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"ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent."

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
June 2014
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Cover Image: 

Congressman Clarifies U.S. INF Concerns

Tom Z. Collina

A U.S. congressman provided new details in late April about the Obama administration’s allegation that Russia may be breaching a key U.S.-Russian arms control treaty, stating that Moscow may have tested a cruise missile from a prohibited launcher.

At a joint April 29 hearing of two House Foreign Affairs Committee panels, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said that Russia claims to have tested an intermediate-range missile for use at sea, which is allowed under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, but that Moscow used “what appears to be an operational, usable ground-based launcher,” which is not allowed. Sherman said that “it appears as if [the Russians] were developing a ground-based capacity for this intermediate missile.”

The INF Treaty permanently bans U.S. and Russian ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles capable of traveling 500 to 5,500 kilometers; it does not cover sea-based missiles. According to the treaty, a cruise missile can be developed for use at sea if it is test-launched “from a fixed land-based launcher which is used solely for test purposes and which is distinguishable from” operational ground-based cruise missile launchers.

Testing an intermediate-range cruise missile from a ground-based launcher that is not distinguishable from operational launchers, as well as testing from a mobile launcher, would be a violation of the treaty.

Sherman said that Russia is allowed to test sea-launched cruise missiles from a ground-based launcher unless “that ground-based launcher would be the effective launcher to use in case hostilities broke out.”

Anita Friedt, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear and strategic policy, said at the hearing that the United States has “very serious concerns” that “Russia is developing a ground-launched cruise missile that is inconsistent with” the INF Treaty. She did not confirm or deny Sherman’s description of the alleged violation.

The State Department made its concerns public for the first time in January after months of speculation. (See ACT, March 2014.) The Obama administration is expected to release its annual report on arms control compliance, including a determination on Russia’s possible INF violation, in the near future.

In May 9 comments to the Defense Writers Group, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said she would not expect the issue “to drag on for years” and that it was “ripe for resolution.”

Conservatives in the House of Representatives are seeking to use Russia’s actions on the INF Treaty to block other arms control agreements. On May 22, the House voted 233-191 to approve an amendment to the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that would prevent funding for implementation of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) until Russia “is no longer taking actions that are inconsistent with the INF Treaty,” among other conditions.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who sits on the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, introduced the amendment, which was supported by seven Democrats and 226 Republicans.

The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the defense bill May 22 with a provision requiring the secretary of defense to notify the Senate of potential violations of arms control agreements.

Some Republican senators have criticized the administration for its handling of the potential INF Treaty violation, saying the executive branch withheld information that was relevant to the Senate debate on New START in late 2010. The administration has said it did provide information on the alleged breach during that time. (See ACT, April 2014.)

At the April 29 hearing, neither Sherman nor the State Department identified what type of cruise missile Russia might be testing or the type of launcher, but unconfirmed reports have focused on Russia’s R-500 Iskander-K. That system, reportedly first tested in 2007, would use a road-mobile launcher, as the Iskander-M does. The latter is a short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile that Russia has said it plans to deploy near NATO member countries in response to U.S. missile defense plans. (See ACT, January/February 2014.)

Previous reports had focused on Russia’s RS-26 ballistic missile, which Moscow has reportedly flight-tested at intermediate ranges. But because the RS-26 has also been tested at ranges greater than 5,500 kilometers, it is considered by both sides to be an intercontinental ballistic missile and therefore covered and allowed by New START.

Regarding this allegation, Sherman said at the hearing that “it seems clear it is a long-range missile” and thus not covered by the INF Treaty.

New details have surfaced regarding U.S. allegations that Russia breached a key bilateral arms control treaty by testing a cruise missile from a prohibited launcher.

Saudi Arabia Displays Missiles

Kelsey Davenport

In an April 29 parade, Saudi Arabia publicly displayed two ballistic missiles that it purchased from China in the 1980s.

This display is Saudi Arabia’s first public acknowledgement of the purchase of Dong Feng-3 (DF-3) missiles.

It remains unclear how many missiles were part of the sale. Estimates range from 30 to 50.

The DF-3 was developed by the Chinese in the 1960s and first deployed in 1971. Saudi Arabia is not known to have tested a DF-3.

It is a liquid-fueled, single-stage missile with a range of about 3,000 kilometers for a 1,000-kilogram payload. It can carry nuclear weapons, but the missiles sold to the Saudis have conventional warheads. China reportedly provided guarantees to the United States that the missiles were modified to prevent them from ever being used to carry nuclear warheads.

The range of the DF-3 allows Saudi Arabia to target Iran. Some experts believe that Saudi Arabia may have displayed the DF-3 as a show of strength, given the hostile relationship between the two countries and Riyadh’s concern about Iran’s nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia reportedly purchased more-modern missiles from China, including the DF-21, a medium-range ballistic missile. No DF-21 missiles were displayed in the April parade. Reports of the sale first emerged in 2010.

The DF-21 is a two-stage, solid-fueled missile with a 2,000-kilometer range. China first deployed the DF-21 in 1991. It is considered a more reliable system than the DF-3, and its solid fuel makes it more mobile.

In an April 29 parade, Saudi Arabia publicly displayed two ballistic missiles that it purchased from China in the 1980s.

India Tests Ballistic Missile for Subs

Kelsey Davenport

India successfully tested a new, longer-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on March 24, Indian news outlets reported last month.

The test of the missile, known as the K-4, took place off the southeastern coast in the Bay of Bengal using a submerged pontoon. The two-stage, nuclear-capable missile traveled approximately 3,000 kilometers, the news accounts said.

India did not immediately publicize the missile test. But The Hindu on May 8 quoted officials who were present at the test as calling it “excellent” and saying that they would conduct “many more missions” like it to increase the reliability of the missile.

The K-4 eventually is to be deployed on Indian submarines, the first of which is currently undergoing testing.

Avinash Chander, director-general of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said May 13 that India would be conducting a test launch of the K-4 from the INS Arihant “within the next few months.”

The DRDO is the main Indian government entity responsible for developing new, advanced military technologies.

India announced the successful development of a shorter-range SLBM, the K-15, in July 2012 and indicated at that time that the longer-range K-4 was under development. (See ACT, September 2012.)

According to the DRDO, the K-15 has a maximum range of 700 kilometers for a 700-kilogram payload.

Only four other countries—China, France, Russia, and the United States—have the capability to produce SLBMs. Although the United Kingdom deploys such missiles, they are produced in the United States.

India is planning to develop four nuclear submarines in total, and the boats are designed to carry four K-4 missiles or 12 K-15 missiles. New Delhi is planning to deploy the submarines by 2023.

India successfully tested a new, longer-range submarinelaunched ballistic missile (SLBM) on March 24, Indian news outlets reported last month.

Russia Undecided on Arms Trade Treaty

Daryl G. Kimball

Russia has not decided whether to sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a Russian official said last month, apparently contradicting an earlier report by the state-run Voice of Russia broadcasting service.

In a May 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the department for nonproliferation and arms control at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that “as of now, there is no decision on joining the ATT or not.”

The inquiry to Ulyanov was prompted by a May 20 Voice of Russia report saying Moscow had decided not to join the ATT.

“We see both positive and negative aspects, all of which will be taken into account,” Ulyanov said in the e-mail. One positive feature is the requirement for states to create or improve their national export control systems, he said. “But the list of the treaty’s drawbacks is also pretty long,” said Ulyanov, who was Russia’s chief negotiator during the multilateral talks that produced the ATT last year.

Russia has been criticized by many Western governments for continuing to supply the Bashar al-Assad regime, which has attacked civilian population centers throughout the three-year-old civil conflict in Syria. The ATT prohibits arms transfers if the supplier state “has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes.”

A year after the ATT was opened for signature, 118 states have signed it, and 32 have ratified it. When 50 states ratify the pact, it will enter into force.

Russia is one of several major arms supplier states that have not signed the treaty. Moscow is the world’s second-largest arms supplier, accounting for 27 percent of all arms exports from 2009 to 2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The United States, the largest arms supplier, signed the treaty in September, but U.S. officials have indicated they do not plan to send it to the Senate for approval in the near future.

Russia has not decided whether to sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a Russian official said last month, apparently contradicting an earlier report by the state-run Voice of Russia broadcasting service.

Vietnam Nuclear Pact Sent to Congress

Daniel Horner

The Obama administration submitted to Congress on May 8 an agreement for civilian nuclear cooperation with Vietnam, a pact that could feed a long-standing debate over how the United States pursues its nonproliferation policies through such agreements.

A key issue in the debate is how hard the United States should press its potential nuclear trade partners to forgo uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, activities that are considered sensitive because they can be used to produce nuclear explosive material.

The preamble to the agreement expresses Vietnam’s intent “to rely on existing international markets for nuclear fuel services, rather than acquiring sensitive nuclear technologies.” The Obama administration had described this commitment after Vietnam and the United States initialed the agreement last October (see ACT, November 2013), but the text was not made public until last month.

The Obama administration submitted to Congress on May 8 an agreement for civilian nuclear cooperation with Vietnam, a pact that could feed a long-standing debate...

The Iranian Uranium-Enrichment Challenge

Daryl G. Kimball

A long-sought deal between Iran and six world powers on a comprehensive, multiyear agreement to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful is within reach if the parties pursue realistic solutions on the major issues. The two sides appear to have found common ground in some areas, such as modifying Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor to significantly reduce its plutonium output and expanding International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring.

But time is running short. China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, known collectively as the P5+1, and Iran have but a few weeks to close the gaps on other issues by their July 20 target date.

The most challenging issue may be setting limits on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity. Iran’s enrichment program has been the focus of international concern for more than a decade because gas centrifuge machines can be used to enrich uranium not only to normal reactor grade—with 3.5 percent fissionable uranium-235—but also to weapons grade, which is 90 percent U-235.

After talks between European powers and Iran broke down in 2005, Iran increased its centrifuge capacity from 300 first-generation IR-1 machines at one site to about 19,000 installed IR-1 machines at two sites. Today, about 10,200 are operating; 1,000 advanced IR-2M centrifuges are installed at the Natanz enrichment plant, but are not operational.

Iran and the P5+1 should be able to agree that Iran will limit uranium enrichment to levels of less than 5 percent, keep stocks of its enriched uranium near zero, and halt production-scale work at the smaller Fordow enrichment plant and convert it to a research-only facility.

Yet, the two sides must find a formula that limits Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity at the Natanz site in a way that precludes an Iranian dash to produce enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for weapons without being detected and disrupted but allows for Iran’s “practical” civilian needs, as the Nov. 24 interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1 puts it.

Iran’s operating IR-1 machines, with about 9,000 separative work units (SWU) per year of combined capacity, could allow Tehran to enrich natural uranium stock into a sufficient quantity of HEU (25 kilograms) for one nuclear bomb in about six months if such an effort were not detected first.

If Iran tried to build a militarily significant nuclear arsenal, it would take considerably more than a year to amass enough material for additional weapons, assemble and perhaps test a nuclear device, and mate the bombs with an effective means of delivery.

An agreement that significantly reduced Iran’s present-day enrichment capacity would increase the time even further and still would provide Iran with more than sufficient capacity for its nuclear fuel needs, which are very limited for the next decade or more. Iran’s Tehran Research Reactor produces medical isotopes, and Iran already has enough material to fuel that reactor for years to come. If the Arak reactor is modified to use 3.5 percent enriched uranium fuel, it might require no more than 1,000 SWU.

Iran also operates a 1,000-megawatt electric light-water power reactor at Bushehr, which uses fuel supplied by Russia under a 10-year arrangement that could be renewed in 2021. The arrangement obliges Russia to continue supplying fuel unless Iran chooses not to renew the fuel supply contract. Iran is in talks with Russia to build and supply up to four additional nuclear power reactors, with the first possibly completed eight years from now.

Yet, Iranian negotiators insist that Iran’s nuclear fuel needs may increase and say they cannot depend on foreign suppliers given the unreliability of these suppliers in the past. It is estimated that Iran would need about 100,000 SWU of enrichment capacity to provide fuel for Bushehr.

Negotiators can square the circle in several ways. The comprehensive agreement could allow for appropriate increases in Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity in the late stages of the deal. Such adjustments could be conditioned on Iran providing sufficient information to the IAEA to show that any past experiments with possible military dimensions have been discontinued and demonstrating that it cannot obtain foreign nuclear fuel supplies for the new nuclear power reactors that it builds.

As researchers from Princeton University propose in a forthcoming article, it would be in Iran’s interest to replace its less efficient IR-1 machines with a smaller number of more-efficient IR-2M centrifuges, holding total operating SWU capacity constant, and to continue research and development and even stockpile components for more advanced centrifuges but not assemble them until there is a demonstrable need for commercial-scale enrichment. This would increase the time it would take Iran to operate the machines, providing added insurance against rapid breakout scenarios. As part of the final agreement, the P5+1, particularly Russia, should also make clearer fuel supply guarantees to Iran to reduce its rationale for greater enrichment capacity by 2022.

Concluding an effective comprehensive agreement will require difficult compromises on the major issues for both sides. But solutions that prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and still provide Iran with the means to pursue a civil nuclear program are achievable.

A long-sought deal between Iran and six world powers on a comprehensive, multiyear agreement to ensure Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful is within reach if the parties pursue realistic solutions on the major issues. The two sides appear to have found common ground in some areas, such as modifying Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor to significantly reduce its plutonium output and expanding International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring.

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