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

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
June 1, 2018

NATO's Nuclear Weapons: The Rationale for 'No First Use'

Jack Mendelsohn

The 19 nations of NATO have an opportunity to bring their outdated nuclear weapons first-use policy into alignment with the alliance's stated objectives and commitments. Although NATO has sought to de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, it maintains its 30-year-old policy of "flexible response," which allows the alliance to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict, including in reply to an attack with conventional weapons.

During its 50th anniversary summit in Washington in April, the alliance did agree to begin a process to review arms control and disarmament options in light of the "reduced salience" of nuclear weapons. NATO members, through the North Atlantic Council, are now working on proposals that will be considered at a NATO ministerial meeting at the end of this year. While strong U.S. resistance to even a review of NATO nuclear policy bodes ill for a move away from nuclear first use, the stage has at least been set for a new debate. By pledging not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict, NATO could reduce the political acceptability and military attractiveness of nuclear weapons, strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime, enhance the credibility of its deterrence policy and help to ease some of the tensions in the NATO-Russian relationship.

The Evolution of Doctrine

The readiness of NATO to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict has been evident from the beginning of the alliance. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, drafted in early 1949 before the Soviet Union had tested a nuclear weapon, commits the allies to come to the defense of all members in the event of an attack. This commitment was understood by both the Americans and the Europeans to be a nuclear guarantee for the alliance, which, in the late 1940s and 1950s, faced what was perceived to be a hostile Soviet Union with an overwhelming advantage in conventional forces. At that critical moment, the alliance was both obligated and prepared to consider the massive use of nuclear weapons to respond to major conventional aggression.

In the early 1950s, political pressure in the United States to reduce its defense budget, and allied reluctance to spend the money to build up their own militaries, further encouraged a policy of threatening to use nuclear weapons against counter-value targets (such as cities and other "soft" targets) on a large scale and early in the event of a conflict in Europe. In December 1954, NATO agreed to integrate tactical nuclear weapons into its own defensive strategy, and by the end of 1960 there were 2,500 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Western Europe. In December 1956, NATO adopted a Military Committee document (MC-14/2) that formalized the alliance's emphasis on nuclear weapons as the key component of its defensive strategy. The credibility of this doctrine of "massive retaliation" was already strained, however, by the time of its formal adoption by NATO.

The launch of Sputnik in August 1957 dramatically demonstrated the growth of Moscow's ability to threaten the U.S. homeland and called into question U.S. willingness to respond to a conventional attack in Europe with the full strength of its nuclear arsenal. The strategic significance of this development was not lost on NATO's European members. For example, in 1958 Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, who four years earlier had stated that NATO nuclear weapons would necessarily be used against conventional attacks, was asking whether, "in the event of minor Russian aggression with conventional forces," it was realistic to expect "the West would use its nuclear deterrent as weapons against the cities of Russia and receive in return Russian retaliation which would put the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. out of business?" He concluded: "For us to act in this way would be to commit national suicide. I do not believe it will happen. When both sides have nuclear sufficiency, the deterrent will merely serve to deter each side from using it as a weapon."<1>

After a great deal of debate in the 1960s, in December 1967 the alliance adopted a new nuclear strategy in MC 14/3 known as "flexible response." NATO formally abandoned the strategy of massive retaliation (which had actually been dropped by the Eisenhower administration before the end of its term) and committed the alliance to respond to any aggression, short of general nuclear attack, at the level of force—conventional or nuclear—at which it was initiated. The alliance retained the option, however, to use nuclear weapons first if its initial response to a conventional attack did not prove adequate to containing the aggressor, and to deliberately escalate to general nuclear war, if necessary.

While adoption of the flexible response policy allowed the alliance to avoid a policy of prompt and mutual suicide (as many of NATO's tactical nuclear weapons would have detonated on alliance territory), NATO still continued to rely on the first use of nuclear weapons to deter or counter a major conventional assault. In support of this policy, NATO's tactical nuclear weapons stockpile in Europe grew to around 7,400 weapons in the early 1970s, including nuclear artillery shells, nuclear-armed missiles, air-delivered gravity bombs, special atomic demolition munitions (landmines), surface-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles and anti-submarine depth bombs. (See chart below.)

In 1979, in response to Soviet efforts to modernize its intermediate-range nuclear missile force with the triple-warheaded SS-20, NATO adopted a modernization plan of its own involving the deployment of 572 tactical nuclear warheads on ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) and Pershing II ballistic missiles. After an elaborate interplay of negotiations, threats, walkouts, deployments and a significant regime change in Moscow (Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in March 1985), the United States and the Soviet Union agreed in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty to ban all ground-based nuclear-armed ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

In October 1990, the two Germanys were united under the terms of the "Final Settlement with Respect to Germany," negotiated by the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, in association with the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and France. Unified Germany remained a member of NATO but, according to the final settlement, neither foreign armed forces nor nuclear weapons could be stationed in that portion of united Germany that had previously been East Germany. In effect, the final settlement denuclearized a swath of NATO territory in the very center of Europe, a provision of particular interest to the Soviet Union, which sought to prevent NATO nuclear forces from coming closer to its frontiers.

Nuclear Weapons in the 1990s

As the Soviet Union wound down in the late 1980s, the security environment in Europe changed fundamentally, allowing a long-overdue reconsideration of NATO's nuclear strategy. In July 1990 in the London Declaration, NATO announced a review of the alliance's political and military strategy to reflect "a reduced reliance on nuclear weapons" and lead to the adoption of "a new NATO strategy making nuclear forces truly weapons of last resort."<2>

In early 1991, after the withdrawal and destruction of its INF systems and the voluntary retirement of about 2,400 excess tactical nuclear weapons, NATO's European-based nuclear arsenal stood at approximately 4,000 tactical warheads. Then, in September of that year, in the aftermath of the failed coup in Moscow, President Bush announced a major unilateral withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons worldwide. Gorbachev announced reciprocal Soviet withdrawals the following month. All U.S. ground-based and sea-based tactical weapons were affected, leaving only several hundred (around 400) air-delivered gravity bombs in NATO's European-based nuclear arsenal by the end of the decade. (France and Britain subsequently decided to phase out their own tactical nuclear weapons.)

NATO's November 1991 "Strategic Concept," which resulted from the review announced in London (adopted six weeks before the dissolution of the Soviet Union), did not expressly include the "weapons of last resort" language in the London Declaration, but it did greatly scale back the pre-eminent role of nuclear weapons. The 1991 concept noted that "the fundamental purpose of the nuclear forces of the Allies is political: to preserve peace and prevent coercion and any kind of war." It stated specifically that "the circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons might have to be contemplated by [NATO] are…remote." The allies "can therefore significantly reduce their sub-strategic nuclear forces."<3>

In early 1994, the alliance—led by the United States and Germany—began to move toward expanding NATO membership to countries in Eastern and Southern Europe. The general debate over alliance expansion raised the issue of nuclear weapons deployment in the potential new member-states. Sharply criticized by Moscow, which considered itself the prime (if not the only) target of the alliance's nuclear forces, the freedom to deploy nuclear weapons in new NATO members was just as staunchly defended by NATO. In September 1995, NATO released its "Enlargement Study," which stated explicitly that the "new members will be expected to support the concept of deterrence and the essential role nuclear weapons play in the Alliance's strategy of war prevention as set forth in the Strategic Concept."<4>

The new member-states—the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland—all sought protection under NATO's nuclear umbrella without pressing for actual nuclear deployments on their territories. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, for example, stated in April 1997 that he could "perceive no security requirement for stationing nuclear weapons on Polish territory." In the end, the NATO allies explicitly stated in the May 1997 so-called Founding Act that "they have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members…." However, they also indicated in the same document that they did not see "any need to change any aspect of NATO's nuclear posture or nuclear policy—and do not foresee any future need to do so." In addition, the allies noted that they had "no intention, no plan, and no reason to establish nuclear weapon storage sites on the territory of those members, whether through the construction of new nuclear storage facilities or the adaptation of old nuclear storage facilities."<5>

The Founding Act's self-satisfied statement on "no need to change any aspect" of its nuclear policy notwithstanding, in the months leading up to NATO's 50th anniversary summit in Washington, the governments of Germany, Canada and the Netherlands took steps to urge NATO to consider a no-first-use policy in connection with the revision of the Strategic Concept being prepared for the anniversary celebration. On October 20, 1998, the German Social Democrat and Green parties signed a coalition agreement pledging that the new government "will advocate a lowering of the alert status for nuclear weapons and renunciation of the first use of nuclear weapons." German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer expanded on this point in a Der Spiegel interview published on November 23, 1998, stating that he believed the world had changed sufficiently to allow NATO to consider the adoption of a no-first-use policy. On December 3, the Dutch Parliament passed a resolution (NR 22/26200-V) that called upon NATO to consider the adoption of a no-first-use policy.

The response from Clinton administration officials was quick and sharp. During a December 8 press conference in Brussels, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the United States "do[es] not believe that a review is necessary" and that the alliance has "the right nuclear strategy." But the calls for a change in NATO nuclear policy continued. On December 10, the Canadian Parliament's Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs and International Trade released a report, Canada and the Nuclear Challenge: Reducing the Political Value of Nuclear Weapons for the Twenty-First Century, which included a recommendation that Ottawa urge NATO to review its nuclear weapons policy.

While, ultimately, no such no-first-use policy was adopted or even discussed at the Washington summit NATO's 1999 Strategic Concept and the summit communiqué do reflect a slight change in alliance policy. (See box.) The new Strategic Concept continues to point out that "the fundamental purpose of the nuclear forces of the Allies is political…" (Paragraph 62). The new pronouncement acknowledges, however, that "with the radical changes in the security situation, including reduced conventional forces levels in Europe and increased reaction times, NATO's ability to defuse a crisis through diplomatic and other means or, should it be necessary, to mount a successful conventional defense has significantly improved." As a result, the document continues, the circumstances in which nuclear weapons might have to be used by the alliance are "extremely remote" (Paragraph 64).

More importantly, however, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy both intervened to ensure that a review of NATO's nuclear policy would be initiated by the North Atlantic Council. In its communiqué, the alliance agreed "in light of overall strategic developments and the reduced salience of nuclear weapons...[to]...consider options for confidence- and security-building measures, verification, non-proliferation and arms control and disarmament. The Council in Permanent Session will propose a process to Ministers in December for considering such options."

Canadian Senator Douglas Roche, the former ambassador for disarmament affairs, interprets this statement as a commitment to initiate a review of NATO's nuclear posture. On April 24, Roche released an "Analysis of NATO Action on Nuclear Weapons," in which Axworthy is quoted as saying that NATO acknowledged "that such a review would be appropriate and that there would be directions to the NATO Council to start the mechanics of bringing that about." U.S. State Department officials will say only that all aspects of NATO nuclear policy are under discussion in connection with NATO's new initiative on weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This initiative, which involves information sharing, defense planning, civilian protection, non-proliferation assistance to other nations, and a WMD Center to coordinate NATO efforts was approved at the summit as a means of strengthening alliance support for U.S. non-proliferation policy.<6>

Should NATO Reconsider?

Some argue that the alliance's current posture of "flexible response," with the current understanding that the use of nuclear weapons would be considered only in "extremely remote" circumstances, is the right one and should not be changed. Others believe that this policy is out of date and should be re-examined by the alliance since

it lacks any military or strategic rationale;
undercuts the various crisis management and humanitarian justifications for NATO's out-of-area operations;
contravenes U.S., British and French commitments not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states;
and weakens the non-proliferation regime.

An Absence of a Rationale

NATO's nuclear first-use policy lacks any military rationale. The alliance's threat during the Cold War to use nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear aggression, however contradictory and self-deterring such a policy might have been, was considered helpful in reassuring Europe that some military response was available to counter the Warsaw Pact's significant quantitative advantage in conventional forces. Today, however, the alliance enjoys an even greater conventional superiority over any potential enemy or combination of enemies in Europe than the Warsaw Pact ever had over NATO.

The alliance's overwhelming and unchallengeable conventional advantages make it difficult to conceive of circumstances under which NATO would require nuclear weapons to successfully manage any crisis in Europe. The only state that could conceivably mount a serious military threat to NATO sometime in the future is Russia. But this likelihood is "extremely remote" and hardly justifies a general NATO policy of nuclear first use. Moreover, NATO's first-use policy is viewed in Moscow as directed primarily—if not solely—at Russia and, as noted above in connection with the Founding Act, remains a major irritant as NATO expands eastward.

The key alliance strategic rationale for nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO is that they "provide an essential political and military link between the European and the North American members of the Alliance…[and] with strategic nuclear forces." Linkage to U.S. strategic nuclear forces was an integral part of NATO's strategy during the Cold War. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, however, and with the change in NATO's most likely mission from territorial defense to out-of-area crisis management, linkage to U.S. strategic nuclear retaliatory forces is far less critical–perhaps not even relevant—to alliance security and solidarity. In any case, adopting a no-first-use policy would not interfere with NATO's link to U.S. strategic retaliatory forces. A policy of no first use impacts on the circumstances surrounding the decision to use nuclear weapons, not on the choice of nuclear weapons—tactical, strategic or both—that will be used once the decision is taken.

There is no non-nuclear threat to U.S. or alliance security that would warrant a nuclear response. In 1993, three respected members of the U.S. national security establishment, McGeorge Bundy, William J. Crowe and Sidney Drell, wrote: "There is no vital interest of the U.S., except the deterrence of nuclear attack, that cannot be met by prudent conventional readiness. There is no visible case where the U.S. could be forced to choose between defeat and the first use of nuclear weapons."<7> Nothing has occurred since that statement was written to make nuclear weapons more critical to maintaining European security. If anything, the threat of using nuclear weapons has become even more anachronistic.

Out-Of-Area Intervention

As the intervention in Kosovo demonstrated, NATO is now seemingly prepared to undertake out-of-area military missions for a number of reasons: to resolve conflicts, to manage crises, to promote democracy, to defend moral principles or to protect human rights. At the same time, NATO has also made it clear that it seeks to perform these missions without putting its troops in harm's way and with a minimum amount of collateral damage to innocent civilians and the target country. NATO's supreme commander, U.S. General Wesley Clark, for one, has acknowledged that he was compelled to sacrifice basic logic of warfare to maintain the political cohesion of the alliance given the anti-war pressures felt by coalition governments in Germany and Italy.<8>

Apart from the fact that neither the NATO rationales for intervention nor its minimalist criteria for casualties and collateral damage can be supported by the use of nuclear weapons, some NATO allies—and, more importantly, their publics—had serious misgivings over the extent of the destruction wrought in Kosovo by conventional bombing. During various stages of the 11-week war, Italy, Greece and Germany were all on the verge of calling for an end to the attacks. In the case of Germany, Foreign Minister Fischer narrowly averted a vote in his Green Party, which makes up a significant minority of the ruling Red-Green coalition, calling for an end to all German participation in the bombing campaign.

The United States remains committed to expanding NATO's future missions in response to the "complex new risks to...peace and stability, including oppression, ethnic conflict, economic distress, [and] the collapse of political order...."<9> The problems raised by Kosovo, however, may have made it more difficult for the alliance to authorize even conventional out-of-area military operations in the future. If an intervention is authorized, the possibility of a proposal within NATO to initiate the threat to use or the use of nuclear weapons will inevitably cause even the most determined of the allies to object. Since, under these conditions, it is highly improbable that the alliance will ever reach a consensus to employ nuclear weapons in an out-of-area intervention, much less in support of U.S. interests in other areas of the world, NATO's first-use option is neither a credible deterrent nor a necessary policy.

It is not possible to reconcile the morally repugnant use of a nuclear weapon, or any weapon of mass destruction, with the pursuit of limited, humanitarian goals. As a point of law, this was made explicit by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its July 1996 advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons. At that time, 10 of the ICJ's 14 judges determined that the use or threatened use of nuclear weapons is illegal in all but one possible circumstance: a threat to the very existence of the state.

Of the five recognized nuclear-weapon states (the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China), only the two non-NATO powers—China and Russia—have declared nuclear-use policies that do not run counter to the ICJ opinion: Beijing has a no-first-use policy and Moscow says that it reserves the right to use all available forces and means, including nuclear weapons, if as a result of military aggression, there is a threat to the existence of the Russian Federation as a sovereign state.

Moreover, it is politically unwise for NATO to continue to maintain a first-use option if it seriously intends to execute out-of-area conflict resolution, crisis management or humanitarian missions (as opposed to the traditional defense of territory or in response to an aggressor). As long as NATO refuses to rule out the first use of nuclear weapons, it is difficult to avoid the perception that enforcement of democratic values is being backed by a nuclear threat. Indeed, this perception drove Ukraine's Supreme Council (or Rada) in March 1999 to attempt to abolish the country's non-nuclear-weapon-state status in view of NATO's aggressive plans toward non-members. Although the Rada's position was subsequently dismissed as parliamentary rhetoric by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, its action illustrates the depth of the passions stirred by NATO's intervention. To avoid the perception that out-of-area operations might escalate to the nuclear level, NATO would clearly be better served if it operated under a policy that confined the use of nuclear weapons to core deterrence, rather than one that is based on first use.

Negative Security Assurances

All 19 nations of NATO, including its three nuclear-capable members, are bound to the object and purposes of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Under the treaty, the five recognized nuclear-weapon states have committed themselves to respect a broad prohibition on using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. Pledged in the form of negative security assurances (NSAs), the most recent being the one reaffirmed just before the 1995 NPT conference that extended the treaty indefinitely, the nuclear-weapon states promise never to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT, except in response to an attack by such a state in alliance with a nuclear-weapon state.<10>

The 1995 U.S. NSA reads:

The United States affirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in the case of an invasion or any attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a State toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear weapon State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State.<11>

It is important to note that the NSA makes no exceptions to allow for a nuclear response to a chemical or biological weapons attack.

NATO's first-use doctrine against conventional forces is clearly contrary to the NPT-related NSA commitments of the United States, Britain and France. In addition, the United States, the key NATO nuclear power, maintains the option to use nuclear weapons in response to a chemical or biological weapons attack, and implies that NATO has the same policy. While this policy had been present in U.S. Defense Department documents in the early 1990s, it was articulated in April 1996 by Robert Bell, senior director for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council at the time of the U.S. signature of a protocol to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (ANWFZ) Treaty. Protocol I of the so-called Treaty of Pelindaba pledges the United States not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any treaty party. Bell, however, said U.S. signature "will not limit options available to the United States in response to an attack by an ANWFZ party using weapons of mass destruction." [Emphasis added.] In December 1998, Walter Slocombe, under secretary of defense for policy, stated: "It is simply an issue of making sure that we continue to maintain a high level of uncertainty or high level of concern, if you will, at what the potential aggressor would face if he used [CBW] or indeed took other aggressive acts against the alliance." [Emphasis added.]<12>

For the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, and by implication NATO, the most powerful conventional alliance, to insist that they need the threat of first use of nuclear weapons to deter potential adversaries raises the question why other, much weaker nations, confronted by hostile neighbors, do not need them as well. Moreover, a U.S. and NATO first-use policy against, in effect, conventional, chemical and biological weapons suggests that nuclear weapons have many useful military roles. This reinforces the value and prestige attributed to nuclear weapons and undermines efforts by the United States and other key NATO countries to persuade non-nuclear-weapon states to refrain from developing their own nuclear arsenals.

'Calculated Ambiguity' and Deterrence

Many proponents of a nuclear first-use policy admit that neither the United States nor NATO will ever employ nuclear weapons except in retaliation against a nuclear attack. Nonetheless, these proponents argue that a no-first-use policy should not be adopted because uncertainty—or "calculated ambiguity"—as to the nature of the alliance response serves to deter a potential aggressor from initiating a chemical or biological weapons attack. This approach was clearly laid out on February 5, 1998, when State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said:

If any country were foolish enough to attack the U.S., our allies or our forces with chemical or biological weapons, our response would be swift, devastating and overwhelming. We have worked hard to fashion non-nuclear responses to the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction in order to give military commanders and the president a range of options from which to choose.

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry reaffirmed the approach during a March 1998 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Chemical Weapons Convention:

[W]e are able to mount a devastating response without using nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, we do not rule out in advance any capability available to us. I stress that these policies have to do with a situation in which the U.S., our allies and our forces have been attacked with chemical or biological weapons. [Emphasis added.]

The question of whether the veiled U.S. threat of nuclear retaliation against chemical or biological weapons attacks successfully deterred Saddam Hussein from using chemical or biological weapons against allied forces during the Gulf War may never be answered with absolute certainty. The utility of a policy of "calculated ambiguity," however, has been greatly diminished with the disclosures in memoirs by senior policymakers that whatever policy was implied, the United States never had, under any circumstances, any intention of using nuclear weapons during the war.<13> As a result of this public record, it is quite possible that "calculated ambiguity" is no longer a credible policy (if it ever was), and that there is little deterrent value left in the U.S. or NATO threat of nuclear first use in any non-nuclear military conflict.

Taking the Lead

The principal threats to the security of NATO and its member-states over the next decades will not come from Russia, but rather from regional dictators, rogue states and violent sub-national groups. The alliance's best defense against these threats is not its nuclear arsenal—the use of which has no military or political justification—but rather its overwhelming conventional military superiority, unsurpassed intelligence gathering and processing capabilities and, last but not least, the international non-proliferation regime.

As NATO's primary arsenal nation, the United States should be the one to take the lead in urging a revision of NATO's nuclear posture. The opportunity was missed in 1994 when the United States conducted its Nuclear Posture Review and reportedly concluded that there was no military requirement for tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. But at that time, the Europeans insisted on the continued presence of these weapons as a hedge against the unknown (meaning a Russian resurgence) and to maintain a tangible "link" to the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Now, for a number of political reasons—the administration's overall weakness, a conservative Congress, the upcoming presidential elections, and a "don't-rock-the-boat" foreign policy—Washington is unwilling to disturb the nuclear status quo.

As a result, it has fallen to Canada and the European members of NATO to push for a nuclear policy review. At least some alliance members recognize that, in the absence of any serious military or strategic challenge to the NATO nations, the alliance's current nuclear first-use policy lacks credibility and undercuts overall efforts to enhance European security. If Canada and NATO's European members can bring themselves to propose abandoning the nuclear first-use policy, the United States should be willing to accept this incremental step toward a safer and more secure world.



1. Quoted in The Entangling Alliance, Ronald E. Powaski, Greenwood Press, 1994, p. 39.

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2. "London Declaration on a Transformed North Atlantic Alliance," London, July 5-6, 1990, Paragraph 18.

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3. "NATO Strategic Concept," November 1991, Paragraphs 55 and 57.

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4. "NATO Study on Enlargement," Chapter 5, paragraph 45.

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5. "The Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security Between NATO and the Russian Federation," Paris, May 27, 1997, Section IV.

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6. NATO Fact Sheet on WMD Initiative, April 24, 1999.

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7. See "Reducing the Nuclear Danger," Foreign Affairs, Volume 72, Number 2.

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8. William Drozdiak, "War Effort Restrained by Politics, Clark Says," The Washington Post, July 20, 1999, p. A14.

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9. "The Alliance's Strategic Concept," April 1999, Paragraph 3.

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10. Four countries remain outside the NPT: Cuba and the three de facto nuclear-weapon states—India, Israel and Pakistan.

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11. The first official U.S. declaration of negative security assurance was in 1978 at the UN. These assurances were reaffirmed by the five declared nuclear-weapons states in April 1995 and taken note of in UN Security Council Resolution 984. In addition, as a signator of the Protocols, the U.S. has pledged not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any state party to the treaties of Rarotonga (South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone), Tlateloco (Latin America NWFZ) and Pelindaba (Africa NWFZ).

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12. Interview with Walter Slocombe, under secretary of defense for policy, December 11, 1998.

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13. See, for example, Colin Powell, My American Journey, pp. 472 and 486; George Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed, p. 463; and James A Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, p. 359.

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Jack Mendelsohn, vice president and executive director of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security (LAWS) in Washington, DC, is former deputy director of the Arms Control Association.

Senator Helms' Floccinaucinihilipilification

Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

As self-appointed arbiter of U.S. foreign policy, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC) recently disdainfully dismissed an appeal by all 45 Democratic senators that he allow the Senate to consider the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has languished before his committee for two years without hearings. In his supercilious reply, Helms proclaimed his "floccinaucinihilipilification" of the CTBT, or in plain English, his belief that the treaty is absolutely worthless. With Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's (R-MS) support, Helms reasserted his intention to hold the treaty hostage to advance his campaign to destroy the unrelated ABM Treaty, thereby blocking Senate action on the CTBT. Failure to ratify the CTBT will endanger U.S. security by undercutting U.S. efforts to build international support for the nuclear non-proliferation regime and by allowing further nuclear weapon developments by countries that could threaten the United States.

The 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which now bars testing by the 181 non-nuclear-weapon states-parties through their agreement not to acquire nuclear weapons, allows the five recognized nuclear-weapon states to continue testing, underscoring the inherently discriminatory nature of the treaty. By applying equally to all nations, the CTBT would end the privileged status of the nuclear-weapon states to continue testing to further develop their nuclear capabilities. The treaty is widely seen as the litmus test of whether the nuclear-weapon states recognize their own NPT treaty obligation to move toward nuclear disarmament.

The CTBT would ban nuclear testing by Russia, the only country that can now possibly threaten the survival of the United States, and by China, the only other country that might in the future achieve that capability. But neither Russia nor China will ratify before the United States does. The treaty also provides a practical means to limit the development of more advanced weapons by India, Israel and Pakistan, three nuclear-capable countries that are unlikely to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states because it would require the elimination of all their nuclear weapons. Finally, by establishing an international norm against testing, the CTBT would put additional pressure not to test on North Korea and Iraq, which are in violation of their NPT obligations, and Iran, which the United States believes is positioning itself to violate the NPT.

Despite these compelling considerations, test ban opponents assert in a campaign of false and misleading statements that without testing the U.S. deterrent will be threatened by the loss of stockpile reliability and that the treaty is "unverifiable." These alarming assertions could not be sustained in a serious Senate debate. The leaders of the three U.S. nuclear weapon laboratories agree that the reliability and safety of the stockpile can be maintained without further nuclear testing. This will be accomplished by the generously funded stockpile stewardship program, which will monitor the reliability of the stockpile with non-destructive and non-nuclear testing, as well as computer simulations. This will give ample warning if weapons or components must be refabricated. The current chairman of the JCS, General Henry Shelton, as well as four former JCS chairmen have endorsed the treaty as serving U.S. security interests. They are confident of the reliability and safety of the U.S. stockpile and see no need to develop new types of weapons to meet U.S. military requirements in an era of declining relevance of nuclear weapons.

The U.S. record of successfully identifying some 1,000 foreign nuclear tests (about 700 underground) refutes the charge that the treaty is unverifiable. With the added capabilities of the treaty's international monitoring system, any tests large enough to affect U.S. security will be detected. And the treaty provision to permit on-site inspections will provide a mechanism for taking violations to the United Nations with the support of the international community if clear evidence is discovered or if the inspection is denied.

Helms' obstruction has already lost the United States voting participation in the special Vienna conference October 6-8 to facilitate entry into force of the CTBT. If he is allowed to continue to block ratification, the U.S. leadership role will be seriously undercut at the important five-year NPT review conference scheduled for April-May 2000. Rather than being looked to as the leading force against nuclear proliferation, the United States will be widely held as responsible for the failure of the nuclear-weapon states to honor their pledge on the CTBT in obtaining the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995.

The Republican leadership should not permit Helms to co-opt them as co-conspirators in his effort to block CTBT ratification. If Helms succeeds in denying the Senate the right to exercise its constitutional responsibility to consider this important treaty, the issue must be taken to the American people. Polls indicate that an overwhelming bipartisan majority does not share the senator's cavalier "floccinaucinihilipilification" of the CTBT.

KLA Disarming Slowly and Reluctantly

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an estimated 17,000 ethnic Albanians who fought to separate Kosovo from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, is on pace to meet its September 19 disarmament deadline according to KFOR, the international security force in the war-torn province. KFOR, however, has stepped up its search and seizure operations, while Russia, a KFOR member with pro-Serbian sympathies, charged on August 18 that the process is "proceeding very slowly."

General Michael Jackson, commander of KFOR, said August 23 that the KLA had met the second of three benchmarks on August 20, by which all of its heavy weapons and 60 percent of its small arms were to be handed over to registered storage sites. By September 19, all KLA small arms, except pistols, shotguns and hunting rifles, are to be turned over and the wearing of KLA uniforms and insignia will be proscribed as the separatist group is officially disbanded.

KFOR's measure of KLA compliance is somewhat suspect given that its original weapons holdings are not known. Though "encouraged by the results," a KFOR spokesperson, who declined to release total numbers of weapons turned over, said that KFOR is "still not satisfied with the number of weapons in circulation and continued acts of violence." With the international security presence now numbering over 40,000, KFOR is taking a more active role in disarming the province, according to the spokesperson. Though pistols, shotguns and hunting rifles are not proscribed, KFOR is confiscating the weapons if they are carried in public.

Belgrade to Abide by Sub-Regional Arms Control Agreement

Wade Boese

NEARLY ONE MONTH after withdrawing its armed forces from Kosovo, Yugoslavia pledged on July 19 to resume its implementation of the June 1996 Agreement on Sub-Regional Arms Control, which Belgrade suspended one week after the start of NATO's 78-day bombing campaign in March. Countries in the region, including Yugoslavia, are also now expected to renew talks on building a "regional balance in and around the former Yugoslavia" as called for under Article V of the 1995 Dayton peace accords.

The sub-regional agreement caps the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), heavy artillery, combat aircraft and attack helicopters that each party to the agreement can possess. Weapons limits for Yugoslavia (comprised of Serbia and Montenegro), Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were set according to a 5-2-2 ratio based on the size of their respective populations. Bosnia-Herzegovina's limits were further divided between the Bosnian Muslim-Croat federation and the Bosnian-Serb-controlled Republica Srpska on a 2-1 basis. The agreement calls on all parties to annually exchange information and permit inspections of their holdings.

As a first step in renewing its participation in the agreement, Yugoslavia is expected to provide updated information on its weapons holdings in early September. With conflicting reports by NATO and Belgrade regarding Yugoslav weapons losses during the 11-week war in Kosovo, it is unclear how much lower the forthcoming figures will be than those Yugoslavia provided in its last report in December. Prior to the war, Belgrade had the maximum number of weapons allowed in each of the five categories.

Any weapons reductions claimed by Belgrade will need to be verified by the other parties to the agreement. For example, if Belgrade claims 50 fewer tanks, then evidence of 50 destroyed tanks must be provided. Once verified, Belgrade would then be permitted under the agreement to replace its losses—up to its weapons ceilings—if it so chooses. Any future weapons acquisitions by Yugoslavia, however, are also dependent upon the lifting of the March 31, 1998 UN arms embargo.

Discussions on resuming implementation of the sub-regional agreement, including inspections, and on how to verify Yugoslavia's pending data submission are anticipated to take place at a September 16 meeting of the parties. Yugoslavia has said it will attend, but Republica Srpska may not in response to the August 25 arrest in Vienna of its army chief of staff, General Momir Talic, on war crimes charges for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Belgrade's interest in complying with the sub-regional agreement stems in part from a desire to improve its standing in Europe and possibly gain readmission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). While Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia are all OSCE members, Yugoslavia's membership has been suspended since July 1992. The fact that the Yugoslav army's 1997 modernization plan, "Model 21," was developed with the sub-regional agreement in mind further encourages adherence to the agreement. Implementation of the sub-regional agreement is also viewed as a necessary step for the so-called Article V negotiations, which Belgrade has strongly supported as a means to formalizing ties with Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania—neighbors with which it has uneasy relations.

Preliminary Article V talks have focused on transparency and on confidence- and security-building measures rather than on weapons limits. French Ambassador Henry Jacolin, OSCE special representative for the talks, has said he would like to see progress by the OSCE's November summit in Istanbul, Turkey. The first Article V meeting since February is scheduled for September 6, and approximately 20 countries, including the United States, are expected to attend.

Senators Call on Helms to Allow Vote on CTB Treaty

Craig Cerniello

WITH TIME RUNNING out for the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) before a special conference is convened to examine ways to bring the accord into force, a bipartisan group of senators in late June urged Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC) to finally act on the treaty. Only states that have ratified the treaty can serve as full participants at the conference, likely to be held October 6-8 in Vienna.

In a June 28 letter to Helms, Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND), James Jeffords (R-VT), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) pressed the committee chairman to promptly hold hearings and allow the treaty to come up for a floor vote. "Many nations are waiting for the United States to lead on this important issue before completing ratification in their countries. Failure to act on the [CTB] Treaty will deny the U.S. an active voice at the conference and could severely weaken U.S. non-proliferation efforts, including the effort to bring India and Pakistan into this treaty," the letter said.

Under Article XIV, the CTBT cannot enter into force until it has been signed and ratified by the five major nuclear-weapon states, India, Pakistan, Israel and 36 other states that have nuclear power and/or research reactors. If the CTBT has not come into effect three years after it opened for signature, Article XIV allows a majority of states that have already ratified the treaty to call a special conference to "decide by consensus what measures consistent with international law may be undertaken to accelerate the ratification process in order to facilitate the early entry into force of this Treaty."

This spring, a majority of the ratifying states wrote UN Secretary General Kofi Annan requesting that such a conference be held shortly after the treaty's third anniversary on September 24, 1999. Unless the United States ratifies the CTBT before then, it will only be able to attend the conference as a non-voting "observer."

Although President Clinton signed the CTBT in September 1996 and submitted it for ratification a year later, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not conducted a single hearing on the treaty. Senator Helms has repeatedly stated that his committee will not consider the test ban until it has first voted on the 1997 amendments to the ABM Treaty as well as the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, neither of which have yet been submitted by the Clinton administration.

Thus far, the CTBT has been signed by 152 states and ratified by 38 states, and of the 44 states whose ratification is required for the treaty's entry into force, only 19 have ratified. Britain and France are the only two nuclear-weapon-states that have ratified, but Chinese President Jiang Zemin promised June 16 that his government "will soon submit the treaty to the National People's Congress for ratification."

Serbs Withdraw; KLA to Disarm

Wade Boese

SOME 47,000 SERBIAN military and paramilitary forces completed their withdrawal from the Yugoslav province of Kosovo on June 20, leading NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana to officially end the alliance's 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. Hours later, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an estimated 17,000 ethnic Albanians fighting for Kosovo independence, agreed to turn in its weapons and disband.

On June 21, Secretary of Defense William Cohen said Serb forces left Kosovo with nearly 800 tanks, armored personnel carriers (APCs) and artillery batteries in tow. Under the terms of a June 9 military agreement, no Serb forces can be within a 5-kilometer "ground safety zone" extending from the Kosovo border into Yugoslavia.

With scant evidence of destroyed equipment, the Defense Department is backing away from earlier calculations that 120 tanks, 220 APCs and 450 artillery and mortar positions were struck by the more than 23,000 bombs and missiles used in NATO air strikes. Any Serb weapon losses, however, are unlikely to be replaced soon as the March 31, 1998 UN arms embargo on Yugoslavia remains in force.

Moreover, future Yugoslav force levels for tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft and attack helicopters are capped by the 1996 Agreement on Sub-Regional Arms Control. Though Belgrade suspended implementation of the agreement March 31, and has yet to resume, the other parties (Croatia and both entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Muslim-Croat federation and Bosnian-Serb-controlled Republica Srpska) have said that Yugoslavia has assured them it will abide by the agreement.

For their part, KLA members are prohibited from possessing proscribed weapons (everything but pistols and non-automatic rifles) after midnight July 21. By that date, all KLA heavy weapons and 30 percent of all small arms are to be turned over to registered weapons storage sites. Sixty days later, all KLA weapons, including small arms, are to be in the storage sites under the control of KFOR, the international security force in Kosovo. While skepticism about KLA compliance runs high, initial reports show some weapons are being handed over.

Russian Compliance With CFE 'Flank' Limit in Doubt

Wade Boese

WHILE REMAINING within overall weapons limits under the 1992 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, Russia is suspected of not being in compliance with its revised "flank-zone" limits on armored combat vehicles (ACVs), which entered into force on May 31. Until a July 1 information exchange takes place, an official judgment on Russian compliance cannot be made, but Moscow has failed to meet earlier interim limits. On June 1, NATO called on all CFE countries to fulfill current legal obligations.

The treaty's flank zone, which will be retained in the "adapted" accord now under negotiation among the CFE states (see ACT, March 1999), limits the tanks, ACVs and heavy artillery located in Europe's northern and southern regions. Russia, one of 12 countries with territory in this zone, has persistently sought to increase, or abolish, its flank limits. Moscow contends the limits unfairly constrain Russian weapons deployments on its own territory, where serious security threats, like Chechnya, exist.

In a move to address Russian concerns, CFE parties renegotiated Russian flank limits in May 1996 so that the original limits of 1,300 tanks, 1,380 ACVs and 1,680 artillery would apply to a smaller area. New limits of 1,800 tanks, 3,700 ACVs and 2,400 artillery would apply to the original flank territory. Both sets of limits entered into force on May 31.

While at or near flank limits for tanks and artillery, Russia is reportedly in excess of ACV limits in the smaller, revised flank zone by roughly 1,500 and in the larger, original zone by several hundred. In fact, Russia, according to a March 8 White House compliance report, exceeded higher interim limits of 1,897 tanks, 4,397 ACVs and 2,422 artillery in the original flanks. Moscow has sought exemptions for the excess equipment, describing it as not militarily usable.

A March 30 agreement among all CFE parties to permit Russia a larger ACV limit of 2,140 in the revised flank zone under an adapted treaty has helped mute NATO reaction to Russia's suspected non-compliance. Because completion and entry into force of an adapted treaty remain wild cards, however, NATO has stressed compliance with existing treaty obligations. The White House compliance report described Moscow's earlier non-compliance with the interim flank limits as not militarily significant to NATO.

Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) said on May 26 that the "validity" of the May 1996 flank agreement has been called into question because the Clinton administration has failed to submit the 1997 ABM succession and demarcation agreements to the Senate. (See story.) As part of its 1997 resolution of ratification for the flank agreement, the Senate required any future ABM succession agreements be submitted to the Senate. The Clinton administration has repeatedly said it plans to submit the ABM agreements once the Russian Duma ratifies START II.

NATO Unveils 'Strategic Concept' at 50th Anniversary Summit

Wade Boese

AT ITS 50TH anniversary summit April 23-25 in Washington, NATO adopted a new "strategic concept" formally recasting the alliance's Cold War-era mission from collective defense to one that, in the words of NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, will guarantee European security and uphold democratic values "within and beyond our borders." While the new strategy, particularly nuclear weapons policy, departs little from the strategic concept approved in 1991 when the Soviet Union still existed, the new language officially sanctions NATO out-of-area action—such as the air campaign against Yugoslavia launched one month earlier. The alliance also reaffirmed its "open-door policy" for new members, but opted not to name any at this time. Russia condemned the summit results.

Unveiled on April 24, the strategic concept identifies the UN Security Council as having primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, but does not tie alliance action to Security Council endorsement. Some European allies, such as Greece and Italy, had questioned whether NATO could act without Security Council authorization prior to the launching of NATO's attacks against Yugoslavia on March 24. Alliance leaders dropped from the new strategic concept a 1991 statement that NATO is "purely defensive in purpose: none of its weapons will ever be used except in self-defense."

According to the 1999 concept, NATO's 19 members must "safeguard common security interests" and be prepared to act in conflict management and crisis response operations, including those beyond alliance territory. Yet, NATO's air strikes during the Bosnian war and the on-going air war against Yugoslavia, which muted what was to have been a summit celebrating alliance membership for the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, suggest that the alliance was already willing to engage out-of-area.

Side-stepping German and Canadian calls last year to review NATO nuclear policy in the strategic concept, including consideration of a no-first-use policy, the alliance reiterated that nuclear weapons provide a "unique contribution in rendering the risks of aggression against the alliance incalculable and unacceptable."

In a separate communique on April 24, however, NATO noted that the "reduced salience of nuclear weapons" would permit consideration of options for "confidence- and security-building measures, verification, non-proliferation and arms control and disarmament." Proposals for a process to review such options, presumably including revival of the no-first-use debate, are to be readied by December.

NATO described the circumstances for contemplating the use of nuclear weapons as being "extremely remote," a change from the 1991 language of "even more remote." This falls shy, however, of 1990 language in the London Declaration that the alliance would make nuclear arms the "weapons of last resort."

Excluding British and French national forces, NATO is estimated to have between 150 and 600 nuclear gravity bombs in seven European countries: Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey and Britain. NATO has stated that it has "no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons" on the territories of its three new members.

NATO nuclear and conventional forces, according to the strategic concept, will be kept at a "minimum sufficient level." At the same time, however, the document assigns these forces with the tasks of securing freedom of action and fulfilling all alliance missions. While the new concept judges large-scale conventional aggression against NATO "highly unlikely," it claims that "the possibility of such a threat emerging over the longer term exists."

Describing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery as a "serious concern," NATO, at the insistence of the United States, launched a "WMD Initiative" to strengthen "common understanding among Allies on WMD issues and how to respond to them." A "WMD Center" for coordinating alliance policy will be central to these efforts. European allies, some of which question the threat posed to NATO by proliferation beyond Europe's borders, had resisted past U.S. efforts to give the issue greater attention within the alliance.

Further Expansion Promised

Alliance leaders opted not to extend membership to any of the nine aspiring states (Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia), but stated that "the three newest members will not be the last." The common refrain that "no European democratic country" will be excluded from membership consideration was repeated, raising Russia's ire. Moscow fervently opposes Baltic membership in NATO, and released an April 28 Foreign Ministry statement charging that the NATO summit represented a "claim by the alliance for domination in European and world politics."

NATO stated in the strategic concept that it did not consider itself to be "any country's adversary," and that it saw a strong NATO-Russia relationship as essential to European stability. But current NATO-Russian relations, already strained by NATO expansion and exacerbated by Russian economic ills, have been frozen because of NATO's war with Yugoslavia. On March 24, Moscow suspended its participation in both the Partnership for Peace program, a military cooperation program between NATO and 25 non-NATO countries, and the Permanent Joint Council, a body for NATO-Russia consultations.

Belgrade Suspends Implementation of Sub-Regional Arms Accord

Wade Boese

ONE WEEK AFTER NATO began its bombing campaign against Yugoslav territory and military forces, Belgrade suspended implementation of the June 1996 Agreement on Sub-Regional Arms Control, but stressed that the move was not a withdrawal from the regime. All other parties to the agreement, Croatia and both entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina (the Muslim-Croat federation and Bosnian-Serb-controlled Republica Srpska) said they will continue implementation where possible.

In letters dated March 31 and April 1, Yugoslavia informed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is helping implement the agreement, that it was temporarily suspending implementation because of the impossibility of conducting inspections on Yugoslav military forces in light of NATO air strikes, which began March 24. No provision exists, however, for temporary suspensions, while withdrawal from the agreement, which Belgrade emphasized it was not doing, would require a 150-day notice and is proscribed until after December 14, 1999.

As a key goal of the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the fighting in Bosnia, the 1996 agreement capped the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), heavy artillery, combat aircraft and attack helicopters that the former warring parties could possess. Limits were apportioned according to the size of each party's population on a 5:2:2 ratio between Yugoslavia (composed of Serbia and Montenegro), Bosnia and Croatia. The Bosnian limit was further divided on a 2:1 basis between the Muslim-Croat federation and the Bosnian Serbs.

All parties met, and have remained at or below, their limits after destroying nearly 6,600 weapons by November 1997. As called for by the agreement, the parties annually exchange information on and conduct inspections of the capped weapon holdings. To date, 338 inspections have been conducted.

Meeting informally without Yugoslavia on April 28, the other parties to the agreement decided that implementation should continue, although "adapted to the circumstances." Seven inspections involving Yugoslavia from April to August have been postponed, while the other parties carried out two inspections in May. The parties agreed to continue to meet informally until Belgrade renewed its participation, which an OSCE official said all parties, at this time, expect to take place.

U.S. Halts 'Train and Equip'

For the second time, the United States on April 19 suspended the "train-and-equip" program that provides the Muslim-Croat federation with U.S. weapons and training, a major carrot for its adherence to the 1996 agreement. Ambassador Robert Gelbard, special representative to the president for implementation of the Dayton accords, reportedly cited inflammatory speeches regarding Bosnian-Muslims by Croat and Bosnian-Croat generals and the continuing failure of the two entities to truly integrate their forces as reasons for the move. Last year, the program was halted from June 1-17 until the forces put into use common rank insignia and flags.

The $400 million program aims to create a Muslim-Croat force in Bosnia that can counter Republica Srpska. U.S. and European critics of the program fear it may create a much stronger federation force that could go on the offensive once the international presence leaves Bosnia.

According to Stephen Geiss, deputy director of the program, most of the weapons, including 15 UH-1H utility helicopters and 126 howitzers, have been delivered and the focus is now on creating a professional, integrated force that is oriented toward NATO military doctrine. U.S. officials have not identified what steps are necessary for the program, currently expected to run through September 2000, to get back underway.

Once train and equip ends, Washington hopes to develop a normal arms sales relationship with Bosnia, much like Croatia, which President Clinton on April 8 determined as eligible to receive U.S. weapons. Zagreb, however, is currently at its limits for all five categories of arms under the sub-regional agreement and would first need to make headroom before importing any U.S. weapons.

Regional Process Stalled

As a follow-on to the 1996 agreement and as called for in Article V of the Dayton accords, Southeast European countries were to work on "establishing a regional balance in and around the former Yugoslavia." By December 1998, however, only very vague goals of continuing a process of stability and transparency had been proclaimed, without any reference to arms limitations. In February, French Ambassador Henry Jacolin, OSCE special representative for Article V negotiations, held a plenary to set out a negotiation schedule, but NATO air strikes have brought the languid process to a standstill.

NATO Strikes Against Yugoslavia Cloud U.S.-Russian Arms Control

 Craig Cerniello

DRAMATICALLY underscoring Russian anger at NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov turned his plane around over the Atlantic and canceled a March 23–25 visit with Vice President Al Gore in Washington to discuss a broad range of issues, including arms control. Yet the degree to which the air strikes, which began March 24, will impede U.S.-Russian progress on arms control remains unclear, as setbacks on START II and "Y2K" cooperation were balanced by progress on the highly enriched uranium (HEU) purchase agreement and the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. (See CFE story.)

START II Delayed—Again

Primakov, recognizing that the NATO air strikes had poisoned the political climate for START II ratification, asked the Duma on March 26 to postpone its consideration of the treaty. The next day, the Duma overwhelmingly adopted a 16-point resolution condemning NATO's military action and recommending that the Russian government "temporarily revoke" the draft START II resolution of ratification submitted by President Boris Yeltsin only days earlier.

On March 16, the START II ratification process—sidetracked by the U.S.-British air strikes against Iraq in December (see ACT, November/December 1998)—had resumed when the Duma forwarded to Yeltsin the resolution of ratification produced by International Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin and Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich. Under Russian legislative procedures, only the president can submit ratification bills to the Duma.

Also on March 16, Primakov warned on national television that if Russia failed to ratify START II, the United States would withdraw from the ABM Treaty, creating the possibility of a new arms race.

On March 17, the Duma almost unanimously approved the first "reading" (an initial step in the legislative process) of a separate bill guaranteeing funding for Russia's strategic nuclear forces through 2010. Popkovich had argued that resolving such financial issues was necessary for ratification of START II. Two days after the vote, the Duma announced that it would debate START II ratification on April 2.

Yeltsin submitted the Lukin-Popkovich bill to the Duma on March 22, clearing the way for its approval. When NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia began on March 24, however, momentum for START II ground to a halt.

Despite their opposition to the NATO action, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev defended START II during the special March 27 Duma session on the Balkan crisis. During his sixth annual address to the nation on March 30, Yeltsin also expressed Russia's continuing support for the START process.

Y2K Cooperation on Hold

On March 26, an official from the Russian Ministry of Defense told Interfax that in response to the NATO air strikes, it would cease cooperation with the U.S. Defense Department on the so-called "Y2K" problem, whereby computers mistakenly interpret the digits "00" as 1900 instead of 2000. Malfunctions caused by this problem could have serious consequences in areas such as early warning.

During a February 18-19 meeting of the Defense Consultative Group—a regular forum for discussions between the Defense Department and Ministry of Defense—the United States had proposed creating a temporary joint early-warning center in Colorado Springs to help monitor foreign ballistic missile launches during the transition to the new millennium (roughly mid-December 1999 through mid-January 2000). The United States also offered to work with Russia about management techniques and key technologies that could be used to combat Y2K-related problems.

The United States and Russia have already agreed to create a permanent joint early-warning center on Russian territory. The center is part of an agreement made at the Moscow Summit in September 1998 for the two nations to share, on a continuous and real-time basis, early-warning information on the worldwide launches of ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles. (See ACT, August/September 1998.) Because of the complexity of the negotiations over implementation of the summit agreement, however, this permanent center will not be completed in time to deal with the Y2K problem.

Prior to the NATO air strikes, Russia had responded positively to the U.S. proposal for a temporary joint early-warning center. A Defense Department spokeswoman stated that despite the March 26 Ministry of Defense statement, the department has not received any official communication from Russia regarding cancellation of Y2K cooperation and is still making preparations for the Colorado Springs facility.

Nuclear Redeployment Rejected

As a gesture of defiance toward the NATO air strikes, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a resolution on March 24 calling upon the government to abandon its non-nuclear status. (Ukraine returned the last of its strategic warheads to Russia in 1996.) Just two days later, however, President Leonid Kuchma said Ukraine would not reconsider the nuclear option. These developments came about one month after Ukraine destroyed the last of its 130 SS-19 ICBMs in accordance with START I.

In Belarus, which likewise transferred its last strategic warheads to Russia in 1996, speculation about the restationing of nuclear weapons has persisted for quite some time, especially in connection with NATO enlargement. Responding to these latest rumors, President Alexander Lukashenko said on March 25 that "Minsk has not asked for the return of nuclear weapons" and no state will be allowed "to wave Belarus at the West like a big stick."

Progress on HEU Implementation

Though the cancellation of Primakov's U.S. visit forced the postponement of the formal session of the Gore-Primakov Commission, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov did co-chair a meeting of the commission's newly established Nuclear Policy Committee.

On March 24, Richardson and Adamov signed an agreement facilitating implementation of the 1993 HEU accord, under which the United States is to purchase, over a 20-year period, Russian low-enriched uranium (LEU) that has been blended down from 500 metric tons of HEU removed from dismantled nuclear weapons. Russia had threatened to terminate the purchase agreement because it believed that it was not being fairly compensated for the natural uranium component of the LEU deliveries, worth approximately one-third of the $12 billion deal. (See ACT, August/September 1998.)

The new agreement, which calls for the United States to buy the natural uranium from the 1997–1998 Russian LEU shipments, was made possible by the simultaneous completion of a commercial contract between Russia and three Western companies (Cameco, Cogema and Nukem) for the future purchase of the Russian natural uranium.


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