I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb.

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement

Interview with Sergey Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the United States



A Fresh Start?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: A hybrid approach?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kislyak: I am not sure I know the date.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kislyak: Yes.

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

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

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

Kislyak: Yes, we are.

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

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

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

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

Kislyak: Yes.

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

Kislyak: In the United States? (Laughs.)

ACT: Everywhere. I think it was everywhere.

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

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

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

ACT: Is there a program for maintaining this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interviewed by Daryl Kimball and Miles Pomper

Country Resources:

Interview With Nabil Fahmy, Egyptian Ambassador to the United States



Interviewed by Miles Pomper and Peter Crail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fahmy: No, you came well prepared.

ACT: Thank you.

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




Interviewed by Miles Pomper and Peter Crail

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

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



Interviewed by Oliver Meier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mahley: No comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: Thank you very much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interviewed by Oliver Meier

Country Resources:

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.

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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


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