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

The CWC at the Two-Year Mark: An Interview With Dr. John Gee

In the little more than two years since it entered into force on April 29, 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) has become one of the most widely adhered to arms control treaties in the world. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body established to oversee implementation of the convention, has been working steadily to fulfill the CWC's extensive verification and inspection mandate and push for treaty universality.

In late May, Dr. John Gee, OPCW deputy director-general, was appointed acting director-general during a short leave of absence by José Bustani. Dr. Gee, a 54-year-old Australian career diplomat with extensive experience in arms control and degrees in chemistry, has played the principal role in the day-to-day administration of the treaty Secretariat and served as the chief policy advisor to Mr. Bustani.

Born in Launceston, Tasmania, Dr. Gee joined the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs in 1971 and served in various missions in Cairo, Moscow, New Delhi and Bangkok. He began his involvement in chemical weapons disarmament issues with the Foreign Service in 1982, and has continued amid other assignments. From May 1991 to April 1993, Dr. Gee was a member of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), serving in 1991 as UNSCOM's coordinator of the CBW Working Group. In April 1993, he was appointed director of the Verification Division of the OPCW's Provisional Technical Secretariat, and deputy director-general in May 1997.

On May 28, Arms Control Today editor Tom Pfeiffer spoke with Dr. Gee about the first two years of the convention's operation and the road ahead. The following is an edited version of their conversation.


Arms Control Today: What is the current status of the CWC and what are the accomplishments of the OPCW during its first two years of operation?

John Gee: The Chemical Weapons Convention is built on four main pillars: first, the destruction of existing stockpiles and chemical weapons production capacity and the verification of this process [Articles III, IV and V]; secondly, non-proliferation [Article VI]; thirdly, assistance and protection [Article X]; and fourthly, international cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry [Article XI]. All four are interrelated. Because of the very strict and demanding timelines in the convention in relation to the first two in particular, we have had to devote much more attention since entry into force to the disarmament and non-proliferation pillars. Our programs in the Article X and XI areas are, however, now also starting to be developed and to gather momentum.

As of today, Friday, May 28, which is 759 days after entry into force, we've completed 475 inspections at 278 sites in 29 states-parties, for a total of just over 30,000 inspector days since we commenced inspection operations almost exactly two years ago, on June 1, 1997. We have carried out all of the initial inspections of the chemical weapons-related facilities that were declared to us by three possessor states at entry into force, and in January 1998 by the Russian Federation, which ratified the convention in November 1997. We have carried out initial inspections at 33 chemical weapons storage sites and 63 chemical weapons production facilities or former chemical weapons production facilities, and we have undertaken routine re-inspections since then. We have a continuous monitoring presence at three operating chemical weapons destruction facilities in the United States. We have also monitored, as required, destruction operations at five non-continuously operating sites in the United States, and we have begun monitoring destruction operations in another state-party, which has just started destroying its chemical weapons. We have commenced industry inspections. We have carried out all the initial inspections of the declared Schedule 1 facilities, and we are well on the way to completing the initial inspections of declared Schedule 2 facilities. As you know, all initial inspections of Schedule 2 facilities have to be carried out, if possible, within the first three years after the entry into force of the convention. We currently have approximately 120 declared Schedule 2 facilities, and we have carried out the initial inspections at just over 100 of them. We have also begun the inspection of Schedule 3 facilities. So the verification regime is proceeding very satisfactorily at the moment.

ACT: What have been the priorities for the OPCW leading to the two-year mark in terms of establishing the inspection regime?

Gee: From the Secretariat's point of view, we have learned a number of things. The first of these is that multilateral verification carried out by a multinational agency like ours not only works but works well. We have an inspectorate of approximately 200 inspectors from over 50 different nationalities. They underwent a very thorough five-month training course before they joined the organization. I think that has paid off in terms of making them good inspectors and well equipped to carry out their task.

The second element that we've learned is that a cooperative approach yields considerable dividends. We see our mandate as being to assist the states-parties to demonstrate their compliance with the provisions of the convention. We do not try to adopt a hostile or confrontational approach to our inspections. Rather, our approach is simply to assist the state-party to ensure that all the facts that have to be laid out on the table are addressed. That's not to say that problems don't arise from time to time in the course of inspections—they do. But in the great majority of cases they are sorted out pretty quickly. So I think that's been a considerable achievement. Also, our inspectorate is an independent body. All of our inspectors are international civil servants on fixed-term contracts to the OPCW; they are not experts on loan from member-states.

From the point of view of the member-states, I think they too have learned something. There was a great deal of concern prior to entry into force, particularly from states-parties that had never had inspections before, about the intrusiveness of the on-site inspection process, particularly given the provisions of the convention, which are very stringent indeed. A lot of them have now concluded that the experience isn't as bad as they thought it might have been. So that in itself has also been a helpful development.

ACT: Have there been any surprises so far in the initial declarations that have been received by the OPCW?

Gee: There have been one or two small surprises. But what is significant is the fact that the declarations have been made and the key parts of each state-party's declaration are available to all other states-parties. That, I think, has been a considerable confidence-building measure because it has, within the strict confidentiality provisions of the convention, enabled states-parties to see what other states-parties have declared and, if necessary, to seek clarification. This process has answered a lot of questions that were out there prior to entry into force. Frankly, prior to entry into force, before states-parties made their declarations, all that other countries had to go on were press reports and intelligence estimates and so forth. The whole process of having declarations available to other states-parties has been a great success and a very substantial confidence-building measure.

ACT: What is your assessment of the current destruction timetable for the CWC? Do you have a sense now of how realistic the timetable really is?

Gee: There are four declared chemical weapons possessors, all of which are under a treaty obligation to destroy their stockpiles by April 29, 2007. Now, for the possessors of the two smaller stockpiles, which are India and another state-party, their stockpiles are modest in total size by comparison with those of the Russian Federation and the United States. In my view, there's no reason at all why they shouldn't be able to meet the timelines that are set out in the convention.

For the U.S., and more so for Russia, the question is a little more difficult to answer but for different reasons. It's more difficult to answer given the size and complexity of the problem in both cases, and because there are important differences between the two cases. In the U.S., the destruction program is by now very firmly established and destruction is proceeding on the basis of the baseline technology of high-temperature incineration. There are three destruction facilities already in operation and there are a number due to come on stream within the next few years. We are told that by the end of this year, 22 percent of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile will be destroyed. And, of course, the studies on alternative technologies for destruction required by the Congress are also now well underway. As far as I can see there is no inherent reason why the United States shouldn't meet the destruction timelines. The big question here, of course, is whether there may be any new environmental or health and safety concerns that might arise. I'm not really in a position to comment any further about that. But provided there are no unexpected surprises, there's no reason at all why the U.S. shouldn't meet the timelines in the convention.

In the case of the Russian Federation the situation is much more complex. The Russians have identified and decided upon the technologies that they will use to destroy their chemical warfare agents. They now have plans well underway for the construction of facilities at three of their sites: at Gornyi, Shchuchie and Kambarka. However, these only represent about one-third of the total Russian stockpile, and plans for the destruction operations at the other four sites are much less advanced. The Russians have many problems to overcome, but the principal problem is a financial one. It's now very clear that if they are to meet destruction timelines, they're going to require substantial foreign assistance. I know some of this has already been forthcoming from countries in the European Union and the United States, but the Russians are going to require a lot more assistance than they have received so far or that appears to be currently in the pipeline.

Another problem that is perhaps not quite appreciated is the problem of the abandoned chemical weapons in China. Here the problem is that they are mostly buried, scattered in a wide number of different locations, and there are differences of view as to precisely how many there are. The estimates vary anywhere between 700,000 to 2 million individual rounds. All of these are five decades old, most of them are in pretty poor condition and they all have to be treated individually. So destroying all of that within the timelines of the convention is also likely to be a problem. The Chinese and Japanese have been in consultation on this issue for some time now, and I understand that they are close to agreeing on an approach to resolve it.

ACT: Have all the possessor states begun their required destruction programs at the two-year mark?

Gee: The convention requires that destruction of chemical weapons based on Schedule 1 chemicals should start not later than two years after the convention enters into force for the state-party. Destruction of unfilled chemical munitions must start not later than one year after the state-party joined the OPCW. For three states-parties, the two-year timeline is already passed; for the fourth—Russia—it has not. Two states have started destruction. The other two are close to starting. It depends on how you define "start." Does start constitute the start of the construction of the destruction facilities or does start actually constitute the start of destruction of munitions and agent? If the latter, then at least one hasn't made it. If the former, then I think all of them have made it. The important thing is that the convention requires that you have to get rid of 1 percent of the stockpile within three years after entry into force—April 29, 2000. I think they can all achieve that. Whether they will is another matter, but at the moment they're all well positioned to be able to do that.

ACT: What role has the OPCW played in addressing the problem of abandoned chemical weapons so far?

Gee: With regard to China and Japan, those consultations have been a bilateral effort. They have kept us informed in broad terms of progress, but essentially that's been a process that they have worked on themselves. Our involvement with the abandoned chemical weapons in China has been to verify the declarations that have been made by the Chinese and the Japanese. We have carried out nine abandoned chemical weapons inspections in China at nine sites since the end of 1997. The OPCW Executive Council has adopted a decision on the cost of verification of abandoned chemical weapons, which is now subject to adoption by the Conference of States-Parties. In addition, the Chinese and the Japanese have also reached agreement on how Japan will reimburse China for the costs of the Chinese national escorts teams accompanying OPCW inspectors. We assist them with the processing of such reimbursements. It would be fair to say that the OPCW is playing a facilitating role in this aspect.

ACT: Are there other states-parties that now face the problem of abandoned chemical weapons? Can the experience of China and Japan apply to these cases?

Gee: By the end of last year six states-parties—Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom—submitted declarations of old chemical weapons on their territories, while three states-parties—China, Panama and Italy—submitted declarations of abandoned chemical weapons on their territories. Japan notified the OPCW of its abandoned chemical weapons in China.

There are substantial numbers of old chemical weapons that were used during World War I, albeit in a very limited theater, basically northern France and Belgium. Germany has also declared the presence of old chemical weapons on its territory. During World War II, enormous numbers of chemical munitions were produced and stockpiled and transported around the world and in most cases never used. But quite often at the end of World War II they were disposed of in situ rather than taken back to the states that produced them. Sometimes they were dumped at sea, sometimes they were burned in open pits, but sometimes they were just simply forgotten about. Unfortunately, the latter pop up from time to time, as happened, for example, with some U.S. chemical munitions dating from World War II, which were discovered in the Solomon Islands in 1991.

ACT: The CWC destruction process won't include those munitions that have been dumped into international waters. Do you have any idea about the scope of that problem?

Gee: Only in very general terms. We have some idea of the dimensions of the problem but I would not say that we have an accurate idea, basically because there's no requirement for the OPCW to become involved in them. The decision was taken that once they were dumped at sea essentially that was it—they were disposed of. And provided they're not dumped after January 1985, they do not fall under the purview of the convention.

ACT: There are many countries that signed the CWC but have not yet ratified the convention. What do you believe are the reasons they have not yet ratified?

Gee: When you look at the number of states-parties that we have and the number of signatory states, I think our convention has been very successful indeed. We will soon have 125 states-parties; Estonia ratified just two days ago, bringing the total to 125. We have a further 45 signatory states. When you add those two figures together you have 170 members of the international community that have either signed or ratified the convention. It is important to remember that under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, signatories are bound not to undercut a treaty's provisions until they give formal notification that they don't intend to ratify. From that perspective then, our convention becomes the most widely adhered to arms control-disarmament convention after the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]. I think only the Biological Weapons Convention [BWC] comes close in terms of the number of states that have signed and ratified. That's a pretty impressive achievement for an agreement that entered into force only two years ago. When you consider how long it took to get the membership of the NPT that we have today—over two decades—we've managed to achieve much the same result in two years. In my view, this is due to the universal character of the convention and also, of course, of the times in which we live and the desire of the international community to eliminate chemical weapons.

I want to assure you that we assign a very high priority to achieving universal adherence to the convention. In fact, the first official visit that the director-general and I made together, after the entry into force of the convention and the establishment of the OPCW was, in fact, in September 1997 to two non-states-parties—Russia and Ukraine. They were both signatory states at that stage but they hadn't ratified, and I'm pleased to say that both of them have since done so. As for the states that have signed but not yet ratified, we continue to take every opportunity within our resource constraints to talk to them to persuade them to ratify. Our resources are not unlimited, so we have to prioritize. We are also in contact with the other 23 states that have neither signed nor ratified.

We carry out our contacts with all non-states-parties through a number of channels. When the director-general goes to New York each fall for the meetings of the UN General Assembly's First Committee, he takes advantage of his presence there to talk to the representatives of the non-states-parties. We also follow up with energetic direct contact with representatives here in The Hague and also in capitals. This approach has also been successful, most recently in the case of Sudan. We spent a lot of time talking with the Sudanese here in The Hague. It was successful also in Nigeria's case. I visited Kazakhstan and Malaysia last year and they both assured me that they are committed to the principles of the convention and politically there is no problem. It's just a question of bureaucratic delay and assigning it the necessary priority. Our External Relations Division and our International Cooperation and Assistance Division run a number of seminars on an annual basis in various countries and regions of the world, and we invite both signatory states and non-signatory states.

One of the things that will assist universality is seeing the convention implemented successfully and realizing that there is something in it for them. Many countries say: "Yes, we're committed to the goal of the elimination of chemical weapons, but we don't have any and therefore membership in the OPCW is not as high a priority for us as some other things are." I think what we have to do and what we try to do is to persuade them of the benefits of joining the convention—which include the right to receive assistance if they are attacked or threatened with attack by chemical weapons and to participate in our international cooperation programs—and also outline to them the problems they may face by not joining. As you know, the convention has certain restrictions in relation to trade in chemicals that appear on the schedules.

On the second anniversary of the convention's entry into force [April 29, 1999], the director-general did two things. First, he published in the International Herald Tribune a list of states which had signed but not yet ratified the convention and a list of states which had yet to accede to the convention. That had not been done in a public forum before. So there it was in black and white for the international community to see who was a state-party and who wasn't. The second thing he did was to write a letter to each of the non-states-parties—that is, to the signatory states and the non-signatory states—indicating to them that one year from now states-parties would have to implement sanctions against them in relation to trade in chemicals that appear on Schedule 2 of the convention. So, in some cases, there will be an economic cost by not becoming a state-party. It's clear from the reporting by states-parties of their trade in chemicals that appear on Schedules 2 and 3 of the convention that a number of non-states-parties import chemicals on the Schedules from states-parties. In relation to the chemicals on Schedule 2, that trade is going to have to be cut off in the year 2000. This is a point that we emphasize to them as well.

Finally, when we visit states-parties, we do ask them, where possible, also to talk to the states that haven't yet ratified. We try to work with states-parties that may have particular influence with non-states parties. For example, we asked the Brazilians for their assistance in talking to the Portuguese-speaking states in Africa that have not yet either ratified or acceded to the convention, and France for assistance with the francophone non-states-parties. It's a joint effort involving both us and the states-parties, and it's actually been quite successful. As I noted a moment ago, when the convention entered into force, we had 87 states-parties; we now have 125. That's a 40 percent increase in membership in the last two years, which is indicative of the attractiveness of the convention and the efforts that we and the states-parties put into persuading non-states-parties to join the OPCW.

ACT: Sudan acceded to the convention only four days ago. What impact do you believe Khartoum's accession will have on other non-signatories, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa?

Gee: I hope it will have a very significant effect. In relation to North African states, there are only two that are now left out: Libya and Egypt. In the Middle East region more generally, we're missing Libya; Egypt; Israel, which has signed but not ratified; Syria; Lebanon; and of course Iraq. So Sudan's accession to the convention actually is a very significant step in that regard, and I hope it will persuade the others to do likewise. We've had some approaches from the Libyans in the last months, particularly since the arraignment of the Lockerbie bombing suspects, so we are hopeful that we may be able to persuade them to accede soon as well. We have also spent some time talking to the Israelis, but I think we all realize that the new government will require some more time yet before it's ready to start addressing these questions in detail.

ACT: After the CWC enters into force for Sudan [30 days after it deposits its instrument of ratification] will the OPCW have any role to play in helping resolve the current dispute between the United States and Sudan regarding the chemical facility that was destroyed by the U.S. last year?

Gee: It could if both states-parties agree that it should. Until now, of course, both have been addressing the fallout from this bilaterally or through other forums, such as the Sudanese attempts to involve the United Nations last year. But the mechanism is always there if they wish to use it. It's unfortunate that Sudan was not a state-party at the time of the incident, because the fact-finding and consultation provisions in the convention would have provided the United States with means other than the one it chose to address its concerns about Sudan's perceived chemical weapons capabilities.

ACT: Had Sudan been a state-party at the time, what would have been the process that would have allowed the U.S. to quickly address its concerns?

Gee: The convention provides a number of possibilities. The first one is to approach the country concerned directly. This is provided for in Article IX of the convention, which deals with challenge inspections. It's widely but inaccurately believed that Article IX deals only with challenge inspections, but, in fact, its first sections cover consultations, cooperation and fact-finding and set out procedures for requesting clarification. These can be done bilaterally or through the Executive Council. Only in Paragraph 8 does Article IX begin to address in detail challenge inspection. So while it is of course open to a state-party to request a challenge inspection without right of refusal, in order to resolve concerns about compliance, the convention provides for the possibility of a process of clarification, consultation and fact-finding before the challenge-inspection mechanism is invoked should a state-party wish to exercise those options before requesting a challenge inspection. In short, all options are there should any state-party wish to exercise them in relation to another state-party.

ACT: During the first two years of the convention's operation, has any state-party requested a challenge inspection under Article IX?

Gee: No, it has not.

ACT: Does that surprise you?

Gee: No, frankly, it doesn't. I think the fact that states-parties have access to the declarations of all other states-parties has helped to resolve a lot of questions that were out there previously. It hasn't resolved all of them. But a number of states-parties have approached other states-parties directly to ask questions about their declarations, and that's a very healthy process. I think what that means is that the convention is actually working by functioning as a confidence-building measure, and it's giving states-parties the opportunity to clarify uncertainties with other states-parties. So far it's not clear to me that any state-party has actually seen the need to invoke the challenge-inspection provisions of the convention. And, of course, any state-party that has not itself fully complied with all the declaration requirements under the convention is likely to think twice before it launches a challenge inspection on any other state-party.

ACT: What is the distinction between the clarification process we just discussed and the clarification mechanism through the OPCW's Executive Council? Has the latter mechanism been used so far by any state-party?

Gee: Paragraph 2 of Article IX provides for states-parties to approach other states-parties directly. Paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 take the process to the next step if the state-party wants to do so. If it feels that this process of bilateral discussions has not yielded all the answers, it can then formally request that the Executive Council assist in clarifying any matters. So far that process hasn't yet happened either. I think it would be fair to say that what we're seeing at the moment is a process that is confined to individual states-parties approaching other states-parties directly. Now, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that some states in the future could approach the council and ask it to attain clarification, but so far it hasn't happened.

ACT: During the Third Session of the Conference of States-Parties [November 16-20, 1998], some delegations had expressed concern over the non-compliance of states-parties in submitting their initial declarations or submitting incomplete declarations. How many states now do you consider to be in non-compliance and what is the OPCW doing to correct that?

Gee: The current situation is that approximately 25 percent of our states-parties still have to make the initial declaration required under Article III, which covers holdings of chemical weapons, chemical weapons production facilities, old and abandoned chemical weapons, CW development facilities and riot control agents; and Article VI, which covers portions of the commercial chemical industry. There are a number of other declarations or notifications that are required as well. For example, states-parties are required to inform the OPCW of their national authority; of the designated point of entry; of a special diplomatic clearance number for non-scheduled flights and other things. Here the record is even worse, if that's the right term. Both the conference and the Executive Council have expressed their concern about this and have called upon all of the states that have not yet made declarations to do so as soon as possible. They have published, for themselves, a list of states-parties that have not yet made these declarations. We have been in touch with all of them to urge them to make the declarations as soon as possible. We have offered assistance to do so. We have established a network of "declaration experts"; that is, experts from the Secretariat and states-parties in various regions around the world who can be sent on request to assist states-parties with their declarations. A number of states-parties have already requested, and received, such assistance.

Clearly, from a political point of view it's undesirable to have a situation where approximately one-quarter of our states-parties have not made the declarations required of them. On the other hand, most of the countries would, on any objective yardstick, not have very much, if indeed anything, at all to declare anyway. In a functional sense, the consequences might not be all that serious. But in a political sense, of course, they are, and that's most unfortunate.

As to who's made an incomplete declaration, well, it's not always clear what an incomplete declaration is. But unfortunately the United States is the one country that has clearly not yet made a complete declaration because it hasn't yet provided us the required declaration for its chemical industry. Anyway, we're very hopeful that that process will be completed soon. The U.S. implementing legislation was passed last October, and we have been informed that the requisite executive order is likely to be signed by President Clinton sometime in the near future. That should pave the way for the U.S. to make its industry declarations in the very near future, which would be a significant boost to the convention.

ACT: From the OPCW's perspective, what exactly is the nature of the problem with the U.S. implementing legislation? What effect, if any, has it had on the implementation of the convention?

Gee: There are three problems, two I regard as substantial. The third is also important but perhaps not in quite the same category as the other two. The first one is Condition 18, under which the United States Senate decided that no chemical sample collected by the OPCW in the course of its inspections activities in the United States would be taken out of the country for analysis at our network of designated laboratories. The second one is what I understand to be, in effect, a right of presidential veto on a particular challenge inspection for national security grounds. Now the convention is quite clear on challenge inspection: there is no right of refusal. So that condition would appear to me, at least prima facie, to be contrary to the provisions of the convention.

The problem with the sample analysis issue is not so much one of strict incompatibility with the language of the convention because the convention talks about off-site analysis. But it was always understood during the work of the Preparatory Commission here that off-site meant, in effect, out of country, and all of our analytical procedures and the work that has gone into setting up our network of designated laboratories in a number of states-parties to carry out analysis of samples taken off-site was based on that premise. While no other country has followed the United States in enacting such provisions, a number of other states have indicated to us informally that if these things remain, then they may well themselves take similar action.

The third problem with the U.S. implementing legislation is in relation to the low concentration limit set for the declaration of Schedule 3 chemicals, which is 80 percent. While there is no consensus among member-states as to what the limit should be, most have opted for a much lower figure, in the vicinity of 20 to 30 percent. It is hard to see how the figure of 80 percent could be considered "low."

ACT: So no other state-party has placed unilateral conditions on its own implementation?

Gee: Not to my knowledge. Some states have hinted informally to us that they've contemplated doing so, but to my knowledge so far nobody has done that.

ACT: How would the OPCW deal with the issue of other states-parties declaring unilateral conditions in their implementation of the convention?

Gee: That's not clear at this stage. There has not been a great deal of discussion on the issue within the OPCW's policy-making organs. I think a number of people are frankly hoping that it will go away. But it's hard to say what the long-term implications would be. So far there haven't been any direct consequences in the practical sense. As I mentioned earlier, we've never had to carry out a challenge inspection anywhere, and we've never had to take a sample off-site or out of country for analysis. It was always envisaged that both of these things—taking a sample out of the country for off-site analysis and launching a challenge inspection—would be a pretty rare occurrence. After all, launching a challenge inspection is an extremely serious business because it risks accusing a state-party of cheating on its obligations or being seen to be doing so. To me, challenge inspection has always been the option of last resort. I have always felt that the likelihood of us taking a sample off-site or the likelihood of us conducting a challenge inspection was not high. But on the other hand, it was always important to have the two provisions there, because the combination of challenge inspection and the right to take a sample out of the country for analysis, in my view, posed a very powerful deterrent to a potential violator. To the extent that the U.S. action appears to be cutting across that, I think the convention has been weakened.

ACT: Although Iraq currently is not a state-party to the CWC, given the uncertain future of the UN Special Commission [UNSCOM], is there a role for the OPCW to play in helping to maintain the UN mandate to monitor and prevent Iraq's acquisition of chemical weapons?

Gee: We believe from a technical and operational point of view we could successfully carry out a mandate if given to us in the chemical area in Iraq. We have carried out nearly 500 inspections in 29 states-parties over the last two years or so. We have 200 very well-trained and experienced inspectors and a good solid headquarters staff to back them. But I think we have to be very clear about what it is that we would be doing if we were required to participate in some way in a future monitoring regime in Iraq.

Hence, our view is that while we have the necessary expertise and experience, we can only become involved in Iraq under very certain and well-specified conditions. The first of these is that Iraq would have to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The second is that the terms and conditions of our participation in Iraq would have to be very clearly defined, understood and accepted by everybody involved, by which we mean the Security Council, our own member-states and, of course, Iraq itself. Finally, we could only accept a role in Iraq using our own methods and procedures in order to safeguard their independence and integrity, and reporting directly to the Security Council.

ACT: Do you have a sense as to the view of member-states for the OPCW to become involved in something other than strictly a treaty-implementation process?

Gee: Some of them have doubts about it. That's become very clear.

ACT: What do you see to be the major issues that will arise at the upcoming Fourth Session of the Conference of States-Parties?

Gee: A major issue will be the membership of the organization: which states have ratified the convention and which are still outside it, and the measures that should be taken to persuade those outside the organization to join it. Another item is likely to be the question of declarations and what more can we do to encourage those who have not yet made their declarations to do so. The conference also will be adopting a number of reports—the Executive Council's report and the annual report of the organization itself. There will be elections to the Executive Council because half the members of the council come up for re-election every year.

One of the most important issues to be considered by the conference will be the organization's program and budget for the year 2000. Here the key issue remaining to be resolved will be the level of resources to be allocated to industry inspections. There are two issues here. First, some states-parties, particularly those with large chemical industries, have been very unhappy with the fact that their chemical industries have had to make declarations and receive a substantial number of OPCW inspections while one of their major competitors, the U.S. chemical industry, has so far not made any declarations or had to receive any inspections at all. So they have imposed restrictions this year on the number of their facilities that we're allowed to inspect until such time as the United States makes its industry declarations and we can inspect U.S. facilities. That's why it's very important, as I mentioned earlier, that the U.S. provide us with its industry declaration as soon as possible so that this issue of non-compliance can be removed, because it's threatening to become a very divisive issue.

The second issue is whether or not inspections of other chemical production facilities, i.e. facilities that produce discreet organic chemicals [DOCs], will start in May 2000. The convention requires, in part IX of the Verification Annex, that the inspections of what have now become termed as DOC facilities will start at the beginning of the fourth year after entry into force unless the upcoming session of the conference of states-parties decides otherwise. We have four categories of chemical industry facilities mentioned in the convention: Schedule 1, Schedule 2, Schedule 3 and DOCs. The OPCW has been carrying out inspections on Schedule 1, 2 and 3 facilities, and now we have to get ready to carry out inspections at DOC facilities as well. These will be the main issues from the verification side.

The Secretariat is also hopeful that the member-states will decide on the staff regulations, including the tenure policy for the staff of the Secretariat. Failure to do so will put the director-general in a very difficult position in relation to the renewal to staff contracts: with the exception of the director-general himself, who has a four-year contract, all staff are on three-year contracts, and the first of these come up for renewal in May 2000. Finally, the other key issue to be discussed will be the types of programs and the level of resources to be allocated in relation to Article X of the convention, which as you will recall from my introductory remarks is the provision of assistance to states that are attacked or threatened with attack by chemical weapons, and to Article XI, which addresses international cooperation and the peaceful use of chemistry. We have, in fact, started to develop quite a well-put together program in this area. Not only is it important for its own sake, but it is one of the keys to bringing about universality as well, because when a number of the developing countries see that the convention actually offers some tangible benefits for them, then they might be that much more persuaded to join. So there's a very clear link between the implementation of the convention in all its respects—in other words, is the verification aspect working properly, is the international cooperation aspect working properly—and universality. If the convention is perceived to be a failure, of course, then there's no incentive for states to join. If, on the other hand, the convention is clearly seen to offer tangible benefits, either in terms of enhanced security or increased assistance and cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry or both, then, of course, non-states-parties are that much more likely to ratify or accede to the convention and join the OPCW. [Back to top]


CWC Membership (As of May 31, 1999)
States-Parties (122):

Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, St. Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikstan, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zimbabwe

Entry Into Force Pending (3):

Estonia, Nigeria, Sudan

Non-Ratifying Signatories (46):

Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bhutan, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cyprus, Dijbouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Greneda, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Israel, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Lichtenstein, Madagascar, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Myanmar (Burma), Nauru, Nicaragua, Rwanda, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Zaire, Zambia

Non-States-Parties (22):

Andorra, Angola, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Kiribati, Lebanon, Libya, Mozambique, North Korea, Palua, Sao Tome & Principe, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Syria, Tonga, Tuvala, Vanuata, Yugoslavia

Interviewed by Tom Pfeiffer

U.S. Interests and Priorities at the CD: Interview with Robert T. Grey, Jr.

Named U.S. permanent representative to the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) in October 1997, Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr. completed his first year as head of the U.S. CD delegation on September 9, the close of the 1998 negotiating session. On November 20, Arms Control Association Research Analyst Wade Boese met with Ambassador Grey to discuss the CD's progress during 1998 and its prospects for the 1999 session, scheduled to begin January 18.

Ambassador Grey joined the Foreign Service in 1960 and held positions including executive assistant to the under secretary of state for political affairs and deputy office director in the Office of Military Sales and Assistance, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. He has also served as acting deputy director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (1981–1983) and counselor for political affairs to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (1989–1994). Prior to his CD appointment, Grey led the State Department UN Reform Team.

The following is an edited version of the interview.

 


Arms Control Today: After a disappointing 1997 session of the conference, the CD took some positive steps this year, in particular, agreement to begin work on a fissile material cutoff treaty. What do you attribute as the cause for the CD's success this year as opposed to last year?

Robert Grey: I think basically there was a little bit of fatigue in 1997. The CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, completed in 1996] negotiation was long and protracted. Then folks took a pause; they wanted to take a look at which way to proceed at the following year's session. The obvious thing to work on was the FMCT, the fissile material cutoff treaty, but there was resistance on the part of India and Pakistan. Then the [Indian and Pakistani nuclear] testing took place [in May] and there was renewed pressure from the rest of the international community. Ultimately, at the last week of this year's CD, we got a week's work in on the FMCT, and I hope we can pick up where we left off on that and a number of other subjects when we reconvene on January 18.

ACT: Do you feel there was a sense of urgency among the delegations of the CD this year—that they had to do something or risk losing the CD's credibility as a multilateral negotiating forum?

Grey: I think there's always a sense in the CD that we're not perceived to be working actively on what we've set out to do. There's a risk that people will begin to consider the conference irrelevant; so yes, that's a concern. It's always there; I don't think it's any more urgent or less urgent than at any other time.

ACT: The 1997 deadlock was widely attributed to a standoff over negotiating priorities within the conference—the nuclear-weapon states and West European states favored negotiations on a cutoff treaty, whereas the non-aligned movement linked such talks to a timebound framework for nuclear disarmament. What broke this particular impasse this year? How much did the nuclear tests of India and Pakistan contribute to this shift in the non-aligneds' position?

Grey: There has been an evolution, and there is an interest on the part of a number of delegations, as you can see by the recently passed resolution in the [UN General Assembly's] First Committee on nuclear disarmament, in which a number of countries, both Western and G-77 [the non-aligned group], want to discuss nuclear disarmament in the CD. Some want to negotiate it, some only want to discuss it, but there's pressure to do something. So it's not just a North-South issue, if you will, or a West-versus-the-others type of proposition. It's a more widely felt sentiment. Some of our own allies would be interested in having the CD look at nuclear disarmament in a way that didn't have a negative impact on the ongoing U.S.-Russian bilateral negotiations.

So there's been an evolution from a timebound framework to something less than a timebound framework on the part of the G-77, and a push from some Western delegations to at least discuss nuclear disarmament without impeding or impacting negatively on U.S.-Russian negotiations. But I do think the Indian-Pakistani tests were a wake-up call for the entire community that we had to get on with our work; 47 members of the CD formally expressed concern and dismay at the tests when they occurred. And that was across a broad spectrum of CD membership.

Our own view is very clear: we don't think it is helpful or useful to discuss nuclear disarmament or negotiate nuclear disarmament in a multilateral context. We are prepared to keep people abreast of where we are in the negotiations with the Russians. But we don't think it would be productive, given the track record we have by proceeding step by step, to take nuclear disarmament and throw it into a multilateral context. The clear multilateral job to do in the future is the FMCT, and we will continue to push for progress there.

ACT: What impact do you feel that the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests had on the conference in general?

Grey: As I said, I think they were a wake-up call to all of us that we have to get on with our work. The resolution in this year's First Committee, in which a strong majority deeply deplored the Indian and Pakistani tests, was a clear sign that the international community is very, very concerned and upset about them. There were a number of "killer" amendments attached to that resolution by Pakistan and India, and they all were voted down; this is an indication that the world is deeply concerned and entirely serious about trying to keep the NPT [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] regime in place and to make progress toward disarmament. There's been a sort of sea change here, this being the biggest threat to the effectiveness of the NPT in many years. This is because the tests represent the most serious challenge to the non-proliferation regime as anchored by the NPT. We don't want the world to think that the NPT is hollow.

ACT: The United States will assume the rotating presidency of the conference for the first four working weeks of the 1999 session. What will be your goals as the president of the conference? What do you hope will be accomplished during that period?

Grey: What I would like to do is to get the conference up and running, as early and quickly as possible, on all the subjects that were being discussed and along the same general lines that prevailed when the session ended in September: two ad hoc committees, one on negative security assurances and one on FMCT, and special coordinators to deal with the other items that were being considered—membership expansion, the form of the agenda, outer space, APLs [anti-personnel landmines], transparency in armaments, and improving the functioning of the conference. In addition, the troika of the past, present and future CD presidents were responsible for working on ways in which the conference might usefully address nuclear disarmament.

In general, I would like to see us begin in January where we ended up in September. It's not an unreasonable ambition but one that, given the curious nature of the CD, would probably take at least month to accomplish.

ACT: Can you explain what you mean by the curious nature of the CD?

Grey: Everyone has a different agenda, and in any negotiation, people sometimes advance maximalist positions even though they have already compromised and reached a satisfactory outcome the year before. That's especially true when the Americans are in the chair.

ACT: In August the CD decided to start negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, but this mandate will have to be renewed in 1999. Do you foresee any problems winning the necessary consensus next year to resume these negotiations?

Grey: I'm confident that we will resume work on an FMCT. I can't predict when. My own hope and expectation would be that we can do it very early—that we can agree to continue the work program on which we had agreed at the end of September, and continue it into the new year. But that is always subject to negotiation.

A vast majority of the non-aligned want to do nuclear disarmament in the CD. That is not our position and it's not the position of the French, the British, the Russians, the Chinese, and many others. So, the [non-aligned] G-21 will push for more on nuclear disarmament and we will have to respond in our own interest. We can't agree on nuclear disarmament but we can agree on the program we agreed on last year, and over time, it will fall into place. It took a lot of skilled work by my Swiss colleague last year to get this program of work established. If it hadn't been for his very, very skillful diplomatic tactics we could still be at loggerheads. I give Ambassador [Erwin] Hofer of Switzerland a great deal of credit for getting us as far as we are now.

ACT: Do you think the deadlock over negotiating priorities could reappear?

Grey: It's always a possibility, but my expectation would be that since we made such good progress last year, we should build on that and not get down into burdensome deals about package arrangements. We should look at each issue on its merits and decide whether or not to pursue it. That's the ideal world; I must say that sometimes in diplomacy you don't live in ideal worlds. But you've got to be prepared to work on that basis.

ACT: With regards to the FMCT ad hoc committee that was formed last year, there was some disagreement over naming a chair for the committee. Would you explain the reasons why? Will this issue be revisited to a more significant degree this year?

Grey: It's hard to say at this time. The Canadians have been staunch advocates of an FMCT for more than 40 years, in one form or another; they're closely identified with it. There's a concern on the part of some countries that having a Canadian in the chair might give too positive a push to the issue, given the well-known Canadian national position. In the course of discussions, it emerged that there would be a Western chair during the first year of the committee's deliberations. We didn't really have deliberations last session, so my anticipation would be that a Western chair would be reappointed, and my hope would be that it would be Ambassador [Mark] Moher of Canada, who is a very skilled and very able diplomat. There is a little fallout from the First Committee, where the Canadians and the Australians and the New Zealanders took the lead on a resolution that deeply deplored the testing of India and Pakistan, and one doesn't know whether there's any ill will after that or not. Our hope and expectation is that our Canadian colleague will be reappointed.

ACT: Many states, led by Pakistan and Egypt, are calling for a fissile material treaty that goes beyond merely a cutoff and extends to the issue of stockpiles or past production. Why does the United States oppose this move?

Grey: Our view is that it's impossible to get into existing stocks at this stage, and that is a view shared by many in the international community. We approach things a step at a time, and we feel that this is the logical way to get progress on an FMCT.

Everyone knows that some time in the future, the question of existing stocks will have to be addressed. But I can assure you we would not have a successful negotiation on FMCT at this time if we tried to address existing stocks. In practice, the five nuclear-weapon states will have to address existing stocks during the long-term process of arms reductions that currently involves bilateral negotiations between the U.S. and Russia. I think that most people, on reflection, would agree with that. In addition, inserting existing stocks into the FMCT negotiations would give the two states that recently tested a sort of nuclear status, because the proposed provisions on existing stocks would implicitly put them in the same box as the five nuclear states, given that no one but the five NPT-defined nuclear-weapon states are supposed to have such stocks. I don't think that is something the rest of the international community wants to do.

But it is a sensitive issue, and we are working hard, bilaterally and unilaterally with the other nuclear states, to reduce these stocks. We recently agreed with Russia to place 50 tons of plutonium under IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards. I went down to Savannah River the other day and they are indeed digging the hole and getting ready to build the facility in which some of this material will be stored and monitored. So we are already spending big bucks to get ready for this.

ACT: Does the issue of existing fissile material stockpiles have the same potential for blocking conference progress as the issue of nuclear disarmament has in the past?

Grey: It is a possibility. One can never predict with any degree of accuracy what is going to happen. But one could debate this endlessly, and if we start on the question of scope it could quickly degenerate into people making maximalist statements without looking for a way forward. My expectation and hope is that this isn't going to happen. This is a very complicated and very difficult treaty, and we would be best advised to get started on all the issues in which we can see ways forward, such as identifying the key choke points in the production cycle and developing appropriate methods for ensuring compliance. There cannot be an FMCT if we try to include existing stocks. The nuclear states and India will not play. And I am sure the Israelis will not play. It is a very sensitive and delicate issue.

ACT: What elements would the United States like to see in a fissile material cutoff treaty?

Grey: Well, I don't want to tip my hand completely. It's quite clear that we want to see a system in place—and there are many ways to do this—in which there is no production of fissile material for nuclear explosive devices, as well as a verification regime in which people can clearly see that production has ceased. We have several ways to do that, which we are now discussing. We are laying our propositions on the table and have been working very hard with a number of states to come up with positions that meet our common concerns. But it's a major challenge.

One of the elements that we have to consider is the cost factor. The more intrusive, the more rigid the verification regime, the more costly this whole thing becomes. It's going to be very, very expensive, even with the kinds of safeguards we'd be interested in. If you want perfect safeguards, it becomes untenable.

ACT: What kinds of cost estimates are we looking at?

Grey: Each person you ask will give you a different answer, so I'm not going to give you one. It varies from the ridiculous to the sublime, but it's going to be a substantial increase in the cost of the inspection process. And how you do it—some people have reservations about the role of the IAEA, for example—those are matters that have to be addressed in the conference.

ACT: Do you foresee safeguards being placed on maintenance and dismantlement facilities in addition to reprocessing and enrichment facilities?

Grey: Our preference would be for reprocessing and enrichment. There are obviously other elements that will have to be considered, but we think that with those two you capture most of the problem.

ACT: Will the verification regime include confirming that past production facilities are not operational?

Grey: That's part of it. We believe that can be done. As a matter of fact, everyone under the IAEA safeguards—every non-nuclear state—has agreed to set up a regime that's much more intrusive and covers the full fuel cycle, so it probably wouldn't be a concern. If previous production facilities have been stripped of key equipment or otherwise put into mothballs, it should be very easy to verify that. It's not a complicated thing. The reality is that when a reprocessing or enrichment plant has been shut down, especially in our country, you couldn't simply start it up again even if you wanted to; it'd take several years and billions of dollars.

ACT: The other negotiating priority of the United States has been a transfer ban on anti-personnel landmines. Many states consider that work on such a treaty would duplicate work already done through the Ottawa Convention, which will soon enter into force for those states that have ratified it. How do you respond to such criticism?

Grey: It seems to me sort of silly. Most of the countries that export landmines have ceased doing it, but the major producers of landmines, and the exporters in the past, are all in the CD. As a complement to the Ottawa process, a simple export ban, in which people take a collective pledge to do what they're already individually committed to do, would be a useful step forward and would reinforce Ottawa. Some countries, frankly, will not be in a position to sign the Ottawa Convention in the near term or indefinite future and they have made that very clear. Why not get them to sign on to something they can sign?

There are two kinds of opposition to an export ban on APLs in the CD. There are those who signed on to Ottawa and think it's perfection. They wouldn't vote on any attempt to buttress it or to encourage other people to do anything but sign on to it; it'd be a sort of heresy. The others are dependent on landmines for their own self-defense and are suspicious of signing anything. We think an export ban is a sensible way to go for the short term.

We've made very clear our commitment to sign on to Ottawa ultimately. We have made it very clear to the Canadians and others that we don't see any contradiction between what we are seeking in the CD and ultimately signing on to the Ottawa Convention. We're not prepared to do anything that would affect in any way the kinds of terms and conditions of the Ottawa Convention.

In our view, a transfer ban is a step to move other countries which have not signed the Ottawa Convention in the direction of getting rid of these kinds of weapons. The fact of the matter is that people who haven't signed on to Ottawa still have the right to export mines. We think a transfer ban is a good interim step.

ACT: Will the United States seek to go beyond the transfer ban in the context of the CD?

Grey: No. We've made that pretty clear.

ACT: The Chinese ambassador, Li Changhe, made a very strong call for establishing an ad hoc committee for the prevention of an arms race in outer space, but the United States opposes this move. Why?

Grey: In our view, it's not an issue that deserves a major share of the time and effort the CD has available for negotiating arms control agreements. Outer space work is certainly not one of our priorities in the CD. There is no arms race in outer space. We have an unprecedented degree of international cooperation in outer space. And we think that rather than concentrating on getting involved in an issue that's not a problem now, we should concentrate on the real problem, the real job that we've been trying to get done for the last several years in the CD, which is the FMCT. That's our priority. And our second priority is APLs, because we think that's something that can be solved quickly, is a positive step forward, and addresses a real issue.

As long as there is no threat of an arms race in outer space, it is far from clear what the CD would gain by addressing it. Work on outer space would divert the attention of the CD from other things. Speaking personally, I have the view that given the resource limitations—both in terms of personnel and in terms of time—a step-by-step approach in the CD is probably all that can be expected. It can take on one big issue at a time. I think the way the CTBT was negotiated illustrates that.

ACT: If there is no arms race in outer space, wouldn't it be in the U.S. interest to negotiate a treaty that would freeze the status quo so there would be no possibility of an arms race?

Grey: We've got an agreement that bans the emplacement of weapons of mass destruction in outer space. We think that's enough; we don't anticipate any other problems.

ACT: A lot of countries have raised the concern of militarization of outer space, rather than an arms race in outer space.

Grey: The commercial and other civilian uses of outer space have long outpaced military uses such as communications, early warning and self-defense. It is therefore strange to hear talk about militarization occurring in outer space, and the prospect seems quite unlikely in the near future or the far future, for that matter. Our time could be more usefully spent dealing with the real emerging problem, and that is the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the threat posed to the NPT regime by the Indian and Pakistani testing. You're not going to get significant arms control, in terms of nuclear arms reductions, in the future unless we have a lid on the production of fissile material, and that's in all our interest to do. When we get START III, and we're going to get it, the fact of an FMCT in force will make it significantly less difficult to negotiate even deeper reductions. At some point you have to capture the production of fissile material, and that's what we're trying to do.

ACT: The conference also started discussions regarding negative security assurances. However, the United States, among others, has opposed the negotiation of a treaty on negative security assurances. Why, and what does the United States advocate as an alternative?

Grey: We think the best way to do it is to continue to work on the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones [NWFZs]. I think we've captured about 99 countries under those regimes now. If we can get the Southeast Asian zone and the Central Asian zone in satisfactory terms, we will capture well over a hundred. We think that's the way to go. It's a more productive way; it's a more effective way. That is a view shared by three of the other nuclear-weapon states as well.

ACT: Why does the United States reject the proposal put forth by China that negative security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon states should also include a "no-first-use" declaration by all nuclear-weapon states?

Grey: We don't think that's a good way to go. As long as you have a deterrent, you have to be prepared to exercise it. It's fundamental to our national security policy. When the happy day comes that we don't have to rely on nuclear deterrence, we're in a new world. But until then, it makes no sense. Arms control is basically an element of our national security policy, and we're not going to do things in the CD that call into question or alter in any fundamental way our own commitments to our allies and to our own people. We've made that abundantly clear, so many times and in so many places that it would bore your readers, who know the litany and probably wrote the instructions themselves.

ACT: Are there any other issues, besides an FMCT and a transfer ban on APLs, that the United States would like to see addressed by the conference?

Grey: The question of transparency in armaments and the issue of small arms are things that a number of people are concerned about. There is some reluctance on the part of others to address these right now, but these are issues, I think, that will keep coming back. We are sympathetic to that and will work constructively within the conference to see what we can do.

That having been said, if you look at the more urgent matters, we've been wrangling about FMCT for almost a decade. Now's the time to get working on it. That's where we're going to focus our efforts.

ACT: Will the United States continue to oppose moves within the conference to convene a body to discuss nuclear disarmament?

Grey: We're not totally negative. We have some ideas that could create a dialogue on nuclear disarmament within the conference without getting into negotiations. It's something that we've discussed at length with other people. We don't think the conference should set up an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament, but we're prepared to examine methods and approaches in which we could have a dialogue, as we did during the START process, and in which we could perhaps tell people where we've been, what we've accomplished, and where we're going.

ACT: How does that relate to negative security assurances?

Grey: As I said, our preference is to negotiate negative security assurances in the NWFZ context. That said, I'll agree to setting up the ad hoc committee, but the reality is that a global treaty will be far more difficult to reach in view of our known preference for another way of solving this problem.

ACT: Do you think the troika construct of past, present and future CD presidents created earlier this year and tasked with pursuing consultations with delegations on nuclear disarmament has been successful in meeting some countries' demands for work on this issue?

Grey: It's a useful vehicle because it gives them the potential to have something develop out of this. I'm prepared to see what recommendations develop out of this, and also to hold open the possibility, the very real possibility, that you'll get some kind of dialogue going, but not a negotiation.

ACT: What do you believe are the most important steps the nuclear-weapon states can take to assure CD members that the nuclear powers are indeed moving in the right direction with regard to nuclear disarmament?

Grey: The first thing is to keep them informed of what we are doing. We gave them a very comprehensive briefing, both in the NPT context and in the CD, about what we are actually doing with the Russians, and the degree to which we are sawing up weapons, dismantling things, turning stuff over to the IAEA, the fact that we're spending a billion dollars or so to help the Russians dismantle a number of their weapons. This is real; we have a very good track record. A hundred nuclear weapons being sawed up and thrown away every month is not insubstantial.

ACT: An initiative to increase the 61-member CD by five members was blocked by Iran in September. Does the United States support the continued expansion of the conference? Given the rule of consensus, does expansion not make it increasingly difficult to make decisions and accomplish work?

Grey: The expansion to 61 made it increasingly difficult to get the conference to function effectively. I think an expansion of five wouldn't make any difference one way or the other. Beyond that, we're agnostic. Once we achieve an FMCT successfully, maybe we'd be prepared to take another look. Until then, wherever we are when that negotiation starts, that's where we should stay, whether 61 or 66.

ACT: Is there an alternative to the mandate for consensus? Are there any options that the United States would consider worthwhile exploring?

Grey: Not as long as I am there.

ACT: Despite its successes, the CD has found it increasingly difficult to begin formal negotiations on a broad spectrum of issues. What are the principal factors that work against the CD functioning as a multilateral forum?

Grey: The principal difficulty is the perverse practice of packaging things, so that if I don't get "A," you don't get "B." I think it's imperative that we all look at issues in terms of what we're prepared to do collectively to achieve something positive. Our views on certain subjects, like negative security assurances or outer space, are well known. The reservations of other people on progress in transparency in armaments or small arms are well known. Where we have a convergence of interests, however, is in FMCT. Where there's a consensus, where there's a real need for it in the international community, where it's an appropriate subject for the conference to address, I think we should address that issue. If we're successful on that, others will emerge.

ACT: Do you believe there is an alternative approach to multilateral arms control other than the current patchwork of agreements, in which states often pick and choose the treaties they will adhere to and their conditions for participation?

Grey: As Bismarck said, drafting legislation and sausage-making are things you don't want to watch when they're happening. Whether you do it in the CD context or some other context, whenever you have different view on things it's a messy procedure; this is sort of like legislating for the international community. I can see a lot of other ways to do it, but would they be any less messy, or less confusing, or less piecemeal? Probably not.

ACT: Is there anything that you would like to say in general terms about the conference's operation or what you'd like to achieve?

Grey: The conference was conceived and set up and functioned for 40 years in basically a Cold War environment. One of the things I would like to see changed is this whole question of an Eastern group, a Western group, and a non-aligned group. The Western group is not unanimous; we have differences of opinion on lots of things. In a political sense, there is no Eastern group: Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary will be joining the Western group shortly, and a number of other Eastern countries want to join NATO, the European Union, etc. The non-aligned are no longer a unified group, if they ever were. Indian and Pakistani testing clearly was not supported by the non-aligned; you can see it in the voting in the UN First Committee. And an Eastern group that consists of two or three countries doesn't make much sense to me.

My hope would be that we could evolve the conference to reflect today's realities and not the realities of the Cold War. Perhaps the way to do business is to create like-minded groups addressing particular subjects. We've had a like-minded group on APL exports, covering a broad spectrum from the West and the East and the non-aligned, with about 20 countries trying to get progress on it. I think that's the wave of the future. The idea that to get a committee working you have to have one chairman from the East and one from the West and one from the G-21 is ridiculous. We should try to get chairmen, and friends of the chair, and coordinators, on the basis of their interests and their merits and their capabilities, not on the basis of what group they're from, especially when the groups no longer function as groups. It's a real frustration. Arms control is pretty rarefied stuff to begin with, especially multilateral arms control, with all the ideological baggage and yearnings and things people bring to it. It's even more unreal when you're dealing as if there were three blocs in a world when there are no blocs.

ACT: Going back to an earlier point that you mentioned, that APLs are a priority of the United States. Is it possible to do work both on the FMCT and APLs?

Grey: A number of the non-aligned would say that means that they are being forced to accept the U.S. agenda. Therefore, they probably won't let us have both.

ACT: Do a lot of the delegations have the resources to work on two issues simultaneously?

Grey: Negotiations would be much easier to manage if there were 18 delegations doing this, as in the 1960s. But at the end of the day, when you're working these things, it's only about 15 or 20 delegations that make a major effort to stay actively involved. If delegations want to be active, they will find the resources to do so.

ACT: Do you think the non-aligned will be even less effective as a bloc now that India and Pakistan have conducted nuclear tests?

Grey: They've been quite effective in terms of beating up on a couple of their own. But it's one thing to beat up on one of your own, or a country that is perceived to be one of your own. Scolding the United States, however, comes naturally to them.

Interview with Ambassador Richard Butler, executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM)

Since taking over as executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) in July 1997, Ambassador Richard Butler has stood at the center of the stormy relationship between Iraq and the United Nations. UNSCOM, established by the UN Security Council in 1991, is charged with eliminating Baghdad's biological and chemical weapons programs and proscribed ballistic missile activities, as well as monitoring to ensure that Iraq does not reacquire any such capabilities in the future.

On September 24, as Butler was preparing the most recent six-month report on UNSCOM activities in Iraq—a report dominated by Iraq's refusal since August 5 to permit UNSCOM inspections—Arms Control Association Senior Analyst Howard Diamond asked him about this latest crisis and its implications for UNSCOM.

Butler's diplomatic career includes a number of positions in the Australian foreign service. Appointed Australia's ambassador for disarmament in 1983, Butler was named ambassador to Thailand in 1989 and ambassador to the Supreme National Council of Cambodia two years later. In 1995 he was appointed convenor of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Immediately prior to joining UNSCOM, Butler served from 1992 to 1997 as Australian ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations. The following is an edited version of his comments.

 


Arms Control Today: What are the current scope and status of UNSCOM's ongoing monitoring and verification processes? To what extent has Iraq's most recent suspension of cooperation affected the integrity of monitoring efforts?

Richard Butler: Iraq's decisions of 5 August sliced off all of our disarmament work. Iraq stated that we could, for a period of time, continue our monitoring work, and claimed that that would be in accordance with the provisions of the monitoring agreement settled years ago between Iraq and UNSCOM. That agreement is actually a piece of Security Council legislation, known as Resolution 715. The fact is that in the intervening seven weeks or so, we have found that Iraq's claim is not true. We are not able to do all of the monitoring we would want to do and would normally do pursuant to 715. Specifically, we are only being permitted to monitor at sites Iraq allows us to visit. We're not able to designate our own sites, and I've reported this to the Security Council. This significantly reduces the scope of our monitoring. There have been some instances where, even within a site designated by them, in other words a site to which they will allow us to make a monitoring visit, they are seeking to restrict our access to particular buildings or particular rooms, not to the whole of the site. So, on all of these grounds I've reported to the Council that we are not able to give the Council the kind of assurance with respect to monitoring that it requires under the law.

ACT: It's been about seven weeks since the last weapons inspections in Iraq. What are your primary concerns regarding Iraqi activities since the end of inspections?

Butler: Our inspections fall into two categories. One has to do with bringing into final account Iraq's proscribed weapons. Here remain outstanding issues in all three fields—missile, chemical and biological. Now that Iraq has sliced off our disarmament work, we're doing none of that—none—and that's a matter of concern.

As far as monitoring is concerned, it's not so easy to answer that question, because you can't know what you can't see. We don't know what Iraq may or may not be doing in the places we're not permitted to visit, and it would be foolish of me to make some kind of guess.

ACT: UNSCOM has provided the Security Council with an intensive and detailed review of the outstanding disarmament questions that stand in the way of the Commission completing its work. Is the "roadmap" that was provided earlier still the best evaluation of the remaining issues regarding disarmament? What are some of the specific remaining problems, and what does Iraq need to do to satisfy those concerns?

Butler: The "roadmap" is still the best available such list. I want to make clear what it is. It is a list of the priority tasks that need to be completed before we could give something like a final account of Iraq's proscribed weapons programs and capabilities. In setting forth that roadmap, I made clear that it was the priority issues—not that it was all issues. To put it another way, these are certainly the necessary conditions for the closure of, say, the missile and chemical files. They may not be the sufficient conditions. There are some other, lesser issues that would still have to be brought to account in some way.

Iraq knows that and was given an opportunity to work with us in bringing them to account, but it declined to take that opportunity in all cases. In the missile area, we still need an account of their indigenous production capability. We need a final account of special missile warheads that they've unilaterally destroyed—those that they had filled with biological or chemical warfare agents. There is an outstanding account with respect to Scud-specific fuel and there is the special issue now of VX. We did detect degradation products of the VX nerve agent in some of those destroyed missile warhead remnants and Iraq has refused to give us an account of that, simply stating that it never weaponized VX, which is not what our lab findings show. In the chemical area, in addition to VX, the quantities Iraq made, there are some extant munitions. There is an account that's required of extant production equipment.

Just to complete the picture, the biological area as a whole is deeply deficient. Iraq's overall declaration on its biology program has been found on four occasions in the last year—by groups of international experts, not just our own—to be simply not credible. We've made it clear to Iraq that they'll have to start again and do better than the declaration they've given us, which doesn't approximate, in almost any respect, something like reality.

ACT: In reports to the Council, you've mentioned that you have asked for additional documentation on the biological weapons issue. Do you believe that there are still pertinent documents in Iraq that you haven't seen? Why wouldn't Iraq already have destroyed them?

Butler: We certainly do believe that. In concluding the recent discussions I held with Mr. Tariq Aziz, I summed it up by saying three things: one, the materials that we need do exist; two, they are in the possession of the government of Iraq; and three, it's their call as to whether or not they give them to us. If they do, I've said our promise is that we will verify those materials quickly and honestly, so that we can bring these things to account without any further delay. He did not argue with those three points.

There have been times where Iraq has said it has lost or no longer knows where relevant documents are. But I have to tell you, the overwhelming experience we have had is that Iraq does know very well what the true story is. They are excellent document and record keepers, and there's no credible basis for us to believe that they are not able to give us the information required if they choose to do so. That's why I put those three points in that way, and I repeat, he didn't actually dispute those points but instead argued that what we sought either wasn't relevant or would intrude on other aspects of Iraqi life and basically declined to surrender those materials. Actually it was interesting that there was no direct argument against those three propositions.

ACT: If the Iraqi government is seeking to maintain strategic capabilities in all the proscribed weapons programs, and if Baghdad follows through on its threat to completely cut off cooperation with UNSCOM, what do you think Iraq is capable of achieving in each of these weapons programs, and in what kind of a time frame?

Butler: I'm sorry, I'm not either in a position or indeed, perhaps, expert enough to answer that question. I'll put it to you a different way. Iraq's current tactic is to say, first, "We are disarmed." Now we can't agree with that because the evidence that would support that claim has not been made available to us by them. We're not in the business of doing disarmament by declaration. We need evidence.

Secondly, they have also said, "We don't threaten anybody. If you think we do, say so. Tell us what you think we've got." Quite frankly, this is a political, if not a propaganda stance. The law that we work under doesn't have any word in it about the threat that Iraq might pose to its neighbors or elsewhere. Our job, under the law, is to deal with the hard evidence and the materials themselves—the weapons and the ability to make them. We can't declare that Iraq has fulfilled its obligations to be disarmed of those weapons and production capabilities until they put us in a position to do so, by giving us the relevant materials and evidence. That's what we focus on, not some other more extraneous political notion of whether or not they threaten anybody.

ACT: How would you judge Iraq's concealment activities compared, say, to a year ago, and how has concealment affected UNSCOM's ability to do its job? Are concealment activities the key factor preventing UNSCOM from closing its files?

Butler: Iraq has had a practice of concealment from the beginning in 1991. When it was obliged under the law to declare all of its weapons to us, it actually took the step of declaring only a portion of them and concealing a residual portion. That activity has always hampered our work because it withholds from us the basic database we need, which is the quantity and quality of weapons—illegal weapons—that they held. Iraq's stance today is that there is no concealment. Again that's a political statement, not verifiable by evidence, the kind that we require. In 1996, in a formal document signed with the previous executive chairman, Iraq actually admitted that there had been concealment.

Now, to the last part of your question, concealment has slowed us down in doing this job because it denies us a basic database. The other two factors that have also slowed us down have been: one, that Iraq has never made the full, final and complete declaration on its holdings that it was obliged under the law to make available to us, and two, that Iraq has unilaterally destroyed some of its weapons in order to obscure from us what the basic size and quality of those weapons were. That unilateral destruction, which itself was illegal, compels us to go into a kind of forensic activity trying to put together the pieces of the past in a way that is inevitably difficult. It has had the effect of slowing down—I think unacceptably—the job of disarmament that we should have been able to complete years ago.

ACT: From your perspective, if Security Council members are no longer willing to support a policy of threatening to use, or using, military force to insure unconditional and unrestricted Iraqi cooperation, how will UNSCOM's operations and mandate be affected? Are you concerned that the individual national interests of Security Council members will overtake their commitment to the principle of collective action?

Butler: I'm not sure that I would concede the first premise of your question. When you said that if the Council is no longer prepared to enforce the law—I think that's a question to which the answer is still open. By saying that, I'm not in any way implying that I want to see force used. But I do remind you that all of the decisions on these matters taken by the Council have been taken under Chapter VII of the Charter, which includes the possibility that if necessary, the law would be enforced.

ACT: Are you concerned that the individual national interests of Security Council members will overtake their commitment to the principle of collective action?

Butler: No, I'm not, because I draw a distinction—and I think that many, many others do, and the members of the Council themselves do—between the fundamental objective and the ways in which it might be best achieved. I see no argument in the Council about the fundamental objective, namely that Iraq should obey the law and be disarmed. Even those who appear to be a bit more sympathetic to Iraq's concerns than some others don't have any difficulty with that basic proposition. There is no daylight amongst any members of the Council on that basic objective—that Iraq must obey the law, in particular the disarmament law. There is a difference of view amongst Council members on how best to achieve that goal, and that's the region where discussion, and perhaps some argument, takes place, but not about the basic task. Until that changes, and I don't expect it will, I believe the Council will hang in and see that this job gets done.

ACT: As the executive chairman, how do you balance the imperatives of your mission to identify and eliminate proscribed weapons with the political concerns that members of the Council may have regarding opportune times for conducting weapons inspections?

Butler: That's a very good question, and it certainly is one that's come into focus recently, following Scott Ritter's resignation. There is a certain balancing required there, but what I try to do is to insure that to the highest extent possible, our work has as its hallmark a technical and scientific approach. Now, obviously our technical and scientific work does take place within a political context, and I have to listen to that. Indeed I seek the views of members of the Council on policy matters, on how and when we should be proceeding at certain times. But in being the recipient of the views of members of the Council on political issues and, indeed, in seeking them, I have never had an experience where a member of the Council has crossed the line between their unique responsibility for policy and my unique responsibility for the technical and operational decisions. The receipt of their point of view doesn't mean that it has to be followed into the operational things for which I'm responsible, and they recognize that. So I don't see any of them having transgressed that line between policy on the one hand and operational responsibility on the other.

ACT: One of the more recent events that has come up regarding UNSCOM's work is the resignation of Scott Ritter. Could you clarify the July and August events surrounding UNSCOM's inspections, which he says led him to resign? You've been quoted as saying that his account of events in July and August was inaccurate. What exactly was inaccurate and why do you think so?

Butler: I'm not going to go into that, as I've already said publicly in other places. If I were to do so, I'd be putting UNSCOM on a pretty slippery slope. It would lead to a circumstance where I would be obliged to discuss in public the views of individual members of the Council, the operational imperatives that I think I have to follow. I think it would be a very bad precedent if I were to discuss those things in public because then the question would arise, "Well, you discussed your decision making process in instance A, why don't you now do it in B, C, D and so on?" And I won't do that. I think it would be harmful to our effort, and it would abuse the confidence of members of the Council who do come and talk to me about their concerns.

But as far as Scott is concerned, I'm deeply aware of what motivated him; I deeply respect him. I was a bit saddened that his account of some of the events in the last few months was at variance—at least in some respects—with what I know to be the facts. I don't want to go beyond that. I certainly respect him enough to not want to have some kind of public dispute with him.

ACT: On the subject of intelligence sharing, are you receiving sufficient intelligence cooperation from UN member-states to do your job? Are there any changes to current arrangements that you'd like to have made?

Butler: Again, a very interesting question. We've been given a lot of support from a considerable number of member-states of the UN, whether material or in terms of information, and what we might loosely call intelligence. On the whole, it's been very strong and good. There have been some cases where we have sought further information from member-states and they've not been able or prepared to give it to us, but on the whole I'm satisfied with the level of support we've been given.

ACT: It's been reported that there are some discrepancies between results from the laboratories in the United States and in France and Switzerland regarding the presence of VX on the warhead fragments that were found. What could these discrepancies mean? How do you intend to deal with any conflicting results?

Butler: It's interesting that you asked this question today. There is, as we speak, a technical meeting taking place here in our office involving scientists from the various labs concerned and some other external scientists as well.

Going back to what I said a moment ago about our attempts to insure that our work has as its hallmark, scientific and technical accuracy, obviously I will place great importance on whatever report I receive from today's meeting on the findings from the various labs. I don't know what they are. I'm leaving them to do their work independently, as I should.

In the theoretical circumstance that the labs have different findings, all that means is that different samples gave different results. It doesn't obliterate the results that were obtained from the Maryland lab. They've been examined by international experts and found to be valid; even Iraq doesn't question the internal scientific validity of those findings. And speaking of Iraq, whatever is found elsewhere, they still owe us an answer to how VX degradation products got into those warheads, as found by the Maryland lab. Those results were impeccable. The answer still needs to be provided, especially since Iraq continues to claim that it never weaponized VX.

More important than these results, however, is that Iraq has never told us how much VX it made, having first denied that it made any. We know it made at least 4 tons. We need to have a fully verified total of production.

ACT: On the subject of VX, does UNSCOM have any knowledge of Iraq moving any of its proscribed weapons activities outside of the country or assisting foreign entities in such efforts? The allusion I'm making is to Sudan.

Butler: I hope you'll allow me not to answer that question because it would involve violating a principle that I mentioned earlier, namely that it wouldn't be right for me to discuss in public internal information, or intelligence information available to us, so I'm afraid I won't go into that.

ACT: Is that specific to the question of Sudan, or is that broadly, with regard to foreign cooperation?

Butler: No, I was answering your question with respect to foreign cooperation and the other part of your question, which was Iraq seeking to conduct some of its activities outside Iraq.

ACT: Another story that has popped up in news reports is that Iraq possesses one or more assembled nuclear devices that lack only their fissile material cores. Do you have any information about that?

Butler: That was something Scott Ritter claimed in public, correct?

ACT: Yes.

Butler: Sorry, it's the same situation there, but with a slight variation. The main responsibility for Iraq's nuclear program lies not so much with my organization, but with the IAEA. We do obviously have an interest in the nuclear field, but the IAEA has prime carriage on it. Secondly, I would prefer, for reasons of keeping security over our internal information, not to go into that one in any detail at this stage. I will say, however, if UNSCOM had hard evidence to that effect we would have taken it to IAEA or the Security Council or both.

ACT: If such a report were true, what would that say about the future of monitoring and verification efforts?

Butler: I'm very concerned about that. In this current phase, where Iraq is actually confronting the Security Council and its laws, there have been some suggestions that Iraq has a view of future monitoring that is far less than effective monitoring would require, or is already laid down in Resolution 715.

Part of my concern about the current situation is to discover just exactly what Iraq has in mind when it says, "We don't have a problem with monitoring. Our problem is with UNSCOM's insistence that we're not yet disarmed."

I'm not sure that we know the truth of the claim that they don't have a problem with monitoring. I've already raised this in the Security Council; we need to know exactly what Iraq means when it talks about monitoring, as against what we know should be meant. And I think we're going to have to explore that in the months ahead. The monitoring in the future will be a crucial activity, and we need to know very clearly what Iraq thinks it's about, as against what we know it must be about.

ACT: In your view, has the Security Council changed its approach to eliminating Iraq's weapons? Has it moved from insisting on active identification and elimination to a policy of containment?

Butler: No, I don't believe so. In an answer to an earlier question I said I saw no dispute amongst members of the Council with respect to Iraq's compliance with the law, in particular the disarmament law, and I don't see any shift of the kind that you've just described.

ACT: Given the current state of affairs, what is the next step for UNSCOM? Will you be forced to wait until the Security Council decides it's ready to support weapons inspections by the threat of force or the use of force? Or are there alternatives that you can foresee that would allow UNSCOM to get back to work?

Butler: The current state of confrontation is between Iraq and the Security Council and that obviously has operational implications for UNSCOM. In the meantime our job is to continue to keep the Security Council informed of the scientific and technical facts so that it is in a position to make the best policy decisions it can. We're here; we're doing that job. When and how we'll get back to doing our full job is something that needs to be resolved between Iraq and the Security Council.

ACT: In the end, do you believe that the determination as to whether Iraq has met its disarmament obligations will be based on "sufficient compliance" or on "total compliance"? In your opinion, what would be the most important factors in distinguishing between those two judgments?

Butler: I've seen no one suggesting that the yardstick of compliance should be trimmed. We've made clear to the Council in recent months that there may be some weapons areas where we won't ever have a complete account of what Iraq held in the past or of the present status of those weapons or capabilities, principally because Iraq has unilaterally destroyed relevant materials. We're compelled to put the jigsaw back together, and we may not quite find all the pieces. If that proves to be the case somewhere along the line, and we say, "Look, this is all we're ever going to get from this story," then the Council may have to accept that. But that's different from foreseeing a situation where the Council itself acts to change the yardstick, to change the standard, and I don't hear anyone talking about that. The goal remains to destroy—these are the words, "destroy, remove, or render harmless"—all of Iraq's proscribed weapons systems. And I don't hear anyone saying that that standard should be reduced.

ACT: Do you have any reason to be optimistic that the current impasse can be resolved in the short term, or do you think this is going to become a longer term problem?

Butler: I think it's a serious problem now, and I think the steps that the Council and others are taking to getting it solved are being taken carefully and with deliberation, and I believe, with resolve. I cannot predict how long it will take, but I don't foresee a situation where the task will be abandoned. I just don't foresee that.

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