"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."
– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism

Interview With Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph



Interviewed by Wade Boese and Miles A. Pomper

The Department of State currently has a full plate of issues on nonproliferation and arms control matters, ranging from trying to resolve nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea to promoting a far-reaching U.S. initiative to engage in civilian nuclear commerce with India. Arms Control Today met May 18 with Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph to discuss these issues as well as the upcoming Biological Weapons Convention review conference.

ACT: When talking about Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, U.S. officials say that each country should make a strategic decision to give up its nuclear programs. How does this administration define “strategic decision?”

Joseph: Iran and North Korea pose strategic threats to our security interests in vital regions, the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and the international community. We believe that in both cases what is required is a strategic decision. By strategic decision we mean a decision that these governments will end their programs and will ensure that there is full confidence that these programs have been ended. I would point to Libya as a case in which we achieved a strategic decision on the part of a government pursuing nuclear weapons. The Libyans made the calculation that the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction was no longer in their interest. They announced their decision [Dec. 19, 2003] to eliminate these programs and to allow full access by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as the United States and the United Kingdom, to their programs, the individuals involved, and the facilities involved. We have confidence that the decision was permanent and it applied comprehensively.

ACT: How would Tehran or Pyongyang, were they to take such a decision, demonstrate it? Would it be the same steps [as Libya] in terms of the public announcement and access to all the relevant people?

Joseph: The Iranian regime denies that it is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. It says that its program is entirely peaceful. We of course believe that it is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. Clearly, the concerns of the international community in that regard are reflected in the long line of IAEA resolutions and more recently by a [March 29] presidential statement from the UN Security Council. Iran has concealed its program for over 18 years. It has, according to the IAEA Board of Governors, violated its safeguards commitments. U.S. and other intelligence agencies and the IAEA have uncovered indications that [ Iran] has pursued not only the capability to enrich uranium for fissile material for weapons, but indications of weaponization work. North Korea in September agreed to eliminate all of its nuclear programs. We believe all of those programs are related to nuclear weapons.

A strategic decision on the part of these governments would reflect the same conditions we saw with regard to the Libyan decision, which was a voluntary decision. Strategic decisions by their very nature have to be voluntary. One can look to the Libyan model as a model that applies in these other countries in the context of what a strategic decision would look like. Clearly, Libya is different from North Korea and North Korea is different from Iran. All of the proliferation challenges that we face are unique.

ACT: As you know, since you participated in them, the administration engaged in direct negotiations with Libya. Why won’t the administration do that with Iran or take a multilateral approach like the six-party talks with North Korea as recommended recently by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger?

Joseph: We do have a multilateral structure for discussions with North Korea. We did have discussions with the Libyans. I would not characterize them as negotiations in the classic sense where you trade X for Y. We had discussions. We were very clear in terms of how we characterized what needed to be done in order for us to have confidence that a strategic decision had been made on the part of the leadership to eliminate their weapons of mass destruction programs. In the case of Iran, we have of course approached this in a very multilateral way. We have approached it in the context of the IAEA process in Vienna. We have approached it in the context of the Security Council in New York. We have supported the various efforts by the EU3 [France, Germany, and the United Kingdom] and others to find a negotiated outcome, a diplomatic outcome to this threat.

ACT: But why won’t the United States actually take part in talks as it has with North Korea?

Joseph: We have made very clear to Iran what our position is on these issues. We have a wide range of fundamental differences with the Iranian regime. We have not only the nuclear threat, but we have Iran as the central state sponsor of terrorism. It is a regime that is using terror and terrorist organizations to undercut the prospects for peace in the Middle East, for the fulfillment of the aspirations of the Lebanese people, and for undercutting the movement to democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have got a set of fundamental problems with the Iranian regime. I do not think there has been any lack of clarity in terms of the U.S. position on each of the key issues with Iran.

ACT: Would Iran’s compliance with the IAEA board’s requirement be sufficient to support a “diplomatic negotiated solution that guarantees Iran’s nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes” as outlined in the UN Security Council presidential statement?

Joseph: It is very important for Iran to meet the call of the Security Council in the context of the presidential statement and the resolutions of the IAEA board in the first instance by suspending its enrichment activities, which of course represent the most visible and urgent threat. Iran removed in January the IAEA seals on its facilities related to enrichment and has moved very fast down the enrichment path. It has announced that it has conducted enrichment activity at the 164-centrifuge cascade [at Natanz]. It has stated that it has converted over 110 tons of UF6, the feed material for centrifuges. It has stated that it has enriched uranium to over 3.5 percent.[1] All of these are very troublesome to us, and not just to the United States but to the international community. These activities on the ground have had a great deal to do with bringing together an international coalition that is determined to stop Iran from acquiring the capability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. It is a first step. Suspension [of Iran’s enrichment activities] is a first step. The Iranians need to demonstrate that any peaceful program is entirely peaceful.

ACT: But what evidence would provide you confidence that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons?

Joseph: What is important is that Iran not pursue the sensitive fuel cycle technologies of enrichment or reprocessing. Another great concern, for example, is the construction of a heavy-water reactor. We, along with the other members of the IAEA board and the Security Council, believe that should stop.

ACT: Returning to North Korea, a couple things. First, there was a mention in The New York Times today that the administration was talking about moving forward with a peace treaty proposal independent of whether there is an outcome on the nuclear talks.[2] Can you confirm that? Second, on the nuclear talks, would the United States participate in providing North Korea with energy supplies if it froze operation of or dismantled its existing nuclear reactor?

Joseph: I can not confirm anything in The New York Times story. We have been very clear in terms of what we believe should be the next step. North Korea should come back to the six-party talks and we should implement the agreed statement that was reached last September. That statement emphasizes the need for North Korea to eliminate all of its nuclear programs and that is the emphasis that we would certainly agree with.

ACT: If North Korea went forward [with dismantlement] would the United States participate in providing Pyongyang with energy supplies?

Joseph: We have made clear both in our June 2004 proposal and more recently that if in fact North Korea’s nuclear programs were eliminated we would work to provide incentives, including in the energy area. That would be of benefit to the North Korean people.

ACT: Does the United States have a verification proposal that we are willing to share with North Korea so we could be certain that they are fulfilling their commitment to dismantle their weapons program?

Joseph: We are putting a lot of time and effort into developing a type of verification proposal.

ACT: Another issue that has garnered a lot of attention recently is the U.S. proposal to resume full civilian nuclear cooperation with India. Notwithstanding the broader U.S.-Indian strategic relationship, is this a net gain if assessed only on nonproliferation grounds?

Joseph: My assessment is that this is a net gain for nonproliferation. My assessment is that the steps that India has agreed to take as reflected in the commitments from last July [18] do, on balance, strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime. It is important that India will harmonize and implement the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) regulations for its exports, along with the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime.[3] It is important that the civilian programs and civilian activities in the nuclear area will be safeguarded.[4] It is important that India will sign and implement an [IAEA] additional protocol. It is important that India has agreed not to transfer enrichment or reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them. Collectively, these commitments and the other ones that India took on in July, move India closer into the mainstream of nonproliferation as opposed to keeping India on the outside. It is a net gain. I have never tried to oversell this, but I do believe that it is a net gain.

ACT: You mentioned the July 18 statement. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had committed India to “assume the same responsibilities and practices” as other leading countries. Given that the five recognized nuclear-weapon states have enacted or are understood to have enacted a fissile cutoff [for weapons purposes] and have all signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, why aren’t these actions expected of India as well?

Joseph: We have encouraged India to stop the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. But that is not part of the July agreement.

ACT: Did the United States originally seek to have India end its fissile material production for weapons?

Joseph: We did. India was not willing to do that. We have made very clear that we will not recognize India as a nuclear-weapon state, which is something that it wanted us to do. We have made very clear that nothing that we provide under this or any other arrangement will be used for India’s nuclear weapons program. We have made explicit in our testimony and our public statements that we believe the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)[5] is of fundamental importance and that we will not do anything in the context of our relationship with India or in any other context to undercut that treaty. We have said the same about the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which is a very important nonproliferation tool. We are not going to take any steps that would undercut its validity.

ACT: With regard to the NSG, if other countries were to oppose the U.S. initiative to exempt India from the guidelines, would the United States still act on a bilateral relationship with India to pursue full civil nuclear cooperation? Or would we try to change the NSG consensus rule?

Joseph: We have said all along that we have to achieve a positive outcome both with the Congress and with the NSG in order to move forward. We have said that we would not seek to change the rules of the NSG. The NSG operates on the basis of consensus. We know that we have our work cut out for us [in the NSG], just like we do to achieve passage of legislation with our own Congress. There are many legitimate questions that have been raised both by Congress and in the NSG. We are addressing those questions and we think we have good answers to those because we do think overall this is a net gain for nonproliferation.

ACT: What is the current status of the U.S.-Indian negotiations on the bilateral cooperation agreement? Our understanding is that India has received a U.S. draft and came back with a half dozen criticisms or questions. Could you fill us in on the status of the negotiations?

Joseph: We provided India with a draft of the so-called 123 agreement.[6] India has not gotten back to us formally on this. We anticipate that they will provide their comments in the form of an alternative draft in, we hope, the near future. We have heard that there are some difficulties in terms of the draft that we provided but that is why one has negotiations. These agreements often involve intense negotiations.

ACT: Returning to fissile materials, the United States just offered a new Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) proposal at the Conference on Disarmament (CD). Why now and is it directly tied to trying to win congressional approval for the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation deal?

Joseph: The administration’s position on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty has been clear for some time. In July 2004, [then-U.S. permanent representative to the CD] Jackie Sanders stated our position on an FMCT before the conference. (See ACT, September 2004.) This is the next step. We have translated our position on FMCT issues into a draft text and today we laid that text down. We hope that it will become the basis for negotiations in Geneva.

ACT: Have you heard back from India whether it supports this new proposal?

Joseph: It is clear that there are differences in terms of the approach to an FMCT between the United States and India. But we both support the negotiation of a treaty to cut off fissile material production for nuclear weapons or other explosive purposes.

ACT: You mentioned differences. That largely goes to the issue of verification. With regard to the new U.S. proposal, if negotiations were to begin is there anything that would prevent other countries from raising the issue of verification in those negotiations and would the United States be receptive to potentially adding verification measures to this draft agreement?

Joseph: Clearly there is nothing to prevent any participating government in the CD from raising whatever it wants to raise. We anticipate that more than one government will raise the question of verification in the context of an FMCT. We have looked at verification very closely. We did a full-scale assessment on verifiability of a cutoff and we have come to the conclusion that it is simply not verifiable.

ACT: Would that preclude the United States from being receptive to adding some type of verification measures or confidence-building measures to the draft that we have submitted?

Joseph: We are not in a position where we are going to accept provisions in a treaty that we do not think are effective. In fact, we believe that they could be counterproductive in the sense that they may give a false sense of complacency.

ACT: Aside from the scope of an FMCT, talks on that agreement have been held up in the CD because of other linkages. Other countries have wanted to talk about nuclear disarmament and prevention of arms race in outer space. Is the United States prepared to hold discussions and negotiations on those topics so we can begin discussions on the FMCT proposal?

Joseph: There has been a long-standing paralysis within the CD. Perhaps the clearest reason for that paralysis has been this hostage-taking; this linkage of one issue to another. We do not think that we should move forward on negotiations on these other issues. We think we should have the CD concentrate on an FMCT and let’s see if the conference can make a contribution in that context. We know that this paralysis will continue if the hostage-taking continues. We would like to focus on an FMCT.

ACT: You mentioned negotiations, but my understanding is that other countries merely want to set up ad-hoc groups that are for discussions rather than negotiations. Are we willing to discuss these subjects?

Joseph: I will just say that our preference is that we focus on an FMCT. It has been years since the CD has produced anything of value. We would like it to have productive negotiations on a topic of importance to the United States as well as to the broader international community.

ACT: Last year the State Department consolidated the arms control bureau and the nonproliferation bureau. Media reports have alleged that key officials say that the reorganization was politically motivated and will weaken U.S. efforts to address global weapons dangers. How would you respond to those charges?

Joseph: The reorganization was not politically motivated. The call for the merger of the arms control and nonproliferation bureaus surfaced for the first time in a review by the [State Department Inspector General (IG)]. The objective of the merger was, and remains, to restructure these two bureaus so that they and the very talented people that reside in them can make the greatest contribution to dealing with today’s national security threats. I would start from the basic question: how can the State Department and, specifically, how can the bureaus [under the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security] make the greatest contribution to our national security? At the top of the list of the threats we face is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, whether it is Iran, North Korea, other rogue states, or terrorists. We have restructured these two bureaus. We have created new offices in these bureaus to deal with the new threats that we face today to ensure, with regard to our traditional tools of nonproliferation, that we are making the greatest contribution. Whether that is in terms of strengthening the treaty regimes, or improving our export control assistance to other countries, or in the context of new missions promoting the effectiveness of the Proliferation Security Initiative, or implementing Security Council Resolution 1540, or expanding programs that will help to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

ACT: You mentioned the IG report. Why were the responsibilities of the Verification and Compliance Bureau increased while the IG report recommended that the bureau should have its functions and role narrowed?

Joseph: We looked at the issue across the bureaus and it seemed to me and to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the best approach was to create a new bureau that focused on proliferation threats. This is the International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau. The traditional arms control implementation functions we believed fit more appropriately with the verification bureau. It was those offices that were transferred into that bureau.

ACT: The 1991 START agreement, including its extensive verification regime, is set to expire in December 2009. Has this administration initiated discussions with Russia on ways to either extend the treaty or continue the verification system?

Joseph: We have had some very recent communications with Russia on this issue and we are creating a U.S.-Russian group that will look at that question. This is a group that will be chaired by [Deputy Foreign Minister] Sergei Kislyak and myself.

ACT: Will this administration seek additional strategic arms reductions or negotiations with Russia?

Joseph: We have the reductions that are called for in the Moscow Treaty (Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty) that will take us through 2012.[7] It is our view that we ought to focus on other threats. We are working with the Russians on other issues. It is much broader than the old arms control agenda. We are working with them on a lot of nonproliferation and counterproliferation initiatives.

ACT: Is the administration interested in negotiating or discussing with Russia the issue of tactical nuclear weapons?

Joseph: We would very much like to engage on the issue of tactical nuclear weapons in the sense that there is a real imbalance. Russia is moving to put even more reliance on these weapons, while we have drastically reduced our inventories of tactical weapons. We would like to have that discussion. The question is are we going to negotiate? We would like to have that discussion because we think it is important to understand Russian motivations.

ACT: This November there is a Biological Weapons Convention review conference. What potential topics would the administration want to see addressed and what would you view as the ideal outcome of the conference?

Joseph: We think that the work program that has been in effect since the last review conference has been very productive. Instead of focusing on what we consider to be a counterproductive “non-verification” regime, we focused on the more practical and more concrete measures of security of biological agents, codes of conduct, and the need for nations to criminalize the proliferation of biological weapons. We think that these measures are very important and we would like to see a work program that continues in that same vein.

ACT: Aside from trying to resolve the problems that Iran and North Korea present to the nonproliferation regime, what other measures does this administration plan to pursue to help bolster the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and is the administration looking at the Seven-Nation initiative that is backed by the United Kingdom and Norway as something that might be a way forward?

Joseph: This administration, starting with President George W. Bush, has been very innovative in trying to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime and the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. I would refer you to the speech that the president gave at the National Defense University in February 2004 in which he laid out seven initiatives, most of which were directed at strengthening the NPT: the ban on the transfer of sensitive technologies related to enrichment and reprocessing to countries that do not already have that capability, the establishment of a special committee on verification, and the list goes on and on. (See ACT, March 2004) We are very proud of the record we have in that regard.

ACT: Thank you very much.


1. Low-enriched uranium nuclear fuel usually is enriched to 3 to 5 percent. Any material enriched to more than 20 percent is considered highly enriched uranium and is capable of being used to produce bombs. However, the level of enrichment considered ideal for weapons is more than 90 percent.

2. Sanger, David E., “ U.S. Said to Weigh a New Approach on North Korea,” The New York Times, May 18, 2006, p. A1.

3. The Nuclear Suppliers Group is a voluntary export control regime consisting of 45 countries that agree to abide by common guidelines in their civilian nuclear commerce. The Missile Technology Control Regime is also a voluntary export control regime that calls on its 34 members to exercise restraint in their missile exports, particularly of technologies that can be used to deliver a 500 kilogram payload more than 300 kilometers.

4. In a March 2 military-civilian separation plan agreed to by the United States and India, New Delhi committed to put a total of 14 of its 22 current and planned nuclear reactors under safeguards by 2014. Since a total of six reactors already have or were previously slated for safeguards, India essentially agreed to put eight additional reactors under safeguards. Aside from the eight reactors left outside of safeguards, India also refused to put its existing breeder reactors, enrichment and reprocessing facilities, and spent nuclear fuel under safeguards. New Delhi also reserved the right to declare any future nuclear facilities it builds as off-limits for safeguards.

5. Along with Israel and Pakistan, India has refused to join the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which commits all of its states-parties, except for China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, to forswear nuclear weapons. However, the five nuclear-weapon states are obligated by the treaty to work toward abolishing their nuclear arms. India, Israel, and Pakistan all have nuclear stockpiles, but could not be recognized by the treaty as nuclear-weapon states because they did not conduct a nuclear explosion before Jan. 1, 1967.

6. Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 requires that the terms of U.S. nuclear trade with other governments are set out in bilateral cooperation agreements and establishes eligibility conditions for potential recipients of U.S. nuclear commerce. However, India does not meet all of the conditions so the Bush administration has proposed legislation to exempt India from them and alter the normal congressional review process of Section 123 agreements.

7. The treaty obligates the United States and Russia to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to between 1,700-2,200 warheads apiece. The treaty has no destruction requirements.

Interviewed by Wade Boese and Miles A. Pomper

Interview with STRATCOM Commander General James E. Cartwright



Interviewed by Wade Boese and Miles A. Pomper

The Bush administration set forth its plan for transforming the roles and structure of U.S. strategic forces in its December 2001 Nuclear Posture Review. The revamped posture, according to administration officials, aims to reduce U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons and augment them with growing conventional strike capabilities, missile defenses, and a more responsive and robust defense infrastructure base. The responsibility for making this vision a reality rests largely with the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM). On May 12, Arms Control Today interviewed STRATCOM Commander General James E. Cartwright about implementation of the president’s plan.

ACT:STRATCOM’s traditional mission has been the operational control of deployed U.S. nuclear forces but more responsibilities have been added in recent years. Could you talk a little about STRATCOM’s additional missions for missile defense, space, and global strike?

Cartwright: Back in 1992, the Navy mission and the Air Force mission were brought together and that was the stand up of STRATCOM.[1] The headquarters was at Offutt [Air Force Base, Nebraska]. Then in 2002, Strategic Command and Space Command were merged under the common head of Strategic Command. During 2003, we added in missions that included global strike, integrated missile defense, information operations, and C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance). There really was not a combatant commander[2] who had purview over those kinds of mission areas, which tended to be cross-cutting. The idea was to get them pulled under a single combatant commander who would be both an advocate for those capabilities and operational provider of those capabilities to other regional combatant commanders. That was the thought process in adding those missions. The last mission, combating weapons of mass destruction, was added in 2005. This involves nonproliferation, counterproliferation, and consequence management [of an unconventional weapons attack]. So that has been the gamut of missions added.

I will step through a little bit about how we brought those missions onboard and the organizational constructs that we put together. One of the things that we are trying to get our arms around inside the Department of Defense is the growth of headquarters. Each of these missions certainly in their own right could have their own headquarters in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 5,000 people to manage them. But we really are struggling with the headquarters we have; there are enough headquarters out there. They are big and proliferating. So one of our activities was to try to understand how we could take these large mission areas and get them integrated into military operations and planning, while constraining the growth of the headquarters side of the equation and building them in way that leveraged existing activities. So we put together what we called first operating principles. The idea was to have each of these mission areas be joint. We wanted to be able to operate in a coalition environment. We wanted to leverage off of the probably underutilized American business capabilities, industry, and commerce out there, as well as the academic side, including the national and services laboratories. We wanted to take advantage of all those resources rather than recreating them. And we wanted to make them interdependent. That way we could start to control some of the growth in the headquarters.

ACT:Maybe you could talk a little bit about how that might relate to missile defense, space, and global strike.

Cartwright: Sure. In missile defense one of the key things was to have an intelligence organization feeding [missile defense operators] indications and warnings about who might be getting ready to launch a missile. Having a dedicated intelligence organization inside missile defense may not be necessary if that function is performed someplace else in another headquarters. So, let’s try to make these organizations interdependent. If one has the intelligence piece then provide that as a service to the others. As a commander, you like to have control over everything that is necessary to do your job. But the realities are that there are not enough [resources] for everybody to have their own dedicated assets.

On missile defense, what we did was go out and take a look at where missile defense capabilities, advocacy, procurement, definition of requirements, testing, and operational activities existed. We asked ourselves, “Where are some of the centers of excellence within the department that we could leverage rather than recreate?” There are a few. The one that we settled on was the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC). It is commanded by Lieutenant General [Larry J.] Dodgen. Inside that organization, they already have a well-established center of excellence for acquisition capabilities, requirement definitions capabilities, test capabilities, and operational capabilities associated with missile defense. It had a long track record of operating those systems. So the intent was not to create another SMDC, but take that command and leverage it as a component to a combatant commander. Recreate the top of the organization to be more joint. So, in the case of missile defense, you have an Army commander, a Navy deputy commander, and maybe an Air Force chief of staff. Then, out of existing structure at Strategic Command, take a certain number of billets that are joint in nature and provide them to that organization. They would be the planner-type people embedded in SMDC. Now, [Dodgen] is a component commander for me, as well as the commander of SMDC. He has an operational role associated with missile defense for Strategic Command. But he also has a joint cell inside of his organization that does planning, identifies requirements, articulates those requirements, and identifies shortfalls that might need an acquisition program to fix. He does that for me in addition to operating the organization that nets together global [missile defense] sensors, command and control, or weapons.

ACT:Getting back to the more traditional mission of STRATCOM. As a presidential candidate in May 2000, George W. Bush said, “the United States should remove as many weapons as possible from high alert, hair-trigger status.” Yet, U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) remain ready to fire within minutes and there has been no significant change in the number of weapons on high alert since Bush took office. Why hasn’t the president’s recommendation been fulfilled?

Cartwright: The first assumption is that it has not been fulfilled and we can certainly debate whether that is true or not. Clearly, the Moscow Treaty of 2002 directed bringing down a number of operationally deployed weapons. There is a 2007 midpoint that we set as an arbitrary goal within the government for “are you on track or are you not on track?”[3] We are well on track for that. We are meeting every one of the planned reductions and, in several of the cases, we are ahead of schedule. It is classified exactly what the numbers are. That is one piece of how we look at it.

Another is that we have gotten the B-1 bomber out of the business of nuclear weapons. We have taken the B-52 bombers off day-to-day alert, along with the tankers and other assets supporting them.[4] The MX, or Peacekeeper, ICBM was retired last September and taken out of its holes. My sense is we have moved in a direction that has been pretty aggressive in reductions and changes in posture. There are some other classified activities inside the military that are also in compliance with the Moscow Treaty. We are moving pretty aggressively here to do that.

As the advocate for operational nuclear forces, I would note that most of these weapons are aging. The design criteria associated with them that was valid in the 1950s and 1960s against the world that we live in today is starting to change. So this concept introduced by the Congress called the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) is important to us. It is not a new warhead. It is going after upgrades in safety, security, and surety of the weapons. The extent to which you can leverage the reduction in operationally deployed warheads to free up resources—the intellectual capital, the laboratories, the production- and maintenance-type capital, and the dollars and cents—to start moving us to safer and more reliable weapons is something we are supporting. So bringing down operationally deployed weapons is leverage to allow us to move in that direction. We also see in [RRW], the ability to build and design in the current construct weapons that do not need testing. Now, that has yet to be proved, but that is the design goal that we are trying to shoot for.

ACT:Would STRATCOM be comfortable in adding an RRW weapon that had not been tested?

Cartwright: The work that we are doing with the laboratories today would give us reasonable confidence that we can move forward [without testing]. Again, it is not a redesign of the whole weapon; it is focused on safety, security, and surety. We believe we can understand the changes that would be introduced and be comfortable that we can manage the margins of performance inside of those and stay within the regime that would allow us not to have to test. Now, we are in the early stages of the design work. You have got to see this mature and you have to understand the uncertainties associated with it. There are a certain number of uncertainties that are just associated with nuclear science. You have got to understand how all of those stack up. But the belief right now is that you could, in fact, manage this activity in a way that would not require testing.

ACT:Going back to the original question about high alert, what threats require the United States to maintain nuclear-armed strategic systems on high alert?

Cartwright: In the old triad,[5] the bombers were on alert but their response measured in hours to close to the target. Submarines were our survivable leg. Land-based missiles on alert were our quick responders. That was generally how we looked at that triad. We already talked about the bombers. On submarines, there is a pretty good dialogue—good, bad, or indifferent—on [converting some nuclear-armed SLBMs] to conventional. The thought process that we have worked our way through is that the conventional variant, if it was to be approved, would be the priority weapon system for defining where we patrol and what we do. This stays consistent with the idea that submarines are the survivable leg. Those assets can afford a longer time to be responsive.

ICBMs remain the responsive—high alert as you stated it—assets. Again, we have gotten the Peacekeepers out of that level of activity. We are now at 500 ICBMs (Minuteman IIIs). There is a dialogue with the Congress to do some more reductions.[6] So that did not change the status of the ICBMs, but clearly the bomber status has changed. And, we are moving in a direction that would keep the submarines survivable, but prioritize conventional activities for them versus nuclear activities.

ACT:In his May 2000 speech, Bush also argued that the premise of Cold War nuclear targeting should no longer dictate the size of our arsenal. However, even after the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (or Moscow Treaty), the United States still intends to deploy up to 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads. This force level suggests that the U.S. arsenal size is still being driven by Russian targeting considerations. Why is this the case nearly two decades after the end of the Cold War?

Cartwright: There are a couple of ways to look at that. The Russians still do have the preponderance of nuclear capability and they certainly have the preponderance of delivery capability to threaten the United States should they choose to. Intent is always the hardest thing to understand—you have to have at least one paranoid person around and that is STRATCOM—so you have to make sure you are accounting for the risks that you are accepting in a relationship. But, having said that, the Russians for all intents and purposes have complied with the Moscow Treaty. You are starting to see the emergence of other countries with either the acknowledged capability or the acknowledged intent to field nuclear weapons. Today, they are characterized by nowhere near the delivery platforms or numbers—if they have nuclear weapons—of Russia. Certainly, the accuracy, range, and all the other attributes associated [with those systems] are not as good, probably, as say the Russians were at the peak of their time. Then, there are those who just have aspirations and are working aggressively to get delivery platforms. So there is a range of activity out there. The question becomes what do you want to have and is that a more difficult target set than being able to focus in on just the Russian/Soviet Union landmass?

As these countries proliferate in their physical location—in other words, all the way say from an Iran all the way over to a Korea, or China, or India, or Pakistan, etc.—that starts to introduce, in global coverage, a more challenging problem. Does [this expansion] get matched by the number of warheads? Is that an appropriate way to look at it? Is it really more of a problem for delivery systems and the appropriate way to do it? Do you have a broad enough range of effect? What we are talking about there is escalation control and confidence-building measures. When you have more than just one adversary, those become much more difficult to manage. It’s more complicated if you are dealing with multiple governments and the way they govern, multiple different end states that they might have in mind, and different levels of sophistication in their weapons production and delivery enterprises.

One of the things that we came to with the Russians was a reasonable protocol about warning time and we used that to manage our relationship. If you got inside that warning time that was grounds for being uncomfortable with each other. We could measure that through treaties or sensors or whatever. We do not necessarily have those relationships with others that are starting to be interested in the nuclear enterprise or weapons of mass destruction in general.

ACT:Speaking of treaties with Russia, the 1991 START accord with its extensive verification and information exchange regime is set to expire in December 2009. As a military commander, are you worried about losing that level of transparency and confidence provided by that regime, and would you like to see those mechanisms or measures extended or transformed in some way?

Cartwright: As a military commander, I would sure like to see them transformed; if not transformed, then to remain. I think you want something that is a little more responsive for the changes that occur in the world than the current treaty construct. That is someone else’s domain—the Department of State—to figure out. The attributes that you would seek are transparency, the ability to generate warning time, and confidence in what the intentions are of a counterpart. When talking about the United States and Russia before, I mentioned warning time. Warning time allows me to defend myself and not misjudge what it is that you are doing. A vehicle [for the attributes mentioned above] should allow the regime or protocol to keep up with the state of the technology in the future.

The State Department is working very hard on a Joint Data Exchange Center with the Russians. It has had some trouble getting its foundation laid down, but it looks like it is starting to move forward. This center would allow us to exchange information in real time and across more than just offensive weapons. We could start to look at missile defense, defensive weapons, and space sensors. There are any number of things that you could start to bring in to help create, like we did with warning time, better confidence of what each other is doing so misinterpretation becomes less of a problem. Whatever the construct is that we do with a treaty-like activity, you are trying to make sure that you can build confidence, understand the intentions of your adversary, and have time to react appropriately to those intentions. Usually, appropriately is defined as finding alternative ways to get out of a problem. You want to generate the time to be able to do that; the less time, the less options you have.

ACT:Recent articles by two U.S. scholars asserted that the era of mutual assured destruction (MAD) is almost over because the United States has essentially achieved a first-strike capability against Russia.[7] These articles have naturally generated a lot of attention there. Do you believe the era of MAD is over?

Cartwright: With the number of different actors that we are now addressing rather than having just a single counterpart, a “one size fits all” strategy is probably not going to be appropriate today or in the future. There may be an adversary or scenario in which the fact that there would be assured destruction, or at least catastrophic destruction, on both parties may have an effect on an adversary’s calculus. But it [might not.] So you have got to come up with a broader range of activities. That is why missile defense for STRATCOM is so important. It is why [we need] escalation control activities to quickly demonstrate that we are not going for assured destruction of each other on the first shot and open up the aperture for alternative ways to solve a problem. MAD still does play in the calculus of an adversary’s mind. It is a question of which adversary and in what scenarios is it appropriate. But as a stand alone, “one size fits all” strategy for the world, MAD is not appropriate.

ACT:Given that there is this assertion that the United States is attaining a first-strike capability versus Russia are there any steps, such as a no-first-use policy, that the United States can take to reassure Russia?

Cartwright: I would go back to this Joint Data Exchange Center. I think that is going to be important for transparency. As you well know, we have a broad range of delivery systems—tactical aircraft, [ballistic missiles], bombers, and cruise missiles—that technically could be used [for conventional or nuclear munitions]. It is a question of building confidence in how you are going to use them. How do you demonstrate that confidence outwardly in your exercises, in your rhetoric, and in your postures so that it is clear what role those assets are being utilized in? We can do that in a way that gives sufficient transparency. Not [in a way] that you have compromised your ability to defend yourself, but in such a way that you have made clear steps to have alternatives in escalation control that allow you more choices rather than less as you approach a problem. That is where I think you want to be.

This idea of first strike is one that is problematic from the rhetoric side of the house because it would appear that it takes away the opportunity for alternative measures, such as negotiations. We should be shooting for confidence-building measures that give more time and [provide] more alternatives.

ACT:You mentioned a broad range of delivery capabilities, including tactical aircraft. Russia repeatedly cites the continuing existence of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe as a threat and as a reason for not reducing its own tactical nuclear weapons arsenal. What is the military justification for retaining almost 500 U.S. nuclear warheads in Europe?

Cartwright: We have a relationship with NATO under which we have various platforms and capabilities stationed in support of that activity.[8] So we meet those obligations.

The bigger issue associated with tactical weapons is the issue of their size, volume, weight, etc. It is hard to steal a ballistic missile. It might be easier to get at something that is tactical. [One concern] is that in exercising, protecting, and demonstrating what your [tactical nuclear] capabilities are in order to be transparent, do you expose those things and is that giving an opportunity to terrorists to get in and out? We believe with great certainty that ours are well controlled. We worry about newcomers and about all of the [former] Soviet Union. Where did all this stuff go? Do we have good control of it?

There is a reasonable argument that if Russia and the United States have concluded by all intents and purposes the Cold War, the use of our or their tactical weapons against each other is probably less likely. How Russia perceives the world and what threatens them versus what threatens us is not measured by our perception of the Russians or their perception of us. Most of our adversaries are on the other side of the ocean. Therefore, a tactical launch against them or us is probably not likely. But the Russian perception of the world is that they are surrounded by countries that look like they are starting to proliferate and have the potential to have tactical weapons. Therefore, the Russians got to have an offense and a defense that is built to handle what they perceive the world to be. They may not have the transparency with [countries] that are relatively close to them as we have with the Russians. They may not have the time that we may have from an adversary that lives overseas to come and attack us versus what it would take to attack Russia.

ACT:So your perception is that [ Russia’s posture] is a response to some other country’s current or potential nuclear arsenal rather than say U.S. conventional superiority?

Cartwright: It has to play into the calculus. I think it really has to play into their calculus. From the standpoint of our calculus, we have a strategy to assure allies that we will be there for them if they are attacked. In that assurance, we are trying to develop more precise weapons and more credible weapons. I’m talking more about the conventional side of the equation here. [We want] capabilities that are responsive and that really can assure [our allies]. Assurance is a very difficult thing for those countries in today’s environment, where short- and medium-range ballistic missiles can be rolled out, fired, and hidden in very short order, and their flight time is very quick. Look at the Middle East, for instance, the time of flight and the time of reaction is very, very quick now. It is starting to creep way inside of those comfort zones that we had in the Cold War about having time to have alternatives. This new class of weapons, particularly short- and medium-range, that is being developed really put stress on normal protocols to make sure that you got options and transparency.

ACT:You mentioned conventional weapons. Given today’s threat environment and STRATCOM’s likely warfighting scenarios, do you believe that the United States needs to develop more useable nuclear weapons or a more effective array of conventional weapons?

Cartwright: It is never an either or. But I think right now the balance of usability and functionality for the problems we are trying to address—because of precision, because of speed, because of the associated technologies—there are more viable options that can be serviced by conventional weapons than maybe in the past.

ACT:In that regard, you have this Prompt Global Strike initiative to start converting two missiles on each U.S. ballistic missile submarine to carry conventional warheads instead of nuclear warheads. Does this reflect a determination that conventional warheads can effectively replace nuclear weapons for some existing target sets or simply the addition of new missions and potential targets?

Cartwright: Both. Let’s go to new emerging targets and the war on terrorism, [using] both a historical example and a [more recent] one. [Look at] the activities associated with the [1986 Operation] El Dorado Canyon strike against Libya. We had problems [with] overflight rights and going into an area that was defended. We lost an F-111 fighter-bomber. We lost a crew. We had several Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles that did work, did not work, got the right target, did not get the right target. It was in an area where you clearly had somebody who was supporting terrorism acts that occurred in the buildup [before the U.S. mission]: where terrorists left that country, did something, and then went back, etc. [What] if you could influence in a way that was quickly responsive and precise, while doing a much better job of controlling collateral damage and not having to expose crews and aircraft to defensive measures? All of those things would argue for a better way of doing it.

Now, there have been several initiatives since El Dorado Canyon to build weapons that could work in that environment. Still, move forward to Afghanistan. It took us almost six weeks to get the overflight rights to get at the terrorist camps. In that period, they had time to move, leave, deceive, protect themselves, you name it. If we could have gotten there much quicker—this is where you get into the subjective—would it have been different? Clearly, time, reaction, and the ability to get to places that are either heavily defended or are just plain hard to get to are some things that we have got to understand as we move forward in developing delivery systems and weapons. The more complicated these problem get oftentimes—let’s just take those past two examples—the more inappropriate, probably, a nuclear response is. Yet, if that is what you have as your immediate response capability, what choice does a country have? You really enter into a self-deterred environment.

ACT:There have been some concerns raised about Prompt Global Strike. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently expressed concern that other nuclear powers might misinterpret a U.S. launch of a conventionally-armed ballistic missile as a nuclear-armed missile and retaliate accordingly. How do you address this danger of ambiguity, particularly during a crisis?

Cartwright: It was interesting because he did use the word “other.”[9] Maybe transparency and the Joint Data Exchange Center and some of these things are actually starting to work. I hope so. But you always have to worry in war that your actions might be interpreted incorrectly. It does not matter whether you are dealing with an intercontinental ballistic missile or an M-16 rifle. If you pull the trigger in war, the second- and third-order effects of intent are always the most difficult thing to understand. But you try to build in escalation control and transparency. As a ground commander, one of the first things you are always trying to do is establish some sort of communication with your adversary. They may believe you, they may not. But at least you have got to try to develop some sort of confidence-building measures so your intent is understood. That works both ways. You want them to understand why you are there and what you are doing. You want them to understand clearly what your end-state is because if they go in a different direction both of you can really get hurt. If you are a wrestler in high school, the worst person you can wrestle is somebody who has no experience and has no idea how to play the game because you are going to get hurt.

Where I think [Putin] is focused—now I do not want to put words in his mouth—is if you are an emerging country trying to build delivery systems and saying that you actually have nuclear capabilities, how are we going to know when you launch that capability what it is that you are actually doing? [The United States and Russia] have treaties. We have a long history of talking to each other. We have several communications links. [We need to make] sure that emerging countries that are starting to develop ballistic missiles enter into some sort of set of agreements with us to help build an understanding of confidence about what it is they are trying to accomplish, what their activities really are, and what they think [their activities] mean. If [they] are not going for mutual assured destruction, but limited action, make sure it is interpreted as limited action. But how do you build those transparency measures? Those are the key activities. Are Russia’s neighbors bothering to tell the Russians that they are launching something? Most likely not. I think the key ones that do that are us and some of our allies, such as Norway and Sweden. But a lot of other countries do not bother to tell you when they are launching something. You have got a certain amount of time to see if it is on a ballistic trajectory and what direction is that trajectory going. Is there one or are there multiples? The ambiguity goes up significantly if you do not get any notification.

ACT:You interpret Putin’s comments as aimed at third countries rather than the United States?

Cartwright: I am sure that he is talking to us too. But I am also sure that there is kind of a secondary message here that this is not just a U.S.-Russian problem. We have got to look broader. How are we going to manage these ballistic missiles that are starting to proliferate? How are we going to manage the intent of the country, independent of what the warhead is? How are we going to manage the difference between test and exercise and conflict? Where do we start to build and in what form do we start to build those transparency and escalation control measures?

ACT:What about vis-à-vis the United States? How would you answer those critiques vis-à-vis the United States?

Cartwright: Today, what we have done—significantly with the Russians but also with others—is to start to publish whenever we are going to launch. Since 1968, we have had 430-450 [Trident] launches [without nuclear warheads]. We publish that. We put it out in the open source. We make sure that we tell what direction and the general part of the day or what day it is going to be. You can imagine that with that many launches, we have had bad weather, we have had maintenance malfunctions, etc., but we get that word out. We do that regularly. If a country is interested in knowing it, we are interested in telling them what we are doing. We will continue to do that whether we think they can see us or not. You ought to assume that something has given them an indication [about U.S. activities], rather than saying, “gee, they do not have a satellite,” or “they do not have radar today.” You always should assume that somebody has seen something happen. The more you tell them, the more you announce it, the more you publish it, the more you are standardizing how you do business, the more important.

The other piece to this that I think is probably pretty significant is that we have certainly moved on a path to not classify what is going on. As we manage [Prompt Global Strike]—as we did with artillery, ground-based cruise missiles, sea-based cruise missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, bombers, etc. when we moved them to dual-purpose—we have tried to make that as transparent to everyone as possible. We are doing the same with what is called the SSGN, which is the same hull [of a Trident ballistic missile submarine] that has been converted to launch conventional cruise missiles and other capabilities. The intent here is to get it out, to get it understood, exercise it, demonstrate it, and show people what it can and can not do. If [other countries] have radar or they have a space system then they can see it. When we do that we tell them ahead of time: look in this area. [The goal is to] get to that more transparent environment. Again, at the end of the day, if a person believes that M-16 is going to kill them, they are going to react one way. If they believe that it is a warning shot, they are going to act a different way. The more you keep it transparent, the better. But you can never guarantee how an adversary interprets something.

ACT:You mentioned the proliferation of ballistic missile technologies. One of the concerns about Prompt Global Strike is that maybe it will imbue ballistic missiles with more strategic value in the eyes of others. Might this proposal undercut missile nonproliferation efforts?

Cartwright: Two ways to go at that. One is that we have not built any new ballistic missiles in quite a while. In fact, we have gone down. Yet, what you see in the world is the proliferation of ballistic missiles.

Another way to look at it is if we do something like this will it [provide incentive to] somebody else to either accelerate what they are doing or start new efforts as they watch what we are doing? Again, there is no intent to increase the number of [ballistic missiles]. There is intent to create a diversity of effects that is more appropriate for the world that we are in and more controlling of escalation. But it is more of an acknowledgement that the world we are in is not one country versus another anymore. It is a global problem, particularly when you deal with terrorism. Our forces, transports, delivery vehicles, ships, airplanes, etc. are reducing in numbers so the physical distance that any one branch of the service has to cover is greater. The range of effect a ship has to cover is greater. So you have got to start to move to delivery vehicles that have global reach inside of the timelines of the regret factors that someone would deliver to you with a ballistic missile. [Prompt Global Strike] is really about if we have got to reach globally quickly—and that is the new world we live in—then let’s have a more responsible effect at the other end. Some people use the word proportional. I am not sure that is a good one; appropriate [might be better].

ACT:So does Prompt Global Strike herald a growing transition away from nuclear warheads for strategic missions?

Cartwright: It certainly offers an alternative. Today, [our method of] prompt global strike is nuclear and that is where I am trying to change.

ACT:One [nuclear delivery] system that is nearing the end of its lifetime in another decade is the Minuteman III. Air Force Command recently concluded a study on the successor to the Minuteman III. Will that be another ICBM or will that be another type of land-based system?

Cartwright: From a STRATCOM perspective, you have a couple of things you ought to go look at. We had the triad: the bombers, SLBMs, and ICBMs. Then, we have our general purpose forces out there. There are two problems that you would like to be able to solve as you move forward. The first is what is appropriate for the types of force that you want to have for the world that you think you are moving into. A crystal ball for 20 years from now is always tough. But, what kind of diversity would you like to have in your delivery platforms to go after the problems that you think you are going to face? You always want to build in enough diversity to handle the unknown up to a reasonable amount of risk. The other side of that coin is what can you afford to actually field? We have activities associated with space launch; we have activities associated with missile defense; we have activities associated with conventional and nuclear ICBM forces. Whatever it is we do, we ought to, between now and say 2010, build in some options that would give us a reasonable diversity of paths against a reasonable business case that is affordable. Building a stand alone nuclear ICBM, a stand alone conventional ICBM, a stand alone missile defense [interceptor] does not make a lot of sense to me. It may not be the same wrapper, but there has to be a high-degree of commonality in whatever it is you do.

[The second issue] is what is the right balance between things that go very far, very fast and those things that would go very far and persist for long periods of time? We ought to have some studies and demonstrations to understand the balance between those.

You also ought to throw into this mix that if you really believe fuel is a big problem then you ought to make sure that you do not [tie] yourself to a force that is completely dependent on fossil fuels. You have got to think about what a reasonable man would say about the future and then make sure you do not go after any obvious pitfalls. Nobody’s crystal ball is perfect. Those are the types of things that I think are responsible things to go look at before you just make the next generation of what you have.

ACT:The initial elements of a nationwide missile defense system were deployed in the fall of 2004, but it has yet to be declared operational. Why is that and what has to be done before that system will be declared operation?

Cartwright: The declaration of it being operational is up to the national command authority.[10] But there are certain criteria that [are] important from STRATCOM’s perspective. Today, the system is a [research and development] system with a rudimentary operational capability. In November 2004, STRATCOM entered into what we called a shakedown period, which was really the first chance that we had to put operators into the system, run it for extended periods of time to understand [whether] this is what an operator needs versus what a developer needs. What would you change about it? How do you do management of the system, [including] command and control of the sensors and the weapons? We went through that for about six to eight months. We took all of the lessons out of that, along with some other things that we did in testing, and said, “Okay, here is what we need to have in the system in order to be ready to go.” Those upgrades, adjustments, or whatever you want to call them started to be installed by the Missile Defense Agency in about November of last year. That installation period was to take through the late summer of this year.

We are waiting to see how all that installation work goes. There were a series of test that we as operators wanted to see, [such as] using the radars that are in the system to actually track incoming missiles and then transmit the data. We had several [tests] over the past year across the face of radars and things like that. There were new sensors we wanted added for redundancy and command and control capabilities for redundancy and assurance. Those are all now starting to come onboard. At the end of this year, we will start to see the fruits of those upgrades. The other piece that you would like to see is some consistent success with the ground-based interceptor. We have had one good shot here recently, which was the first [test] that had all of the production components end-to-end in the system.[11] That was an important test. There are two more that are coming that shall demonstrate [the interceptor’s] ability to maneuver and ability to actually hit the target. We want to see that along with the introduction of these new sensors so that we know those sensors match up with those weapons.

There is also a big piece of this involving the [Standard Missile-3] ship-based interceptors and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors. We want to see that piece actually integrated [with the sensors and command and control elements of the strategic missile defense system]. You may think you are just adding a module, like “gee, I’m going to have PAC-3 in the system now.” But did that have any effect on what you are doing with the ground-base interceptor? Those are things that we want to see over the next few months to be very comfortable. Does that mean that I would be uncomfortable bringing [the strategic ground-based system] up to an alert today if I or the national command authority felt that we had some kind of threat? No, I would bring it online in a heartbeat. There is no reason why you would not. But those are the kinds of things I would like to see over the next few months to make sure we got the system that we really want to have for the long term.

ACT:In addition to the ground-based program, current plans call for deploying missile defense interceptors to Europe and exploring their stationing in space. Given how you are still working on the ground-based system are these ambitious plans justified by the state of technology and the threat?

Cartwright: Certainly, the sites associated with Europe. The technology is what we are working our way through. Whether you station assets in Europe or you take what is already there and create a sensor grid are things for the national command authority and the country to decide. The threat justifies going beyond where we are today. We are certainly looking at the emergence of the threat as it relates to the Middle East. But who knows in 10 years what direction we will have to look. It is not a system base-lined against hundreds of missiles coming in. It is not a shield. It is to change the calculus and, in many cases, prevent the cheap shot.

ACT:House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee Chairman David Hobson said it is time for a thoughtful and open debate on the role of nuclear weapons in our country’s national security strategy. Would STRATCOM welcome this debate and what are some of the key issues that you feel that debate should revolve around?

Cartwright: You have hit all of them in this. I believe that debate is something we have to have. In the debate, what is the appropriate use [of nuclear weapons]? What is the appropriate match between what we see out there in the world today and the types of weapons we have available? [What are] the confidence-building measures and the escalation controls so we [can] build as many options to not use weapons as possible? All those things ought to be discussed. But we are, because of a lack of a debate, kind of locked in what we had in the Cold War and how we used to do it. That is why the [conventional Trident missile] is such big deal for us. It is to get a discussion. Is that what we want for a capability or is there something else we want for a capability? At the end of the day, I will do what I am told obviously. But I think people ought to understand at least what a commander perceives as sometimes a mismatch for what it is we have as a threat out there and what we have as an arsenal.

ACT:Thank you.


1. In 1946, the Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) was established to manage U.S. long-range bombers and their nuclear payloads. The Navy later developed its own nuclear forces, the Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile, and the Air Force added intercontinental ballistic missiles to the U.S. nuclear delivery mix. In 1960, the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff (JSTPS) was created to oversee planning and targeting for all U.S. nuclear forces. In June 1992, SAC and JSTPS were both shutdown and STRATCOM was established.

2. The Department of Defense has nine combatant commands: Central Command, European Command, Joint Forces Command, Northern Command, Pacific Command, Southern Command, Special Operations Command, Strategic Command, and Transportation Command.

3. The Moscow Treaty, also known as the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, commits the United States and Russia to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads apiece by the end of 2012. The Department of State has reported that the 2007 target level for U.S. forces is 3,500 to 4,000 warheads.

4. President George H. W. Bush ordered U.S. strategic bombers off alert Sept. 27, 1991 as part of what became known as the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives.

5. The old triad refers to ICBMs, SLBMs, and long-range bombers. The new triad promulgated in the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review consists of conventional and nuclear offensive strike capabilities, active and passive defenses, and a responsive defense infrastructure. The old triad is now seen as a sub-unit of the offensive strike component of the new triad.

6. The February 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review called for lowering the number of deployed ICBMs to 450. Warheads associated with the 50 missiles slated to be taken off alert are to be redeployed on some of the remaining ICBMs.

7. Lieber, Keir A. and Press, Daryl G., “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2006. Lieber, Keir A. and Press, Daryl G., “The End of MAD? The Nuclear Dimension of U.S. Primacy,” International Security, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Spring 2006), p. 7.

8. NATO’s 1999 Strategic Concept declared, “The fundamental purpose of the nuclear forces of the Allies is political: to preserve peace and prevent coercion and any kind of war.” The document further stated the alliance would “maintain adequate nuclear forces in Europe,” although it noted the circumstances in which their use would be contemplated were “extremely remote.”

9. In his May 10 address to the Russian Federal Assembly, Putin stated, “the media and expert circles are already discussing plans to use intercontinental ballistic missiles to carry non-nuclear warheads. The launch of such a missile could provoke an inappropriate response from one of the nuclear powers, could provoke a full-scale counterattack using strategic nuclear forces.”

10. The national command authority is the president and the secretary of defense.

11. General Cartwright is referring to the Dec. 13, 2005 flight of the interceptor. This was the first successful flight test of the interceptor model currently deployed in Alaska and California. However, the test did not involve a target or an intercept attempt.

Interviewed by Wade Boese and Miles A. Pomper

Interview with Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency



Interviewed by Oliver Meier

On Jan. 23, Oliver Meier, the Arms Control Association’s international representative and correspondent, talked to Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh about the escalating crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. Soltanieh, Iran’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), took up this post for a second time earlier in the month. Soltanieh, a physicist by training, had previously served in the same position from 1980 to 1997. He has also served as deputy director-general of International Political Affairs in Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has been involved in several multilateral arms control negotiations. The interview took place soon after Iran restarted research and development into enriching uranium, a move that sparked calls by the United States and Europe to have the UN Security Council take up the dispute over the program.

ACT : Can I start off by asking you why Iran has chosen to resume work on centrifuges and the operation of the pilot uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz[1] now?

SOLTANIEH : You should not ask me why now, you should ask me why so late? We [waited] because we wanted to prove our good intentions to the international community and to [our] European friends. When we were negotiating in Paris,[2] we were optimists. They [the Europeans] promised us that if we would extend our cooperative suspension [of enrichment-related activities] to cover also research and the UCF (uranium-conversion facility) at Isfahan,[3] that the issue will be removed from the agenda of the [IAEA] Board of Governors, and that routine inspection would be continued in Iran and everything would be settled down. And we were counting on that promise and their word. But, unfortunately, they didn’t keep their promise. This whole thing continued, therefore, after long frustration. And seeing the Iran issue kept on the agenda of the Board of Governors, we couldn’t continue [with the suspension, and] therefore, we restarted this research.

Now, the question that you might have in this respect is whether in this second round of negotiations we were honest with the Europeans to tell them in a transparent and frank manner what we were going to do. Before we started the second round of negotiations, which started Dec. 21—in fact we did it before Dec. 5—His Excellency Dr [Ali] Larijani the Secretary of the [Iran’s] National Supreme Security Council, officially in an interview announced to the whole world that we cannot continue suspension of research and, therefore, we are going to start research. And he also clearly informed—very crystal clear—that research is not part of the negotiation. When we came to Vienna to negotiate with our European friends on Dec. 21—and I was present—we said to our European friends again that this issue [was] not covered in our negotiation—it [was] not part of the agenda. What we said we [were] well prepared to talk about [was] nondiversion of [the] enrichment process to military purposes.

ACT: So you would acknowledge that research was covered under the Paris agreement and that operation of centrifuges was clearly part of the Paris agreement and, therefore, this was a breach of the Paris agreement?

SOLTANIEH : No, that is not what I am trying to say. In the Paris agreement we agreed to expand the scope of the suspension to also cover the UCF and also to cover the research and testing of course. But after all, one thing we have to bear in mind, is that in both the October 2003 Tehran agreement[4]and the [November 2004] Paris agreement, what was agreed by both sides was a suspension of enrichment activities and not their cessation. And this was very well elaborated and we insisted on this matter and it is in both documents. And on that basis, when [our] European friends unfortunately rejected our proposal for objective guarantees that our activities would remain exclusively for peaceful purposes—they rejected this proposal in Geneva when we offered it last year[5] — we expected them to bring their own proposal so that it [would] be within the framework of the Paris agreement.

What they did [instead], they brought a proposal that explicitly and clearly rejected and deleted and excluded nuclear fuel cycle activities in Iran, including enrichment.[6] And this was in full contravention to the Paris agreement. In fact, the Europeans violated the agreement between Iran and the EU-3 [ France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the EU]. The EU-3 in fact did not follow the Paris agreement.

Now the question is why we restarted the UCF in August or whether any short notice or prior notice had been given. I want to draw your attention to the fact that Secretary Larijani met the three distinguished foreign ministers of the [ United Kingdom], France, and Germany in Geneva, and he announced officially that you have rejected our proposal and we will wait for your proposal. But, if your proposal excludes Iran’s rightful nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment, you can assume that it will be rejected right away. It was announced well in advance in August when the Europeans gave their proposal. And when we noticed that their proposal excluded this right, there was no necessity to study it any more, because this was in contravention and contrary to the Paris agreement. Since the Paris agreement in fact was not followed by the Europeans, negotiations did not continue.

And in the Paris agreement there is one paragraph that says that the suspension has to be sustained as long as negotiations for a long-term agreement continue. When this proposal was given, contrary to the Paris agreement, the negotiations, therefore, were stopped, and therefore, the suspension could be stopped, because they were linked in the Paris agreement. Therefore, we started, and we had the right to start, the UCF. And now after again some time we decided that we cannot continue depriving our scientists of the ability to conduct research and, therefore, we started research.

ACT: On the question of research, we would appreciate it if you could define what you mean by the term. What does this entail from the Iranian perspective? Are there further sites and facilities that you would want to operate to conduct such research and development? And if the situation remains as it basically is today, at what point does Iran plan to resume full-scale operations and construction in Natanz?

SOLTANIEH : We have decided at this juncture not to start full-scale or so-called commercial industrial scale enrichment, which goes to more than 50,000 centrifuge machines and with the capacity of 30 tons [of low-enriched uranium] per year. This activity and this larger scale is still under suspension, and, therefore, this is a very important point and a positive gesture from Iran to give room for possible negotiations and peaceful settlement of the whole issue. And, therefore, we advised our European friends not to make any hasty decisions, not to ruin the achievements that we both have made following our negotiations and the compromise and concession from Iran, namely the over [the] three-year suspension that we made to show our good intentions to you, the Europeans and the international community, and come to the negotiating table. Then, to answer your question as to when we are going to start [full-scale enrichment] or not, the answer is very clear. If the second of February [at an emergency International Atomic Energy (IAEA) board meeting], or any time, there is a resolution passed [at the IAEA] that this issue of Iran will be referred outside of the domain and the framework of the IAEA and referred to the United Nations Security Council, then following the law almost unanimously passed by our parliament--over 180 [legislators] voted for and only 10 voted against-- almost then the government would immediately stop the implementation of the additional protocol[7] and we will start large-scale enrichment.

ACT: It is possible there may be a different scenario for referral to the Security Council. That is, as you may have seen in the press, there has been mention of a scenario that Iran’s nuclear case may not be formally referred to the Security Council by the IAEA but it could be put on the agenda in some other way. Would that change your thinking in terms of whether the parliamentary law on the resumption of enrichment and also the termination of the additional protocol, would that change the scenario? And how would the Iranian government react to such a scenario, where the Security Council does not pick up the issue after formal referral?

SOLTANIEH: The issue is very simple. Either we talk in the framework of the IAEA statute and legal documents or we are talking about general political approaches. If we are referring to the statute, if it is referred in fact it is for the purpose of reporting. When the issue is reported to the United Nations Security Council, this is something that is in fact calling for our parliament’s law to be implemented because it means that the issue has gone out of the IAEA. And we will be strongly disappointed and object. This issue—a technical issue—should be settled in the IAEA.

Therefore, by doing so, either for the information purposes or for any action by the United Nations Security Council, namely to go to Chapter 7[8] or whatever, it means that the IAEA has not been able to settle this issue. It means [IAEA Director-General Mohamed] Dr.ElBaradei has not been able to manage this issue and to do his work despite the fact that he has been granted the Nobel Peace Prize. It means that all the achievements and tremendous progress made since the last three years are in fact put in jeopardy. It also means that Iran which has been implementing the Additional Protocol—[and] which is the only country in the world that is doing so—this whole activity will be immediately stopped, and this of course will have a serious impact on the whole IAEA and the future of universality of the Additional Protocol. And I am afraid that if we go down this route—this course of action which is the confrontation route—it would be very dangerous and there are groups in Iran that on many occasions have called for withdrawing from the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty]. And the government has convinced them or convinced some parliamentarians that we will not withdraw from the NPT and this is the policy of Iran not to withdraw from the NPT, and we are implementing the Additional Protocol.

Therefore, I think that this [Security Council referral] is not the right course of action. We have to be patient not to take these hasty measures. As I said, we have announced our readiness, and we have started fruitful negotiations with the Russians in Tehran (we are going to have the second round of negotiations on the 16 th of February in Moscow) and, therefore, it is premature at this stage…to do any action [that] puts all future progress in jeopardy. And we are closely working with the IAEA. And I have to also inform you that out of over 30 pages of reports of the director general in 2003 almost all [issues] are solved. Only four pages were presented in November[9] and it would be much less of course in March [the IAEA Board of Governors has a regularly sch eduled board meeting March 6 at which ElBaradei has said he would present a report on the status of the IAEA investigation into Iran’s nuclear program], if there is going to be a report, because almost all the issues have been resolved.

ACT : I would like to come back to the Russian proposal later on, but just to ask on exactly the issue of Security Council referral, given that there is so much at stake and Iran is so interested in not having the case referred to the Security Council, why have you not answered the few questions that you said remain. For example, on the P-2 centrifuge program[10], which is one of the major issues for which they are still seeking answers. And in that context, would there be additional specific steps that Iran would be willing to take to resolve the IAEA and ElBaradei’s concerns about its nuclear program?

SOLTANIEH: First of all, regarding the P-2. I have to refer you to the reports, and if you go one-by-one since this issue was raised, there was tremendous progress and information given to the IAEA. The only thing which is an outstanding question is that the IAEA is wondering why between 1995 to 2002 or so, there has been a gap [when] we did not work on the P-2. I have to clearly reiterate what even the scientists and inspectors— technical people of the IAEA—have told us, that this was a wise decision by Iran, technically sound and justified, that while we have not been achieving any progress on P-1, it was not wise to go to next-generation P-2. Therefore, during that period we should not have worked on the P-2.

This is what European industry URENCO[11] also did. It means that they worked for about 10 to 12 years on the P-1 and then went to P-2, or a similar model. Therefore, this is what we’ve done. And, therefore, what we have done is well justified technically; the only thing is they just want us to say why. The answer is very simple. We had not achieved mastery of the P-1 before we could go to P-2 or our next generation. That is the only thing left about the P-2.

If you remember from last year, the issue was whether we have purchased any components or not, and if you notice in the report, one of the reports, it said that the Iranian statements regarding the components related to P-2 were contradictory and changing. I want to recall that in that meeting of the board--this paragraph also was immediately taken by the Europeans in their draft resolution-- we brought all the documents from Tehran which I myself presented to the DDG [deputy director general] and the director general, and they found out that they have made a mistake. The inspectors have made a mistake in reporting, and, therefore, ElBaradei was courageous enough, he explained to the media that they had made a mistake. Therefore that issue of P-2 was clear enough at that time and we assume since then that the P-2 [issue] would be closed. The chapter should have been closed back there.

The other issue is of course, we have been informing them that we are ready to cooperate, on issues related to the discussion of P-1 and other matters. But these are only related to procurements and these kind of purchases which have been made from the intermediaries. This has nothing to do with the technical matters which the agency is mandated for. There are only some non-technical issues regarding the intermediaries and the meetings which have been made with them years back or so, which is of course, as I said, not at all a technical matter. But anyway we have tried to, so far we have helped cooperate with the agency beyond our obligation and we are planning to do so. And for your information, a team is going to go to Tehran tomorrow,[12] and I’m going to accompany them, so that we’ll give another try and to make sure that if there are any questions left, try to help them in order to hopefully close this whole chapter.

ACT: And this will be, this visit to Tehran, specifically on P-2, or will be on the whole range of issues?

SOLTANIEH: No, on the whole range of issues, the remaining issues that they want discussed. If there are issues that they are willing to raise and discuss, we want to make sure that they would be exhausted and this whole thing will be over.

ACT: If I can try to look a little bit into the future, and if I can just ask that question again, are there other steps that Iran would be willing to take to resolve the agency’s concerns, and specifically could you foresee that Iran might again suspend activities at that time to support a new set of negotiations?

SOLTANIEH: For research, no. It is irreversible, the decision has been made as I said after a long time of suspension and frustration. Particularly as the [limits on] research have already disappointed our scientists in universities and also in the atomic energy organization. Sitting doing nothing, this is something that has been very discouraging. In fact they have given this message to Iranian scientists that they have no right even to think and do their research. But at the same time I want to call your attention to the fact that all the research we are doing we have informed the IAEA about and given them prior notice. Everything is under the supervision of IAEA and inspectors, since we have started. They are present in Iran and in Natanz; therefore everything is under supervision in fact.

ACT : Still the question remains what the topic, if you like, of new negotiations could be, and Iran has called for the resumption of talks with the Europeans also. The Europeans, on the other hand, contend that there’s nothing left to talk about because enrichment activities at Natanz have resumed. Now in your interview with the BBC recently,[13] you said that Iran is prepared to negotiate on the issue of nondiversion of enrichment-related products. In possible future negotiations with Europe, would Iran also be willing to talk about the scope of its nuclear program at all? And in your view, is it still sensible to pursue the broad agenda that was previously the basis for talks with the Europeans, which included political and economic issues as well?

SOLTANIEH: Well, in fact, this is a good question. We have come to the conclusion that previously the scope of negotiations was wide. Of course we are interested and we have been interested to promote cooperation and work with the Europeans, the European Union, and we attach great importance to that. But in this particular issue we have come to the conclusion that it is more effective and constructive if we focus on nuclear affairs and particularly enrichment which is so-called more sensitive in order to be able to conclude negotiations in a short time frame rather than [conduct] lengthy negotiations without any conclusion. Therefore, in order to have a conclusive negotiation and an effective one, we have decided in this new round of negotiation to focus on nondiversion of enrichment processes and as I said now, from now on also we are going to propose a nondiversion of enrichment of the large commercial industrial scale which is under suspension. And I think that is exactly what I’m sure Europeans should pay attention [to] and should support, because this is their main concern.

ACT: So would the issue of scope of Iran’s nuclear activities also be on the table still?

SOLTANIEH: I mean, this is the main concern because all other activities are under the routine inspection of the IAEA now. Therefore, there is nothing that is in question. The only thing that the Europeans have always insisted about is the issue of the nondiversion of enrichment and that is on the table. That is the main concern of the Europeans, and we are willing to do that.

ACT: Another important actor obviously is the United States and some observers believe that active U.S. support for any negotiated agreement will be vital for its success. What steps could the United States take to contribute to a satisfactory outcome?

SOLTANIEH: Well, if the United States has good intentions and they want to prove that they do not want or they are not pushing for confrontation and tension and for a security problem in the region and for global security, [they should] just support having the issue settled in the IAEA. This is the best thing that could be done [to have it settled] in the framework of the IAEA. This is the way I think that this is the best. Because if the issue is within the framework of the IAEA, it means that we are supporting multilateralism, and it is in fact a historic test for the United States, to what extent they are going to reconsider the previous unilateral approach and to support this international pertinent organization. This is the way to do it. And I think this is the best way they can do that in this respect.

ACT: The question is not in terms of the process right now, that is what can the United States do to contribute to keeping the issue in Vienna. But rather in terms of the final agreement to settle the issue of increasing confidence in Iran’s nuclear program, is there any substantive contribution that the United States could make to reach such a deal?

SOLTANIEH: As I said, just do not put obstacles in the way. That is the first thing. Second thing, just let the Europeans do their work, and do not underestimate the achievements that we have made and let everything go in the right direction.

ACT: Finally, I was just going to ask you about the Russian proposal to conduct Iran’s enrichment activities in the framework of a joint venture on Russian soil. The press has reported both positive as well as negative reactions from Iran. Could you explain to us what the Iranian position on the Russian proposal is? What parts of the deal would you find attractive and where the differences are that you have with the Russian proposal?

SOLTANIEH: The thing is very simple. The Russian proposal idea which they have raised, namely to have the possibilities of working with enrichment, we have now decided it is worthwhile. It is worth discussing and negotiating with them and also since there are points that we need clarification, we decided to have the first round in Tehran and it was a useful exchange of views, and we tried to discuss with each other and now we will have the second round of discussions. Therefore, now we are returning to our constructive negotiation with them so that we will study all dimensions of their proposal, and they are going in the next round to give further detailed information about economic and technical matters of their proposal and we will see what happens. Therefore, we are looking forward to hopefully having a useful negotiation with the Russians.

ACT: But in principle, would Iran be willing and able to conduct all of its enrichment activities on another country’s soil?

SOLTANIEH: Well, as I said, the commercial-scale, large industrial-scale, it is still under suspension. And as I said, we are ready to talk about nondiversion. But if there are suggestions for having enrichment jointly, we have to talk about it to see what are the impacts on our work. Because in principle, we do not want to be deprived from enrichment in Iran and we want to have this possibility. But since we do have the plan for 20,000 megawatts in our program we need the required fuel for those 20 power plants in the future. Therefore, it is a matter of how and where we can supply and get the fuel for it. Partly, we are going to supply our own because unfortunately in the past we have had lack of assurance of supply and as you noticed there is no legally binding instrument—recognized document—for a source of supply. Therefore, we want to have some sort of safety factor, that in case the supply would be interrupted we will be able to have the supply.

ACT: The way I understood your answer is that this can complement activities in Iran but not all of the activities would be moved to Russia.

SOLTANIEH: It is a matter of how to see, but of course at this stage we are not in a position to go [into] details because we don’t know. The Russians are going to explain to us in more detail in the next round of negotiation. Therefore, we don’t [know in detail] what they really have in mind, and we are anxious to know about it. But in principle I said that we don’t want you to conclude that Iran will accept that enrichment will not be made in Iran and Iran will be deprived from this right. For the supply of fuel for its future power plants, Iran might look for different avenues of course, in that respect.

ACT: There were also reports that China might be part of such a project. Is that something that would be interesting for Iran, to have other countries participate in such a project?

SOLTANIEH : Since our president [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] issued an invitation in the UN General Assembly, to all private and governmental sectors to come for a joint venture and contribute to our enrichment project,[14] we will welcome any initiative and any country or companies that are interested to have a joint venture with us. And, therefore, we would welcome if China or other countries are interested, even Europeans that are interested to jointly work together. And this is the maximum transparency that we could ever give and confidence building, that we are opening our enrichment activities and not only the IAEA inspectors will be there, all experts from different countries will be present. Therefore, this is maximum transparency and nobody will have any doubt that these activities will remain peaceful.

ACT : Thank you very much.


1. Iran is building a pilot gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility, as well as a much larger commercial centrifuge facility, near the Iranian city of Natanz

2. France , Germany, and the United Kingdom concluded an agreement with Iran in November 2004 to negotiate “a mutually acceptable agreement on long-term arrangements,” which includes “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.” Iran agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities for the duration of the negotiations. See Paul Kerr, “Iran Agrees to Temporarily Suspend Uranium-Enrichment Program,” Arms Control Today, December 2004.

3. Uranium-conversion facilities like Isfahan produce uranium hexafluoride gas from lightly processed uranium ore. Gas centrifuges such as those at Natanz can enrich uranium by spinning this gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope. Uranium enrichment can produce both low-enriched uranium, which is used as fuel in civilian nuclear reactors, or highly enriched uranium, which can be used as fissile material for nuclear weapons.

4. In October 2003, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Iran in a Joint Statement agreed on “measures aimed at the settlement of all outstanding IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] issues with regards to the Iranian nuclear programme and at enhancing confidence for peaceful cooperation in the nuclear field.” Iran agreed to take three steps which, if followed, will meet the IAEA’s demands: cooperate with the IAEA “to address and resolve…all requirements and outstanding [IAEA] issues,” sign and ratify an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement, and voluntarily “suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities as defined by the IAEA.” See Paul Kerr, “With Deadline Looming, European Foreign Ministers Strike Deal to Restrict Iran’s Nuclear Program,” Arms Control Today, November 2003.

5. During at least two meetings with their European interlocutors, Iranian diplomats proposed in the spring of 2005 several measures to provide confidence that its nuclear program would not be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. These included: allowing the continuous on-site presence of IAEA inspectors, a pledge to produce only low-enriched uranium, and immediate conversion of LEU to nuclear reactor fuel. See Paul Kerr, “IAEA: More Questions on Iran Nuclear Program,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2005.

6. The Europeans presented a proposal to Iran in August 2005 describing a package of economic, technical, and security incentives that Iran would receive if it agreed to forswear indigenous uranium-enrichment. Paul Kerr, “Iran Restarts Uranium Conversion,” Arms Control Today, September 2005.

7. Iran signed an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement on Dec. 18, 2003, but has not yet ratified it. However, for the last two years it has pledged to the IAEA that it would act as if the protocol were in force until it is approved by the Majlis, Iran’s parliament. States-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) all have safeguarrds agreements to ensure that they do not divert civilian nuclear programs to military purposes, but additional protocols grant the IAEA authority to conduct more rigorous, short-notice inspections at undeclared nuclear facilities to ferret out secret nuclear activities.

8. Chapter VII of the UN Charter provides authority for the UN Security Council to “ take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security” if it determines that peace is threatened or an act of aggression or breach of the peace have occurred.

9. A November 2005 report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to the agency’s Board of Governors listed several outstanding issues related to Iran’s uranium-enrichment program that the IAEA wants Iran to clarify. The agency has received sufficient information from Iran to resolve several other issues concerning its nuclear programs. The agency is still trying to resolve questions concerning procurement activities for Iran's P-1 centrifuge program, undisclosed work on its P-2 centrifuge program. It is also investigating possible nuclear activities at a military facility and a former physics research center, as well as recently disclosed documents that Iran obtained, which contain instructions for shaping uranium metal into "hemispherical forms"—a key step in developing explosive cores for nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the IAEA is investigating questions about Iran's Gchine uranium mine. U.S. and European officials have told Arms Control Today that the lack of clarity surrounding the mine's operation suggests that Iran's military or an affiliated organization might have been working at the mine in an effort to obtain an independent uranium source. See Paul Kerr, “Russia Joins Diplomatic Push on Iran,” Arms Control Today, December 2005.

10. Iran has conducted work on two types of gas centrifuges: the P-1 and P-2. The P-2 is the more advanced of the two. These centrifuges’ design are reportedly based on the L-1 and L-2 centrifuges produced by URENCO. The IAEA has found that Iran failed to disclose several aspects of its centrifuge program. The agency is still investigating certain outstanding issues about the program.

11. URENCO is an international uranium-enrichment consortium that is jointly owned by Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

12. According to a Jan. 25 Reuters article, “ UN Security Council leaders to meet on Iran issue,” IAEA safeguards investigators led by deputy agency director-general Olli Heinonen flew to Tehran Tuesday[ Jan. 24] in a concerted effort to get Iran to cooperate fully with the agency's demands on past nuclear activities.”

13. “Iran-UN: tense relations,” BBC Hard Talk, Interview with Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, January, 19, 2006.

14. Iran has proposed allowing foreign companies and governments to invest in Iranian enrichment facilities as a means of providing transparency into Iran’s nuclear program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first suggested this idea during his September speech to the UN General Assembly. See Paul Kerr, “New Iran Talks Set, but Prospects Gloomy,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2006.

Interviewed by Oliver Meier

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Interview With The Special Representative To Promote The Ratification Process Of The CTBT Jaap Ramaker



Interviewed by Oliver Meier and Miles A. Pomper

On Oct. 18, Oliver Meier, the Arms Control Association’s international representative and correspondent, and Arms Control Today Editor Miles A. Pomper talked to Ambassador Jaap Ramaker about efforts to achieve entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Ramaker, a Dutch diplomat, was appointed in 2003 by CTBT member states as special representative to promote the ratification process of the CTBT. He was confirmed in that position during the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT, which took place recently on Sept. 21-23 in New York. Ramaker, who at the time chaired the test ban negotiations, has been tasked with serving as a liaison between the countries that have already ratified the CTBT and those that have not done so. The CTBT will formally enter into force after 44 designated “nuclear-capable states” have deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN Secretary-General. To date, 176 states have signed and 125 have ratified the treaty. Yet of the 44 specified countries, only 33 have ratified the treaty.

ACT: What do you think governments could do to exercise more persistent top-level diplomacy in support of CTBT entry into force?

Ramaker: Let me first of all say that I already enjoy quite a bit of support. The European Union, for instance, adopted a while ago a Common Position when they were preparing for the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] NPT Review Conference.[1] In that Common Position, the EU members said that they give me their full support. Recently in China, the Chinese authorities told me that they are very supportive of what I’m doing and trying to do. And it’s my impression that other countries certainly are supportive of what I’m doing and also are promoting entry into force themselves. You know, countries like Australia or Japan, or Russia and Canada, and I’m sure there are others—I don’t want to leave anyone out— each of them in its own way acts in favor of entry into force of the Treaty. That also helps me in my task. We’re all working towards the same objective.

ACT: You mentioned China in your presentation. Is there any movement or any news on China? As you know, for some time they’ve talked about completing their ratification proc edure.

Ramaker: This is also a concern to me. When I was in China last April my interlocutors told me that China is moving forward but carefully. During the last NPT Review Conference in New York the Chinese delegation stated that China is now working very hard on the internal legal proceedings needed for ratification. I take their word for it.

ACT: And did they give you any more specifics other than they were working hard, any milestones?

Ramaker: Well, I cannot be more specific than they are. That is clear.

ACT: You mentioned Vietnam also. What’s your assessment with regard to Vietnam? Do you think there will be movement with regard to their ratification?

Ramaker: I visited Vietnam in November last year. I’ve since been in touch with Vietnam. And I talked to the foreign minister of Vietnam in New York recently and my impression is that the Vietnamese are really working on this issue and that to me sounds positive.

ACT: You’ve also been to Pakistan, I believe. And Pakistan and India have not even signed the treaty. Can you tell us a little bit about your efforts with regard to South Asia and how you see the situation there?

Ramaker: There are three regions as I also mentioned in my statement in New York last month where issues of nuclear disarmament, of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, of nonproliferation are in my view part of some sort of a wider regional context. Obviously this is the case with South Asia, with India and Pakistan, as well. [Unlike India] Pakistan received me in November last year. I had a good exchange of views with the Pakistani side on various aspects of the treaty, but I don’t think that there is any movement to be seen on their part towards at least signing the treaty at the moment. What I find interesting on the other hand is that India and Pakistan are engaged at present in a process of nuclear confidence-building measures between themselves. These confidence-building measures also relate to the issue of nuclear weapon test explosions. Given the situation as it is, I have encouraged my interlocutors in Pakistan at least to continue on that path. For instance, it would be interesting to see whether the two of them could not one way or the other formalize their already mutually agreed confidence-building measures on nuclear testing into some sort of a bilateral legally binding arrangement.

ACT: One of the provisions in the U.S.-India framework agreement is that the Indians will maintain their moratorium on nuclear testing.[2] Has there been any attempt, have you attempted to follow up on that discussion at all in terms of this kind of confidence-building discussion that you mentioned with Pakistan?

Ramaker: No, I’m not involved in any way in what’s going on in this sphere of nuclear cooperation between the United States and India.

ACT: Well, I was speaking specifically about this moratorium, because right now there’s sort of a bilateral moratorium between the Pakistanis and the Indians, but this was an attempt to make it broader.

Ramaker: Just to be precise, the text on nuclear testing agreed between India and Pakistan doesn’t talk in terms of a bilateral moratorium. It talks about two unilateral moratoria. So each side pledged to the other to maintain its own moratorium, and obviously any appeal to continue to adhere to the moratorium observed by one of them is in itself positive.

ACT: Can we change subjects slightly? You were reappointed during the recent Article XIV conference and right now work together with Australia, which is the coordinating state until the next Article XIV conference.[3] What efforts are you planning to undertake to accelerate entry into force during the next couple of years?

Ramaker: I think there are a number of things to be done. First of all, I tend to distinguish between two aspects of the treaty. On the one hand there is the need to continue to increase the support of the treaty in terms of the overall numbers of signatures and ratifications. Raising these numbers, many feel and I feel myself too, will strengthen the norm against nuclear weapons testing that already now exists. That is one objective. On the other hand there is of course the question of the actual entry into force of the treaty itself. As you know, of the 44 countries that have to ratify before the treaty can enter into force, we are still missing 11.[4]

I will focus on both aspects, but if I may say so in a considered way. As to the question of increasing the overall numbers of signatures of ratification, I intend to use a combination of methods, so to speak. In some cases I will make bilateral visits. In other cases I will attend regional conferences or international fora that countries that have not yet signed or ratified will attend or participate in. In the margins of these conferences I will seek meetings with their government officials - prime ministers, foreign ministers - that are there and draw their attention to the relevance and the importance of the Treaty and their country's early adherence. Of course signature and ratification by any given country in the last analysis is an internal matter. As far as signature is concerned it depends first of all on a decision that that country has to make for itself. And as far as ratification is concerned, each country of course has its own constitutional requirements that will have to be met. I have to respect that.

Secondly, there is the question of the entry into force of the Treaty proper, the second aspect I mentioned. Obviously there are among the 11 some countries whose ratification is long overdue and do not have as far as I know particular problems with the substance of the treaty. I’m thinking of Indonesia, of Vietnam, and of Colombia. Well, we already discussed Vietnam. I think they’re on the right track. I am planning a visit to Indonesia in the near future. With regard to my visit to Indonesia it is a matter of finding the right dates on which my interlocutors will be in a position to receive me and I myself will be free to travel. Anyway I do think that the time has come for our Indonesian friends to speed up the ratification process to the extent possible. Indonesia, after all, traditionally is a very active country when it comes to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. As you know, the country played an important and constructive role at the time during the [1995] Review and Extension Conference that made the NPT permanent. Indonesia played a very constructive role in the test ban negotiations as well. And, just to quote a recent example, Indonesia was part of the Norwegian initiative of seven countries a little over a month ago. As you know that initiative tried to bridge the differences that exist with regard to nonproliferation and disarmament in the framework of the World [Millennium +5] Summit. So the Indonesians have been very active in all of these areas. They have been calling for ratification of the treaty themselves quite often. So it is fair to say that they favor the treaty. Ratification by Indonesia therefore seems to be a matter of according the right priority to it rather than anything else.

ACT: What’s their explanation of why they haven’t ratified at this point?

Ramaker: Well that is what I’m going to find out when I’m there.

ACT: Can I ask you about another important holdout state: the United States?

Ramaker: I can shed no new light on the situation with regard to a possible U.S. ratification of the treaty. But I hope that in due course the U.S. would wish to revisit the question of the CTBT and analyze whether or not, on balance, it would not be better off with the treaty than without it.

ACT: Maybe we can change back to the Article XIV Conference, and can you comment on the outcome of the conference in general? What are the specific measures agreed to accelerate entry into force and are you happy with the result?

Ramaker: I think first of all that these regular conferences on facilitating entry into force are positive in themselves. The original idea stemmed in the final phase of the negotiations from Canada, when we all realized that it was going to take a long time before the treaty could enter into force. So holding a conference like the one you just mentioned has a stimulating effect in itself. In the run-up to the last conference and during the conference itself, we have seen a number of additional ratifications and at least one additional signature, which is good. If you take a look at the situation during the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of September 2003 and compare it to the present one of 2005, it is interesting to see quite an increase in the number of states that have signed and ratified. As you know Ambassador [Tom] Grönberg of the outgoing coordinating country Finland reported during the conference in New York that two years before, in September 2003, the treaty had 168 signatures. Now it has 176. Two years ago, he went on, 104 countries had ratified the treaty, but now there are 125. That represents a little over 20 percent increase in two years’ time. Of course when it comes to the list of 44 states progress is much slower. Nevertheless the overall numbers have increased quite a bit and I do think that these conferences play a role in that countries want to participate as full members and not as observers. As a result they tend therefore to speed up their internal decision-making beforehand.

Of course, as to your second question, the conference itself sends a strong signal through the very statements governments make. If I am not mistaken there were 117 delegations participating - about 40-50 at the political level - and all of them were expressing themselves very strongly in favor of ratification. And I think that in itself is very welcome. Then there was the final document adopted at the end of the conference. I noted that the media this time paid considerably more attention to the conference's outcome than in 2003. The [CTBT Organization] CTBTO in Vienna has compiled the press articles and also the internet items. That compilation has the size of a telephone book of a small city, so to speak, which is not bad. Then of course, for me the main, well, one of the main, measures adopted is to be found in the continued support in the Final Document for my own work, as special representative, which I think is very helpful.

ACT: There has been this movement, and presumably you can get some more ratifications, but is there a danger of kind of losing momentum at this point because you’re running up against the truly hard cases in this situation?

Ramaker: Yes, we are running up against the hard cases from a number of points of view. If you take the overall numbers—176 countries have signed—you should compare it with the overall membership of the United Nations. If I’m not mistaken that number is now 191. Some of those still missing haven’t signed yet because the treaty is a bit beyond their present political horizon so to speak. In other words the treaty is not really a priority for them. But in a number of other cases there are probably specific reasons why they did not sign. Of course this is obvious, for instance, for two of the three countries that didn’t join the NPT— India and Pakistan—but I think for a few others as well. Anyhow, there is still some potential for increase in the overall number of signatures.

Of course, there is a much greater potential for an increase in the number of ratifications. Here again it is often a matter of priorities and limited means. In many cases countries have quite a number of treaties waiting for ratification. In some of these cases officials told me that they were just in the process of making an inventory of all the treaties that they still had to work on. Then they will have to assign a priority to them because their capacity to do the necessary preparatory and legislative work for ratification of international instruments is indeed limited. So then my role is to say, well, do take a look at this treaty and see whether you can raise its priority in your overall legislative work.

ACT: In that context, maybe, could you more generally tell us what activities you would like to see from states that have already ratified to support entry into force and to support your work also?

Ramaker: Well, I do think that, the CTBT, indeed the entire issue of nuclear weapons tests and nonproliferation deserves a higher place in the list of priorities that states apparently use when they deal with each other. It remains important that the question of the test ban's entering into force is being raised at times at a sufficiently high - if not the highest - political level. That does not always happen unfortunately. And because in some cases countries have so many other issues to discuss with each other that they feel may be more acute that this treaty then sort of falls by the wayside. I think that is wrong and has to be changed whenever possible. On the other hand I know that quite a few countries do raise these issues at the right political level.

This last summer, for instance, when President Hu [Jintao] of China paid a state visit to the Russian Federation, the two countries, according to the final statement of that visit, agreed to work together for an early entry into force of the test ban. This means that the issue had been raised on that occasion at the highest political level—and I think that’s good.

ACT: You and many governments also at the September entry into force conference have said that the CTBT is an essential part of broader efforts to stem proliferation of nuclear weapons and to work toward nuclear disarmament. What impact do you think the failure of the NPT Review Conference in May had on your work, and what will be the consequences for the CTBT in general?

Ramaker: I would like to hope that the failure of the last NPT Review Conference to reach consensus on a final document, and subsequently of the World Summit to agree on a chapter on nonproliferation on disarmament, would focus the minds of governments on the real reasons underlying this. I would hope that, these governments as a result would give somewhat more thought to the question of how one could bridge the gaps that presently exist. So that’s the potentially positive side to these two failures in a row. Of course, it’s a pity in itself that profound differences exist in the first place, but that’s the way it is.

ACT:Given that the entry into force of the CTBT is unlikely in the short-term, some already have raised questions about the value of setting up the CTBTO and maintaining the International Monitoring System at a high level of operations. From your perspective, what is the relation between the work being done in Vienna to prepare the treaty’s verification system and the entry into force of the treaty?

Ramaker: From my perspective, which is working towards speeding up the Treaty's entry into force, the work in Vienna is very valuable. I was recently in Vienna when the new Executive Secretary [Tibor Toth] was briefing a group of visitors from the Netherlands that I was with on the progress being made in building the International Monitoring System [IMS]. It was encouraging hearing him say that two-thirds of the stations of the IMS are now up and running. Of course, there is still quite a bit of work to be done but nevertheless. There is a system of on-site inspections being worked out. This treaty, moreover, is unique in that national technical means are integral part of its verification system. What is in the works in other words, is a very, very effective verification system, which should inspire countries to have confidence that no cheating will take place once the Treaty will have taken effect. And that in itself should help in convincing countries to adhere to the Treaty. Still, I think you do have to make a distinction that if there is a non-nuclear-weapon state who wants to show the world that it possesses the capacity to develop nuclear weapons that then they may be interested in not even hiding a nuclear weapon test. But nuclear-weapon states are a different case, and between them it will be essential that they can have the full confidence that no cheating takes place, that no break-outs can take place. Therefore I believe that the work being done in Vienna, which - it should be said here - is of a very high quality, is extremely important also in the light of the promotion of the Treaty as such.

ACT: Do you have any other comments you’d like to add?

Ramaker: I think that it is of course true that under the present circumstances it may take a while before the treaty can really take effect. But the central message of all of this is that we should keep our eye on the ball and simply work continuously and steadily towards our common objective. I don’t think that there is any reason to slow down let alone give up what we’re trying to do. This goes both for the Treaty as such and for the work being done in Vienna. It may take a while, but a permanent ban on nuclear weapon test explosions remains of tremendous importance for our efforts to prevent ever more states from acquiring nuclear weapons if they do not have them yet or improving or "modernizing" them if they do. So we should simply go on with what we are doing as indeed we do.


1. “Council Common Position 2005/329/PESC of 25 April 2005 relating to the 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”, Council of the European Union, available at: http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/lex/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2005/l_106/l_10620050427en00320035.pdf

2. Meeting in Washington July 18, President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to a raft of measures ranging from promoting democracy abroad to increasing bilateral space cooperation. In the two leaders’ joint statement, Bush pledged to “work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India.” The president said he would ask Congress to “adjust U.S. laws and policies” and other countries to “adjust international regimes” to permit India the nuclear goods it wants. In exchange, Singh said Indian nuclear facilities would be divided into military or civilian sites and that civilian facilities would be opened to international oversight. Singh also reaffirmed Indian policies to uphold a nuclear testing moratorium, maintain strict export controls, and support negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) to end the production of key nuclear materials for building nuclear weapons.

3. The Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is also known as the Article XIV Conference in reference to the section of the CTBT which allows for such conferences.

4. China , Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, the United States, and Vietnam have signed the CTBT but not ratified. India, North Korea, and Pakistan have neither signed nor ratified the treaty.

Interviewed by Oliver Meier and Miles A. Pomper

Interview with Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization



Oliver Meier

On September 30, one week after the conclusion of the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in New York, Arms Control Association’s international representative and correspondent Oliver Meier met with Ambassador Tibor Tóth. Tóth, an Hungarian diplomat with extensive experience in the field of arms control and disarmament, is the newly appointed head of the Provisional Technical Secretariat, which sets up the future Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) Organization. He succeeds Wolfgang Hoffmann, who had served as executive secretary since March 1997.

ACT: Ambassador Tóth , you took over Aug. 1 as executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. Could you outline to us briefly what your priorities will be for the next couple of years in your work?

Tóth: Of course the priorities are very much defined by the treaty. They are very much defined by the resolution on the establishment of the [Preparatory Commission]. They are very much defined by the mid-term plan,[1] as well as for five years ahead. In that respect, whatever is prescribed by those documents, we will have to continue the implementation. I see two main areas for the Provisional Technical Secretariat. One is the further universalization of the treaty, and the other area is the continued buildup of the [International Monitoring] System (IMS) and putting in place those necessary ingredients for the implementation of the treaty.

As for the first part, of course, it’s a job shared with the members of our constituency, the signatories and ratifiers. While this is a joint venture of course, on many, many issues, we are doing an extremely important job. Universalization, in my judgment, is not just about ratification. There are important stepping-stones, all signatories or ratifiers are integrated in our family, in our arrangement, if you wish. For many of them, the [IMS] station-building is an important part of the job.

We will have, together with [the relevant states], created the necessary links of communications once those stations are built and certified. We have to see to the creation of the [ National Data Centers] and the communication links between [National Data Centers] and the Vienna International Data Center. [We have to see whether] traffic exists in both directions where, on the one hand we are getting the necessary data—waveform data and radionuclide data—and at the same time, whether we are able to distribute in this testing and provisional creation phase the data as well.

Why is the future operation of this arrangement important? This is a point that I would like to emphasize. The CTBT is a unique arrangement among the verification regimes. We are not just collecting information that is relevant for benchmarking comparisons or implementation, but after we have collected that information, we are sharing all that information with the members of our arrangements. In the second respect, I find it quite a unique and quite a democratic arrangement to enable countries to make good use of that arrangement. We have to enable them through capacity-building, through training to have a capacity available. That’s an important element as well as a stepping-stone leading to more and more integration of signatories and ratifiers. So all these steps are very important on the better integration of countries, which would lead to universalization together with ratification.

ACT:As the former chair of Working Group A,[2] can you briefly describe to us the overall financial situation of the organization and what are your anticipated requirements? Are signatory states making contributions sufficient to meet those needs? Can you tell us which states are in arrears? And also what could be done to improve the financial situation?

Tóth: Yes. Right now, we are close to the end of the third quarter of the year. My own feeling is that we are very close to the payment of the assessed contributions [at the level] where it used to be in the last couple of years. Still, we will have to make sure in the next three months that it really happens. If this will be the case, some still missing contributions will come in. Again, probably we will be above 90 percent of payment. Normally it’s between 90 percent and 95 percent, dependent upon whether we are speaking about the year, the existing financial year, or referring to the previous financial year. This is a very good ratio in the light of some of the difficulties in the other organizations. At the same time, it’s critical for us. We are an organization that is spending less than 20 percent of the budget on administrative costs. Of course, on one hand, it’s quite trivial in the light of the important buildup job we are to carry out. At the same time, it’s a result of certain elements of rationalization where we try to keep the administrative costs as low as possible. As for the prospects, we will have to see whether this payment pattern will continue or not. There might be, in the case of the United States, a continued discussion.

ACT: If I can just ask you a question on that point. The current U.S. administration does not support the treaty, but it continues to contribute a very large portion of the overall assessed dues. It withholds a share, however, that would be used for preparing the on-site inspection regime. A small number of states that provide a smaller share of CTBTO’s budget have also withheld or failed to deliver on their obligation for other reasons. What has been the effect on the work of CTBTO, and what do you think can be done to overcome these challenges?

Tóth: First of all, all payments, big or small, are important. The big ones because of the financial health of the organization; the small ones because of the political dedication expressed. As I mentioned to you, the rate of 90 percent to 95 percent payment is a very healthy rate, so in that respect, compared to many, many organizations, I think we have an excellent example. In the case of the United States, as it was stated by the Secretary of State, we hope that this might be in 2006 a one-time shortfall, if it is not resolved by the joint Senate/House [Conference] Committee, because right now there is a discussion about that.[3]

ACT: If I can just interrupt, what do you think might be the impact on CTBTO if the United States were to further cut its funding? As you mentioned, the Bush administration has proposed contributing $7.5 million less than its assessed contribution. What is your thinking on the possible effects of that?

Tóth: I would suggest waiting for the outcome of this joint Senate/House of Representatives discussion, because, as I understand, there’s a chance that at least a major chunk of the more than $7 million might be brought back as a result of the initiative that was undertaken in the Senate. And of course as I mentioned, the assessed contributions are needed, so we are making good use of the money, but for the continued buildup of the system we need the money. In terms of smaller countries, many of them are probably facing financial or economic difficulties, so it’s not necessarily an absence of political dedication on their side. At the same time, of course, we are encouraging all, all states-parties to pay their assessed contributions.

ACT: If I can change topic, we already mentioned the importance of continuing to build up the IMS. Can you give us a brief overview of current capabilities of the IMS, how many stations are completed? When do you anticipate completion? What is your target date?

Tóth: Around two-thirds of the system is ready, about 60 percent. As for the dynamics, there is a good dynamic because just during the last two years, 115 [IMS stations] were put in place, which is practically doubling the stations in place, so it’s not just the absolute number this time but the dynamics are very rapid. We have to put these numbers in the right context. We are the Preparatory Commission. If you have a look around at how preparatory commissions are functioning normally, real life for those regimes which do have a preparatory commission starts after the entry into force. It was very much the case, for instance, for [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] OPCW. We have to put in place practically the whole system by the time of entry into force. So we, as a newly born baby, were expected from day one not just to walk but to run with high speed if you wish. So we are trying to do that. Another aspect of showing how dynamically our capacity is building is to show it through the products, because the stations are just a means of retrieving products, which is the data—data relevant for future comparisons benchmarking. In the last two years, the daily volume of data exchange tripled from 5 gigabytes per day to 14 gigabytes per day, which is an indication on the one hand of the volume generated by more and more stations. In addition to that, it’s an indication that more and more countries are participating in the provisional operation and the testing of the system. Right now we have 89 countries, and more than 700 end users of the data in those 89 countries. Again, a number dynamically increasing.

ACT: You already mentioned that the system is expected to be ready at entry into force. What’s your planning in terms of when you aim for completion? Could you also talk a little bit about the technical hurdles in completing the system? What do you see as the biggest hurdle right now?

Tóth: First of all, the good news I shared with you is that the system is two-thirds ready. The bad news is that we have to build the remaining one-third, and the low-lying fruit in terms of stations to be built have been built, so those stations that remain are in difficult geographic places, climate-wise in difficult places, or, because of some of the administrative and other arrangements, in difficult conditions. The Provisional Technical Secretariat had to build up two-thirds of the stations in the last nine years. What is ahead of us to bring the level to around 90 percent to 95 percent readiness by the end of 2007. And if you take into account that two-thirds of the stations were built, many of them in easier places in let’s say eight years, then this is quite a challenge. That would mean at the same time that by early 2008, around 90 percent to 95 percent of the system would be ready. Of course, it’s not just about building the stations. It’s about the communication lines; it’s about making those ingredients and putting them in place, which I mentioned earlier, the communication lines, [National Data Centers], the way how we are interacting with states signatories and ratifiers, and in addition to that, the testing on the system. So for nearly a year now we are running a system-wide [performance] test that is called SPT1, and this exercise should give us some idea how in its integrity, the different elements that were created, would really create a system, how they would work together in as seamlessly a way as it is possible.

ACT:Can you say something about the geographical coverage of the system right now? How good is it? What can you detect?

Tóth: The system is quite sensitive and already a couple of years ago the system was good enough to pick up, in 1998, the [Indian and Pakistani] test explosions. The system was good enough to pick up those confidence-building non-nuclear explosions, for instance in the case of Kazakhstan, which were below the 1 kiloton range, I think 0.1 kilotons was the number.[4] And the system was even able to pick up some accidental explosions as well. So it’s a system that is relatively versatile, yes, at the same time we have to improve the coverage of the system. We have to improve the coverage of the system in Asia, we have to improve the coverage of the system in the Middle East, and we have to improve the coverage of the system, geographically speaking, in Africa. We have to, technology-wise, improve the radionuclide components[5] as well, so there is work to be done in that respect. And the other issue is that once we put systems in place, more and more we have to realize there is a maintenance job as well. So putting a system in place is one thing, but there are accidental phenomena, ruptures of cables that we will have to fix as well, so that is another element that is affecting our daily life.

ACT:If I can move away briefly from test-ban monitoring, in March, the Preparatory Commission decided to explore options for releasing IMS data to tsunami-warning organizations.[6] On a trial basis, the Provisional Technical Secretariat was given the mandate to share data from seismic and hydro-acoustic stations[7] immediately with any tsunami-warning organization recognized by UNESCO. Are there are any results from this test yet, and what is the status of discussions for using IMS data for tsunami early-warning?

Tóth: Indeed, based upon this mandate given to us, we did our homework. What I can share with you is that as a result of the effort of all scientists, we managed to narrow down the timeframe needed for the first package of data which, for the purposes of the treaty, we are producing within less than two hours—this is called [Standard Event List] SEL raw data—we managed to reduce that lead time to 20 minutes, for a rawer package of data, at the same time data that is quite relevant for tsunami alert functions. And we are in accordance with the mandate on a testing and exploration basis, sharing this data through UNESCO’s International Geographic Commission, with regional hub organizations like the Northwest Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Japan, or the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu. We had a discussion in the recent session of Working Group B,[8] end of August/early September, where we number one reported all these efforts on our part, and there were experts from both centers who shared with us their impression, and there seems to be an expectation that we continue this testing and exploration. Of course all that means that these regional hub organizations are releasing further the information. So hopefully with this 20 minutes lead time, if you put this lead time in the 26 of December 2004 context [when a disastrous Tsunami occurred in the Indian Ocean] , this is life-saving data in that context for countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, countries on the African coast.

ACT: Looking ahead, do you think these trials will be a precedent for wider use of IMS data for other scientific and disaster-relief purposes, and looking even further ahead from a technical perspective, is it possible that data collected and analyzed by the IMS, including radionuclide data, might be useful to CTBT states-parties in assessing whether there are cases of non-compliance with other international agreements, particularly the NPT?

Tóth: First of all, we are exploring these opportunities in accordance with the mandate given to us. So it’s very much up to the state signatories and ratifiers to decide which areas they see that we should additionally explore possibilities. There is a serious exploration undertaken by signatories and ratifiers; during the last three years there were a couple of events—London, Sopron, Hungary, and Berlin—where very intense attention was devoted to both civil and scientific applications of the data. You mentioned some of them. I would like to add the potential relevance of infrasound data[9] as a result of volcanic eruptions for safe security overflight information in areas where such volcanic eruptions might happen. Or the global warming phenomenon could be followed once we can build up the necessary database to compare data. How far member states will request us to move in this direction? My feeling is that we will have to focus on the core function of our mandate, which is CTBT implementation. At the same time as we see, from the renewed mandate given to us as a result of the session of Working Group B, and from the statements that were delivered in the recent Article XIV conference,[10] where there is very strong political support. We probably feel encouraged with this understanding that we shouldn’t lose sight of the core mandate, but we will remain helpful and relevant for humanitarian, disaster-alert, and other purposes. And we achieved all these results without significant additional costs, which is quite important.

ACT: One last question on on-site inspections. Given the absence of the United States representatives from discussions on on-site inspections, how are preparations for on-site inspections going? Are you planning any new measures to speed up discussions, in particular for the on-site inspection manual, and are there any plans to conduct field exercises in the near future?

Tóth: I think what we are doing is very much based, again, on the treaty, language [of] resolutions and the Preparatory Commission midterm plan, and in that respect, on the 2003 Strategic Plan. Those elements indicate to us that, as it is the case with the IMS, there is some system-wide testing that is going on. There is a need to see how, in an integrated context, the [on-site inspection] elements can be brought together. What is foreseen as a result of the recent meeting of Working Group B—and it is subject to approval by the November plenary—is an integrated field exercise to be undertaken in 2008. There are some preparatory steps to mention; two directed exercises will take place as well. All of that of course would require the necessary ingredients to be put in place. You mentioned that the ongoing work on the operational manual is important. There are test manuals to be developed by Working Group B, which should be like an underlying guidance for these exercises. We as the secretariat are working on standard operating procedures, and so please again, in different areas, for this integrated field exercise, on the equipment side there is an expectation that we will receive from member states the necessary in kind support. While I’m not sure that the term “exercise” is fully accurate, all of these elements will have to be put together in a realistic way where we can simulate their function. So that would be the purpose of all activities for the next two to three years in this area. It’s very much like the SPT1, we are trying to test whatever we have created in the last couple of years, based on the level of readiness that we have achieved. I don’t think it’s any speeding up. There’s no speeding up, no slowing down, we are moving forward as it is prescribed.


1. The Medium Term Plan is a planning tool that guides the work of the Preparatory Commission for the period 2005-2009.

2. Working Group A is a subsidiary body of CTBTO’s Preparatory Commission and is responsible for budgetary and administrative matters.

3. See Tiffany Bergin, “Hill Split on CTBTO Funding,” Arms Control Today, September 2005, p. 40.

4. On August 22, 1998, a chemical explosion of 0.1 kiloton was conducted as a confidence-building measure under the CTBT. The explosion took place under a joint U.S.-Kazakhstan program to destroy facilities at the former Soviet nuclear test site in Eastern Kazakhstan. At the time, several International Monitoring System stations in the region were not yet operational, but the explosion was well located on the basis of detections at stations far away in Alaska, Central Africa, Norway, Scotland, and Sweden, as well as at three nearer stations in Russia.

5. The radionuclide network of 80 stations will use air samplers to detect radioactive particles released from an atmospheric nuclear explosion or vented from an underground or underwater nuclear explosion. Forty-one radionuclide stations had been completed as of December 31, 2004. See Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO, “Report of the Executive Secretary on Major Programmes 1-7 for 2004,” CTBT/PC-24/3/Annex III, June 27-28 2005 (hereinafter Report of the Executive Secretary 2004).

6. See Oliver Meier, “CTBTO Releases Test Ban Monitoring Data for Tsunami Warning,” Arms Control Today, April 2005, pp. 39-40.

7. Fifty primary and 120 auxiliary seismic stations will be used to detect seismic waves generated by earthquakes, explosions or other phenomena. Eleven underwater hydroacoustic stations are being established to detect explosions under water or in the atmosphere at low altitude. As of December 31, 2004, 32 primary seismic, 94 auxiliary seismic, and 7 hydroacoustic stations had been completed. See Report of the Executive Secretary 2004.

8. Working Group B is a subsidiary body of CTBTO’s Preparatory Commission and responsible for verification.

9. Sixty land-based infrasound stations will use sonar to detect atmospheric tests. As of December 31, 2004 half of the planned stations had been completed. See Report of the Executive Secretary 2004.

10. The Fourth Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was held in New York from September 21-23, 2005.

Interviewed by Oliver Meier

Interview With Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering



Wade Boese and Miles A. Pomper

President George W. Bush has made fielding missile defenses a priority for his administration. In pursuit of this objective, he withdrew the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in June 2002. During his administration, he has requested nearly $40 billion in funding for the Pentagon agency charged with developing ballistic missile defenses, and ordered the 2004 deployment of the initial elements of a defense against long-range ballistic missiles. On Sept. 29, Arms Control Today interviewed Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, who oversees the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), on the current status of and future plans for U.S. anti-missile systems.

ACT:We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Could you provide our readers with a snapshot of the current status of ballistic missile defense efforts, particularly the ground-based midcourse (GMD) system?

Obering: First of all, I want to make a couple of points. The ground-based system is of course the most visible and one of the more complex components of our missile defense system. But it is part of a larger capability that we are building, and that is an integrated ballistic missile defense system. It will consist of space-based sensors, sea-based defenses, land-based defenses—along with sea- and land-based sensors—tied to command and control centers. So, we are building an integrated and layered system.

Now, specifically to the ground-based midcourse system, it is the part of the system that is capable at this point of protecting against long-range missile threats. We attack them in the midcourse phase.[1] Since the summer of 2004, we have been emplacing interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and at Vandenberg, California. We currently have seven interceptors placed at Fort Greely and two in California. They are supported by the Defense Support Program satellites, which we have had for years for early warning purposes, and the Cobra Dane radar in the Aleutian Islands, which we just had a very successful test of. In that test on [Sept. 26], we launched an actual long-range target out of the back of a C-17. It comes down in parachutes and then ignites and comes on a threat trajectory into the defended area across the radar. We proved in that test that we were able to detect, track, classify, and generate a fire-control solution against that missile with the interceptors and the actual hardware and software that we have in an operational configuration today.

ACT:Let me ask you a question on the interceptors placed at Fort Greely. Last October, the appropriate military commands began putting the system through a “shakedown.” Initially, this was described as a process that would last several weeks but it has now been underway for nearly a year and the system is yet to be declared operational. Why is that?

Obering: Well, I do not know who classified that as only being for several weeks.[2] I am unaware of that. What we decided to do was what you would do with any system of this complexity—much like taking a ship on a shakedown cruise. That is what we have been doing since last October.

Let me get to a broader point here for just a second and then come back. We live in a different world then when we signed the ABM Treaty during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The way that we acquired, produced, developed, and tested [weapon] systems grew up in that Cold War environment. And, to be very frank, there was not a sense of urgency then that we have developed in this day and age. So, we felt we were totally defenseless against a country that would develop a long-range or, even for that matter, a medium-range threat against the United States. We had no defense against that. In [missile defense] testing we did from 2000 to 2002,[3] we successfully intercepted targets. We did that with a prototype of the [exoatmospheric] kill vehicle (EKV)[4] that we have in the ground today. That gave us enough confidence that we had a capability that we ought to start getting out the door; again, because we had no defense at all. Had we been attacked, I would have been hard-pressed to say why I did not try to start getting that capability into the field. So that was the rationale behind starting to put out a defensive line of capabilities. Is it perfect? No. Is it what we are going to have for the future in terms of this idea? No. We are going to continue to improve this.

In fact, we have already had at least two major configuration changes to the system with respect to updated software in the fire control system of the command-and-control and battle management system. We continue to develop and wring those out. We have demonstrated that we can take the system from what we would call a developmental state, where we are upgrading this software or upgrading a configuration, into an operational alert state, and then back. We will continue to do this as we improve and upgrade the system. But the point is that when we are in this development mode we can come out of that into an operational mode should we have to for real-world purposes. That is something that is important. You can continue to build a system and improve it while having that inherent capability.

ACT:Is there going to be a point when you are going to declare the system operational?

Obering: Well, first of all, I do not make that call. I am responsible for developing the system and getting it out there. There are a lot of factors that go into what you declare in terms of the capability, not the least of which, obviously, is the technical readiness or the maturity of the system. From a technical and performance perspective, we have a capability that we can use. Had we followed that classic [development] model that I talked about in the Cold War era, we would just now begin to probably start some of our testing to support a fielding decision, meaning that we would be three or four years away from having any operational defensive capability. We would be launching targets and interceptors in our test bed in the South Pacific, but in terms of a real live operational capability against a real-world threat, we would not have anything.

This idea of concurrent development and test, development and test, development and test, with inherent capability, is a model that we need to pursue for today’s environment. We have used it on other programs. We used it on Global Hawk and on Predator.[5] In this particular instant where you do not have anything, I think it is very appropriate.

ACT:Two years ago, then-Undersecretary of Defense Edward Aldridge predicted the [ground-based] system would have a 90 percent chance of successfully taking out a North Korean ballistic missile. A few months ago you noted that the system has a “better-than-zero” chance of hitting an incoming missile. What accounts for this seemingly large discrepancy and how do you rate the current system’s ability to intercept a ballistic missile warhead?

Obering: What I meant by “better-than-zero” is that if you do not have anything in the field, you have zero. The specific percentage of the system’s effectiveness is classified. That is why I do not articulate what that is. Now, Undersecretary Aldridge made a comment in testimony and I do not know the context of that in terms of how he made or why he made that remark. But I can tell you that not only is it better than zero, which is what we had a year ago, it is much, much better than zero. I just cannot get into what those details are. Nor, I think, would the American public expect that because we do not typically go into those kinds of details for our systems.

ACT:What is that assessment of much, much better than zero based on?

Obering: The testing that we have done to date. It is based on the confidence that we have continued to build in the system. I want to go back and iterate a little bit about that. A lot of times, critics say, “it is untested, it is unproven, etc.” The fact of the matter is the basic functionality of the system—the ability to intercept a target traveling at the speeds that we are talking about,[6] the ability to engage in a terminal engagement and destroy the target—we have seen that in intercepts that we have done in the 2000-2002 timeframe. We took the kill vehicle that accomplished those intercepts and we improved it by making it more producible and making it a more robust design. The booster that we have in the ground today, we have actually flown successfully in the current configuration twice before and in a similar configuration another time. Is the system designed for a very, very complex threat suite? The answer is no. But what it can handle is what we anticipate the threat to be in the near term. We will evolve and improve the system over time to handle what we think the threat is going to evolve to.

ACT:You mentioned testing; there has not been a successful intercept test since October 2002. The interceptors that are deployed now in Alaska and California are comprised of boosters and kill vehicles that have never been flight-tested together. What gives you confidence that these interceptors will work?

Obering: Good question. I want to be a little specific about why we have not had a successful test since 2002. A large measure of that time was to stand down because we thought we had learned as much as we could learn from those tests. We had basically wrung out those configurations as much as we could. A large measure of that stand down was to take the money that we would have had in further testing of that design and put it into the development of the [interceptor] configuration that we have in the holes today.

When we came back up on line last year to begin our flight testing again, we ran into a problem in December and a problem in February.[7] Those problems had nothing to do with the basic functionality of the system. They were basically technical glitches.

In December, we had a software timing issue in the booster; we actually flew with that twice before. It was easily fixed. It was one parameter in one software line of code.

In terms of the February test, we had a ground support arm in a silo that did not clear out of the way. That turned out to be workmanship and a quality control issue. Let me explain. We have two silos down in the South Pacific that we test out of. The particular configuration of the silo that we were testing out of in February happened to be for a booster configuration that is no longer in the program and there had to be some modifications done to that silo to accommodate the booster that we now have in Alaska and California. It was the workmanship surrounding the modifications to that test silo that led to this failure. This was not the rocket science part. We determined that based on workmanship there was some salt air fog that got into the silo. It corroded a hinge and that is what [led to the failure]. We do not have that problem in Alaska or in California with respect to the silos.

Since we had the failures in December and in February, I wanted to make sure that we had wrung everything out. Because when you have two failures in a row like that, even when they are peripheral to the basic functionality of the system, you want to make sure that you do not have any other problems lurking, especially when you talk about quality-control, workmanship, and that type of thing. I established the Independent Review Team to take a look at the program and review every aspect of it, basically soup-to-nuts, and to tell me where we needed to pay attention. They made some great recommendations. Since May, we have been going through the items that they have recommended and we have laid out a systematic test program that we plan to get back into here in a couple of months. In the meantime, we have been taking components of the booster and the kill vehicle and putting them through qualification testing. We have been doing full qualification testing on the booster’s software. So those have been the pacing items to get us back into flight testing.

ACT: You mentioned the Independent Review Team; their conclusion was that there was not enough flight data to validate [testing] models and simulations. Once again, how do you have confidence that the interceptors will work?

Obering: Well, the major conclusion that they had is that there were no design flaws that they could tell in the system. That was one of the primary [findings] they made. You almost never have enough flight test data to validate all the simulations and models that you need. However, I can tell you on the booster flights that we have accomplished for the booster configuration that is sitting in the silos in Alaska and California, we have flown that and those models for the flight test have very accurately predicted the performance of those boosters, including the launch environments and everything else. We have to have more flight test data. There is no doubt about that. But we can now get that data as part of our flight test program and, at the same time, have at least some type of capability, should we need it, to counter an operational real world threat. This is not a game. It tends to be a game sometimes, I think, inside the beltway.

ACT: If I may, what’s the reasoning behind conducting the next two flight tests without a target and then waiting to go back to intercept testing next year?

Obering: First of all, any time that you go through that type of systematic exhaustive review of your program, you want to go back and make sure that you minimize the variability when you resume testing. We want to take this a step at a time now. We are being very conservative to make sure that we have thought through everything.

The rationale for not flying against a target in the next flight test is we want to make sure we can take the kill vehicle through its paces. We are going to be able to do some things with that kill vehicle now that we would not be able to do if we were flying against a target. For example, if there is no target when the kill vehicle opens its eyes, it is going to do some maneuvers that we have not had to do in the recent test program.

The reason we are going to fly the second flight test without a target is because we are going to start launching the interceptor out of an operational site, which is Vandenberg. You do not do that overnight. You have got to make sure that you have tested the crews; that they are ready. Moving to a new site means you have new aspects of range safety and everything else. Therefore, you want to make sure that you have got that right before you go against a target.

Then we introduce targets for the third test and the fourth test.

ACT: Will those be fired from Kodiak [ Island, Alaska]?[8]

Obering: From Kodiak, exactly.

ACT:Our readers, as I am sure you are not surprised, have closely followed the debate over missile defenses and the ABM Treaty. As you know, in December 2001, the president announced that the United States would withdraw from the treaty. How has that withdrawal benefited U.S. missile defense programs?

Obering: Tremendously. Absolutely tremendously. It also benefited arms control. Because, let’s face it, we are the ultimate in arms control. When all else fails, we have to have something between us and a weapon. When attempts to diplomatically disarm other countries fail, we have to perform.

At the time the ABM Treaty was signed in 1972, it was appropriate for the environment that we were in. It was a very good thing because our primary threat at that time was the Soviet Union, which had missiles capable of reaching the United States. The concept of mutually assured destruction was evident; it was stabilizing between the two countries. The lessoned learned from the ABM Treaty is make sure that you have the right treaty with the right nation. In 1972, there were about eight nations around the world that had ballistic missiles or ballistic missile technologies and most of those were friendly to the United States. Today, there are more than 20 countries around the world that have ballistic missiles and ballistic missile technologies and many of those countries are not friendly to the United States or, at least, could be considered hostile to some of our intents and interests. For us to have abided by the ABM Treaty with a country that no longer existed, while the rest of the world were arming themselves with these weapons, flies in the face of responsible defense for the American people. I could not honestly look an American in the face and say that we are providing for the common defense if we are not addressing a threat that was growing around the world.

ACT: Were there specific actions that you would not have been permitted to do under the treaty that you have done since the withdrawal?

Obering: You bet. We could not have built an integrated capability, which you are going to have to do against these types of threats. The ability for us right now to take an Aegis radar[9] and tie information [that it gathers] into a fire control system for a ground-based weapon located in Alaska or California would have been a violation of the treaty. We could not mix strategic and tactical or theater weapons systems together to achieve the capability that we now have and that we will continue to improve.[10] This idea of mixing and matching sensors and interceptors and command-and-control elements to expand your detection and engagement capability over a single, autonomous system would have been prohibited by that treaty. So the ability to even develop and field a capability, other than the one site that was allowed in the treaty, would have been prohibited.

Again, the treaty was a recognition of the environment in which it was written. It is not the environment that we have today. We had to take very realistic steps to address today’s environment and today’s threats. I do not view this as a zero-sum game like some people do. We have to continue diplomatic efforts to try to encourage countries not to invest in weapons of mass destruction. One of the ways you can do that—and I think historically speaking it has always been the case—is through strength. You show them that it is not worth the investment. The ultimate missile defense is if we can dissuade a country from ever investing in ballistic missiles to start with. That is one of the primary objectives. If we cannot do that, we have to find ways to deter them from ever using them, and if they do use them, to destroy them before they harm the American people, our interests, or allies.

ACT: Recently you have endorsed exploring the possibility of space-based interceptors. MDA has plans to possibly begin testing and exploring these systems as early as 2012. When will the United States start having to deploy hardware to create this space-based test bed and why do you think this is necessary?

Obering: That is a great question. Let me preface it this way. Twelve years ago, if you had asked me if we were going to be fighting in Afghanistan, I would not have predicted that. If you can tell me where we are going to be fighting 12 years from now or what threat countries we have to deal with or what those threats will look like and where they are coming from, then I could lay out very precisely a terrestrial-based system that could handle that. But we do not know. We know what we know today and we will continue to evolve that.

There are a lot of things about a space-based interceptor that we do not know that we need to explore from a technical perspective. I think it is also a proper debate to have with the American public and in Congress as to whether we want to do this. But speaking from a military perspective and from somebody who is charged with protecting the American people, deployed U.S. forces, allies, and friends against all ranges of missiles in all phases of their flights, it makes sense to explore a space-based interceptor layer. And, it would be nothing more than that. It would be a layer to the system that we have evolved and will continue to evolve terrestrially. There is a lot that needs to be answered and there needs to be an active debate about whether we want to do this. One of the things that I want to make sure is that it is an informed debate and that is why we think it is prudent to do some experimentation with respect to whether you can even achieve [a space-based layer]? Can you build the responsiveness to command-and-control? Is it affordable? If you have interceptors that are unaffordable in terms of their mass, size, weight, or whatever, there is no use in starting down the path. So what we have proposed is not that we are going to actively build a space-based layer. What we have proposed is a very modest and moderate test bed approach to launch some experiments. We have a very modest amount of money beginning in the 2008 timeframe to begin to do this experimentation. The debate can take place in parallel to that and hopefully it will be a much more informed debate than we have today.

ACT:What about those who would point out that initially the Fort Greely site started out as a test bed site and then it was turned into an operational site so why couldn’t a space-based test bed become a deployment site just by changing its name?

Obering: Well, when we took the Fort Greely site as a test bed and it became basically a site with an operational capability, it was done for a good reason. There was a recognition that we had an emerging threat. We had a threat from North Korea and we had to do something about that.[11] I would anticipate that we would not have an operational space-based interceptor layer unless we needed it. But these defenses take time so being able to go from a test bed into an operational status in a very short amount of time is something that is an advantage, not a disadvantage.

ACT:What about the concerns of Russia, China, and others that this could set off an arms race in space?

Obering: The Russians and the Chinese understand, or at least should understand, that the scale of what we are doing nowhere near matches what they can amass in terms of attack profiles and quantities. We are not talking about a massive Brilliant Pebbles[12] or a massive space-based interceptor constellation that would come anywhere near close to countering a Russian or Chinese threat. We are not talking about that. We are talking about a modest layer to help us engage emerging threats that could occur around the world over the next decade. Now, some people also describe this as the weaponization of space. That is a term that we do not do enough examination of. What we are talking about doing—if this pans out—is putting very small-scale interceptors into space that would be defensive weapons. They would have no offensive capability. They would have no ability to attack anything on the ground. They would not have the survivability to come back through the atmosphere.

ACT:They could attack satellites in space.

Obering: It depends on how we design them. It depends on what their intent and their use are. A warhead traveling through space and a satellite traveling through space are very different. These have to be considered defensive weapons because, again, just by design and by the nature of what we are talking about. But I am not the one to decide that. All I am charged to do is to try to make sure that we have thought through the technical aspects and that we have got an informed debate. This is a decision that needs to be made by the American people and, obviously, debated in Congress.

ACT: How many interceptors, in general, are we talking about for a test bed in space?

Obering: Not even a handful to start with. We are talking about onesies, twosies in terms of experimentation. That is all we are talking about.

ACT: There are also concerns about the creation of space debris. What is your perspective on that issue?

 Obering: I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about that. I think there is a lot we still need to work out and think through about debris. By the way, we intercept in space today. Our intercepts for the GMD system and for Aegis occur in space today. So we understand and know how to handle debris issues associated with a test bed. Debris is somewhat of a side issue. I know we have folks that are actively looking and exploring it. But you can get different opinions of that depending on which side you engage.

ACT: Back on Earth, could you update us on U.S. plans to deploy long-range interceptors in Europe?

Obering: We have money that has been budgeted beginning in the 2006 timeframe for this, and we think it is important for a variety of reasons. Part of our strategy is not only to protect the U.S. homeland, but also to protect our deployed forces, our allies, and friends. We are concerned about threats that may emerge from the Middle East. Having another interceptor site in Europe would greatly [complicate] not only an attacker’s problem with respect to the United States in terms of how many interceptor sites they have to deal with, but it also primarily provides coverage to our allies and friends. There are several nations in Europe that are very interested in hosting a third interceptor site and we will continue to pursue that over the next year.[13]

ACT: Has there been any determination made whether these would be the ground-based midcourse interceptors or Kinetic Energy Interceptors?[14]

Obering: Like anything else we do, we try to crawl, walk, and then run. The only interceptors that would be available in the near term would be the ground-based midcourse interceptors that we have today in Alaska and California. If we can evolve this Kinetic Energy Interceptor, which I think would be a tremendous addition to our capability, then that is another option we could offer for the future.

ACT:Has there been any determination on which European country will host interceptors?

Obering: No, not yet.

ACT: Is there a general timeframe? You said the money begins in 2006, but when might interceptors be deployed to Europe?

Obering: Well, we are going to have to have a fairly sound, solid foundation of agreement in the next several months so that we can begin to move out with the program.

 ACT: Spending on all missile defense-related activities over the past several years has been approximately $9 billion annually. Do you foresee future spending remaining about the same and approximately how much do you think bringing a layered missile defense system on line will cost?

Obering: I think this year we have asked for $7.8 billion in the president’s budget.

ACT: Is that MDA or all missile defense-related funding?

Obering: That’s the MDA budget, $7.8 billion.[15] It is about $6.4 billion in development and about $1.4 billion in fielding or deployment capabilities. And that stays pretty constant across the [Future Years Defense Plan] in terms of that investment. We will manage within that. Do I think that that is going to stay that way? I think that we are facing tremendous budget pressures and that [MDA] is part of that mix. We have to be involved and we have to be part of that discussion in terms of what that budget authority would be.

But in terms of affordability, let me put it to you this way. If you look at every penny that we have spent on missile defense since 1983 when President Ronald Reagan started the effort, it is about $92 billion. That is every penny that has been appropriated to missile defense. If you look at the Sept. 11 attack on New York City, the direct damage cost alone, as reported by the [Government Accountability Office] in 2002, is about $83 billion. That does not have anything to do with economic opportunity cost or anything like that. So in one attack that did not include a weapon of mass destruction, you have almost reached the total investment line of what we have done over 22 years in missile defense. It is not just how much does the system cost. It is what is that return on investment and are we getting that return on investment for the American people? [Missile defense] is a small fraction of the overall defense budget. I believe that the return on that is very well worth it because had we had an attack of a weapon of mass destruction on an American city like New York or Los Angeles or even Washington, you would not believe the damage cost. If we can prevent or interdict that, it is well worth the investment.

Another thing people ask me is “Well, what about weapons of mass destruction in suitcases or in ships off the coast or smuggled in?” It is not an either/or. We have to be prepared for all of those, unfortunately, in this day and age, I wish it was not like that but wishing is not a strategy. We have to be prepared for all eventualities.

ACT: Going back to testing, there are some people that have read the Independent Review Team report as suggesting that MDA should cut back on its flight testing to avoid failures that might undercut the system’s deterrent value in a potential adversary’s eyes. Is this an accurate reading of the report or the strategy behind MDA’s delay in resuming intercept testing [of the ground-based midcourse system]?

Obering: Absolutely not. When we get back into the air in our test program—and we believe that that will be in the next couple of months here—then we plan to fly four times in 12 months. That is a much increased pace over what we have done in the past.

And, by the way, that is just one part of [missile defense testing]. We also have the Aegis program, which we flight-tested last February. That was very successful. We are going to flight-test that again in November. Next year in the [Terminal High Altitude Air Defense][16] program, the Aegis program, and the GMD program, we will have approximately 10 flight tests if you add all those up. That is a very aggressive test program. We are not sitting on our hands and trying to effect any type of delay because of that consideration.

ACT: One program you did not mention was the Airborne Laser.[17] Where does that program stand? We know there has been some difficulty in bringing that on line.

Obering: Actually, we have had tremendous success since last November. It was a program when I came to the agency that was what I would consider to be unstable. They were losing schedule. They were not making sufficient progress. There was a concerted effort made over the past year and a half to restructure and refocus on the major milestones. And, by the way, this is a good example of making sure that you have focused on the proper things. Two years ago or more, we were worrying about maintainability and spending resources on that when we had not even fired the laser yet.

Last November, we achieved first light in the laser and we achieved first flight of the heavily modified 747. Since that time we have had 42 flights with the aircraft. We have completed the passive optical testing of the aircraft. We have been actively lasing. In fact, this past weekend, we have gone through more than half of what we consider to be the full duration time for the laser. And, we have achieved a stable lasing and achieved equilibrium in the laser reactions.[18] So we have made tremendous progress. That portends to be a revolutionary capability with respect to defense and what it can add to this arsenal of defense against a ballistic missile threat.

ACT: You have already addressed it somewhat, but for decades missile defense and efforts to limit offensive missiles were viewed as competing against one another. How do you see the two as being complementary or how do you achieve that?

Obering: First of all, you have to recognize that arms control assumes rational actors. Arms control assumes adversaries that can be deterred. It assumes that there are people who have something to lose and that you can actually deal with in terms of negotiation and in terms of being able to come to an accommodation over a mutual disarmament, or even unilateral for that matter. What we are finding out today in this world is we have folks that are not like that. We have folks that are willing to sacrifice not only themselves but hundreds of people for a particular cause. If those people get their hands on these types of weapons—and there are hundreds and hundreds of missiles out there; many, many, many that are unaccounted for—they are almost undeterrable. Certainly, they are nonnegotiable when it comes to something like arms control. That is why I see us as being very much a collaborative effort. There are countries that can be deterred. There are countries that we can enter into arms control agreements with. I think that is very wise and that is something that we need to do. On the other hand, we have seen in the last several years that there are organizations and countries that just are not deterred in that manner.

ACT:Is there anything we have not asked about that you would like to add?

Obering: Just one of intent and one of what I will call trust. Many times you can get the feeling, if you read a lot of the critics of missile defense, that we are trying to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes or that we are trying to fool people or we are trying to build something that is unreliable or that is foolhardy. I wish that more people would give us the benefit of the doubt. We have thousands and thousands of dedicated Americans that are working very, very hard to build a defensive capability where there was none before. They are doing it for a very good reason. When you walk though some of the factories that we have that are producing these components and these systems, what you see on the walls are pictures of American cities. In many cases, they are aerial photographs of the hometowns of the workers that are crafting the system. They understand what they are doing is very important. I wish more people would give us the benefit of the doubt. We are on the side of trying to prevent weapons of mass destruction from being used against the American people and our interests. I think that is something that I would like to see emphasized much, much more.

ACT: Thank you very much for your time.



1. Ballistic missiles have three stages of flight: the boost phase, the midcourse phase, and the terminal phase. The boost phase begins at the missile’s launch and lasts until its rocket engines stop firing. Depending on the missile, this phase lasts between three to five minutes. The midcourse phase starts after the rockets finish firing and the missile is on a ballistic course toward its target. For ICBMs, this phase occurs in space and can last up to 20 minutes. It is during this stage that that the missile’s warhead(s) separate from the delivery vehicle. The terminal phase begins when the missile’s payload re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere and it continues until impact or detonation.

2. General John W. Holly, who oversees development of the ground-based midcourse defense, told a Washington audience Oct. 14, 2004, that the shakedown would take place over six to 12 weeks. (See ACT, December 2004.)

3. From October 1999 to December 2002, the Pentagon conducted eight missile intercept tests using the ground-based system. The system tallied five hits and three misses in these developmental tests.

4. The ground-based interceptors deployed at Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base are comprised of two main components: a high-speed booster and the EKV. The booster lifts the EKV into space, where the two then separate. Using radar updates and its own onboard sensors, the 70-kilogram EKV is supposed to maneuver into the path of an oncoming warhead and destroy it through a collision.

5. Global Hawk and Predator are unmanned aerial vehicles.

6. The GMD system is currently focused on intercepting targets traveling five to seven kilometers per second.

7. In these two tests, the interceptor failed to launch. (See ACT, March 2005.)

8. In all previous intercept tests, the targets have been fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base west over the Pacific Ocean toward the test interceptors based at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. By firing the targets from Kodiak Island and the interceptors from Vandenberg, the system will face new intercept trajectories.

9. The Aegis radar is part of a broader ship-based system originally intended to track and counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. In recent years, MDA has claimed the system can also help track a long-range ballistic missile. The concept is to use the ship-based radar to relay tracking data to a ground-based interceptor to help locate and engage a target.

10. Strategic systems are those designed to engage long-range ballistic missiles. Tactical or theater systems are those designed to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. Different capabilities are needed to intercept missiles with different ranges because they all fly at varying speeds, trajectories, and altitudes.

11. North Korea ’s last ballistic missile flight test was an August 1998 test of its medium-range, 2,000-kilometer Taepo Dong-1. Although the U.S. intelligence community has assessed that North Korea is developing a longer-range Taepo Dong-2 capable of reaching the United States, Pyongyang has not tested such a missile.

12. Brilliant Pebbles was an initiative of President George H.W. Bush that envisioned up to 1,000 space-based interceptors.

13. At least the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have all held discussions with the United States about hosting missile interceptors. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

14. The Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) is supposed to be a mobile land- or sea-based missile interceptor capable of traveling at some six kilometers per second. The interceptor was originally envisioned for taking out enemy missiles during the boost phase, but now MDA is exploring whether it might also be used to counter missile warheads in the midcourse phase. KEI is supposed to begin flight-testing in 2008 and the projected deployment date for the land-based model is 2013.

15. MDA does not fund the ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 system against short- and medium-range missiles nor the Space-Based Infrared System-high (SBIRS-high), which is supposed to help detect missile launches worldwide. SBIRS-high is intended to replace the Defense Support Program satellites.

16. Formerly the Theater High Altitude Area Defense system, THAAD is a mobile ground-based system designed to intercept short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missile warheads near the end of the midcourse phase or the start of the terminal phase. Intercepts could take place inside or outside the atmosphere. THAAD was last flight-tested in the summer of 1999 after which it was put through a redesign.

17. The Airborne Laser program calls for mounting a powerful laser on a modified Boeing 747 to shoot down ballistic missiles in the first few minutes after their launch. During the Bill Clinton administration, Pentagon plans called for testing a completed system in 2003, but delays have postponed such an experiment until at least 2006.

18. Lasing is the process of creating the laser beam. It is estimated that the laser beam at full power would need to be concentrated on its target for a minimum of eight to 15 seconds to take it out. Currently, all 6 of the projected modules for creating a full power laser beam are currently being used in testing. The prototype laser, including its power producing modules, has yet to be integrated on the Boeing 747 aircraft.

Interviewed by Wade Boese and Miles A. Pomper

Subject Resources:

Interview with Odair Gonçalves, President of Brazil's Nuclear Energy Commission



Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper and William Huntington

Odair Gonçalves is president of Brazil’s Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN), the agency responsible for regulating and licensing all nuclear activity in Brazil. On Sept. 28, Gonçalves spoke with Arms Control Today Editor Miles A. Pomper and Arms Control Association Scoville Fellow William Huntington about Brazil’s nuclear programs in the wake of new revelations about his country’s nuclear past.

ACT: As you know, the former president of Brazil, Jose Sarney, confirmed in August what many around the world have long believed: that Brazil once had a secret nuclear weapons program.[1] What is your estimate of when this program was dismantled?

Gonçalves: Sarney said that, but it is not completely clear that that program existed. For example, the CNEN has made a scan of our documents to see if there is something related to a nuclear weapons program or something like that. But there was not. So, it’s a question because we had a military regime during a certain time. And in any regime, not just in a military regime but in any regime, there are a lot of things that are secret. If there were such a program it was secret and there is no document, in our institution at least. So, we are not quite sure about this thing. But if it were [true], our constitution from 1988 said that such a program is forbidden. So from 1988 to now I don’t believe that there was anything related to a nuclear weapons program.

 ACT: As you know, one of your predecessors, Jose Luiz Santana, said in August that when he took office [in 1990] the Brazilian military was in fact still working on a nuclear bomb.[2] Was he wrong about that?

Gonçalves: Again, we don’t have any documentation. But, I may say that he also said that we had some highly enriched uranium (HEU). In this case, I may say that it’s not true. That is very clear to me. We know exactly what he was talking about. It was about a stock we have of around 20 percent enriched uranium, which is for sure not possible to make an atomic device with.

ACT: So you had HEU, but not weapons grade uranium.

Gonçalves: Oh, no. Weapons grade uranium must have at least 90 percent enrichment. So, since this was not true, I’m not quite sure about the other statements. And this I know for sure was a lie.

ACT: You say that there was some 20 percent enriched uranium. One of his claims also was that this was not uranium that Brazil had produced itself.

Gonçalves: No, it was imported, clearly.

ACT: Where was it imported from, and when?

Gonçalves: Well, that is not quite clear but we have it under [International Atomic Energy (IAEA)] safeguards. So, it’s public, the quantity. Where was it imported from? We are not quite sure and perhaps it is not clear how the old government obtained it, or under which agreement it was possible to acquire this uranium. But for sure, it’s now under safeguards. It’s about 20 percent enrichment, which makes it clear that it’s nothing related with any kind of bomb. It’s below 20 percent.

ACT: And it’s now, all the material, all the enriched uranium is now under safeguards.

Gonçalves: Under international safeguards, yes.

ACT: An August 29 CNEN statement maintained, as you’ve said here as well, that there are no documents or information that can confirm Santana’s claims.[3]

Gonçalves: Yes, exactly.

ACT: But that denial did not definitively contradict his claims, on the other hand. Do you possess any definitive proof that his statements are false?

Gonçalves: What we may say is that now there is no such plan. There is nothing that is hidden or not under safeguards in Brazil. We can’t guarantee anything from the old government because it was a different regime. Even our constitution was different. But since 1988, it’s possible to say that there’s nothing going on. Everything in Brazil is very clear. Our program is completely under safeguards. It’s difficult for any country to say completely what happened in a former government. Especially if you have some kind of military regime underway.

ACT: So it sounds to me that you would dispute his characterization that from 1988 to 1990 the program continued.

Gonçalves: Yes.

ACT: Either before 1988 or after that was the military preparing for a nuclear test explosion?

Gonçalves: We have a hole, as you know.[4] It was just a hole. That is what it is. There was a lot of media notice about that. From our point of view, some things are very easy to guarantee. If the military regime intended somehow to make an atomic device, it was just a plan because there is no way to get the fuel, the uranium, the nuclear material to make such a device. So that’s completely clear now. Even if there was something, it was just in the way of plans or studies or something like that. Even though we don’t have any kind of document attesting such a thing. It is clear, our position, because we are the regulator institution so we know quite well what is going on in the country.

ACT: But as you know, technically, if you could make 20 percent enriched uranium you could make 90 percent enriched uranium.

Gonçalves: We could not. It was not ours, it was imported. That’s clear. We now are able to perform enrichment, and just to 5 percent. And if you can enrich uranium, even if you could go until let’s say 20 percent, it’s not the same thing to enrich to 90 percent. We have to have another design, another approach, and so on. We have a license to do these things and the licensing in Brazil is just for 5 percent for the new plant at Resende.

ACT: Brazil has not yet signed an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement.[5] Why not?

Gonçalves: Because our position was that we were waiting for the results from the review meeting of the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)] some months ago, and now we are studying the thing to see what we are going to do. But until now, we were waiting for the results of the conference.[6]

ACT: So you’re considering signing a protocol now?

Gonçalves: We are studying the thing.

ACT: Some outside experts might believe that one of the reasons you have not signed an additional protocol is that it would require additional disclosures about, for instance, these early programs. Are they linked in any way?

Gonçalves: No, it’s not true. They have nothing to do with each other. The position is that we also think there are some issues about other countries’ compliance with the traditional NPT. For example, about disarmament.[7] So, we understand that it’s not just a question of providing compromises but you have also to commit yourself to disarmament. We are arguing about that. But it’s not a closed position, anyway. There is nothing in the additional protocol about disclosing former programs.

ACT: But when the South Koreans, the Taiwanese, and the Egyptians signed their additional protocols, additional information about their past programs was released.[8] And I assume that was because an additional level of disclosure was called for then.

Gonçalves: No, but we were not part of the NPT before 1994. And we are not committed to give any information before that date. That’s the date when we signed the NPT.

ACT: I see. This may be somewhat of a speculative question, but since you acknowledge that perhaps from 1985 to when the civilian government came in in 1988 the military might have continued with a program, why might they have done that? After all, there was an agreement in 1985 with Argentina to end these programs.

Gonçalves: Let me understand exactly what you said. You are talking about some involvement in constructing a bomb or something like that, that’s what you said?

ACT: Right.

Gonçalves: The military developed, for example, centrifuges.

ACT: Well, it made some efforts to take the steps that are needed to construct a bomb.

Gonçalves: You are talking about the statements of Santana?

ACT: Right. As you said, you can’t really answer the question from 1985 to 1988 because you don’t have documentation.

Gonçalves: Oh, no, no. It’s hard to believe that after the constitution, something happened. But before the constitution, there were no restraints. But we don’t know about any project since.

ACT: Concerning the Resende facility, reportedly the first of its four modules is now operational.[9]


ACT: Does Brazil still intend to complete the construction of all four modules?

Gonçalves: We intend to, naturally. And when everything is constructed, the provision is that we will be able to provide at least 50 percent of the necessary fuel for the two power plants in Brazil.

ACT: Do you have any idea of what the timeframe for finishing the construction of the last three modules might be?

Gonçalves: If we have the money, which is still not clear, in about seven years.

ACT: Does Brazil plan, or are there discussions at all under way, on ever using the Resende facility to enrich fuel for use in the Navy’s submarine reactor program?

Gonçalves: It is not possible because the license is just for 5 percent [enriched uranium fuel], and the submarine will need about 18 percent to 19 percent.

ACT: President Silva commissioned the National Energy Policy Council to make recommendations on Brazil’s nuclear program, and as far as I understand, he asked for those recommendations by April 2005. Has the Council issued its recommendations?

Gonçalves: Yes, and it was a study not just from CNEN, but the industries and everyone involved in nuclear activities in Brazil, and with other ministers and so on, including the foreign minister.

ACT: I know that one of the questions under discussion was construction of the Angra-3 reactor. Is that happening, or not?

Gonçalves: That is the first step in our proposal.

ACT: So that’s been agreed to?

Gonçalves: Not yet.

ACT: There are reports that the Angra-3 reactor is somewhat controversial between different Brazilian ministries because of its potential cost. Is that true?

Gonçalves: Well, it’s not exactly a controversy. It’s natural that different ideas come out and we discuss them. But it’s not agreed completely at all, to answer your question.

ACT: Is it true that the Resende facility will not be commercially viable without the completion of the Angra-3 reactor?

Gonçalves: It depends what you call commercially viable, because when you are speaking about energy, to have some complete cycle, a closed cycle, completely independent from other suppliers and so on, could be very important. And how to appraise that, it’s not very easy. So it depends on what you are saying. We could also export some uranium. Not just enriched uranium, but perhaps the yellowcake.[10] But these are only possibilities to think about in the whole context of the program.

ACT: I don’t know if there was something that we didn’t touch on that you thought was important to get across.

Gonçalves: It’s important to say that we are completely in accordance with the NPT. We are one of the only countries in the world that has also the military installations under safeguards. That’s very important to say. And everything we do is according to our constitution, which says that every and all nuclear activities must be for peaceful purposes.


1. “Ex-Leader Says Brazil Pursued A-Bomb,” Associated Press, August 8, 2005.

2. “Brazil Nearly Built Bomb in 1990’s, Scientist Says,” Associated Press, Agust 30, 2005.

3. “CNEN clarifies information about the Brazilian Nuclear Programme,” Comissāo Nacional de Energia Nuclear (CNEN), August 29, 2005.

4. In September 1990, Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello revealed and publicly shut a deep shaft, purportedly dug for a nuclear test explosion, at an Air Force base in the Cachimbo Province in north-central Brazil.

5. In 1993 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began an effort to strengthen the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). That effort resulted in the voluntary 1997 model Additional Protocol, designed to strengthen and expand existing IAEA safeguards for verifying that non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the (NPT) only use nuclear materials and facilities for peaceful purposes. See “The 1997 IAEA Additional Protocol at a Glance,” (http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/IAEAProtocol.asp) Arms Control Association, January 2005.

6. The May 2005 NPT Review Conference ended without the states-parties able to reach a consensus on how to strengthen the treaty. Many governments expressed disappointment and frustration with the Conference outcome. See Wade Boese, “Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Meeting Sputters,” (http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2005_07-08/NPT.asp) Arms Control Today, July/August 2005, p. 22.

7. Brazil is a member of the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), which holds that the slow pace of disarmament by the five recognized nuclear-weapon states undermines the NPT. The other NAC members are Egypt, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, and Mexico.

8. See Paul Kerr, “IAEA Probes Seoul’s Nuclear Program,” (http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2004_10/IAEA_Seoul_Nuclear_Program.asp) Arms Control Today, October 2004, p. 33, and Paul Kerr, “IAEA Investigating Egypt and Taiwan,” (http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2005_01-02/Egypt_Taiwan.asp) Arms Control Today, January/February 2005, p. 38.

9. Brazil commissioned a new centrifuge uranium-enrichment plant, called Resende, in 2004. See Sharon Squassoni and David Fite, “ Brazil’s Nuclear Vision,” Arms Control Today, October 2005, p. 13.

10. Yellowcake is a concentrated form of uranium that results from the milling process of uranium ore. Ore typically contains 0.1% uranium oxide while yellowcake contains about 80% uranium oxide. Yellowcake can be converted to uranium hexafluoride gas for centrifugal enrichment.

Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper and William Huntington

Interview With Rogelio Pfirter, Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons



Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper and Michael Nguyen

Rogelio Pfirter is the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons, the international organization charged with implementing the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. On Sept. 23, Arms Control Today Editor Miles A. Pomper and Chemical and Biological Weapons Analyst Michael Nguyen spoke with Ambassador Pfirter about the future of his organization and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

ACT: There are now about 174 states-parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and it is getting close to universality. What do you see as the major obstacles that might keep the CWC from reaching its ultimate goal of universality, and how would achieving universality change your mission?

Pfirter: Well, the areas where we still haven’t achieved universality basically are problematic areas. Either we are talking about the Middle East, North Korea, or some states in Africa which have very serious problems, where the priority is internal reshaping of the countries. But basically I think it is the Middle East, where quite clearly chemical weapons have been alleged to exist, and secondly are somehow influenced by the ultimate decisions concerning the whole categories of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. So in a way one could say that in the Middle East, unfortunately, chemical weapons are hostage to nuclear weapons. We are making big efforts to try and break that logic, because we believe chemical weapons should be looked at on their own merits, so to say, and there’s good reason to eliminate them. But it won’t be easy to get countries in that region to sign and join [the CWC]—although I remain, I must say, prudently optimistic because in the last few months, what we have seen is that the countries in the region are prepared to look at this issue in a dynamic fashion and not just take for granted that there will always be a stalemate.

North Korea is a very different case, I mean they won’t even respond to any openings that we might make, and we do make openings ever so regularly to them. In terms of numbers, it is not too large, but in terms of quality, it might be quite a daunting task for us still. And of course, like any chain, we are as strong as our weakest link, and in as much as we don’t achieve universality and there are countries outside that either have the capability or have been alleged to have stockpiles, I don’t think we can claim success.

ACT: Switching topics a little bit, a few years ago, as you know, there was a financial crisis that prevented your organization from carrying out many of its inspection duties.[1] Are you now on a stronger financial footing and what steps are being taken to secure the long-term future of the organization?

Pfirter: Well, I think that we are certainly on a much safer, much stronger financial standing. In the last two or three years, that is since 2003, we have been able to carry on our full program concerning verification, both in terms of destruction of chemical weapons and, in terms of nonproliferation, inspections of industry. So I think we are on the right track so much so that this year for the first time, I have been able to propose a zero-growth budget in the strong belief that whatever we have now suffices to carry on program delivery. And that program delivery, I must say, in 2006 we will even contemplate more of a burden of intensive verification than this year. So I think we are alright. Of course, I don’t think any organization has a guarantee of long-term stability. What we need is continued commitments by member states to pay in full and on time. And on that, I think there’s still much room for progress.

ACT: When you say you are contemplating taking on more of a burden of verification, is there a particular direction you are thinking about going in?

Pfirter: Well yes, I think there are two things. First of all, there might be more facilities coming, more [chemical weapons] destruction facilities coming into operation. In Russia, we might have Kambarka as of next year, and Russia has also said that it will have Maradykovsky and that will demand having inspectors on site 24 hours, 7 days a week whenever there is a destruction activity.[2] And secondly, I am concerned that in the field of industry verification for nonproliferation’s sake, and bearing in mind also the looming threat of terrorism, that we should enlarge our efforts. Of particular concerns are Organic Chemical Production Facilities 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.[3]

ACT: But you think you are able to do all of this without increasing the budget?

Pfirter: For the time being, yes, because we are very keen on maximizing our resources, optimizing whatever we have. We have been working very hard with the United States and Russia, in particular, but also with India and with a state-party about the number of inspectors for use in inspection—being able to reduce them from eight to five in many cases.[4]

Secondly, we have not created, but we are making use of a new category of inspectors, who are not necessarily full-staff but are what we call a “special services agreement.” These are inspectors who are no longer in the organization, but we engage them for destruction-verification purposes, and we reduce in that way 40 percent in terms of cost-per-inspector. So I think that we will be able to probably cope.

ACT: You mentioned Russia. Are you confident that you will be able to handle the increased workload as the United States and Russia increase their chemical weapons destruction activities?

Pfirter: I think we are. As a matter of fact that matter at precisely this moment is being discussed by member states, and I have each possessor state telling me in writing their anticipated destruction activities for next year. And I believe that we are still on target with the number of inspectors that we have.

ACT: You mentioned one of the concerns that has been expressed at times, that this new seven-year tenure policy could result in the loss of expertise and institutional memory from the organization, particularly in the verification division. What are you doing to address this concern?

Pfirter: I must say, first of all, I think that the tenure policies were the result of the interests of many for making sure that we don’t repeat the model of some international organizations where because they become career organizations, there is a tendency to overgrow and over-inflate the staffing and there’s no motivation sometimes for improvement. On the verification front, although we do run the risks that you have mentioned, we have not been unsuccessful in recruiting or in replenishing the inspectorate, and we are trying to make sure we do it in a prudent and phased fashion, that we guarantee or allow for the preservation for as long as possible of institutional memory and also for the transmission of experience from the outgoing to the incoming. As a matter of fact, one directive that I have issued is that each one is expected to produce a legacy of experiences that we pass on to those who are coming in. So far, so good.

Now having said that, I believe that this is an issue, where because it is so new, no one could responsibly give an ultimate judgment of whether it’s been successful or not, and so in the near future, it is my intention (after three years probably) to sit down and make an evaluation from every possible point of view—not just the performance, but also financial and other [criteria]—and see how we are doing. I must say that we are finding it a bit more difficult sometimes to recruit people in areas not related to verification. As you know, we have a large administrative division, and for instance our own human resources office needed to be reinforced, and we haven’t been so successful getting professionals to apply and stay. So we have to look, and probably in the future a different mix might be advisable. But for the time being I think that as I said, on the verification front, I don’t feel that although we have had turnover of some of the key positions there, so far we are happy and satisfied that things are alright.

ACT: The Eighth Conference of States Parties adopted an action plan for the implementation of obligations related to national implementation and designation of national authorities under Article VII of the CWC.[5] We’re getting near the action plan’s November 2005 deadline, and it is clear that a lot of countries haven’t even taken the most basic steps despite a lot of regional workshops and offers of assistance. How do you expect the states-parties to address the end of the action plan at the upcoming Conference of States Parties?

Pfirter: I think this is a very serious matter. Implementation is of the essence. We all know that the ultimate effective means of this treaty—and this is not an irrelevant treaty, this is an important treaty for peace and security—the ultimate success depends on universality and full implementation by everyone. So, and that’s why the action plan was adopted by consensus, because everyone recognized that. And I think that we have to look now and do an evaluation of where we stand and take whatever measures are necessary now to make sure we move forward effectively in the future. We should do so prudently, but also with determination. And I think that I look forward to the debate that will take place in the context of the conference, and I do hope that member states will take the bull by the horns and see a way.

ACT:Are you proposing anything in particular?

Pfirter: No, I think we made our evaluation and now there are proposals from member states including the United States and that’s what’s being considered at the moment. If we are called by some states to say something, we will do that, but for the time being I think we are allowing for member states themselves to look into this, and probably some member states want to explain more, for example, those who are not where they should be. So I think that as we come closer to the conference probably, it will be clear where we are, but I’m quite sure that, first of all some action will be taken, and secondly, that this is not the end of the process but quite to the contrary, it’s an ongoing process.

ACT: Has the passage of UN Resolution 1540 changed your organization’s approach to the question of national implementation?[6]

Pfirter: Well, I must say one has to recognize that there’s probably no consensus among all member states as to what the resolution means. I personally believe it has been an extremely positive development. It has helped to boost the overall efforts for nonproliferation, of which chemical weapons is a big chunk. The resolution makes mandatory a series of requirements and obligations that are already in our convention but extends them even to countries that are still members of the [CWC]. All-in-all, I think that demonstrates the value of implementing our convention. It confirms, by stating obligations that are identical to our own convention, it demonstrates that our convention is very much an up-to-date document and quite relevant in the efforts against terrorism, which quite clearly constitutes a major priority. I don’t think that any treaty can see itself outside of that effort.

ACT: The United States and Russia, as you know, are the two largest possessors of chemical weapons stockpiles. If they fail to destroy their weapons by the CWC’s ultimate 2012 deadline, how will this affect the credibility of the regime and how will other states-parties react?[7]

Pfirter: I think it will have a devastating effect. But I as director-general would want to think that the countries remained strongly committed and therefore will take whatever measures are necessary to comply with their obligations by 2012. I know there is quite a degree of skepticism out there, but I as director of this organization have received nothing but reaffirmation and confirmation of their commitment and I look forward to the actions that will crystallize that commitment. I was in Russia in July and I heard it from the highest authorities there that they will do it. Russia, as you know, is redesigning its destruction program plan or calendar and we will see. I think that if Russia is successful in its effort to jump-start, so to speak, its program next year with Kambarka and Maradykovsky, we might think that maybe the effort will ultimately succeed.

I think at this stage, entertaining any idea of the renegotiation of this convention is very bad. Not the least because as you know this convention was adopted by consensus and any reopening of the doors would mean entering into a Pandora’s Box. We don’t know where it might end. Secondly, I believe that the priority issue of nonproliferation could be greatly affected if the obligations undertaken by possessor states are not implemented, because then it will probably be more difficult to push forward with industry verification on the agenda, which is aimed at that. So the key to success of this convention is the fairly harmonious fashion in which all the different provisions of the convention, the different verification activities and obligations I think by member states are being implemented.

ACT: Have people raised the issue of renegotiating the convention?

Pfirter: No, certainly not formally. Of course we are all aware it is near the end of 2005 and there already have been delays in the destruction of the 45 percent by the large possessor states and I know that there are voices out there, increasingly that say, “Well, this is unachievable.” We know that. But as I said, I think that ultimately the political will is there and I hope that countries will provide all the technical, financial, and political support necessary and the measures indispensable for them to comply with their obligations. These are solemn obligations taken under international law.

ACT:Speaking of politics, one of the obstacles or one of the issues that’s been out there are congressional stipulations put on the U.S. implementing legislation for the CWC. In your discussions with Congress or the administration, have you discussed or are you planning to discuss the possibility of repealing any of those conditions, for instance the ability to block chemical weapon inspections on grounds of national security or the provision preventing the removal of chemical samples?[8]

Pfirter: I don’t see those issues as the ones that are at this stage endangering the convention. I think what we have to concentrate on at this stage, fundamentally, is the destruction programs: their financing, the provisioning of all the technical and instrumental requirements for them to be successful. This is what I think is the key to it. Here is where I think we should put the emphasis at this stage rather than other things which aren’t, which might be there, but are not the ones that are making or breaking us at this stage of the convention.

ACT: Have other states-parties at the OPCW complained, in any form, about the U.S. provisions or the U.S. conditions?

Pfirter: As I said, this is an issue that at this stage is not in the priority of member states and there have been no discussions politically. I think that the priority is in the implementation of the different provisions of the convention, different articles: Article VI, Article VII, Article IV, certainly Article I.[9]

ACT: I know you’ve had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation Paula DeSutter. Last year Arms Control Today interviewed her and she said that she felt there was a “growing consensus at OPCW that is more favorable to challenge inspections, particularly among the European states.”[10] As you know, the United States recently released a report about compliance with arms control treaties, and they concluded that Iran was strengthening key elements of its chemical weapons infrastructure.[11] Do you think that a challenge inspection of Iran or any other country is likely to occur in the future?[12]

Pfirter: Well as the director-general of the organization, I prefer not to talk about countries in particular. As you know, with a challenge inspection, the triggering element there is not a decision by the director-general, but rather, a request by a member state. If a member state has any request to make, well then there’s a procedure there. Having said all that, I personally as the director-general believe that it is crucial that we preserve the effectiveness of each and every one of the tools which the convention foresees for ensuring its full implementation. So without naming any country at all—without getting involved in that—what I say is that the institution of challenge inspection is one of the key components of the credibility and deterrent capacity of the [CWC]. So we have to make sure that we all recognize that it is there and it’s implementable should the occasion arise.

ACT: Not talking about any specific country, but a little more concretely, would you like to see challenge inspections go forward since this hasn’t been used?

Pfirter: I think we have to dispel the fear that, you know, this is something that cannot be done. I think it is crucial, I believe, to the ultimate ability of a convention to, as I say, for verification and deterrent purposes that we recognize that this is available. And as a consequence of that, I consider the obligation of us in the secretariat to retain a high degree of preparedness. Now this is something that we are doing regularly. Of course, I have also been encouraging not just the secretariat, but also member states to look into the decision to make sure that they too retain an ongoing preparedness. There’s no question that we need to keep it as a viable, not just theoretical, but actual instrument.

ACT: On the flip side of that, would you prefer that countries such as the United States file a complaint with the OPCW rather than make public judgments or accusations about countries’ programs?

Pfirter: I think that the United States, like any other country, is the one who knows best. The United States, quite clearly, is a key player in our organization and the good thing about the [CWC] is that it has an array of ways of addressing issues of concern for member states. One of the keys also to this success, I think, is the complementarity between the collective action and bilateral ongoing, continual consultations and the right to consultation and to ask questions which the convention foresees. So I think all countries will, in due course make up their balance and see what is the preferred way. There is a series of options there.

ACT: As a follow-up, Austria has held a meeting to talk about how to structure challenged inspections, and annually the United Kingdom actually has been conducting a mock challenge inspection. I know OPCW has sent observers, but are they active participants in these challenge inspection?

Pfirter: Not only have we [the Technical Secretariat] been involved in that, but we have carried out surprise challenge inspection exercises within the secretariat itself this year. I kept all but two or three staffers there from realizing it and even top directors didn’t know. We launched it at 9:20 [a.m.], the [same] morning a complaint is filed, and we selected a very far-away distant country. This was a realistic exercise and I got the permission of that country to do it. And by five in the afternoon we had been able to deploy 12 inspectors, the first third of the whole team, to the airport with all the equipment, and they would have been in situ before the deadline of 48 hours or 12 hours established by the convention itself and the verification annex.[13]

We consider that intensive readiness. And not only that, we also were able to ascertain that day, except for a delay of one industry inspection, we would have been able to carry on with our normal program delivery. So not only have we been able to deploy, but also to carry on our regular verification activities. So hopefully that gives some assurance, but of course, a challenge inspection depends on not only the ability of the director-general to deploy his team to the member states; it depends also on visas being issued by the countries that are affected, by transport being available and so on. So it requires a complexity of outside factors being in order, aside from the purely political ones that might arise in the policy-making elements. But that requires consideration of this matter beyond the Technical Secretariat itself.

ACT: Getting back to your answer to our first question. You talked about focusing more on the Middle East. You had some successes with Libya and Iran as states-parties, but Israel, Egypt, and Syria continue to hold out. The EU has tried to link trade to WMD pledges—especially with Syria.[14] But that doesn’t seem to have brought any change to their CWC state-party status, so do you have any new strategies that you plan to use?

Pfirter: This was an inert issue until two years ago. Two years ago we decided to do something about this, and we started in collective fashion, as well as bilateral context, to mobilize it. And while I would agree with you technically in the sense that yes, there has been no change of status—they have neither ratified in the case of Israel or acceded in the case of Syria and Lebanon and Egypt—from the political point of view, I think there has been encouraging developments in the sense that a dialogue has been opened and assurances have been obtained. First of all, [they have assured us] that there is no quarrel with the principles and purposes of the convention, quite to the contrary. That is to say, none of these countries think that chemical weapons should exist or should continue; the purposes are there. Secondly, I think that it’s been quite clearly a question of a disposition to revisit this issue and see where it stands and not consider that the frozen condition it was before is one that will last forever. We have also taken a few bilateral and collective actions as I mentioned.

First of all, I have had contacts with some of these authorities. The last one would be the foreign minister of Egypt last week in New York. And I have been reassured that there will be the possibility of change in the disposition to talk to the organization. In the past, Egypt, for instance, did not even send observers to our meetings, and we didn’t have any official Egyptian presence at our meetings. I think that starting with our meetings we are going to have in Africa now, we will have someone from the [Egyptian] embassy going, and hopefully there will also be observers in our next Conference of State Parties. In the case of Israel, Israel has been an observer as well as signatory party and we did have a very good, I think, exchange in the course of this year in March and we had [talks with] officials of different areas of the Israeli government, and I’m encouraged that this is not considered to be a dead issue there. And as I said, we also can do that with Syria too. On top of that we organized in Cyprus in July a workshop for the call for universality in the Mediterranean, where all the bordering countries came. We invited these countries; they all came to the meeting. And that was a very good opportunity for them to be present in a workshop or two about chemical weapons, for them to make presentations, to listen, and to network. U.S., UK, [and EU officials] were also there and highly supportive, and I was delighted to see dialogues and hopefully a fruitful basis for continuing consideration of these matters. So I haven’t got much more than that to offer, but that’s considerably more than we had 48 months ago.

That’s an issue which, as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a problem here that the issue of security seemed almost global in terms of weapons of mass destruction, and therefore, it would appear that countries considered there’s no room for addressing the chemical issue unless you also address the nuclear. Since we all know that these are very complex issues, I don’t think anyone is holding his breath they would be solved tomorrow. I think that part of the things we are preaching, so to say, is that there should be a decoupling between the nuclear and the chemical. First of all, these are different categories of weapons. They have different relevance in security terms. Quite clearly, the effects on civilians, and the ability to decouple and to address them might have also a very beneficial effect in terms of confidence building. So, this is the sort of thing we are trying to do.

ACT: Now, there has been some talk in the past about Israel unilaterally joining the CWC without waiting for Egypt or Syria because of concerns about the economics effects of the convention: Israel is a heavily industrialized nation and they have a large chemical import/export industry. Has there been a lot of talk among the member states about addressing the issue of trade between CWC non-states-parties with respect to Schedule III chemicals?[15] Would limiting trade in toxic industrials chemicals provide the economic incentive for some countries to join, particularly Israel?

Pfirter: I think that is a pertinent question. I don’t see at this moment a possibility for further progress in terms of further movement concerning non-sales of Schedule III [to non-states-parties] or not. I mean, this is an issue on which there doesn’t appear to be the necessary consensus at this stage. But yet I think that the fact that the [CWC] has high relevance to industry, not just to military and security establishments, is a key component, and certainly something we should be observing. In the case of some of the countries who have joined the convention that we have seen, and I’m thinking particularly of two or three, it was the chemical industry that really pushed for the adherence to the convention. So there might be something to that. Although, of course, the relevance of the security question in the Middle East is such that I think that we are all too aware that it will play a key role ultimately in any decision that countries might take. But as we move on in trying to persuade these countries to join and I think that what you said is relevant, I think for Egypt too it is relevant. The fact that a chemical industry might find itself deprived of access to certain, sort of, inputs that it might need. So yes, I think that we should clear that up, too.

ACT: But you don’t see any movement?

Pfirter: I don’t see at this stage any political movement in the organization for addressing the Middle East question in terms of chemical weapons through that.

ACT: Have the successful U.S. and UK negotiations that led to the dismantling of Libya’s nuclear and chemical weapons program changed any of OPCW’s strategies for dealing with other states that are reluctant to join the CWC?

Pfirter: Well I think that that has shown what I said before, the complementarity between the collective and the bilateral. This is totally in line with the convention. I think that it was a very positive demonstration of how member states on their own can play a key role in assuring the rules of the convention are achieved, and how it is possible for an organization such as ours to interact with those countries without mixing our roles, but do so in a very fruitful way. This is what we have seen in the case of Libya, so I’m quite sure this is relevant for our time, and that’s why I also believe that aside from the efforts that we undertake collectively, or I as director-general bilaterally, the efforts which countries bilaterally, or regionally might take in negotiations with those outside I also think are important and much encouraged.

ACT: Can you tell us a little bit more about the status of the current EU joint action?

Pfirter: Well, that’s a very successful project. As you know they approved one action in the last year that we are implementing this year. We are hopeful here, particularly during the British presidency, the action will be renewed also next year.[16]

Now that action is basically aimed at two or three key issues. One is universality, the other is full implementation, and the other one is technical assistance in developing countries. And I think that three legs of this tripod are all functioning very, very well. We have regular meetings with the European Union because of course they like to monitor what is going on, I think that this has been satisfactory, and certainly I find that this is a very good way for providing additional means for the OPCW to work on specific cases on this issue that are very important.

ACT: Is there anything you would like to add that we have not touched on?

Pfirter: I would say that, I think what is important that the [CWC] has proven to be a successful experiment. My only appeal to everyone is that everyone does his best to try to ensure that it continues to be so. The full political support, adequate financial support, and full dedication to the implementation of the provisions of the convention—being Article IV, Article VI, Article VII, Article I—this is very, very important. I hope that there will be no loss of enthusiasm on that front. Obviously, I think we need to work also in order to ensure that the big possessor states fulfill their obligations. I must say in the case of the United States that I believe that the financial means, the political will, are all there, so I’m quite confident that the United States will ultimately be able to make it. What we have now to see is how Russia is able to reach that point. And that requires strong concrete determined action by Russia, and also the provision of financial support by the developed world—by the G8 and the Global Partnership.[17] So I hope that it will be possible with two elements: Russia’s own homework and the international financial support will both continue to be forthcoming and if anything even more forthcoming now as we approach the [2012] deadlines.


1. In February 2001, the Organization for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) director-general Jose Bustani warned of looming financial crisis. Many states-parties had failed to pay their due, leading to OPCW to substantially its inspections of destruction activities and industry. See Jonathan Tucker, “The Chemical Weapons Convention: Has It Enhanced U.S. Security?” Arms Control Today, April 2001, pp. 8-12.

2. Kambarka and Maradykovsky are two of Russia’s seven chemical weapons stockpile sites. Russia has said that it plans to open the destruction facility at Kambarka by the end of 2005, where it will destroy about 6,400 metric tons of lewisite (a blister agent), representing about 15.9 percent of the total Russian chemical weapons stockpile. At Maradykovsky, Russia is planning to begin construction of a destruction facility in March 2006 to destroy the stockpiled nerve agents there, representing about 17.4 percent of the total Russian chemical weapons stockpile.

3. Organic Chemical Production Facilities or Discrete Organic Chemical Facilities are those that produce organic compounds through a chemical process, and include processes such as pharmaceutical manufacturing.

4. Upon declaring its chemical weapons stockpile, one state-party requested that its identity be withheld under Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) confidentially rules. Official OPCW documents refer to the country as “a State Party,” although it is widely believed to be South Korea.

5. The Eighth Conference of States Parties adopted October 2003 an action plan to assist states-parties in meaning their obligations under Article VII of the CWC, which requires among other things that a state-party identify a national authority to the OPCW, implement penal and administrative legislation, and deposit the text of the implementing legislation with the OPCW. States-parties agreed that under the plan, individual countries and the OPCW should provide any technical assistance needed, and at the Tenth Conference of States Parties in November 2005 would revisit the issue and consider any further action, including the possibility of punitive measures.

6. The UN Security Council unanimously passed UN Resolution 1540 April 2004, requiring all states to adopt and enforce “appropriate, effective” laws and measures, such as export and border controls, to prevent nonstate actors from acquiring biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons, as well as missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles designed to deliver such arms. What constitutes “appropriate” and “effective” is not specified, however, and is left up to each state to determine “in accordance with their national procedures.” See Wade Boese, “Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution on Denying Terrorists WMD,” Arms Control Today, May 2004, p. 34.

7. Russia and the United States have the two largest declared stockpiles of chemical weapons at 41,000 metric tons and 38,000 tons respectively. The CWC requires states-parties destroying their chemical weapon stockpiles to meet three interim deadlines of 1 percent, 20 percent and 45 percent and then complete the destruction 10 years after the convention enters into force. However, the CWC also permits states-parties to request a one-time, five-year extension. The date of this ultimate deadline is April 29, 2012. Both the United States and Russia have been granted the one-time extension in principle when they received extensions to the interim deadlines that exceeded the original 10-year deadline. Russia has destroyed less than 3 percent of its stockpile, while the United States has destroyed about 37 percent. See Michael Nguyen, “Pentagon Backs Off Chemical Weapons Destruction Study,” Arms Control Today, June 2005, pp. 37-38.

8. The implementing legislation for the CWC (Public Law 105-277) had several conditions contrary to the CWC. The two most controversial provisions prohibit an OPCW inspection team from removing any chemical samples from the United States for testing and a national security exception permitting the president to deny a challenge inspection request. Article XXII of the CWC prohibits subjecting its articles to reservations, or reservations to its annexes that are “incompatible with its object and purpose.”

9. Article IV addresses the disarmament obligations of states-parties to destroy their stockpiles of chemical weapons. Article VI addresses the nonproliferation obligations of the convention, including schedules of restricted chemicals and precursors. Article VII deals with national implementation obligations (see endnote 4). Article I deals with the general obligations of the states-parties to destroy their stockpiles and production facilities.

10. ACT interviewed then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter in March 2004. The full transcript of the interview is available online at <http://www.armscontrol.org/aca/DeSutterInterview.asp>.

11. The U.S. Department of State released its annual “Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments” August 25, 2005, which concluded “Iran is in violation of its CWC obligations because Iran is acting to retain and modernize key elements of its chemical weapons infrastructure to include an offensive chemical weapons research and development capability and dispersed mobilization facilities.” See Wade Boese, “ U.S. Names Alleged Treaty Violators,” Arms Control Today, October 2005, pp. 36-37.

12. Challenge inspections under the CWC allow one state-party to request an OPCW inspection of a declared or otherwise site in another state-party if there is question of compliance or accuracy of a declaration. The state-party being inspected cannot refuse the challenge inspection.

13. The CWC and its verification annex provide detailed procedures for a challenge inspection. The director-general must notify the state-party being inspected at least 12 hours before the arrival of the OPCW inspection team to the state-party’s designated point-of-entry. The state-party then has 36 hours (or 48 hours after the original notification) to transport the inspection team to the perimeter of the site to be inspected.

14. The European Commission, in concluding an EU-Syria Associate Agreement to enhance trade relations, required Syria to agree to a nonproliferation clause regarding weapons of mass destruction. See Paul Kerr, “EU Deepens Ties With Libya, Syria,” Arms Control Today, November 2004, p. 41.

15. The CWC characterizes chemicals according to their toxicity and military and commercial utility. Schedule III chemicals are used in large quantities by commercial industry, but also pose a nonproliferation risk as chemical weapons or precursors. Although the convention set restrictions on the trade of Schedule I and II chemicals with non-states-parties, Schedule 3 transfers are still permitted. The convention expected states-parties to consider restrictions five years after the convention’s entry into force, but no action was taken at the First Review Conference.

16. The United Kingdom currently holds the European Union presidency. The term begins in July 1 and concludes December 31 of this year.

17. The Global Partnership is a G8 initiative announced June 2002 at the Kananaskis Summit held in Canada to commit $20 billion over 10 years to threat reduction projects primarily in Russia.

Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper and Michael Nguyen

Subject Resources:

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


Interviewed by Oliver Meier

Arms Control Today’s international correspondent Oliver Meier sat down with EU nonproliferation chief Annalisa Giannella to discuss Europe’s nonproliferation and security policies and future directions. The interview was conducted as the European Union and three member states geared up for a new round of negotiations with Iran and European countries reckoned with unification setbacks and a disappointing nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty meeting. Giannella has served in her current position since October 2003and previously served as the European Council’s director for security and defense policy and the head of the division for security issues.

ACT: What do you see as the EU’s specific strength in combating proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and where do you think the EU could do better?

Giannella: The EU is a very strange animal. It’s something more and better than an international organization, something more comprehensive and more powerful—we have possibilities for internal action as well as external action. The fact that the EU also has a legislative power is a very strong advantagewhen we have to agree on very high standards for the protection of radioactive sources. Because the EU has this legislative power, we can issue a directive that is in fact a European law applicable in all member states. So that’s a strength vis-à- vis the EU member states. And then there is the strength we have for external action. What we are now doing—and this is linked with what we call the streamlining of nonproliferation policy into the external relations of the EU—is that we are linking our political objectives with the attraction of the European Union as an economic partner. This is why we succeed in including a nonproliferation clause in the [trade and cooperation] agreements with third countries or a group of countries. We succeed because we can accompany this with our offer of cooperation, not only in trade but also in political issues.

ACT: Can you tell us which countries have trade agreements with the EU that include such clauses, and, more specifically, where the negotiations with Syria stand.

Giannella : We have succeeded in getting a nonproliferation clause in the agreement with Albania, with Tajikistan, and with Syria as well. Actually, the agreement with Syria has been initialed, so it is practically concluded. The reason why it has not entered into force is linked with other events in the country and in the region. There are other political reasons that so far have not made entry into force of the agreement possible. But the agreement has been finalized and initialed, and the clause is there, and the clause is very much in accordance with the mandate given by the [European] Council in November 2003. And now we have an agreement for the inclusion of the [nonproliferation] clause in the agreement with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council[1] and in the renewal of the Cotonou Agreement (African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries). We are also negotiating with Mercosur.[2] Sobasically we are succeeding in getting this clause with all sorts of countries.

ACT: What is your impression of the consequences of the failed referendums in France and in the Netherlands for the Common and Foreign Security Policy (CFSP)[3] in general, and for European efforts to fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in particular?

Giannella : For the fight against WMD, the consequences are more or less the same as for the rest of the Common and Foreign Security Policy [CFSP], which means that they are not at all dramatic. We have managed to develop our CFSP over the last few years, with the old treaties,[4] and if you look back, we have made a lot of progress. I remember in 1999, I was working for the preparation of the Cologne European Council, and nobody could believe at that time that we would be able to develop a defense policy.[5] And then after Cologne, we had [the European Council in] Helsinki, we had [the European Council in] Nice,[6] and now we have crisis management operations in the Balkans, in Africa, everywhere. So I think that we are rather successful so far in the development of this new policy for the EU. The negative consequences of the non-ratification of the constitutional treaty seem to be linked to the fact that instead of having a double-hatted minister, we will continue to have two political leaders: the high representative and the commissioner for external relations.[7] But this is a complication that we can overcome by increasing coordination. I’m not saying that this is an ideal situation, but it’s not necessarily a real obstacle to the development of the CFSP. I mean, if you go even at national level, you have a minister for foreign affairs, a minister for development aid, a minister for external trade, and they are not necessarily the same person, so these complications exist outside the EU.

ACT: Can you give us your assessment of the progress made so far by France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the EU in the talks with Iran about its nuclear program?

Giannella : It’s very difficult to make an assessment because we are very much in the middle of the process. We are in a crucial phase because at the end of May, there was the ministerial meeting in Geneva at which our ministers took the commitment to present to Iran by the beginning of August a comprehensive proposal. So now we are in the process of finalizing our comprehensive proposal and we need to see what the reactions will be from the Iranian side. So, the process is very complicated, but I think that there are already some positive outcomes. The first positive outcome, I would say, for Iran, is that engaging in negotiations with us has assisted them in getting out of their total isolation. They were totally isolated, and now they are talking to the Europeans, they are enhancing their cooperation with Russia. Even the Americans I think [have] modified their language with respect to Iran. The IAEA’s negotiations with the EU has [caused] Iran not to be referred by the Board [of Governors] to the UN Security Council. So there are a lot of positive outcomes for Iran.

As far as we are concerned, we are interested in getting from Iran what we call an "objective guarantee" that their nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes, and this is not only because, of course, we don’t wish to see another state develop nuclear weapons, despite its commitments under the NPT. But also because we think that the region where Iran is situated is such a sensitive region, it is so unstable, there are so many tensions, and so if Iran should develop a nuclear military capability, that could trigger a [nuclear arms] race, and that would be a real problem for the whole international community. So I believe that it is already a positive outcome, in a certain sense that we so far have managed to stop the development of such a military program, and we have also helped Iran come closer to a normal situation. They are not yet in a normal situation because we need to get final assurance about their nuclear program. That is why we hope that the comprehensive proposal can trigger the last phase of the negotiation.

ACT: You already mentioned the objective guarantees that the EU is demanding. Is the permanent cessation of uranium enrichment the only way that Iran can meet that? And, connected to that, do Europeans support U.S. demands that Iran dismantle at least some of its nuclear facilities?

Giannella : We made clear from the beginning that enrichment and conversion, any enrichment-related activities are very sensitive, particularly because Iran has been concealing a lot of activities [from] the IAEA despite its safeguards agreements. We, and we being not only the Europeans but the rest of the world, cannot regard the carrying out of these activities by Iran as a normal activity. Of course, we know that the NPT allows the development of a civil nuclear program. The question is, does the development of a civil nuclear program imply necessarily these activities, because you can have a civilian nuclear program without necessarily producing nuclear fuel. You can get fuel from another country, like Russia in the case of Iran, for example. Then we can discuss fuel assurances, discuss cooperation in nuclear technology. But I think that the problem is to develop ways and means of assisting the development of a civilian nuclear program in such a way that it does not raise any concern in the other countries.

ACT: Russia has signed a deal to supply fuel. How does this play into your negotiations? Is Moscow’s deal complementing your negotiations or does it make them more difficult?

Giannella : Our cooperation with Russia is excellent in this case. And we are always in close consultation with the Russians, even in the preparations of our comprehensive proposal. So in our comprehensive proposal we take into account the fact that Russia has already concluded a contract with Iran for the supply of fuel for Bushehr I. We also take into account the possibility that Russia would supply Iran with a Bushehr II reactor. So all this is factored in as important factors. On the other hand, we understand that Iran does not necessarily want to depend exclusively on one country and would like to have other guarantees in order to have a power generation program that is totally safe. So cooperation with Russia is excellent. The cooperation between Russia and Iran is an important factor in our proposal, but we also take into account the legitimate concern of Iran not to depend exclusively on one country.

ACT: If things don’t go well in the negotiations, at what point do you think the EU would support a referral to the UN Security Council, and what in your view would be the purpose of such a referral?

Giannella : What has happened in Vienna so far is that the [IAEA] board has identified quite a number of failures by Iran to comply with its commitments. So far the board has refrained from referring the case to the Security Council, as it should do in a certain sense because the Security Council is the body in charge of these problems. But it has refrained from referring this case because there was this process of negotiation with the European countries which is promising and which everybody welcomes. And also because Iran has pledged to implement the additional protocol although they have not ratified it yet, but they have agreed to implement it, and they have shown some good cooperation with the IAEA. If the negotiation process is broken, then the board in Vienna will be faced with Iran’s failures without a solution to the lack of confidence that characterizes the international community’s perception of Iran. The positive element, which is counterbalancing the concealment by Iran, will not be there anymore. So clearly that can lead to a decision to refer the case to the Security Council. The Security Council, of course, is a new process. Everybody knows that the Security Council can adopt sanctions, but the Security Council also can decide to encourage, to frame the negotiations. The Security Council is a process. It’s not a one-shot event.

ACT: So you think they could be faced dealing with Iran in several steps once it was referred…

Giannella : Yes, of course, I don’t think it’s just one single event. But on the other hand, it is clear that the negotiations are, in my opinion, a very good chance for Iran to get out from the difficult situation. So Iran should not underestimate the fact that if it misses this opportunity, everything will be more difficult. Europeans are always in favor of a diplomatic solution, a political solution. If you read the WMD strategy, we say we want to fight against proliferation, but we want to address the root causes of proliferation: we try to understand why there are countries that are attracted by the development of a WMD program.

ACT: Could you give us your assessment of the EU’s performance at the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York in May, and why you think that the EU was not able to successfully affect the outcome of that conference[8]

Giannella : I am of the opinion that our performance was not bad at all. First of all, the fact that the [European] Council had been able to adopt a Common Position before the opening of the review conference was already a success, because if you look at the starting positions of our member states, which are very different for political reasons, historic reasons, and because of differences of status in the UN, it was a real effort, a real achievement to have that Common Position. I also noticed that a number of third [world] countries analyzed our Common Position and indicated that [it] could have constituted a good basis for a compromise in the review conference itself. And we had very favorable comments from Japan, Russia, China, and many EU partners--including big partners, because the Common Position of the EU constitutes a point of balance between the nuclear-weapon states, the non-nuclear-weapon states, the anti-nuclear-weapon states, etc. And there is evidence that our Common Position was welcomed both by members of NATO and by members of the New Agenda Coalition,[9] in particular by Brazil and South Africa, so the spectrum of countries who were supportive of our Common Position was very wide. We didn’t succeed, unfortunately, not because of our performance but because tensions were too high and because there were other participants at the review conference who did not necessarily have the same objective as the EU and maybe were not convinced as we were that a successful outcome of the conference was needed, was really an objective to pursue actively.

ACT: The EU has made several proposals to strengthen the NPT. What can be done to implement these proposals before the next review conference in 2010?

Giannella : We can continue to work to strengthen the NPT as we continue to work to strengthen other treaties and conventions because we can use all the opportunities we have in the context of our political dialogue. We can use also our participation in the export control regimes, we can work on the multinational approach for the fuel cycle, There are a lot of opportunities and forums to work on specific aspects, and we will continue to do so. But also what happens with Iran, what happens with India, there are a number of developments in the world on which we need to reflect in depth, and see how to move forward from there.

ACT: On many disarmament issues, the U.S. position is fundamentally different than the EU position. Do you think the trans-Atlantic gap on disarmament issues will continue to grow?

Giannella : Well, I think the situation on CTBT [the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty][10] and [a proposed] FMCT [fissile material cutoff treaty] is not necessarily the same.[11] On CTBT, clearly the EU member states have a different position from the United States. We have a common position on CTBT, and on that basis we even carry out démarches to Washington to convince it to accede to the treaty and to allow the treaty to enter into force. On FMCT, I would say that our positions are not that far apart because we are in favor of commencing the negotiations without prior conditions, so we don’t necessarily link the negotiations of an FMCT to the verification mechanism. So I think on the FMCT we could find common ground with the Americans.

But generally speaking, I would say that it is true that there is not necessarily a convergence of views between the EU and the Americans on disarmament. Suffice it to say that on the occasions of our summits we have joint declarations on nonproliferation, but disarmament is not mentioned. So we agree on a sort of common agenda to fight against proliferation, but we don’t have elements related to disarmament in this declaration. On the contrary, if you look at our strategy against proliferation—it is called “Strategy Against Proliferation”—it in fact includes some elements of disarmament.

Still, there is clearly somewhat of a gap. I don’t know whether this gap will grow. Of course, we would prefer to increase the convergence of views between us and our major partner. We have agreed now to conduct specific consultations in the field of compliance. I don’t know, maybe closer cooperation in the field of compliance can help us in allaying the concerns of our American friends. And maybe we’ll have more cooperation in the area of disarmament as well.

ACT: I believe that the European Council is preparing a joint action on steps needed to bring the CTBT into force and to support the work of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. Could you update us on that and let us know how the European Union can contribute to the upcoming Article XIV conference to facilitate CTBT entry into force, which is planned at the United Nations in September?

Giannella : For the joint action, it is too early to tell you, because we have not been working on that so far. I mean, there is this idea that will be developed under the Austrian presidency [which will run from January to June 2006], and this is due to the fact that we simply don’t have enough resources, whether human or financial, to launch too many joint actions in a short period of time. In July, a few days ago, we had the adoption by the [European] Council of a new joint action in support of the IAEA. We are preparing a renewal of the joint action in support of the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons], which would be adopted in autumn. We are preparing a number of initiatives in the area of export controls, and so simply we don’t have time and we wouldn’t have the financial resources either for such a joint action, but it is planned for the Austrian presidency. We will start preparation at the end of the year or the beginning of next year. So I can’t tell you much more at this point.

ACT: Related to the review conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) coming up at the end of next year, can you update us on what the EU is doing? Specifically, is the EU going to be placing the verification gap in the convention on the agenda of the review conference?

Giannella : First of all, clearly the preparation of the review conference of the BWC is a high priority for us. And we have already started under the UK presidency, and we will continue next year. We have also started preparation of a specific joint action in support of the BWC. We have the joint action in support of the IAEA, which is linked to the NPT, and we have a joint action in support of OPCW, which has been adopted in support of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and now we would like to have a joint action in support of BWC. The specific problem we have there is that there is no agency that we can support, and that makes our projects more complicated. Because in the case of IAEA and OPCW, we finance, we support activities that can be implemented by the agency. In the case of biological weapons, we have to invent a mechanism that will allow us to implement this joint action. And we are planning to have projects in order to assist countries in drafting legislation to comply with the convention, etc.

As far as the verification mechanism is concerned, you know that there are a lot of problems that are not internal to the EU. So the situation is rather complicated. Of course, we will take advantage of all our channels of political dialogue in order to close the gap as much as possible. And we will work as much as possible on, I will not say alternative solutions, but maybe intermediary solutions. If we can’t get a verification mechanism, there are best practices for laboratories. There are other measures that are not as compulsory or, I would say, as spectacular as a verification mechanism but can help us to improve compliance with the convention.

ACT: There have been calls to cease the work of UNMOVIC this year. And the EU WMD strategy makes its goal to maintain UNMOVIC’s verification and strategy experience. Can you tell us what the EU is doing to make sure this goal is achieved?

Giannella : I can’t tell you too much in detail, but what I can tell you is that generally speaking we are in favor of having some verification and inspection expertise in the UN, but this specific point is under discussion in our working groups, so I can’t be more specific, but clearly we are working on it.

ACT: A couple of months ago the EU seemed to be drifting toward lifting the China arms embargo. Where do you see discussions on this topic going, and do you see any movement on it during the British presidency?

Giannella : Well, on the arms embargo, as you know the European Council has said two or three times already that in the end this arms embargo should be lifted. So I think this trend has been set. Now, I cannot tell you exactly when this decision will be taken formally, because this will depend on a number of factors, but clearly, we are always moving in that direction, and we are working in that direction.

And we work from different angles. We work from the point of view of export control. As you know we have been reviewing our code of conduct, we have been reinforcing our code of conduct. And now, the code of conduct is ready in the form of a Common Position, which is a legally binding instrument. But in addition to being a legally binding instrument, the substance of the rules of the code of conduct have been reinforced and complemented. As you know, we have also been working on the toolbox, which is a set of transparency measures and mutual controls that will apply to exports to countries previously under embargo. This is the export control side. So we have been making a lot of improvement for ourselves, but it is also to reassure our partners.

Secondly, always from the angle of perceptions of other partners, we have agreed with the United States and Japan to hold regularly a strategic dialogue on Asia and in particular on East Asia, and this is already underway. We already had not only the visit of [ EU High Representative Javier] Solana to Washington but we also had a meeting at the assistant secretary of state level, which took place in June, and we had a very comprehensive and very open exchange. This proved, by the way, that our approach to the region and to China is not different at all because both the United States and the EU see China as an important country with which we have to engage. And engagement is the only way to make progress on a number of issues. Engagement is the only way to be sure that China becomes more and more a responsible actor on the international scene.

And the third angle, which is not the last one, is the human rights angle since the embargo was decided upon as a sanction following the Tiananmen events.[12] We are continuing our very, very close and structured dialogue with China on human rights, and we continue to consider that China needs to make an important move in this field.

So the decision to lift the embargo will be taken in the light of these three aspects. But as I said, the trend has been set, and it is for our political leaders to assess the balance of these three.

ACT: May I ask two questions on the G-8 Global Partnership Against Weapons of Mass Destruction?[13] First of all, the European Commission has pledged $1 billion toward the global partnership. Can you tell us where the commission stands in meeting this pledge and why it has fallen short?

Giannella : I am not sure that it has fallen short, because there is a debate about whether the actual actions undertaken by the European Commission match entirely their commitment both in financial terms and in terms of type of projects. I know there are a number of projects in the area of nuclear safety, which are not considered as relevant for the G8 Global Partnership. Of course there we can have divergence of views, but I think that the commission is trying generally to meet its commitment. I would also underline that the commission has put forward for the next budget cycle I would say very important financial resources for nonproliferation projects, which would be devoted mostly to the G8 Global Partnership. Now there are difficulties within the [European] Council on the new financial cycle, and this is not only linked to the nonproliferation but to wider political and economic problems.[14] But, you know, if the commission may have some difficulties in meeting its commitment, this is the case also for other partners of the G8. So I don’t think it’s fair to single out the commission. I think the EU and its member states, and in particular those member states that are members of the G8, are deploying very substantial efforts to assist Russia to disarm and to dismantle.

ACT: The scope of the Global Partnership is being expanded, and some would like to see it fund projects in Libya, for example, and Iraq. Where do you see Europe’s position on this?

Giannella : As you know, the European Commission has always participated in the meetings of the different working groups and senior-level working groups on nonproliferation; we (the European Council) have started to participate recently. I don’t think we have a final European position on that. What I can tell you is that we are already planning some projects in support of Ukraine, for instance. We don’t have, at least at this stage, a European position on a possible expansion of the global partnership to countries outside the former Soviet Union.

1. The Gulf Cooperation Council is an organization founded in 1981 that includes six Persian Gulf states: Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qata and aims to unify its participants economically and politically in a manner similar to the European Union.

2. Mercosur (Mercado Común del Cono Sur) is a 1991 free trade agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Chile and Bolivia are associated members.

3. In referenda, French and Dutch voters rejected a proposed EU constitution earlier this year. The Common and Foreign Security Policy (CFSP) of the European Union is the guiding structure for the EU’s foreign policy. It is referred to as the “Second Pillar” of the Treaty of Maastricht, which established the EU in its modern form. It was substantially altered by the Amsterdam Treaty, which came into force in 1999. It sets out in broad terms what the foreign policy goals of the EU should be, including support of UN resolutions and to ‘preserve peace and international security.’ For more information, see Johanna Spear, “The Emergence of a European ‘Strategic Personality,’” Arms Control Today, November 2003.

4. Ibid

5. The Cologne European Council was a meeting of the European Council in June 1999, at which former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana was appointed Secretary-General of the Council and High Representative for the CFSP.

6. The European Council meetings in Helsinki and Nice in December 1999 and December 2000 respectively took further steps to achieve the goal of giving the EU an independent military capability, in particular in the area of crisis prevention. The decision to give the EU such a capacity for autonomous action had been taken at the European Council in Cologne in June 1999.

7. Currently, two officials share responsibility for the European Union’s foreign policy. Benita Ferrera-Waldner is is the EU Commissioner for External Relations, working for the EU Commission. Javier Solana is the EU Council’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The EU Constitution proposed to unify these two posts and to create the post of Union Minister of Foreign Affairs, who would be responsible for the representation of the Union on the international scene.

8. For an analysis of the NPT Review Conference see Wade Boese, “Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Meeting Sputters,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2005, pp. 22-23.

9. The member states of the New Agenda Coalition are Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden. These countries frequently issue joint proposals to advance nuclear disarmament.

10. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions anywhere. It has been signed by 175 countries and ratified by 122 states. The treaty, however, will not take full legal effect until 11 key states, including the United States, ratify the accord. See “The Status of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Signatories and Ratifiers” at http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/ctbtsig.asp.

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

12. On June 4, 1989, the Chinese government violently suppressed pro-democracy protests on Beijing’s Tiananmen square. Hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters were killed by government troops. As a consequence, the EU imposed an arms embargo vis-à-vis China.

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

14. In June 2005, a first round of talks on the EU’s long-term budget for the period 2007-13 failed.

Interviewed by Oliver Meier

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Interview with Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker


Interviewed by Wade Boese and Miles Pomper

On the verge of an important month-long meeting of states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker met April 19 with Arms Control Today Editor Miles Pomper and Arms Control Association Research Director Wade Boese to discuss the U.S. approach to the upcoming meeting, which will take place May 2-27 in New York. Rademaker has served as the head of the Department of State'sArms Control Bureau since August 2002.

ACT: As you know, the seventh review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) will take place in May. We understand informal discussions have failed to produce an agreement on a possible conference agenda, in part because of U.S. positions. What issues from the U.S. perspective are preventing an agenda from being completed?

Rademaker: We are confident that in the end there will be agreement on an agenda and that this will not prove to be an obstacle to a successful meeting. There was a disagreement at the Preparatory Committee[1] [PrepCom] last year about one element of the agenda. The question essentially revolved around how to refer to conclusions reached at the end of previous review conferences.[2] Since that time, a lot of thought has been given to the matter, and a number of creative suggestions have been made. I am not too worried that we will be able to reach agreement on an agenda by the time of the review conference.

ACT: Who will lead the U.S. delegation to the conference on a daily basis, and will Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attend or speak?

Rademaker: Ambassador Jackie Sanders[3] will be the head of the U.S. delegation on a day-to-day basis. Who the titular head of the delegation will be is a matter that has yet to be decided.

ACT: What is the United States hoping to achieve at the conference, and what is your strategy for accomplishing those objectives?

Rademaker: The most important challenge facing the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is the threat of noncompliance, which we have seen many instances of in recent years. These developments have to be truly alarming to anyone who cares about the nuclear nonproliferation regime. We have had North Korea announce its withdrawal from the treaty [in January 2003], resume nuclear weapons related work, and announce that it has produced nuclear weapons. We have a situation with Iran where the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has documented an 18-year history of deception and violation by Iran of its safeguards obligations,[4] all of which in our view is clear evidence that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program. We think delegates to the review conference need to take a careful look at that situation. We also have the case of Libya, which was covertly pursuing a nuclear weapons program until evidence emerged of that program. Once [Libyan leader Moammar] Gaddafi was confronted with that evidence, he chose to renounce his nuclear ambitions. Still, Libya is another example of the compliance problem that we think needs to be the focus of attention.

Of course, underlying all three of these particular compliance issues was the Abdul Qadeer Khan network.[5] We learned in Libya of the existence of the Khan network and the fact that a covert operation was underway worldwide to supply countries, including NPT states-parties, contrary to their treaty obligations, interested in developing nuclear weapons. We think we have put the Khan network out of business, but we have to be concerned about the emergence of similar networks in the future.

These are the kinds of developments that have emerged since the last review conference in 2000, and we think the principal focus of attention at the upcoming review conference has to be these problems and what can be done to prevent them from undermining the foundations of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

ACT: When you say these are the problems that need to be looked at, what are you asking other countries to do to address these compliance concerns?

Rademaker: We would like to see a consensus emerge that this is in fact a major challenge and that there is a shared interest among all treaty states-parties in remedying this problem. Once we can achieve agreement that this is a problem that needs to be remedied, then we can begin to talk about what those remedies might be. We do believe it would be important to try and reach agreement about the proper interpretation of Article IV of the treaty, which sets forth the right of non-nuclear-weapon states to peaceful nuclear cooperation. We think that it is clear from the text of Article IV that peaceful nuclear cooperation is an inalienable right for those parties that are in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations under the treaty. But for countries that are not in compliance, obviously their right to peaceful nuclear cooperation needs to be implemented in a manner consistent with the simultaneous requirement that they not be seeking nuclear weapons.

ACT: How do you convince other states to sign on to this consensus to bolster compliance?

Rademaker: Well, the review conference will go on for four weeks and will consist largely of speeches, meetings, dialogue, and lots of conversation. We have been active in the run-up to the review conference in explaining to other countries our views of what needs to be accomplished in New York, and we are going to continue throughout the course of the review conference to promote our views. This is the work of diplomacy.

ACT: Other countries are going to want more than just U.S. statements about this being the right thing to do. They will want the United States to pledge or take further actions. What is the United States willing to do to show that it is also complying with fulfilling its treaty obligations?

Rademaker: We are doing a lot to reinforce compliance with Articles II and III of the treaty.[6] For example, we were instrumental in helping create the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).[7] PSI is a useful reinforcement to the nuclear nonproliferation provisions of the NPT. We also think UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which endorsed PSI and imposed additional obligations on all member states of the United Nations to take national measures to discourage proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, is an additional useful step.[8]

ACT: Just one aside if I could. Why did the United States advocate only having a two-year time frame on the 1540 committee?

Rademaker: I do not know.

ACT: My understanding was that other countries wanted a more permanent committee length, like the UN terrorism committee, but the United States suggested that it only be a two-year time frame for the 1540 committee.

Rademaker: I do know that we are taking this committee for a test drive, so to speak. There have been some difficulties in the implementation of [Resolution] 1540, so I do think that whatever our reasons were initially, it’s clear today that the two-year mark would probably be a good time to reassess how things have been working, revisit the question of how we want them to work, and go forward from there.[9]

ACT: As I am sure you know, the UN high-level panel that included Brent Scowcroft [President George H. W. Bush’s national security adviser] noted in its report [“ A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility”] that “lackluster disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states weakens the force of the nonproliferation regime and thus its ability to constrain proliferation.” The report further stated that the nuclear-weapon states have only a “mixed grade in fulfilling their disarmament commitments” and that past progress has been “overshadowed by recent reversals,” specifically citing the renouncement of the “13 practical steps.” What can the United States do to turn this tide of opinion at the NPT review conference?

Rademaker: I would disagree with the notion that the United States is in any way lacking in its compliance with its obligations under Article VI of the NPT or is in any way lacking in its commitment to fulfillment of Article VI. Certainly, I am aware that there are countries that register complaints, but in our view, those complaints are not well founded. The record of U.S. compliance with Article VI is unassailable. The obligations of Article VI are clearly stated within the NPT. It’s a one-sentence provision that in relevant parts says that all parties to the NPT, not just the nuclear-weapon states, are obligated to engage in good faith negotiations in the direction of nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. Quite honestly, I do not think there is any country in the world that can point to a better record of compliance with those obligations than the United States.

Just three years ago, we signed with Russia and have since ratified the Moscow Treaty, which provides for a two-thirds r eduction in the number of strategic nuclear warheads that we deploy.[10] I simply do not know how a negotiated two-thirds r eduction in strategic nuclear warheads is not good faith negotiations by the United States on effective measures leading to nuclear disarmament. I simply do not understand how anyone can make that contention, and I think, people frankly will not make that contention. Instead, they will talk about other things that are a bit more removed from the actual obligations set forth in Article VI.

ACT: What do you mean by that? What issues do you think that they are going to raise?

Rademaker: What did the UN panel report?

ACT: Well, they talked about the renouncement of the 13 steps

Rademaker: I am not aware that we have renounced the 13 steps. We are prepared to talk about our record. But the 13 steps do not encapsulate the obligations of Article VI in the NPT. The obligations of Article VI are encapsulated in Article VI.

ACT: You are well aware that the 13 steps will be raised at the conference. How does the United States plan to address the matter when other countries raise it? Would the United States agree to a final document that refers to the 13 steps or elements of them?

Rademaker: I have not seen a proposed final document that either refers or does not refer to the 13 steps. We think the 13 steps reflect a statement of views that were relevant to the year 2000, when that statement was agreed to. A lot has changed since the year 2000, and we think it is time for the upcoming review conference to address the situation that exists in the year 2005. As I noted at the outset, the most important change since the last review conference is the emergence of this problem of noncompliance. Those of us who actually care about the future of the nuclear nonproliferation regime need to focus on the real problems of today, not a historical discussion of problems that were identified five years ago.

ACT: But is the United States concerned about the consequences that its position on the 13 steps might have in terms of other states’ views on their political commitments made at previous review conferences? One can cite the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995 and the linkage of Article IV with Articles II and III in 2000. Are you concerned about the consequences for those political commitments by taking this view of the 13 steps as a historical commitment?

Rademaker: I am not sure that I would agree that the decision to extend the NPT was a political commitment. I think that, if you look to the text of the treaty, it was more than just a political decision. And, the linkage between Articles IV and II and III is a linkage that rests not on a political ground, it rests on the actual language of Article IV. There is explicit reference in Article IV to this linkage. We think that we can stand on our record, which we think is unassailable.

ACT: Still, even though the United States states that its record is unassailable, other countries are going to still raise questions and ask why can’t you do more. Are there steps the United States is willing to take to try and meet those concerns that other countries are going to raise? What steps could the United States take to satisfy the demands of other countries at the review conference to make them more willing to deal with the noncompliance issue?

Rademaker: The most important step we can take is to implement our obligations under Article VI, which we have done with the Moscow Treaty with its two-thirds r eduction in strategic nuclear warheads. It is a negotiated measure that will effectively lead in the direction of nuclear disarmament. It’s indisputable compliance by the United States with Article VI.

We have done additional things outside of negotiated processes that have been equally effective. With regard to nonstrategic nuclear weapons, we have fully implemented the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives,[11] dismantling more than 3,000 nonstrategic nuclear warheads. Last May, the president decided on an almost 50 percent r eduction in the U.S. nuclear stockpile to be implemented between now and the year 2012.

Taken as a whole, it is very hard to find fault with the U.S. record. None of the other countries at the upcoming review conference, if asked what they have done under Article VI—and I am speaking not just of the nuclear-weapon states but of the non-nuclear-weapon states that also have Article VI obligations—will be able to point to a record anywhere near as compelling as the United States can point to.

ACT: You are basically saying that the U.S. record cannot be challenged.

Rademaker: Yes. There will be criticisms. Countries will accuse us of not doing as much as they would like us to do. But these are ill-founded criticisms. These are not countries that will be able to answer very effectively what they have done to implement their obligations under Article VI.

ACT: In terms of the Article VI commitments and the Moscow Treaty, one criticism that is likely to be raised is that the r eductions are not irreversible or transparent. In addition, the United States has not been that active over the past year in making r eductions. For instance, the U.S. arsenal has apparently been r educed by two warheads in the past year under START[12] counting rules. What can the United States do to address the concerns that it is not doing enough to r educe its nuclear arsenal?

Rademaker: These additional criteria [irreversibility and transparency] are not specific criteria you will find outlined in Article VI. But we do think that there is tremendous transparency about the r eductions we have made. They are all a matter of public record. They are subject to verification under the START inspection regime. You have not heard any complaints by the Russian Federation that we are failing to provide transparency under that regime with regard to the Moscow Treaty r eductions. The point about START counting rules are just sophistry because START counting rules impute levels to delivery systems. They have nothing to do with the actual levels of warheads deployed on delivery systems. The Moscow Treaty refers to actual levels, not counting rules. And, with regard to irreversibility, I find it truly remarkable that anybody is going to come to the upcoming review conference expressing concern that in the year 2012 that, after we implement a two-thirds r eduction in our level of strategic nuclear warheads, we are going to somehow want to reverse course and build up. That is a purely hypothetical or conjectural concern.

Meanwhile, North Korea is building up and proudly declaring that it has become a nuclear-weapon state. Iran is clearly moving in that direction. Those are problems that exist today. Rather than focusing on hypothetical problems that some fear may emerge in seven years, we think it’s of much greater relevance to focus on the problems that we know exist today.

ACT: At the Conference on Disarmament, Dutch Ambassador Chris Sanders recently noted, “Effective multilateral presupposes a genuine attitude to take each other’s proposals seriously.” What proposals from other countries are the United States considering seriously?

Rademaker: I think that the French and the Germans have made some very interesting proposals about Article X of the NPT, which is the withdrawal provision. I think that we will come with an open mind to those proposals. We look forward to the proposals that other governments have to make about the problem of noncompliance. IAEA Director-General [Mohamed] ElBaradei has made some proposals about the nuclear fuel cycle that we have not embraced in the exact form that he has put forward, but we think that he has correctly identified a major problem facing the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the nuclear nonproliferation regime. We look forward to working with him and others who have an interest in trying to develop solutions to the concern about the spread of [uranium-] enrichment and [plutonium] reprocessing technologies.[13]

ACT: The United States has put forward its own proposals about the fuel cycle with regard to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).[14] Do you see the NPT review conference as a forum to build support for those proposals, and do you see the NPT review conference as the forum from which you want to do more on the fuel cycle?

Rademaker: The president’s February 11 proposals of last year were to work with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The NPT review conference bears no direct relationship to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, so it is not a forum where we will seek to achieve some decision to foster the president’s NSG proposals. That said, we do think that the review conference is an occasion to talk about the threats and challenges to the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Since the spread of enrichment and reprocessing capability is a challenge and Director-General ElBaradei has been very outspoken in trying to draw attention to it as a challenge, we think the upcoming review conference is an opportunity to continue the international conversation about this particular problem.

ACT: Reportedly, the five nuclear-weapon states are not going to issue a common statement or position prior to the conference as they have in the past. Why not?

Rademaker: It is my understanding that in the past the statement has not always been issued prior to the conference. There have been some times it has been issued during the conference. With that being the case, I am not sure your statement will prove correct.

ACT: So, there is an effort to craft a common statement?

Rademaker: It’s something that is under consideration.

ACT: We have talked about noncompliance and Article VI. What other difficult issues do you anticipate might arise at the review conference, and how will the United States try to resolve them so they do not negatively impact the conference outcome?

Rademaker: We are hoping for a successful conference, so I do not want to speculate about additional problems. We are working in a constructive matter with [Review Conference President and Brazilian Ambassador] Sergio Duarte to overcome the problems that emerged at the end of PrepCom last year. As I have said, we are hopeful that an agreement will be reached on an agenda. We think that there inevitably will be a discussion of this problem of noncompliance. We think the evidence of noncompliance is so overwhelming and the threat that it poses to the nonproliferation regime so manifest that most countries will want to talk about this at the review conference. We are not anticipating profound disagreements. I will be surprised if many countries come to the review conference championing the decision of North Korea to withdraw from the treaty.

ACT: Speaking of North Korea, are you looking for specific language at the review conference for dealing with the North Korean question?

Rademaker: I would be surprised if there is a desire at the review conference to deal with the decision by North Korea to withdraw. On the other hand, I would be surprised if there was not a strong desire to speak to the problem that other countries may decide to follow suit. In other words, I would expect North Korea’s withdrawal to be addressed in a more generic manner as potentially part of a systemic problem. The way it is likely to be viewed in New York is from the perspective of, what can we do to discourage other countries from withdrawing from the treaty pursuant to Article X? That is the general thrust of the French and German proposals. There should be widespread consensus at the upcoming review conference that withdrawal from the NPT is a bad idea and it’s something to be discouraged.

ACT: You said that you are hoping for a successful outcome to the conference. What would you consider a successful outcome?

Rademaker: A renewed commitment by all states-parties to the importance of the NPT. A general consensus that noncompliance with the NPT poses a threat to the regime and it’s something that needs to be taken very seriously and addressed. Effective action needs to be taken in cases of noncompliance, both to reverse the noncompliance that we know about and to discourage others from contemplating noncompliance.

ACT: Could the review conference be considered a success without a final document?

Rademaker: Absolutely. Three of the six review conferences concluded without final documents. I am not aware that there is a widespread belief that 50 percent of the review conferences have been failures. There is ample precedent for having a successful conference that does not result in a final document. We will work toward achieving agreement on a final document, but it is important to bear in mind that this is a collection of almost 190 countries that will act on the basis of consensus. Any one country at this conference will be in a position to block agreement on a final document. Should that happen, it would not necessarily follow that the conference as a whole was a failure.

ACT: How important is it for the administration that the review conference be viewed as a success?

Rademaker: We see the review conference as an opportunity because the problem of nuclear proliferation is viewed by this administration as, if not the top threat to our national security, one of the top threats to our national security. This review conference is an important opportunity to build international will to combat that problem.

ACT: On the flip side, what would you consider a failed outcome to the conference?

Rademaker: The conference would be a failure if it chose to dwell on the past rather than the present and the future, for instance, if, in the discussion on the problem of noncompliance, the review conference spent disproportionate time focusing on Article VI, where as illustrated by the Moscow Treaty all the movement is in a positive direction, rather than on Articles II and III, where all the movement is in a negative direction.

ACT: We touched on this a little bit, but are there additional measures or steps that the United States is willing to take to avoid this kind of outcome? Obviously, there is diplomacy, but in terms of strategy, how do you avoid that kind of failed outcome?

Rademaker: I take it that you are inviting me to announce today that the Bush administration has reconsidered its position on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or the [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty?

ACT: Well, beyond specific policy steps, is there a diplomatic strategy that might be more likely to be successful?

Rademaker: We are not approaching this review conference from the cynical perspective of, we are going to toss a few crumbs to the rest of the world and by doing that try to buy goodwill or bribe countries into agreeing to the agenda that we think they should focus on rather than some other agenda. We will stand on our record. We are proud to stand on our record. We do not think that we need to make apologies for our record. An objective analysis of our record will lead to a very brief discussion of Article VI, which can be a small sidelight to the much larger and more important discussion that needs to be had about the noncompliance problems we have under Articles II and III.

ACT: Thank you.

1. Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings are two-week conferences of NPT states-parties that take place during each of the three years preceding an NPT Review Conference. They are used by the NPT states-parties to prepare for the review conferences. See Wade Boese, “NPT Meeting Marked by Discord,” Arms Control Today, June 2004, pp. 28-29.

2. At the heart of the dispute to which Rademaker is referring was U.S. opposition to acknowledging the “13 practical steps” agreed to at the end of the 2000 NPT Review Conference. The 13 steps called for a series of actions toward nuclear disarmament, such as bringing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force and strengthening the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The Bush administration opposes the CTBT and withdrew the United States from the ABM Treaty in June 2002.

3. Ambassador Jackie Sanders serves as U.S. representative to the 65-member UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and as special representative of the president for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

4. Safeguards are mechanisms, such as inspections, seals, and remote monitoring, used by the IAEA to verify that countries are not illicitly diverting nuclear materials and technologies intended for peaceful purposes to build nuclear weapons.

5. Abdul Qadeer Khan is the “father” of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program and ran a proliferation ring that spanned a number of countries and provided nuclear expertise and technologies to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and possibly others. Khan publicly confessed February 4, 2004, to his proliferation activities on Pakistani television.

6. Article II of the NPT obligates non-nuclear-weapon states not to seek, acquire, manufacture, or receive nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices or control over them. Article III requires all non-nuclear-weapon states to subject their nuclear technologies and facilities for peaceful purposes to international verification to ensure that they are not diverting materials toward developing nuclear weapons.

7. President George W. Bush announced May 31, 2003, the creation of the PSI. The voluntary initiative calls on participating countries to use existing national and international authorities to intercept shipments of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, as well as related materials and delivery vehicles, at sea, on land, and in the air.

8. Passed unanimously April 28, 2004, by the UN Security Council, Resolution 1540 requires all states to institute “appropriate” and “effective” measures to deny terrorists and other nonstate actors biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, as well as related materials and delivery vehicles. Resolution 1540 does not explicitly refer to PSI, and China succeeded in removing the word “interdiction” from the resolution. Nevertheless, U.S. officials assert that Resolution 1540 and PSI are complementary, citing paragraph 10 of the resolution, which “calls upon all [s]tates, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, to take cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials.”

9. The committee took several months to hire experts to help evaluate national reports on activities to comply with the resolution. That review process just started in March. See Wade Boese, “Slow Start for UN WMD Committee,” Arms Control Today, April 2005, p. 41.

10. Signed by Presidents Bush and Vladimir Putin on May 24, 2002, the Moscow Treaty is formally titled the Strategic Offensive R eductions Treaty (SORT). The agreement commits the United States and Russia to r educe their operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to less than 2,200 apiece by December 31, 2012.

11. The Presidential Nuclear Initiatives were voluntary pledges made by President George H. W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the fall of 1991 to eliminate certain types of tactical, or “battlefield,” nuclear weapons.

12. Signed on July 31, 1991, by Presidents George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, the Strategic Arms R eductions Treaty (START) committed Washington and Moscow to r educe their “accountable” strategic warheads down to 6,000 apiece by December 5, 2001. The two sides established specific criteria for what was “accountable,” so figures for START “accountable” warheads do not necessarily reflect weapons operationally deployed.

13. Uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing can be used in making fuel for civilian power reactors and producing nuclear weapons.

14. Established in 1975, the NSG is comprised of 44 nuclear supplier states, including China, Russia, and the United States, that have voluntarily agreed to coordinate their export controls governing transfers of civilian nuclear material and nuclear-related equipment and technology to non-nuclear-weapon states.

Interviewed by Wade Boese and Miles Pomper


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