"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: Thank you.

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



Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: Have you defined what suspension means?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: Have any other countries committed to contribute?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: Does this suspension have to be permanent?

Schulte: We’re just asking for a suspension.

ACT: Anything else you want to add?

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

ACT: Thank you.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper

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Interview With Dr. Hans Blix


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

ACT: What about Russia?

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

ACT: What about China?

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

ACT: What about France?

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

ACT: What about the United Kingdom?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: Thank you.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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