon.

ACT: You said in your opening statement that it was “incumbent upon [member states] to display to the world at large that this organization can successfully address yet another issue of importance for many in the world.” The conference, however, ended unsuccessfully by most accounts. Is that damaging to UN credibility?

Kariyawasam: It would have been much better for the UN if we had concrete follow-up mechanisms. Short of that, the 2001 Program of Action provides us a basis to carry on the work. Therefore, in those terms, what the UN can do remains undiminished. But further work on issues connected to illegal trade such as how to handle transfer control and ammunition issues, those we could not agree upon in concrete terms. But the UN also has other mechanisms to kick start this process in the First Committee.[1]

ACT: How close were delegates to reaching consensus on a final document?

Kariyawasam: At the end of the day, a final document could not be agreed upon [because of] issues pertaining to follow-up. But I think we had agreed on almost 95 percent of the text. I think there was a feeling that it was best to leave it like that rather than trying to agree on things that were less than what we agreed to in 2001.

ACT: The United States has been roundly criticized for its role in stalling progress at the conference. In your observation, did U.S. “redlines” prevent an agreement from being reached?

Kariyawasam: Each country has their national positions, and each country will work from that basis. I believe the United States worked from that basis, so that will obviously have an impact on a final outcome. This causes delegations to negotiate. If the United States has concerns and draws redlines, that will have an impact on the final outcome no doubt.

ACT: What other countries had significant holdouts that prevented a final text from being agreed upon?

Kariyawasam: There were differences between, let’s say, the European Union on one side and countries like Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt that had a slightly different view. Then you also had members of the Non-Aligned Movement[2] with different views—some Non-Aligned countries supported the EU. The interests of countries were not dependent upon the political groupings or regions that they belong to. It’s a very unique program, and unique interest groups have been created. Very interesting, strange coalitions have been created in small arms.

ACT: Even if a final agreement had been reached, some in the arms control community have said that it would likely have been very weak. Do you feel that the requirement of consensus was a burden on developing a good final document?

Kariyawasam: Yes. I have to grudgingly accept that. The tradition that we have in the UN that major conferences of this nature produce documents by consensus makes it very difficult to agree on overwhelming majority views. There is the possibility of one or two countries pulling out against a major consensus. It has not only happened at this conference but at other conferences of this nature. But let me add to this that arms control issues are very critical for the national security interests of countries, so I don’t think we have any other method than this, especially if we are thinking of global action. If there is regional action, then regional groups can decide and go ahead, but if we are thinking of global action, we’ll have to have global consensus. It’s an unfortunate reality that we work with today in arms control.

ACT: One of the major sticking points between the United States and other countries was, as you mentioned, the fourth section of the draft document—the follow-up—detailing a future for the Program of Action and for combating the illicit trafficking of small arms. How did disagreement on this contribute to the demise of the conference?

Kariyawasam: U.S. views on the follow-up did hurt the conference because I do not think that the overwhelming majority was ready to accept [the U.S. position]. That will affect this process, but I don’t think it will have a major affect because the 2001 Program of Action is still alive and kicking. It has been agreed to. There are prohibitions in the program that can run on their own without having further support from a review conference of this nature. More than anything, just because we could not agree on an outcome document this year does not mean that the [UN] General Assembly First Committee is precluded from taking further action on the program in the future. There is always the possibility for further development of global action on the basis of the Program of Action when the time is better.

ACT: Does that mean that there is the possibility in the future for another review conference?

Kariyawasam: There is the possibility for an action-implementation conference, a review conference, or any other global meeting. This issue can be discussed. That possibility has not been precluded because we did not agree on anything. If we had agreed on something lower than that, then of course the possibility would have been precluded. Now it seems that since nothing was agreed to, everything is still open. The only thing is that we will have to work on this in the UN General Assembly and the First Committee when the time is right. In my view, therefore, the conference gave an impetus to the Program of Action in a sense that there is now a feeling that there is a greater interest in the world on this subject. This subject has to be on the front burner, not on the backburner. I don’t think it went back to the backburner—that, I don’t accept. It remains on the front burner.

ACT: What were some elements of controlling small arms that you thought were really worthwhile and should be pursued in the future?

Kariyawasam: There was the Transfer Control Initiative from the UK (See ACT, September 2005) that one should pursue. The issue of how to address the nonstate actors is something else that will have to be pursued. The issue of ammunition is very key to many countries, who argue that the small arms trade cannot be curbed without addressing ammunition. That has to be followed up as well. These things will have to be followed up by the First Committee and by other forums in the time to come. I think [the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs] must now work on issues for which they have been given some direction by the discussion of the conference and take things piece by piece to see how far we can go.

ACT: Do you think that this fall the First Committee will try to finish what was started at the conference?

Kariyawasam: I think that for the First Committee it is time to take stock and give some direction, and then maybe a little later we can take concrete actions as things become clearer. [In the meantime], countries must work with each other and create these coalitions that will push these ideas forward in such a manner so as to make everyone feel comfortable. There were a lot of misconceptions around this whole idea, especially in the U.S. public. This gun control debate in the U.S. had a negative effect on the conference. These issues have to be handled carefully, but I think we can do it.

ACT: The UK and six other nations recently wrote a letter to member states proposing a plan to form a Group of Governmental Experts to study the feasibility of an arms trade treaty. How much support do you think is out there for that type of proposal?

Kariyawasam: At the moment, not much. Many in the Non-Aligned Movement think that an arms trade treaty by itself could be a measure to preclude states from obtaining their legitimate security needs while perhaps not closing the door for nonstate actors that abuse the system of trade today. There is that suspicion. But at the same time, there is a good coalition from the North, South, East, and West keen on this issue. I believe that discussion will expand in such a manner so as to bring in more players and give confidence to countries that this is not some kind of restrictive regime to deny countries [their rights] but rather a regime that will be promoting peace and security. I think these are very early days for the idea, but I wish them luck. They need to take into account the concerns and apprehension of countries not willing to join it as yet, but it’s a good start.

ACT: Would an arms trade treaty be more effective then something like the Program of Action?

Kariyawasam: An arms trade treaty would be much bigger than the Program of Action, which is only for preventing and combating illegal trade in small arms and light weapons. An arms trade treaty involves all trade, not only illegal trade. That’s where the catch lies.

ACT: Thank you.

Interview With Ambasssador Gregory L. Schulte, U.S. Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency



Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper

As U.S permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other Vienna-based organizations, Ambassador Gregory L. Schulte has been deeply involved in U.S. efforts to limit Iran’s nuclear program as well as other nonproliferation initiatives. Arms Control Today met with Schulte in his Vienna office June 7 to discuss the status of U.S. efforts.

ACT: The latest that I’ve heard about the controversy over Iran’s nuclear programs is that Javier Solana, secretary-general of the Council of the European Union, delivered an offer to the Iranians. Can you tell us a little more about what’s in the offer?

Schulte: We have chosen to not reveal the details of the offer. It was something agreed among the six foreign ministers [ China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States] because we want to give the leaders in Tehran every opportunity to consider the offer carefully and to give it a reasoned response. We don’t want to provoke them into a negative response because our goal of course is to convince them to suspend all enrichment-related activities including research and development and to start negotiations. The six foreign ministers laid out very clearly two paths. One is a positive path that will offer the Iranian people benefits, including access to civil nuclear power. The negative path is one that goes through the [UN] Security Council. We want to give them all opportunities to make the right choice, which is the positive path.

ACT: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been quoted as saying the Iranians have weeks, not months to respond. Informally I’ve heard that they have basically until the G8 meeting [July 15 in St. Petersburg, Russia]. Is that accurate?

Schulte: Well I would just repeat what the secretary said. They have a matter of weeks to make a decision. She has not set, nor have the six ministers set a deadline for a decision. On the other hand we cannot wait indefinitely. So we want them to consider this carefully and come back to us. But we are ultimately looking for them to suspend these activities before we can enter negotiations.

ACT: Have you defined what suspension means?

Schulte: Suspension has been defined again and again. It means all enrichment-related activities to include research and development. We’re not looking to parse that in some fashion, we’re looking for a full suspension.

ACT: Let me ask you about another area: I understand there is a pending U.S. proposal dealing with fuel assurances that is going to be announced at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting next week. Do you have any more details on that proposal?

Schulte: Well, for some time [IAEA] Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has been urging countries to start work on a multilateral set of fuel assurances that could be made available to countries who are interested in nuclear power but who do not have an interest in investing in the enrichment and ultimately reprocessing capabilities associated with nuclear power. So in response to his request and recognizing that more and more countries are interested in nuclear power, the United States and France have worked with other nuclear fuel supplying countries to put together a basic set of assurances for reliable nuclear fuel supply that would be implemented by the IAEA and that would be available to countries who have chosen not to have enrichment capabilities. Our intention is to brief the Board of Governors on this basic concept at the meeting next week.

Then we hope that the IAEA secretariat will be in a position to move forward to start developing the more detailed legal, technical, and other aspects of this proposal so we might have a very basic mechanism that could be considered and potentially adopted by the board in September. Now, one thing I should stress in all this is we actually think that the civilian fuel market is quite adequate. It’s very diverse. It does a good job. It gives people interested in fuel a variety of countries and companies that it can turn to. So the last thing we want to do is somehow interfere in the market. But we are prepared to work with the IAEA and others to put in these basic backup assurances for countries who worry that for some reason the market might fail them.

ACT: One of the reasons the Iranians have cited for why they need to have enrichment is as a kind of backup guarantee. Would Iran, if it down the road agreed not to go forward with enrichment, would Tehran be available for such programs?

Schulte: This program is designed for countries that choose not to have enrichment, and reprocessing capabilities and any country that participates in it of course would need to be abiding by its safeguards obligations. So Iran has some major violations that they have to deal with first. When we put these assurances together it was not with Iran specifically in mind. We were learning the lessons of Iran and looking to the future, recognizing that more and more countries are interested in nuclear power.

One of the things that Iran has illustrated to us is that there is a major loophole in the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty]. The loophole is one whereby countries, under the guise of a civil program, can develop the wherewithal for nuclear weapons. They can, as Iran has done, develop an enrichment capability when it’s not actually for a civil program; when it’s actually for a military program. This is a loophole that’s been recognized by not just the United States but also by [UN Secretary-General] Kofi Annan and ElBaradei. Part of our goal to fill that loophole is in fact to put fuel assurances in place to give countries additional confidence that they don’t have to develop these type of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.

ACT: Would countries such as the United States, for instance, ultimately still have to give approval for deliveries of this fuel to go forward?

Schulte: The goal is to have the mechanism be sufficiently diverse so that if there were an issue with one supplier, the IAEA would be in a position to facilitate supply from another country. And the arrangement might even be backed up with some standing reserves of fuel. For example in September of last year, [Energy Secretary Samuel] Bodman announced that the United States was prepared to down blend 17.4 metric tons of highly enriched uranium [HEU], which was surplus to our military requirements, and use that as part of a U.S. contribution to a backup reserve.[1] Other countries have also been looking at whether they would be prepared to contribute in a similar fashion.

ACT: Have any other countries committed to contribute?

Schulte: We know that Russia for example has been looking at this as a possibility.

ACT: Switching topics to India. IAEA officials tell me that the Indians have yet to present any safeguards proposal to the agency. Do you know when they will, and do you know why they have not yet done so? As you know Members of Congress are looking to consider the IAEA safeguards proposals as part of their decision-making process. How would this work out in terms of staging?

Schulte: There are a number of moving parts here. There’s the congressional piece, where Congress needs to make changes to the Atomic Energy Act, and would also need to approve a U.S. [-India] 123 agreement.[2] The Nuclear Suppliers Group would need to in our judgment make an exemption to existing rules for India.[3] There’s the safeguards agreement that needs to be negotiated between India and the IAEA. And finally there’s the 123 agreement, which needs to be worked out between the United States and India. Our goal is to try to move all of these moving parts together in tandem.

So, for example, we have been urging the Indian government to move forward with the negotiations with the IAEA on a safeguards agreement. There was an initial discussion that took place a number of months ago between the head of the Indian Atomic Energy Organization [Anil Kakodkar] and ElBaradei where they talked about the nature of the agreement. We hope that those talks will continue soon. The Indians have committed to a permanent safeguards agreement. We know they have to be somewhat unique for India given the nature of this agreement. On the other hand, we also know, and the Indians know, that these have to be permanent safeguards that are put in place, and that the Board of Governors will need to be satisfied with the arrangements put in place.[4]

ACT: You said that they were somewhat unique. I guess the phrase that was used in the MarchU.S.-India agreement was that there would be “India-specific safeguards.” But no one can really figure out what that means. Does the United States have an idea of what that means?

Schulte: Well I think the director-general has an idea of what that means. He thinks that it will look pretty much like a standard safeguards agreement that a non-nuclear-weapons country would have with some adjustments for India.

ACT: Can you give me a sense of what kind of adjustments you’re talking about. Obviously, they have nuclear weapons, so some elements would not be relevant to a non-nuclear-weapon state, but which ones?

Schulte: This agreement is going to apply to various facilities and its up really to the IAEA and India to work out the details of that agreement.

ACT: Part of the U.S. agreement talks about a fuel-supply agreement. Would India be eligible for this kind of assured fuel supply that you are talking about?

Schulte: The arrangements that we have put in place are for countries that have chosen not to have enrichment and reprocessing capabilities; India has enrichment capabilities.

ACT: OK. The agreement talks about what are essentially assured supplies of fuel for the facilities. Maybe we are reading this incorrectly, but it appears that safeguards would essentially be contingent on the assurance of fuel supply and whether that goes forward. Is that a correct reading and isn’t that also a different way of dealing with safeguards than is traditional?

Schulte: It’s very clear. They’re permanent safeguards. They’re not contingent on anything. We think that this provides a net gain to the nonproliferation treaty. Obviously for 30 years we have been encouraging India to join the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state. It’s apparent after 30 years of effort that that’s not going to happen. The director-general among others, was urging us to think differently about India. We have now thought differently about India. We’ve thought about how best we can help it meet its energy concerns and at the same time strengthen the nonproliferation regime. The judgment we’ve reached is that India has assumed enough additional commitments—safeguards commitments, commitments on not spreading enrichment and reprocessing, commitments related to the nuclear suppliers group guidelines—that this is a net benefit to the proliferation regime. I certainly can’t speak for the Congress, but I’ve been involved in recent discussion of the NSG taking place here in Vienna, and it’s clear that more and more countries are understanding that this is a net benefit to the nonproliferation regime, It’s important given India’s place in the world, given their relations with India, and given India’s own requirements for nuclear power.

ACT: Have there been any discussions between India and the IAEA on India completing an additional protocol?[5]

Schulte: I just don’t know. I don’t know the status of that.

ACT: I have a couple of questions on the Abdul Qadeer Khan network.[6] The Pakistani government recently said that they didn’t need to talk to Khan, that they’d gotten all the information that they needed from him. Is the United States first of all confident that Pakistan has indeed gotten all the information they need from Khan, and has the United States or the IAEA gotten all the information that it needs from him?

Schulte: I can’t speak for the IAEA on that, and I’m actually not in a good position from Vienna to speak for the U.S. government. But I can say that the A.Q. Khan network is illustrative of the type of challenges that we need to deal with in the future. There is a tendency when we think about the nonproliferation treaty, to think about the threats posed to it by countries, whether it’s North Korea or Iran. But actually, one of the biggest challenges we face is the threat of nuclear terrorism, with either weapons or fissile material or weapons provided through some type of illicit trafficking network. In addition to trying to fill this loophole in the nonproliferation treaty, we’re also working to focus the agency more and more on securing the material that could be used for nuclear weapons. We do this through collaborating with the agency on things like the Global Threat R eduction Initiative[7] [GTRI] and making sure that the agency’s security programs and safeguards regime are geared not just to states, but also to non-state actors. There’s this committee on safeguards and verification that’s been set up,[8] and one of the things that we want to use that committee to do is to identify how it can help the agency deal with these new threats of the 21 st century.

ACT: Speaking of the safeguards committee, according to folks at the IAEA, all that’s happened so far with the committee is that the [IAEA] secretariat has submitted a couple of papers that have recommendations, and people are considering them. Is there any more that you can tell me about what is going in this regard?

Schulte: The committee was established in June of last year. It had its first meeting in November. It’s gone through an organizational phase. I think it’s now starting to get down to work. As you say, the secretariat has submitted a number of recommendations, meant to strengthen the safeguards system. There was a good technical discussion of those recommendations. The committee is considering those recommendations. We have also provided a briefing on lessons learned from the A.Q. Khan network, to the committee, to encourage countries to think about how you deal with these future challenges. We anticipate next week that there will be a first progress report from the committee to the Board of Governors. We hope that when it reconvenes in September it will have transitioned fully out of the organizational phase and really started to get down to work.

ACT: I think one of the things people are saying is that for the committee to be effective, there would have to be working groups. That right now it’s being done too much at the ambassadorial level, and no offense meant, but that these kind of issues are generally too technical in nature to make a lot of progress in that forum.

Schulte: I think the organizational phase took place at the ambassadorial level. Now we want to get into the work phase, which means working groups, technical experts, and [taking] a serious look at the various issues that have been raised by individual countries and by the secretariat.

ACT: One of those suggestions as I understand it was for certain satellite providers to give priority access to the IAEA for imagery. Is that something the United States will support?

Schulte: We have a support program that’s very active in terms of providing support for the IAEA. We have looked at ways of providing them enhanced access to satellite imagery. We’ve looked at ways of providing them enhanced access to open source information. We recognize increasingly that for the IAEA to carry out its role, it doesn’t do it just with inspections and by taking swipe samples. But it also needs to take advantage of the wealth of information that’s out there, for example, just from open sources. So we’re looking for ways to help them with that.

ACT: A couple more questions on Iran. I understand that there will probably be a written report from the director-general on where the investigation stands [the report was released June 12]. Do you expect anything else in terms of debate or substance on Iran at the Board of Governors meeting?

Schulte: We’re expecting a written report tomorrow. It will probably be a very short report, because unfortunately we haven’t seen, and the agency hasn’t seen, really any cooperation from Iran. The last report we received said there essentially had been no cooperation over the last month. We suspect that the upcoming report will say something similar. Of course we’ll look very carefully at the report to tell us if Iran is preparing to suspend its enrichment-related activities, which we called upon them to do, or if Iran seems poised to move forward quickly. But we don’t see next week’s board meeting as a diplomatic deadline or decision point. Right now the decision does not lie in Vienna, the decision lies in Tehran. And we are looking for the leadership in Tehran to choose the constructive path. From here in Vienna, we will be watching to see are they prepared to meet IAEA demands to suspend enrichment and reprocessing activities, are they prepared to start cooperating with the IAEA, are they prepared to start implementing the additional protocol. We, of course, will be doing our best to make clear that the Board of Governors and nations more broadly called upon them to do three things: suspend the activities that concern us so much, cooperate with the IAEA, and start to negotiate in good faith.

ACT: What do you think of their responses so far?

Schulte: I think it’s too early to judge. We want to give them the opportunity for a considered response. As the president [George W. Bush] said, the initial response after the package was presented to Iran sounded positive, but we’re giving them the opportunity to respond. We want them to make the positive decision, but they need to manifest this by a willingness to negotiate seriously, and they need to manifest this by verifiably and fully suspending their enrichment-related activities.

ACT: Does this suspension have to be permanent?

Schulte: We’re just asking for a suspension.

ACT: Anything else you want to add?

Schulte: I think one of our missions here is not just to deal with Iran, not just to deal with North Korea, but also to work to strengthen the overall nonproliferation regime. That’s part of the reason why we’re very much focused on what we can do here to help fill the loophole in the NPT and what we can do here to facilitate the expansion of nuclear energy, while minimizing proliferations risks. What we can do here to move forward with GNEP, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership,[9] which is meant to do precisely that. What we can do here to support GTRI in trying to control, to track, to consolidate, and to secure fissile material, and what we can do here to minimize the use of things like highly enriched uranium in civil applications. Part of what we need to do is to raise awareness. I know your readers at Arms Control Today are very focused on the risk of nuclear proliferation and are very focused on the risk of nuclear terrorism. But for a lot of countries in the world, this is seen as more of a threat to the United States, or a threat to a small number of countries, not a global threat. So part of what we try to do here as a foundation for our overall work is to make it clear to countries, make it clear to the diplomats, make it clear to publics, that this is a global threat. Countries need to cooperate together in addressing this global threat. That’s one of the broader challenges for us as we try to work these individual issues.

ACT: Thank you.


1. Wade Boese, “ U.S. Proposes Nuclear Fuel Safety Net,” Arms Control Today, November 2005, p. 35.

2.The U.S. submitted a draft civil-nuclear agreement to India in March of 2006. The Indian government countered with their own version in May. The two governments are now negotiating over these two drafts. See Wade Boese, “U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal Simmers,” Arms Control Today, June 2005, p. 44.

3. The NSG is a 45-nation group that voluntarily seeks to coordinate the export of nuclear materials.

4. Wade Boese, “Bush, Singh Advance Nuclear Deal,” Arms Control Today, April 2006, p. 32.

5. The 1997 Model Additional Protocol allows for more comprehensive IAEA safeguards investigations of each country’s nuclear activities under the NPT, particularly providing enhanced ability to investigate undeclared nuclear activities. India has not yet adopted an additional protocol.

6. Weiss, Leonard, “Turning a Blind Eye Again? The Khan Network’s History and Lessons for U.S. Policy,” Arms Control Today, March 2005, p. 12.

7. Claire Applegarth, “ Russia, U.S. Bolster Regional Nuclear Security Following Terrorist Attacks,” Arms Control Today, October 2004, p. 45.

8. Paul Kerr, “IAEA Board Seeks Strengthened Safeguards,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2005, p. 24.

9. Wade Boese, “Bush Promotes New Nuclear Plan,” Arms Control Today, March 2006, p. 36.

Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Interview With Dr. Hans Blix


Interviewed by Wade Boese, Paul Kerr, and Daryl G. Kimball


Hans Blix for the last two years has served as chairman of the WMD Commission, an independent international body launched by the Swedish government to explore ways to reduce threats posed by biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. Blix, who was formerly head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) in Iraq, shared the commission's findings and recommendations during a June 6 interview with Arms Control Today.

ACT: In its report, the WMD Commission provided 60 recommendations for r educing biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. If world leaders were to take one message or theme away from the study, what would it be?

Blix: The revival of disarmament. We are in a situation where there is a stagnation of multilateral, global efforts. It’s worse than that. There’s also the incipient beginning of arms races. In space there’s one. On new types of nuclear weapons, there’s a second one. On missiles, [there’s] certainly a third one. All these need to be addressed. There is some activity on the bilateral and regional [fronts], but you need global cooperation. “Cooperative disarmament” would be another term that we would use.

ACT: Many of the recommendations appear aimed at the countries that already have nuclear weapons, rather than measures to prevent new countries from getting these weapons. How would you explain to an American, British, or French citizen that their countries’ weapons are a problem just like North Korea’s or potentially Iran’s?

Blix: Actually, the report addresses both. In the chapter on nuclear weapons, we begin with proliferation because that’s the most acute. I don’t think we are by any means neglecting or putting proliferation in a second category. They’re on an equal basis. We address the two cases we think are absolutely acute for nonproliferation, namely Iran and North Korea. On the more general front, we address the problem of hair-trigger alerts, of launch on warning, on the need for r eduction of strategic weapons between the United States and Russia, and on the need to withdraw [U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear] weapons from the European front back to U.S. territory and into central storage in Russia. We also point to the obligation that we see certainly for the nuclear-weapon states under the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] NPT to undertake nuclear disarmament, which many non-nuclear-weapon states feel that [the nuclear-weapon states] have walked away from. We point to the difficulty of persuading and espousing nonproliferation by other states so long as the nuclear-weapon states are themselves not taking that obligation seriously.

ACT: But how do you persuade citizens in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom that their weapons are a concern to the developing world and other countries that don’t have these weapons? How do you make them realize that this is a problem?

Blix: We are saying that all nuclear weapons are dangerous in whosever hands. We also say that, yes, some [regimes] can be more ruthless and reckless than others. Regimes can change. But [all nuclear weapons] are dangerous. There are none that are in secure hands. We have hair-trigger alert, there can be misunderstandings, and there can be regime change.

ACT: As you know, the commission’s report is being released when much of the international community is concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. What would Iran need to do to prove to you that its nuclear program is not intended to produce weapons?

Blix: This is my view: I think it would be very difficult for Iran under current circumstances, even for a long period of time, to prove that they have no intentions [to pursue nuclear weapons]. How do you prove that you have no intentions? I don’t think any amount of [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA inspection will tell the world, “Ah, there’s nothing so they can go ahead with enrichment.” As in the case of Iraq, we saw that the Iraqis tried to assert [that they did not have weapons of mass destruction] and we said, “Well, there’s things unaccounted for. We can’t exclude it.” So that will be hard.

I’m somewhat critical about the tendency in many places to talk about the Iranian nuclear weapons program as if it were proven. Don’t we have sufficient experience in the Iraq affair to be a little cautious about that? But I don’t at all exclude it. Iran is much further ahead in its nuclear program than Iraq was. They have infrastructure, they have people, they have money, et cetera. Iraq was a scrapheap in 2003. Nevertheless, some of the circumstantial evidence [in Iran] is perhaps more suggestive. You talk about the many years in which they breached their obligations on the safeguards agreement. Well, that could be because they had an intention to go for nuclear weapons, but it could also be because they were worried about counterproliferation—that they would reveal where sites were, and they could be subject to sabotage. I don’t interpret, but I’m saying don’t jump to conclusions. In fact, when we put someone before a court, we like to have evidence before we give them a severe sentence. Shall we be more easygoing when it comes to sentencing states to bombardment or war? A little caution in this respect is desirable.

Now, on the Iranian side, I think it’s a weak argument when they say they need to have self-reliance, they have the right, and must use that right. No, you can have rights without making use of them. There’s also no economic interest in it for them. They have two nuclear power plants.[1] My country, Sweden, has 10, and we are importing uranium. The [Iranian nuclear] establishment will work on a 40 megawatt heavy-water reactor—that’s an excellent plutonium producer. Now, that may suggest there is an intention behind it, but there are other countries in the world that have heavy-water reactors, so it is not conclusive. Yet, the commission comes to the conclusion that it would be desirable that Iran suspend or renounce enrichment for a prolonged period of time because [enrichment] will increase tension. We come to that conclusion and then we suggest that if you want to take a country away from its potential interest in nuclear weapons, you have to look at its incentives [to acquire nuclear weapons]. We think that security is one of them, as in the case of North Korea. Security has been missing from the packages that have been put on the table [to Iran] so far.

We have put forward another suggestion that we haven’t seen elsewhere, which was inspired by the Korean case. We suggest that you might have a region that renounces or suspends the use of enrichment or reprocessing. In the Korean case it is established in the 1992 declaration.[2] In the Middle East case, what we are suggesting is, as a confidence-building measure, Iran and other countries in the Middle East renounce this. That would mean in the case of Israel that it would do away with or renounce reprocessing. It doesn’t affect their weapons program; that would not be at all plausible. But you could imagine having commitments from all the countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, et cetera to not go for any enrichment or reprocessing.

ACT: Given what we know about the current proposals from the EU 3, the United States and other countries about how to resolve the situation, do you think that that proposal and approach are sufficient? It does not contain that recommendation that you just mentioned. What should be done to make it more effective?

Blix: I doubt it is sufficient. I think that on the question of assurance of supply there are relatively good answers. The Russian proposal is a relatively good one, although the Iranians might say, “Look what happened to the Ukraine. Can we trust this thing?”[3] But there could be assurances from others as well, not only from Russia, but from China as well. I think the latest proposal about the offer of light-water reactors is good because it demonstrates that these states are not saying “no” to Iran going into the nuclear age. But the way in which the offer has been made, namely to say that, “Hey, we are taking a huge step forward. We are offering to sit down with you about your suspending or renouncing enrichment, but before we sit down you better suspend enrichment.” They are making a condition for discussion the outcome they seek from the negotiation. The Iranians did suspend under [Iranian President Mohammad] Khatami for a period of negotiations, and thereafter they expected a good bid, and what they got was something they did not consider a good bid, and, therefore, they resumed [enrichment]. They say we’re back to square one, and that’s where they remain.

There is a great deal of prestige, frankly, on both sides. If Iran were today to suspend and say, “Fine, we will sit down and talk,” that would be taken as an accomplishment on the side of the Europeans. Any step back into enrichment, they would say was another act of defiance, that [ Iran was] breaching something they saw as a commitment. But it was not the result of the agreement at the time, so there needs to be fairness in judging the situation. We, the commissioners, [would like to see Iran] decide to suspend enrichment. The ways of getting there one can address in different ways.

ACT: Going to the other side of the globe for a moment, North Korea. Between December 2002 and January 2003, North Korea ejected IAEA inspectors and announced its withdrawal from the NPT. Although the matter has been referred to the Security Council, North Korea has suffered no Security Council penalties for its action. Does this case undermine the legitimacy of the NPT as well as the international community’s ability to deal with arms control noncompliance?

Blix: I think the United States would probably be among the states that first affirmed the right of withdrawal in accordance with [treaty] clauses. It did so with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.[4] There are specific [withdrawal] clauses in other treaties. Of course, withdrawal from the NPT by non-nuclear-weapon states is a worrisome thing. It may be a sign. We recommend that the Security Council automatically grapple with any such case. Whether the council wished to take an action immediately or common resolution or whatever, this I think one has to leave up to them. They must be seized with the issue, but what they do will depend upon political circumstances.

ACT: Are there any potential legal consequences on ruling on such a matter? I don’t think the Security Council has said one way or the other on whether North Korea is officially part to the treaty or not.

Blix: No, I think it is very hard to know how they view that, whether it was legally done or not, but that may land us in legal niceties. The substance of the matter after all is that [ North Korea] claims it has nuclear weapons. I think, and I think the commission also feels, that the negotiation about North Korea is going in a fairly good direction. Whether it is successful is another matter. In particular, I think the latest things we have read about [that are welcome are] the U.S. suggestion that there could be some kind of assurance against aggression and there could be also diplomatic relations with the United States and Japan and the public discussion about the possibility of a peace treaty. All of these things are geared to assure North Korea that they will not be subject to a military attack, any regime change efforts, and intervention to that effect. Since the commission takes the view that security concerns are basic, this is what one can do. The opposite, of course, is waving the stick all the time, that if you don’t behave, we will attack you, or if you don’t behave, we will try to instigate a regime change as they did in Iran in 1953 when [Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed] Mossadegh, an elected leader, was thrown out with the help of the CIA.

ACT: Speaking of the North Korea talks, they have been stalled for some time now. What do you think could get diplomacy moving again?

Blix: I’m not privy to all the details. It started by U.S. criticism that North Korea was participating in counterfeiting dollars. That may well be true. I haven’t seen the evidence of it, but North Korea certainly has not lived in accordance with accepted and required international rules. I’m not putting it into question nor do I endorse that it was justified, but I would think the United States would not be very keen to put the North Koreans in a position where they would be justified to withdraw. North Korea has had a long history of dragging [negotiations] out, and they are gaining somewhat by it because they may be reprocessing more and adding more plutonium. They are not weakening their position. But for the longer run, nevertheless, it would seem to me that North Korea, [facing] the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, that there would be strong things especially if they are assured that they will not be attacked. After all, at one time they had both Russia and China as friends. Now, they must feel somewhat alone in the world. I think that security assurances are an intelligent way of approaching it. I don’t see that the military way is really doable with Seoul in artillery range from North Korea.

ACT: On security issues, Iran hasn’t publicly suggested that it wants security assurances from the United States, so how do we know that that will lead it to engage in negotiations?

Blix: As far as I know, there were plans among the United Kingdom, France, and Germany to have a separate committee dealing with security issues, and it never met. It may well be that the Iranians may not want to ask for such things that might be seen as a sign of weakness. But the issue of security has surfaced. I would hazard [a guess] that there is an interest, especially if you have 130,000 American soldiers in Iraq and American bases in Afghanistan and an increased number in the north. I think it’s a relevant issue.

ACT: In the commission’s report, there’s two issues that were singled out as being of the highest importance for renewing momentum on nonproliferation and disarmament: bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force and negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). On the first, can there be progress on a CTBT as long as Washington doesn’t ratify. For instance, why can’t China go ahead and ratify it?

Blix: There can be some progress. There is a special ambassador who is touring the world to try to persuade various states like Indonesia and Colombia that have not ratified it. There are some cases where I think it would happen. I would be pleasantly surprised if the Chinese went ahead and ratified it before Washington. We think that no other act in the global system would inject more renewed optimism than the CTBT entering into force. We think if the United States does it, then we’re pretty sure that the Chinese would. If the Chinese would, the Indians would; if the Indians did, the Pakistanis would. It would be a good domino effect. Whereas, if the treaty continues in limbo as it does, there are risks. Fortunately, the moratorium is still holding. If the United States were to test, I’m pretty sure that others would test again, and we would go into a new arms race. The motivation, justification, or the rationale for the treaty remains what they were, namely, that it will impede qualitative development—not altogether, because the United States and others can do quite a lot by computers. It would also strengthen nonproliferation, making it more difficult for states at the lower level to do so. But the signal would be tremendous. I don’t think we are going to say anything about the prospect of it. Evidently, the current administration in Washington is not at all geared to doing it. But our whole report is put on the table with the thought that there will be some shelf-life; that these will be proposals which are falling to the ground, which will be studied by governments and [nongovernmental organizations] NGOs, may germinate. I feel pretty sure that the CTBT will remain high on that agenda.

The other one you mention, the FMCT, is already on the table. The United States has advanced a proposal in Geneva.[5] I think that’s welcome. The commission’s position is that we should have no confusion about [starting negotiations on an FMCT], without any preconditions, whether relating to verification or [existing] stocks. However, the commission takes clearly the view that such a treaty is verifiable, which is in contrast to what the U.S. administration has been saying. The reason why we say so is that we have two non-nuclear-weapon states that have their enrichment and reprocessing plants already verified: Brazil and Japan.[6] You have three nuclear-weapon states with verification: the United Kingdom and France have EURATOM [The European Atomic Energy Community] verification,[7] and China has a plant which was supplied by Russia under the condition of IAEA verification. So if it is the contention of those who say that we should not have verification because it’s unverifiable, do they consider that what we have now is meaningless? I don’t think so. I think it is verifiable. I think the contrary views have a certain disdain vis-à-vis international verification, which is not justified. The United States referred in Geneva to “national verification,” national means of verification. Can anyone after the Iraq affair say that national verification is so superior to international verification? My view is that both are needed. The international groups can go in on the ground, and nations can go in and listen to our cell phones and many other things. The governments are the recipients of the reports from both, and they eventually decide. It’s not the IAEA that eventually judges and decides. I agree with the [Bush] administration on that.

ACT: Why do you think there is disdain toward international verification?

Blix: That’s hard to say. Clearly, it is true that in the 1980s when I was the head of the IAEA, we failed to see what was going on in Iraq. It was due to an inspection system that was formulated in the 1970s when inspection was directed at countries like Germany and Sweden, democratic states that were fairly open. On-site inspections [in the 1980s] were something new, and they were not used to it. We have come a long way since then. In 1991 when we discovered what happened in Iraq, I went to the [IAEA Board of Governors] and said that we need access to more sites, more access to information, and we need access to the Security Council. Then, a number of years went by and we had the Additional Protocol[8] adopted eventually in 1997, the last year I was director-general. It is now ratified by many [states], but not yet [ratified] by Iran. So the world learned something. The commission endorses that all non-nuclear-weapon states should accept the Additional Protocol. The negative attitude you refer to—this is my personal impression—there is something doctrinaire about it. There is also, of course, a somewhat doctrinaire, skeptical attitude vis-à-vis international organizations. My view is that the oil-for-food business is vastly exaggerated by the critics here. It was not so much a case of corruption in the UN, but rather a case of defrauding the UN by those who sold food and by those who bought oil from Iraq. I think it enters into that more general, philosophical attitude toward global instruments and institutions.

ACT: Negotiations on an FMCT have been stalled, in part, because of the inability of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to agree on a work program.[9] Given that the commission attached so much importance to concluding an FMCT, would you support the U.S. position that the CD should focus exclusively on an FMCT?

Blix: No. I think that there are a number of other items that are valid for discussion. One of our other proposals is that the CD should be allowed to adopt its work program by [two-thirds] majority. The General Assembly of the UN can put any item on its agenda with a simple majority. We are simply saying that the consensus that’s required in the CD is a relic from the Cold War. It should be possible for the world community to use its chief negotiating organ to take up items for discussion with a qualified majority. I think that would be a difficult thing to get adopted. We’re not saying how we should go about it, but we are venturing that it would be a reasonable arrangement.

ACT: Because the commission put so much stock in concluding an FMCT and the importance of bringing the CTBT into force, should India be required to cease fissile material production for weapons and at least sign the CTBT before being allowed to participate in increased civil nuclear trade with the world as proposed by the United States?

Blix: We discuss the case of the proposed India agreement between the United States and India. We say in a rather short form that it has many aspects, including energy. We aren’t going into that, but that is an important part of it. I myself would attach a lot of importance to enabling countries with huge populations to r educe or restrain the pressure on the use of oil and gas. However, we also recognize that proliferation concerns have been raised, and we do take the view that the NPT does not per se prohibit nuclear cooperation between the nuclear-weapon states and nonparties to the NPT. What the treaty says is that [nuclear-weapon] states should facilitate cooperation with states that adhere to the treaty. However, such cooperation must not conflict with the duty of states-parties to the NPT to work for nonproliferation. The objections raised that India might import uranium under this agreement and thereby enable itself to use more of its own uranium for enrichment for weapons purposes, these are valid concerns. There are two things that could be done in order to allay such concerns and one would be a verified FMCT and the other would be the CTBT. It would seem to me that the United States is handicapped in its wishes so long as it does not itself accept the verified FMCT and the CTBT. I think it is an additional illustration of the desirability that the United States move [forward] with both the verified FMCT and the CTBT. The CTBT is already verified. There is nothing that is better verified in this world.

ACT: Given that the CTBT and FMCT appear a ways off though because of the U.S. position, should India unilaterally halt fissile material production for weapons?

Blix: I don’t think anything is a given, the U.S. or Israeli stance et cetera. No, it’s open for negotiations. If they see a great advantage, if they feel that they must have an FMCT with India, if Congress will demand it, well, then [the Bush administration] may reconsider. The [ U.S. decision not to ratify the] test ban is also not written in stone. There are some in the administration against it but that is something the United States can still do. At one stage, most of the military and others were in favor of it, but then it fell by the wayside for a while.

ACT: The commission did not call for India and Pakistan and Israel to join the NPT. Why not?

Blix: I don’t think we even discuss it. We termed them countries that have nuclear weapons, but we know that there seems a very slim chance that you would get there. If there was any chance of getting them to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states as South Africa did, fine. But we have deemed it futile to have a direct recommendation that they should do so.

ACT: While it might appear futile,as you know, the five nuclear-weapon states through the NPT are committed to disarm, while India, Israel, and Pakistan are not. How do you remedy that?

Blix: We are taking a stand on that. We are saying that we think that all states with nuclear weapons have a duty to participate and to walk away from nuclear weapons. We are saying that those who have the most, Russia and the United States, should take the lead. France and the United Kingdom will have to consider how they continue. The United Kingdom faces a decision very soon[10]. In the United Kingdom, they have to ask themselves what is the utility of nuclear weapons, which were acquired for an enemy that no longer exists and may be useless against terrorists? We are not letting anyone off the hook. We see [disarmament] as an obligation of all to do so.

ACT: The commission recommends phasing out all production of highly enriched uranium, regardless of whether it is for weapons, but it does not take a similarly strict position on plutonium and reprocessing. Why not?

Blix: That’s right. For highly enriched uranium, there is already rather limited use. In the United States, it is being used as fuel for submarines. The French do not; they use low-enriched uranium for submarines. There may be some research reactors that still have it, but by and large I think there is at least a growing consensus on this issue that highly enriched uranium is something that you can phase out, although not overnight. When it comes to plutonium, we discuss it at length. We are aware of the production of MOX fuel and reprocessing in the United Kingdom, France, Russia, et cetera. It’s not really the economic proposition that it once was meant to be because uranium prices have been kept low. However, we do have some breeder reactors and there will be more of those. They run on plutonium. I don’t think our view was that it was desirable that they should be considering when to phase them out. When you see the latest U.S. proposal, the GNEP [Global Nuclear Energy Partnership],[11] well, I think that is based upon the same consideration: mainly, breeder reactors will be needed in the future because of the energy situation. The GNEP talks about a new type of reactor which would work on enriched uranium and plutonium and neptunium, and it would not be possible to use this material for a weapons purpose. Fine, but the technology is far away. One uses the energy contents of the uranium something like 80 times more if you have reprocessing. In a world where the energy problem is a big one, it’s a significant factor. So, that’s the background why we are more cautious and less far-reaching, less categorical on plutonium.

ACT: Looking into the future, if plutonium reprocessing technology through the GNEP proposal and other initiatives is pursued vigorously, would that not create a situation of “haves” and “have-nots,” those with the technology and those without, leading to difficulties? Or if that technology spreads to the current “have-nots,” doesn’t that create an additional proliferation risk?

Blix: Your question is really about the future of how you handle reprocessing if you want to have it. We discussed that in the context of the fuel cycle and referred to the two main proposals on the table: one by [IAEA Director-General Mohamed] ElBaradei and one by the United States. On the U.S. proposal, GNEP, the big question mark there is that it may appear like a cartel; that is to say something for a few “haves.” That will clearly pose a problem. Now, ElBaradei’s [proposal] is not a cartel or unequal in this respect. He says that we will have a fuel bank to which you would contribute the fuel, and anyone can apply. You don’t prevent anybody, you don’t prohibit anybody. In the U.S. proposal under GNEP, there would be conditions for entering. In the ElBaradei proposal it is simply felt that you can make it sufficiently attractive. But there is the question that we point to: who decides in the bank if you have credentials enough to buy or not? Is it Mr. ElBaradei or is it the board? Is it the committee? Does the United States have a veto? Et cetera, et cetera. Now, another point we make in both these regards is that both are problems that are somewhat distant. We have time to discuss it. O ur conclusion is to simply take it up within the IAEA and discuss it within the IAEA. When the proposals came, I think there was almost a sort of panic. Here we have Iran enriching, and here we have a nuclear spring, and we will get a lot of new enrichment plants. Actually, in my knowledge, the only one that is planning a new enrichment plant is in the U.S. private sector. I haven’t heard of any others. So there is time to discuss this. There is a problem, yes, if you have reprocessing in many places. We recognize that this could pose the risk of leakages and perhaps misuse.

ACT: As you know, there are treaties outlawing biological and chemical weapons and severely limiting the possession of nuclear weapons with the long-term goal of their complete elimination. Why shouldn’t a similar ban be pursued on ballistic missiles?

Blix: The world is in a very difficult situation when it comes to ballistic missiles. There have been, as we note, two working parties in the UN which examine the issue at length. They said it was very dangerous but could not come to any agreement on what to do about it. We have no formula that is particularly good either. I discussed it at length but without much success. What we say on the missile shield is that before any country establishes a missile shield, they should first examine whether they can remove the threat that moves them toward a missile shield. If they can’t do that, then at least they should work toward confidence-building measures to r educe the tension that will arise. We haven’t found a path. No one else has, and that’s regrettable because it is a very dangerous area.

ACT: Why do you think it’s so difficult?

Blix: So long as the big countries are pursuing [missiles] with vigor, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get a response from the other side. If you were to have a CTBT, if you were to begin the new path toward disarmament, then you will have a [new] dynamic.

ACT: For several years, countries were working together on a verification regime for the Biological Weapons Convention, but that effort was aborted in 2001. Why didn’t the commission call for a revival of that process and goal?

Blix: We are not averse to that. We’re saying that the Biological Weapons Convention remains the principal document and that it must be strengthened. We are calling for setting up a mechanism under which you would be able to transmit proposals and administer the services and so forth. We are in favor of the convention. It must not be abandoned. But we know also at the same time that there have been tremendous clashes and that we will not look exclusively at the convention as the vehicle. We are advocating a multifaceted approach to it. One will need to get to the scientific and industrial communities and seek codes of conduct and ethical codes. The main means that we are pointing to is a better system nationally and internationally of rapid identification of threats and epidemics and to try to find out then through cooperation whether [a particular incident] was a natural phenomenon or whether it was a man-made one. In addition, a strengthening of the health services [is necessary] so that there can be an immediate grappling with this. It’s not only from the point of view of biowarfare. It is also to protect the world against epidemics that turn up.


ACT: The report puts a lot of emphasis on resolving weapons dangers though cooperative, rule-based approaches and is quite critical of the Bush administration’s general approach to dealing with WMD threats. Are you concerned that the commission’s report might be dismissed by some as just another swipe in the perceived bout between Hans Blix and the Bush administration?


Blix: I think there is an effort by the commission to be evenhanded. We are discussing the [Proliferation Security Initiative] PSI, both pros and cons.[12] The PSI was a U.S. initiative, and the commission takes the view that the control and enforcement of export restrictions is a good one. It also points to the concerns about the laws of the sea being respected. We also raise the question, “How often has [PSI] been useful?” We have heard about cases, but they are not substantiated.[13] It would be interesting to know just how useful [it has been]. We, the commission, think that the closer cooperation between intelligence is a useful feature of it. This is a U.S. initiative in which we see some advantage, but at the same time also warning that [its success] should not be exaggerated.

Security Council Resolution 1540 is another initiative the commission looks favorably upon and sees as something institutionally and constitutionally rather new.[14] The Security Council has the power and the duty to determine whether a situation constitutes a threat to international peace and security under Article 39, so they’re the judge. It has also executive power in Article 41 and 42 in the designing of sanctions by obligatory members. Now, it has added in 1540 a legislative power in telling member states that they must—under Chapter VII—enact the following type of legislation. How effective will that be? Well, that’s another matter.

What the commission says on counterproliferation is that here has been an emphasis on military force and not on cooperative security. We are of the view that the vast majority of countries in the world rejected the justification given for the use of force in the case of Iraq. Today, we are faced with a similar thing. We can see vividly in the world that no one is accepting the thought of using military force against Iran. Maybe many will accept economic pressures but not military force. The United States is saying itself that it is not on the agenda or the plan, but that is not exactly the same thing as rejecting it.

ACT: Aside from an overarching recommendation to eventually eliminate its nuclear arsenal, what would be the most important single arms control step that you would urge the United States to take?

Blix: I think that the CTBT is on the top of the agenda.

ACT: What about Russia?

Blix: Perhaps not to allow itself to be drawn into an arms race.

ACT: What about China?

Blix: The same thing: not to allow itself to be drawn into an arms race.

ACT: What about France?

Blix: France, like the United Kingdom and the others, should consider whether it is useful for them to retain a nuclear weapons capability. Is it to retain a ticket to the high table? Is that the purpose of it? They should have a public discussion. We are urging that parliament should get into these questions and discuss it. There is not much discussion.

ACT: What about the United Kingdom?

Blix: In the United Kingdom we raise the question whether it is useful to retain a capability that was designed for a totally different purpose and that may not have a great purpose today.

ACT: How important do you think the Trident decision is for the rest of world?

Blix: I think it is quite important. It would be a tremendous sign in the world if the United Kingdom decided to walk away from nuclear weapons. South Africa was a big thing, but the United Kingdom would be a much bigger thing. They are costly. I am also told by military people that they don’t like nuclear weapons very much because they are of uncertain use.

ACT: With respect to how countries move forward on the agenda that the WMD Commission has laid out, one of the recommendations is that there should be a summit at the United Nations to move forward on this. But in light of the failures at the NPT Review Conference in 2005 and the UN Millennium +5 Summit in September, how could such a summit break the deadlock? How do we move ahead?

Blix: We think that there should be thorough preparations. Those would certainly take a couple of years. We are not alone in making these recommendations. We think that governments around the world, NGOs, and think tanks need to study the situation. We feel a little like [UN Secretary-General] Kofi Annan that the world is sort of sleep walking into new arms races, as he said in Tokyo recently. After the end of the Cold War, when people felt that the risk of mutual obliteration was gone, it was as if we feel asleep. Our daily dose of anguish was turned to other sources like global warming, which are good reasons, but nevertheless, arms control and disarmament fell a bit by the wayside. We think that is wrong.

I understand some of the U.S. skepticism against global conventions in the failure of the NPT to stop Iraq and North Korea. At the same time, it seems to me that the Iraq war has demonstrated the difficulties of achieving arms control by counterproliferation and military force. No one can contend that the Iraq war was successful. Now, we’re discussing the case of Iran, and it’s taken for granted as in the case of Iraq that, yes, [prohibited weapons programs] are there. The evidence doesn’t have to be examined any further and they are talking loudly in many quarters about the use of armed force. Clearly, when you listen to the European leaders, they will not endorse the use of armed force. There is plenty of time.

We are saying in the final chapter about the Security Council that the council should make use of its power to adopt binding decisions designed under Article 39, but it should be its power acting in accordance with the UN Charter. Chapter VII speaks about situations where the council has determined that it is a threat to international peace and security, and Chapter VI, which no one talks about, is about situations which, if they continue, may come to constitute threats to international peace and security. I think it would be useful for the council to focus upon where they are. I’ve said that the framers of the charter were not pacifists, nor are we, [I think this could go] but they were also not trigger-happy.

ACT: Thank you.



1. Iran currently has no operating nuclear power plants. Russia is constructing a nuclear power reactor near the Iranian city of Bushehr. Iran plans to construct another reactor on the same site.

2. The 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula forbids North Korea and South Korea from possessing uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation facilities.

3. Russia briefly cut off natural gas shipments to Ukraine during this past January. Russia has proposed giving Iran part-ownership of a gas centrifuge plant located in Russia.

4. The United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty on June 13, 2002.

5. Wade Boese, “ U.S. Unveils Draft Fissile Material Treaty,” Arms Control Today, June 2006, pp. 38-39.

6. Brazil has a uranium-enrichment facility at its Resende nuclear facility. Japan has a planned plutonium reprocessing facility in Rokkasho-mura. See David Fite and Sharon Squassoni, “Brazil as Litmus Test: Resende and Restrictions on Uranium Enrichment,” Arms Control Today, October 2005, pp. 13-19; Shinichi Ogawa and Michael Schiffer, “Japan’s Plutonium Reprocessing Dilemma,” Arms Control Today, October 2005, pp. 20-24.

7. France and the United Kingdom both have IAEA safeguards agreements and additional protocols with both EURATOM and the IAEA. Established in 1958, EURATOM is a multilateral organization that manages and promotes European nuclear industries.

8. The additional protocol is a voluntary agreement that countries can conclude with the IAEA to give the agency greater inspection and oversight authority to verify that civilian nuclear technologies are not misused to build bombs.

9. Many of the 65 members of the CD favor holding negotiations or at least talks on nuclear disarmament, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances. The United States has opposed a work program that includes these items.

10. See Rebecca Johnson, “ End of a Nuclear Weapons Era: Can Britain Make History?” Arms Control Today, April 2006, pp. 6-12.

11. Wade Boese, “Bush Promotes New Nuclear Plan,” Arms Control Today, March 2006, pp. 36-37.

12. President George W. Bush announced May 31, 2003, that the United States would lead a new effort, the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related goods to terrorists and countries of proliferation concern. Although the use of interdictions to thwart the WMD trade is not new, the PSI seeks to use multilateral cooperation to strengthen such efforts. There are approximately 70 countries reportedly supporting the initiative, including the core group of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

13. Wade Boese, “Key U.S. Interdiction Initiative Claim Misrepresented,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2005, pp. 26-27.

14. The Security Council approved Resolution 1540 in April 2004. It requires governments to adopt laws and measures to prevent nonstate actors from acquiring unconventional weapons. On April 27, 2006, the Security Council extended the committee monitoring the resolution’s implementation for two additional years, through April 2008. See Wade Boese, “UN Extends Committee on Terrorists and Arms,” Arms Control Today, June 2006, pp. 39-40.

Interviewed by Wade Boese, Paul Kerr, and Daryl G. Kimball


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